Folding Bikes for Touring?
I'm about to take off for Ireland. I plan to bike in Donegal (as well as improve my Irish at Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille). My itinerary involves a quick stay in Dublin and then by bus to Donegal in the West. Anyone have experience touring or even commuting with a folding bike with 20-inch wheels? Specifically, I have my sights on the Dahon Speed Pro 2004 (http://dahon.com). Folding this little beast into a piece of custom luggage on a bus sounds like a good idea. But the Speed Pro is not a mountain bike or a road bike. How will it cope with traffic say in Dublin and mountains in Donegal? More to the point- why don't we see more folding bikes used for touring?
Originally Posted by Leo C. Driscoll
I use a Bike Friday Air Glide for touring - and I've been very happy with it. I don't know anything about the Dahon, but I can recommend Bike Friday's offerings highly. I also use my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket - which I have set up more like a road bike, skinny tires, higher gearing - for commuting to work. You can read about my trip to Ireland last fall at denise2003ireland.crazyguyonabike.com or any of my other trips with my little-wheeled bike at denisegoldberg.crazyguyonabike.com. I also used the Bike Friday for my 2002 cross country trip and for a tour of the Big Island of Hawaii. Traveling with a folding bike that fits into a suitcase is definitely easier than traveling with a full-sized frame - and there is no excess baggage fee, another good thing.
If you have any questions, just ask!
Last edited by denisegoldberg; 06-30-04 at 07:23 PM.
Are you carrying luggage?
Ive done lots of hostel touring in Ireland, and its so easy. The first time I hired a bike, then I took my tourer.
You can get spares for 26" and 700c in most market towns, but you wont find 20" tyres or inners.
I found that fenders come in handy.
The country lanes wont cause a problem, but they can be steep.
Some of the mountain trails may be challenging. They are easy on a tourer, and do-able on a road bike, but small wheels may be defeated.
Denise, thanks for your enthusiasm and the account and images of your little-wheeled adventures in your tour of Ireland.
Michael W. I appreciate your logic. I share your reservations about 20-inch wheels.But the tradeoff is the bike can be toted like luggage. In Boulder, CO and vicinity the buses have bike racks on the front of the bus. I recommend that the Irish Bord Failte check out bike-friendly transport in Colorado's first range.
But the Dahon Speed Pro 2004 has a lot of high-quality components and clearly some good design.
My "touring" will be limited to the coast of Donegal and will not be ambitious. I just don't fancy renting a bike. I ride five bikes in Boston. Each bike is a work in progress- and a thing of beauty and a joy at least for the day!
Although I'm fussy about the biomechanics of a bike, I don't want to travel with my Brooks saddle, Thudbuster seatpost, Powergrips pedals, Cane Creek bar ends, etc.
But I will bring my capacious Oakley backpack By dint of commuting on a singlespeed with 20-30 lbs, in this tremendous pack, I have developed a strong back and a weak mind- suitable for Irish country lanes and maybe even mountain trails ;-)
Thanks for your replies!
Hi Ihave a Brompton folder with 16"wheels and love it for touring..especially the bus option..Because of my weight 16st..I find I need to keep an eye on the spokes and watch for loose ones..Best to have if checked at the bike shop before you go..Carry some spares ones and a spoke key ...I find it as fast as a mountainbike but not as fast as a roadbike and for climbing hills its just slow but not more difficult...I actually use a Dahon carrybag for it..It foldss into a Bum(fanny?)bag around your waste and i know they do one for their 20"dahon folders..It can also be used as a rucksac..In the UK a company called Gearshift ,in Sheffielld sells them mailorder.Dahon must have a products website in the US
The Dahon Speed Pro is not their "touring" bike model. It is their sport version and not designed for touring purposes. The "Speed TR" is their touring bike and it comes with fenders and a rear rack. If you're going to use the Speed Pro, you'll need to add fenders, rack and change those tires!
