Fold up bikes – the ultimate travel accessory?

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Ever dreamed of lazily cycling along a scenic river in a beautiful European destination? If you have, we bet you haven’t thought of doing it on a folding bike! But that’s exactly what cycling enthusiast Peter Keast and his wife did recently. Peter spoke to Pedal Power and shared his verdict on whether folding bikes are up to the task.

Riding the Danube has always been on my to do list, so on the 17th of August my wife Trish and I packed our gear and bikes and headed off for three week ride.

I chose a Brompton Folding Bike for myself and Trish decided on her 20″ Bike Friday. As a general rule folding bikes are not suitable for touring or carrying a heavy load for any long distance, but having done a lot of touring on a variety of full size bikes, I wanted to find out for myself how a 16″ wheeled folding bike would perform.

The advantages of taking a folding bike overseas on more passive rides like ours were the ease of transiting to and from the airport by bus, getting through the airports, getting on and off trains and riding through busy towns and cities. Folding bikes are so manoeuvrable in and out of traffic and around pedestrians. Being able to pack them into a travel bag in one piece rather than pulling them down and packing them in a bike box was a definite advantage. The bike bag also had small wheels attached so the bike could be wheeled rather than carried.

It should be noted that on our journey we did not see one other folding bike along the Danube (although we did notice a tremendous amount of electric bikes being ridden everywhere we went).

Bromptons are relatively new to most of us here in Australia as the only way to get one in the past was to place an order and wait for quite some weeks for it to arrive from England to a dealer for pick up. Due to a unique folding action and small wheels they are the only bike allowed on trains in the London Tube and the only bike allowed to be carried in a London Taxi.

As a commuter bike or short distance bicycle Brompton are possibly the best folding bicycle available. They come in a variety of colours and configurations and are functional, fun, compact and fold down easily in seconds. The speed in which the bike folds down, coupled with the fact that so little space is taken up for storage makes the Brompton so desirable. Bromptons are now available from a variety of bike stores in Canberra.

Bike Fridays and Birdy are still the popular pick for a more performance quality folding bike and Tern and Dahon are number one sellers as a general use fold up due their value for money and lower starting price range.

So would I recommend the Brompton for the average rider to ride on anything other than low gradients? No. Nor would I recommend a 16″ folding bike where a heavy load is being carried over hilly terrain and combined with long distances and where a more constant speed is required.

Trish had little trouble riding her Bike Friday for up to 80km on some days and the few hilly spots we encountered were easy enough to conquer. Having 27 gears makes a big difference so yes, the Bike Friday would be suitable for more difficult terrain and longer distances even with a biggish load.

And finally would I take a six speed, fold up bike with 16″ wheels loaded with Panniers on a 600 km journey again? Absolutely!

My motto is simply, “BIKES BELONG”, how boring life would be without them.

Happy Pedalling!

Peter Keast

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