Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

For discussions about bikes and equipment.
Tangled Metal
Posts: 7593
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Tangled Metal » 7 Nov 2020, 8:58pm

I've been looking at getting a Brompton for commuting duties but a discussion about where we'll tour next once we're able to due to COVID relenting has me thinking again. I know people tour using folding bikes because it be allows them to pack the bike into a suitcase and fly somewhere interesting. I'm thinking that's an interesting idea.

So what folding bike would you recommend for my partner and me based on this and the following.

I'm tall at 6'5", my partner is 5'3".

We tour carrying full camping kit with our 7 year old son riding free on his bike. He carries two front rollers from ortlieb with toys and light kit such as his sleeping bag but basically we carry mostly everything for all three of us. That's 11litres plus frame bag, two sets of ortlieb, bar bag each and dry bag on the rear rack. I would say my partner has 70litres, I have 84 or up to 114 litres if I use my big ortliebs. A lot of volume I think especially if I use my big 70 litres ortlieb panniers. I think I might drop the dry bag of in use them meaning 89litres.

I would be using mine to commute by train. Whilst the train route takes bikes the homeward travel time it's a very busy train such that rigid bike is too bulky. So I need a degree of folding and ease of folding. Perhaps Brompton level of easy/, quick fold isn't needed but closer than you'd get with the types of bikes where you have S&S in full size frames or that are more like rigid but separable for holiday packing only.

I'm hoping there's something out there that will give a near full touring bike comfort but commutable and packable for holidays. Bike Friday seems interesting. They seem to sell as real bikes that happen to fold. The chameleon ranges seem good but not sure they're right for daily train commute.

So with the knowledge collectively held by people on this forum, I'm hoping someone can help with bike ideas for both me and my partner.

PS I'm hoping with a kids bike we won't need a folder for him. :) Possibly bringing his bike or simply hiring locally. We're thinking Belgium again but first choice is Denmark.
Last edited by Tangled Metal on 8 Nov 2020, 2:54pm, edited 1 time in total.

cycle tramp
Posts: 995
Joined: 5 Aug 2009, 7:22pm

Re: Folding bike - mostly commuting but loaded touring too?

Postby cycle tramp » 7 Nov 2020, 10:02pm

I'd try chatting with Avon Valley Cyclery and Kinetics.
You may want to test ride a brompton before you purchase it - at 6'5" you're taller than me by 6" and by mile 15 I find the cockpit of my brompton too small. I would also test ride the birdy too - it sounds like the bike you're looking for.
I'd also keep an eye out for any second-hand bike fridays, too.
S&S couplings will be suggested, but having tried them myself I found that without a bike bag to put the wheels, mudguards, fiddly bits and both halves of the frame in, you might as well be a blooming octopus trying to carry a disassembled bike onto a train. Equally it takes all your concentration to take apart and then reassemble your bike in a public place - certainly not something I could do and keep an eye on a child as well.
Might also be worth considering something like a trailer rather than lots of panniers, depending on what publicly accessible transport you use.

Brucey
Posts: 42162
Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Folding bike - mostly commuting but loaded touring too?

Postby Brucey » 7 Nov 2020, 10:29pm

since your use is mainly commuting you need to get a bike which will definitely do that. It may seem like a bike that 'folds a bit' will usually be OK, but travelling by train with a bike is rather binary; you either get on the train or you don't, and the guard will use some kind or a rule as an excuse for chucking you off when it is busy. So the bottom line is that if you want to be as sure as possible to travel when you want, you should get a bike that folds to the dimensions specified by the relevant train operating company.

By the time you have taken into account that lots of folding bikes don't fold small enough (to the arcane and various standards which are almost impossible to find for each company) and/or are crap anyway this effectively means a Brompton is the first choice, provided it fits you.
If you are tall and need a longer cockpit then you need to be wary of disrupting the fold;
Image

One of the few ways which can give you a longer cockpit without upsetting the fold is to fit short bar ends to the handlebars; they will nestle either side of the front wheel when the bike is folded. Longer bar ends might seem appealing but the Brompton handlebars are thin-walled and are not designed to have such things fitted. Tall riders are normally accommodated in the seat height area by using an optional telescopic seat pin.

FWIW when touring with a seven year-old that is likely to be the limiting factor on daily mileage. That may not always be the case of course but if that is the case for now then even if the riding position isn't perfect for touring it will probably be 'good enough' for now.