Originally Posted by Leo C. Driscoll
I independently found that the Dahon's Speed TR is precisely what I'm looking for! Here's an interesting review of the Speed TR. http://halffg.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/foldsoc/speedtr.html. This seems to answer my question: is there a folding bike really designed for touring?
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
Since my flight is on July 6, I have to scramble to find and test ride a Speed TR. Hopefully, it will fit in the custom Dahon airline carrying case.
Steve, since you seem to have a Dahon connection ;-), any idea of dealers in New England that carry this model?
Also why is that Ireland with her made-for-touring landscape seems to have no Dahon dealers. It would be "brilliant" to simply acquire the Speed TR with a carrying case in Dublin!
But as a horseman, I learned that nothing is ever easy in Ireland! One time I was given the equine equivalent of the Speed TR to hunt with the Tipps and the entire bridle tore off and I had to use a stirrup leather and elegant grey ears to do an emergency dismount. But of course a few magic drops of John Powers took the edge off this frustration!
I just returned from a trip (Italy and Switzerland) with my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket. I didn't see any other folks riding with folding bikes, but then again, no one but me was riding on Eurostar either with their bikes. Eurostar prohibits bikes, so lots of people were cramming their bikes on the inter regional slow trains and 2nd class trains, while I chuckled and folded my bike into my samsonite luggage and rode in class on the 1st class and Eurostar trains.
A folding bike is the best, and personally, I don't care which one you have as long as you have one and you have a case to store it in so you can jump on and off trains and travel on the planes without the additional bike charge.
Folding bikes for touring? After three gruelling weeks climbing the hills of Donegal carrying a heavy backpack on a Dahon Vitesse (the only Dahon model being sold in Boston), I have to admit it was not a brilliant idea. But it was certainly more compelling than the alternative- trying to crank a 40 lb. rental, shopping-cart iron "mountain bike" up tough hills.
The 3-speed Sturmey Archer provided only one practical gear and the Dahon was in effect a single-speed bike. Had I not trained on a real single speed in Boston, I would have been forced to take up Dun na nGall's native sport- hill walking. The famed Gaelic language/arts culture center, Oideas Gael, in Glenncolmcille offers courses in extreme hill-walking, but not extreme road biking. Should Beijing introduce hill walking in 2008, Ireland's Dun na nGall hill walkers may be favorites to take the Olympic Gold.
But Like the little engine that could, the Vitesse's tiny 20-inch wheels crawled up Lance-type hills, and living up to the bike's name, shot down winding coastal roads, scattering sheep.
On every climb, although energized by the seascapes, I sorely missed my (non-folding) Jamis Coda Sport equipped with Hutchison Gold Pro Series 700c cyclocross tires, Cane Creek Thudbuster seat post, and Brooks Champion Flyer saddle.
I plan to install better brakes and tires and a real 3-speed shifter on the Vitesse- fold it, stuff it into its elegant Dahon bag, and take it on sails to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. But tour with it? No way!
I rode through Switzerland in the Alps and Italy- Dolomites and flats and hills and everything in between with my Bike Friday. I had the Pocket Rocket, and I believe it is a 10 speed (the bike isn't here, it's staying at my brother's so I can ride whenever I blow into town). I had time before I left, so I switched out the tires for thin road tires, plus I switched the components to the Ultegra Shimano components. It was a smooth and sweet ride. I actually hurt climbing, but I would have hurt on my normal bike too! I also liked the quick fold option so I could fold it up and throw it on a train and wrap a huge garbage bag around it, so I had no problems there.
I wouldn't tour with a three speed- no way, never. I don't have the leg strength to climb in the Alps on anything less than what I had! Maybe if you just upgrade the components and give it another shot, you might find that you have a better time with it?
Has opinion, will express
I'm lusting after an Airnimal Chameleon, the version with drop bars set up for touring. The Airnimal got a good rap from a recent review in Cycling-Plus magazine in the UK.
