We are traveling with our Brompton folding bikes: M-style for Dmitry and H-style for Mila, who likes a more upright riding posture. (Both are 6 speed.) The bikes fold down small enough to fit into a large suitcase, or the overhead compartment on Amtrak or a larger airplane.
Dmitry says that a folding bike is the closest thing to a personal jet pack. With a folding bike, you can ride to a party and taxi home, take a train to a new town and ride to your hotel, or throw your bike in the overhead compartment on a airplane and go bike touring in a new country. It is, in short, the most effective aid to multi-modal travel we have ever used.
Although we love to ride bikes, we have never undertaken a hard-core cycle tour and don’t see that as our main mode of travel. Instead, we like to use trains and buses to get from town to town, and bikes to explore once we’ve reached a destination. Until we bought our folding bikes in 2012, we often rented bikes when we were on holiday in a new place. But rentals were frequently in poor repair, or didn’t quite fit right, or were prohibitively expensive. The ability to bring our own bikes with us solved all these issues.
Why Brompton bikes?
We wanted something that was sturdy and comfortable – basically, a folder that felt like a regular bike. In addition, we wanted to be able to shift from riding to folded (and back) as quickly as possible. Bromptons are a little pricier than some other folders, but we saw them as an investment that would enable our travel.
Our bikes feel remarkably natural despite their small size and unusual look (a kid in Brooklyn once remarked as we rode by: “Them some ugly-a$$ bikes”). The six-speeds allow relatively steep climbs, though Mila does prefer to walk up anything that is too high a grade. We have had the bikes since August 2012, and have taken them on several international and domestic trips, including Germany, Portugal, and upstate New York. Dmitry also used the Brompton as his daily around-town bike in NYC, quickly overcoming any trepidation about stashing it inside a crowded bars or putting it into a shopping cart at Trader Joe’s.
The only changes we have made from the standard Brompton set up are Brooks saddles and Ergon handlebar grips. We also opted for rear racks (which add a little weight but a lot more space to store luggage when touring) and telescoping seat posts. The telescoping seat posts are handy for quickly taking the seat off to fit through an airport security checkpoint conveyor belt and for allowing the bikes to fit into an airline-allowable size suitcase. We recently added Off-Yer-Bike handles – these are spendy (everything Brompton-related is spendy) but amazing for when we need to carry the bikes around the airport. They also make it clear to luggage handlers (eg, at hotels) how to hold the bikes.