Needless to say if you are doing a 'loop' tour then you can leave whatever cases etc held the bikes in transit at the airport (or train station or whatever). However if you want to do a point to point tour then you will either have to use disposable packaging for the bikes or take it with you.

cheers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

User avatar
horizon
Posts: 10369
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 11:24am
Location: Cornwall

Re: Folding bike - mostly commuting but loaded touring too?

Postby horizon » 7 Nov 2020, 11:05pm

When the pestilence strikes from the East, go far and breathe the cold air deeply. Ignore the sage, stay not indoors. Ho Ri Zon 12th Century Chinese philosopher

Tangled Metal
Posts: 7593
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Tangled Metal » 8 Nov 2020, 2:54pm

TBH it's more about the non-commuting use. The commuting doesn't need much of a fold as I could take a rigid bike on the train without booking in advance providing the train has space for it. Even a fold like the Montague or airnimal Joey would get me on the busy homeward journey?

That leaves the other reasons for a fold. I was thinking of an easy way to pack for flying with. My partner pointed out that a folded bike would fit into the campervan instead of having to mess around with towbar and bike carrier. That alone would pay for a chunk of a folder.

gazza_d
Posts: 212
Joined: 30 Oct 2016, 8:20am

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby gazza_d » 8 Nov 2020, 3:12pm

Unless quick folding in the smallest possible space is the most important thing then take a look at Moultons.
Rather than fold, they seperate which can then go into a bag. I've carried one on crowded tyne metro at rush hour, and their inspectors can be sticklers.
The Moulton will also pack down into something like a Samsonite suitcase too.

Tangled Metal
Posts: 7593
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Tangled Metal » 8 Nov 2020, 4:17pm

Moultons are very pricey. I do prefer the folding bike rather than separating.

I've been looking at Birdy bikes. Full suspension, capable of front and rear panniers and stiffer than hinge folders because it didn't break a bar to fold. A little costly compared to Brompton though. Also, weird design with the front suspension.

The montague and airnimal Joey are kind of similar I think. Both larger wheels and using standard components. Montague is cheaper but with cheaper components as standard. If you're going to go that way in think it's better to spend a little more to get the Joey, although the 24" wheels are a funny size, iirc 509 or 520 options, possibly a standard 26" IIRC 559. Mortgagues are 26" even 700 wheels depending on model. Both airnimal and Montague only allow rear rack so not fully loaded I think. It's not like I can compensate with a custom frame bag like my rigid bike.

The bike Friday world traveller looks interesting. The basically build to you. As in my version would be a lot bigger frame than my partner. They sound like fully custom built folders. I reckon a few emails back and forth would eventually get you a bike made to your own spec. Right down to cable outers colour. I saw a review on them as part of a biased set of folding, touring bike reviews. Basically it was a Brompton advert for most of it then there were a few bits on other bikes. The bike Friday section was laughable. The photo showing how it doesn't fold very well read a joke. They'd folded it without doing the very first step which meant it wasn't even half folded. Imagine if someone did a review on a Brompton but left it with the front wheel sticking out front unfolded then b said it didn't fold very compact.

As you can see I've done a little reading. Despite all that I have no idea which bike rally suits my needs. I've gone right off bromptons now. I think I don't need that level if compact folding. I've also not found out what maximum user height is reasonable for airnimal,Montague and Birdy. Bike Friday seems to be any height at all, they'll make it to fit you.

Brucey
Posts: 42162
Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Brucey » 8 Nov 2020, 4:33pm

Tangled Metal wrote: ..As you can see I've done a little reading. Despite all that I have no idea which bike rally suits my needs. I've gone right off bromptons now. I think I don't need that level if compact folding....


if you are planning on commuting by train, you might do.

cheers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tangled Metal
Posts: 7593
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Tangled Metal » 8 Nov 2020, 7:49pm

Brucey wrote:
Tangled Metal wrote: ..As you can see I've done a little reading. Despite all that I have no idea which bike rally suits my needs. I've gone right off bromptons now. I think I don't need that level if compact folding....


if you are planning on commuting by train, you might do.

cheers

I could commute with a full size bike, a work colleague does. We start and finish before main rush hour but going home the train times aren't favourable so it's start of rush hour. I know that they can become standing room but people still get full sized bikes in.

The idea with a folding bike was to have something more manageable to get into the train with. Occasionally the rolling stock is an ancient carriage with small doorways. Virtually any folding bike will be better than a rigid bike there but Brompton isn't needed. IIRC it's a 20 minute journey too. I'll probably just stay there with my bike.