My turn to say Wow! Or as the hill-walkers from Dun na NGall will say to you in Beijing, "Ta muid ag smaoineamh ta te beo ar caife na Kenya Kilimandjaro. An olann tu uachtar?". (Taw mud smweenoo taw tay byoe er kafi nah Kenya Kilimandjaro. Ahn awlan too ooukhtur?). [We think you live on Kenya Kilimandjaro Koffee. Do you take cream?]
Originally Posted by koffee brown
Don't give up on the folding bike, dood. Give it some time to break you in.
Koffee, you may be right! I'm commuting with the little folder and starting to appreciate it. For example, some of my commute along Muggers' Trail in the Fenway has some single track. The QUICK steering and busy little wheels make single track a much lower degree-of-difficulty (think 10-meter platform diving ;-) Also I've upgraded the BMX wannabe- Shimano Deore brakes (wish I had them in the hills of Gleann Cohlm Cille when I careened into sheep), lighter and wider bar (28-inches when you include the Cane Creek bar ends), faster Primo Comet tires, silicone cover for the Brooks saddle -with no way (short of a machine shop) to install a Cane Creek Thudbuster- a crucial upgrade for the naughty bits ;-), Marwi NitePro 25w anti-mugger torch, red flasher, brass IncrediBell (sp?), pepper-spray cannister, and of course a thermos with just your Kenya Kilimandjaro koffee ;-)
Cool- keep it up and report back in a month or so!
Dahon is a California company with asian manufacturing. There are plenty of other European folder makers.
Originally Posted by Leo C. Driscoll
How about getting a folder there and bringing it back. If a Dahon breaks down in Ireland, might you have trouble getting parts fouling up your trip?
Yes, I thought of getting a Euro bike in Dublin. But the reality was I became the Dhun na NGall LBS ;-) The only bikes I encountered were hardy touring bikes powered by hardier bikers from the Netherlands.
As I struggled on my 20-inch wheels to get up a long steep hill, I was passed by a Dutch cyclist who was well over 19 hands. She laughed and said something in Gaeilge and I realized that the new Korean film is right-"The Future of Man is Woman".
A distressing surprise about Dublin- it's no longer Joyce's "dear and dirty Dublin", but dear and dirty Euro. En route to Boston, my luggage was manually inspected because my bike paraphernalia probably looked like an Al Qaeda image. That's OK. What I didn't appreciate was the fact that the outsourced ? "security" workers for Aer Lingus ripped off all my bike tools.
Last (?) word on Dahon. The Vitesse is a tough bike- perfectly matched with the extreme isolation of Dhun n nGall. Even the caora (sheep)- pronouced "queeru" I met were fond of the Dahon. And they left their cac on this little-engine-that-could. The caora na cac (Gaeilge: sheep ****) built up on my Azonic Fusion platform pedals. Big argument for Crank Bros. EggBeaters ;-)
As i have said before. Check the Gaerlan custom bikes site.
If you're going to use buses on tour, a 20' inch bike is the only way to go. Don't even think about doing a tour on a 16' inch folder unless you're going to carry everything in a small backpack.
Originally Posted by Leo C. Driscoll
The bus presents a tricky situation. The problem with the bus is that you never know if you're going to be allowed to board. A driver may see the wheels and tell you no bikes allowed, no exceptions. A 16' inch folder would do better in this situation but you never know. I think it would be impossible to bring a full size folding bike with 700 cc or 26 inch wheels. If it's raining, the bike will be wet and dripping. Without a bag, it would be very had for the bus driver to allow you inside the cabin with a wet bicycle.
These are my observations.
1. You cannot use the over head rack inside the bus to place the bike. Most buses shake and wobble all over the place creating a dangerous situation should the cycle fall! These racks tend to be small and if the bike falls down, the person struck by the cycle will go to the hospital.
2. You cannot place the bike on the seat next to you unless the bus is fairly empty. Your fare is only good for ONE seat and putting the bike on another chair could very well cause problems if the bus is full.
3. The bike must be bagged or you won't be allowed to board in most cases. The problem with the bag is that it makes the package larger! The bike MUST be bagged before entering the bus. If the driver sees those wheels, most will not allow you to board. The driver must not know you even have a bicycle.
