October 7, 2010

Travel + Bicycle = Folding Bike 101.

Bike of The Day {BOTD} ::: Brompton

Today’s {BotD} Bike of the Day is a Brompton folding bike…

Bromptons have been around for years. They’re made in England. I spotted this one at the Hawthorne Hostel in Portland, Oregon. It’s not the first folding bike I’ve seen at the hostel. Last year, another traveler came on a Dahon he loved so much he had it chrome plated!


These folding bikes are a far cry from the older versions. They have precision components, rigid frames and are aligned carefully. They ride like a full sized bike. The huge advantage is that they fold up and can be tucked into a storage cabinet, closet or luggage compartment in no time.

Bike Friday

This folding bike is called a Bike Friday. It’s made in Oregon! I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it at The 8th Avenue Bikes and Coffee Shop, my favorite bike shop in Gainesville, Florida. It’s a seriously fine bike. All the components are top shelf. The owner told me it performs just as well as a full sized bike.

Bike Friday - Hand Made in Eugene, Oregon!

I actually offered to buy the bike from Judy. She said, “Hey, just drop by the Bike Friday shop in Eugene or contact them and they’ll make you one just like it.” Well, being a craigslist and garage sale shopper, I was a bit rebuffed when I found out how much a new Bike Friday costs. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Anyhoo, you don’t have to spend $2,700 to get yourself into a nice folding bike. Just like anything else, if you shop around, you can find lots of used folding bikes for sale. They are especially popular with the boating and recreational vehicle crowd. I see them all the time on Craigslist. If you’re smart, you can use a search engine like jaXed to help you find the best deal.

Dahon Stainless Steel Folding Bike

Here’s a super bike I just found for sale ($189) on Craigslist here in Florida. It’s a Dahon. That’s the kind I mentioned before that the guy at Hawthorne Hostel had chromed.  He was there for a job interview. It’s amazing how many people pass through the hostel in Portland looking for a job. It makes perfect sense to bring your own bike because then you have total freedom to go anywhere you like, in style and pleasure. That is, combined with the amazing transportation system Portland has.

Dahon Stainless Steel Folding Bike

This is what the Dahon looks like, folded up. Nice? You bet! Especially because it rides so well you hardly realize you’re on a folding bike.

I heard about a folding bike race in the news and that’s what prompted me to write about folding bikes today. The Brompton World Championship V was held on Sunday 3rd October 2010 at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. From what I hear, these folding bikes have the ability to go just as fast as their full sized counterparts.

Brompton with Brooks saddle

I said some folding bikes come with fine components. That Brompton I spotted at the Hawthorne Hostel has a Brooks saddle. What’s the deal with Brooks saddles? People have love-hate relationships with them. They are leather saddles that have a distinct break in period. But, let me tell you, once they’re broken in, you may never want to use any other kind of saddle.

Dawes Galaxy with Brooks saddle

My favorite bike is a Dawes Galaxy I got when I was in college. I lived in a little room in a boarding house, across the street from campus. The guy who lived next door had this Dawes. I was into rock collecting and had a beautiful quartz geode. He loved it and he traded me the bike for the geode! That was in the 70’s and the bike was about 10 years old then. Prior to that, every bike I had got stolen. I vowed that I’d hang onto this one. And, to this day, it’s still here. The Brooks saddle is great. I use saddle lube every now and then to keep it soft and supple. Rain doesn’t bother it much. I take a plastic grocery bag and cover it up when it looks like rain. I also thread my cable through it when I lock my bike.


Speaking of bike theft, check out this video. I can hardly believe how easy it is to cut a cable and even a u-lock! Good to know.

There are several ways you can cope with combining travel and biking. I’ve actually gone a couple of places and scouted out cheap bikes on Craigslist. You can buy a bike fairly easily for about $50 and ride it on your trip. Then, it’s no big deal to sell it or donate it to some lucky person when you leave.

Another approach is to ship your bike. To me, that’s agony, because shipping a conventional bike is expensive and a pain. People do it, though. I have friends who go x-c in Utah and Colorado. They just box up their mountain bikes and send them with their luggage. Everything depends on box dimensions when you’re shipping a bike. My friend Bill Hannahs is a former bike racer and bike mechanic. He tells me one good way to ship a bike is to use two boxes. Smaller boxes fit the airline size requirements for checked luggage better that trying to stuff your whole bike into one box. There’s a company called S and S Machine that makes a coupler that will split your bike frame in two parts.


Remember the last {BotD} article about the Bilenky bike? Did you notice the couplers? You can see them near the bottle holders on the frame. Yep, its all ready to be packed and shipped.

So, there you go. Do you have experience with folding bikes or other great ways to deal with biking when all you have are cramped spaces to store them? Inquiring minds would love to hear all about it. Have fun and stay tuned!

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