Altissima
Posts: 37
Joined: 4 Jun 2016, 12:11pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Altissima » 8 Nov 2020, 11:14pm

Just in case you still want to look at a folding bike - here is a link to a couple who tour with a young child. FWIW, my wife and I enjoyed a 7 day tour of part of Belgium and the Zeeland region of the Netherlands on Bromptons in May 2018. We only averaged 25 to 35 miles per day and it was really good fun Here is the link to this couple (not my wife and I) http://travellingtwo.com/13483
Edited to add that pre Covid, my Brompton was also my commuting bike for journeys involving public transport

Tangled Metal
Posts: 7593
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Tangled Metal » 8 Nov 2020, 11:28pm

Did you camp or start in accomodation? How did you carry everything if you camped?

We went from Zeebrugge to practically Ardennes via cycle through the trees and cycle through the water cycle paths. Some long, hard day's for our 6 year old. Year before was Brittany which was a bit hard first two days so we joined of changed the plan and traveled by train to see places.

Belgium or Denmark next I think. Our son will be 8 and using a 24" wheeled bike by then. It'll be better for him.

Tangled Metal
Posts: 7593
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Tangled Metal » 8 Nov 2020, 11:41pm

Altissima wrote:Just in case you still want to look at a folding bike - here is a link to a couple who tour with a young child. FWIW, my wife and I enjoyed a 7 day tour of part of Belgium and the Zeeland region of the Netherlands on Bromptons in May 2018. We only averaged 25 to 35 miles per day and it was really good fun Here is the link to this couple (not my wife and I) http://travellingtwo.com/13483
Edited to add that pre Covid, my Brompton was also my commuting bike for journeys involving public transport

They used a trailer. I've used one before now, two wheeler and single wheeler. Great if you're not going I use public transport. They're not great IMHO and that's why we switched to panniers and frame bag for our normal bikes (and my recumbent). It makes it easier without a trailer. That probably makes a Brompton less useful. I can't see how you'd get the luggage capacity we need on a Brompton.

I'm just curious about what to do with your case if you fly with your bikes? Can't tour with them.

Brucey
Posts: 42162
Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Brucey » 9 Nov 2020, 12:15am

Tangled Metal wrote:...The idea with a folding bike was to have something more manageable to get into the train with. Occasionally the rolling stock is an ancient carriage with small doorways. Virtually any folding bike will be better than a rigid bike there....


as I tried to make clear before, 'better' doesn't usually count for much in the eyes of the guard should the train be full. When this happens it is either a folding bike (which folds to the specified size allowed by the train company, and always travels as 'luggage' by right) or it isn't. In the latter case you and the owners of other 'non-folding bikes' will usually be the first to be chucked off a full train. If you are trying to travel at the start of the rush hour you could conceivably then be stuck for some time; most train operating companies may 'usually allow bikes' to be carried at various times when the train is not full but that isn't at all the same thing as them being obliged to allow you to travel with a full size bike.

Maybe this never ever happens on your route but otherwise you can be 'alright usually', nine times out of ten or even 99 times out of 100 but that is scant comfort on the odd occasion when it isn't, and this turns your life to poo.

FWIW I think the Brompton is a very clever thing but I would nearly always choose to ride something else if I could. However on busy commuting trains there isn't always another option.

cheers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tangled Metal
Posts: 7593
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby Tangled Metal » 9 Nov 2020, 1:56pm

I've only seen cyclists kept off a couple of times. One time it was a brompton rider. It was because in both times a train or two was taken out of service and even people were being turned away.

Remember I live in a backwater on a route heading even further into the backwaters. Uprail the locals haven't evolved opposable thumbs to even play the banjo let alone master it! :lol:

User avatar
simonineaston
Posts: 4039
Joined: 9 May 2007, 1:06pm
Location: ...at a cricket ground

Re: Folding bike - loaded touring but also commuting too?

Postby simonineaston » 9 Nov 2020, 2:16pm

gazza_d wrote:Unless quick folding in the smallest possible space is the most important thing then take a look at Moultons.
Rather than fold, they seperate which can then go into a bag. I've carried one on crowded tyne metro at rush hour, and their inspectors can be sticklers.
The Moulton will also pack down into something like a Samsonite suitcase too.
I can confirm that my Moulton (bought from a fellow CUK rider, who may care to comment if he spots this post...) packs into a suitcase, albeit a large one! however, at 5' 9-and-a-bit, my Moulton (a TSR) does not feel anything other than snug. I'm not thinking that the TSR frame will be a good choice for anyone well over 6 feet. Of course, there's scope to increase the reach and saddle-height, but it's not like a conventional DF frame where the top tube gets longer the bigger the frame size.
byyeee,
SiE