4. If the bus is one that travels to the airport, you're in luck. Many of these buses have a place to put luggage inside and the folder can go there.
5. You cannot sit down and block the middle of the isle with the bike. Other passengers will complain as to why you were allowed to board in the first place.
6. It might be possible to place the folder on your lap while the bus is in motion but this will be very uncomfortable. The metal parts plus all the stuff you'll be carrying on your lap will be painful after 20 minutes. If you don't believe me, try it. Place the bicycle on your lap and see how long you can stand the weight.
7. Most buses are very tight and the space between you and the chair in front of you will NOT be enought to place the bike. Trust me. There is barely enough room to place your legs and a 20 inch folder will not fit there. If it does fit, you'll have to put your feet on top of the machine while sitting down once the bus gets full! In other words, your knees will probably be right next to your stomach! This awkard position will certainly draw attention but it may be the only wayl you'll have a chance to sit. ;-)
8. If the bus is a long distance commuter, there may be a compartment underneath (outside) the bus where many people put their luggage. Your folder can go there.
9. If the bus has a rack ouside, consider youself VERY blessed.
Here's what others have done and what may be your only option.
If the bus is full, you'll have to head to the back of the bus and stand. I mean ALL the way to the back! Every time somoene wants to get off, you'll have to move the bicycle. Pretty simple. Some of your items can be put in the overhead rack (if it's there) but for the most part, you will have to stand next to the bike in the back of the bus. There may be a spot next to the rear wheel or rear exit where you can place the bike. In fact, a great place to put the bike is on the stairs of the rear door. You'll have to move the bike every time someone wants to exit but that may be your only choice. The bus driver may complain to get out of the exit which means you'll have to go to the back. If there's a handicap chair, you might be able to use that spot but this usually means taking up 2 or 3 seating positions! As I said before, you are only allowed to have one seat and other passengers may scream that you have no right to use the handicap spot. They are correct. It's also possibe to place the bike underneath a chair but most of the time there will not be enough room for it will interfear with someone's feet.
That's about all I can think of. Good luck and report to us your adventure with the bus. We all would like to know how it was resolved.
Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 09-27-04 at 05:57 PM.
Steve, thanks for your guide to the hazards of folders on buses.
However, in Ireland, coaches are the main people-and-cargo movers and they routinely provide a cargo hold accessed from the outside of the coach. The Dahon folder-in-a-Dahon-bag was hardly noticed on the Dublin to Donegal route.
My major problem was the fact that I needed three coaches to get to Glencolmcille! First leg of the journey- Dublin to Donegal (city). Second leg- Donegal to Killybegs (a scenic fishing port). Third leg- Killybegs to Glencolmcille. So we're talking about loading and unloading the folder-in-a-bag three times!
That was just wearisome- as was the tedious five hour journey across Eire- only relieved by wedging the last invention of the electronic genius, Henry Kloss, a portable FM radio in between the plush seats in front of me.
www.dealtime.com/xPR-Tivoli_ Portable_Audio_Laboratory_PAL - 28k -
The folder-in-a-bag did serve a third-world function in dear-and-Euro Dublin. It turned out that McGeehan Coaches tend to keep their schedule and exact departure points inaccessible. (I needed a not-to-be-found Starbucks to access their current schedule at http://www.mcgeehancoaches.com/). As a result, I had to cat-nap on the folder-turned-back-support and pillow on O'Connell Street in Dublin from 10:00 to 13:00- while trying to keep watch on an extra large Samsonite filled with bike tools. O'Connell Street has morphed into a Klepto-O'Connell Street ;-(
Next trip, I'll only take three pieces of luggage: Victorinox upright duffel bag, large Oakley backpack, and of course, a Dahon Speed Pro (a 21-speed, 20-inch folder in a 26-inch bag with some tools in a locked see-through plastic bag). And I'll take AerArann from Baile Átha Cliath to AerFort Dhún na nGall in Carrickfin!
Last edited by Leo C. Driscoll; 10-04-04 at 04:46 AM.