8th March 2017

How to go touring with a folding bike

Written by Co-op member and touring enthusiast Stuart. Check out some his adventures on his site, www.meanwhileontheroad.com.

Using a Brompton or other folding bike for touring is a great idea; You can fold the bike up if you need to get in a car or on a plane, pack it away in small hostel rooms or houses, and keep your bike with you rather than locked up outside somewhere.

Plus, here’s how you can take 100+ litres of luggage with you:

touring with a folding bike or brompton

1. Panniers

Prime real estate for touring luggage, panniers such as these can swallow up to 70 litres worth of stuff. You’ll need a Seatpost Pannier Rack which attaches to the seatpost; a Brompton’s back wheel is so small it would likely leave the panniers too close to the ground if you use a ‘normal’ pannier rack.

2. Saddle Pack

Although small, a saddle pack is the perfect place to keep essentials you might need in a hurry, such as an inner tube and repair kit. Brompton Saddle Pouches come in different colours to match your bike – surely the most important thing to consider.

Providing 7 litres of space, pair a rack pack with a couple of panniers.

Providing 7 litres of space, pair a rack pack like this with a couple of panniers.

3. Rack Pack

You get up to 16 litres of storage in a Brompton Rack Sack which sits on the rack above your back wheel. For smaller loads, you can get 7 litres of storage with the Altura Transit Lite Rack Pack. If your bike didn’t come with a rear rack, you’ll need a Brompton Rack Set.

4. Large Rucsac

A bit of a “bike hack”, but a popular one all the same. Get a large rucsac, sit it out the rear rack above the wheel and attach it to your seat post using bungee cords. Be careful of errant straps. Or you can throw caution to the wind and just pile a whole bunch of bags onto the rear rack, like Paul did.

5. Brompton O Bag/ S Bag/ C Bag/ T Bag

The front-facing load of your pack horse, these roomy Brompton-specific bags require either a bag frame or a mounting block depending on the model.

Bike hacking 101: A rucsac can sit on your back rack, but you'll need several bungee cords and a bit of faith.

Bike hacking 101: A rucsac can sit on your back rack, but you’ll need several bungee cords and a bit of faith.

A couple of things to think about

Brompton are fantastic for tailoring the bike for what you need, so use this functionality as much as you can. A firm suspension block will compensate for the extra weight and give a smooth ride. Try out different handle bars and saddles as you’ll be spending a lot of time here, so get comfortable. Think about the terrain you are covering; lots of gears means that you’re ready for hills but more weight and more moving parts means the possibility of more problems.

A smaller bike equals smaller spares

A bonus of the smaller wheel size of a Brompton or other folding bike is that the inner tubes, spokes, and tyres are all smaller. This means less weight and less space taken up reducing the issue of space. Carrying spares is essential though, as parts will be more difficult to come by, as will expertise on the bike. Mechanics are an ingenious lot and will be able to fix most things in a pinch, but if they break something it can be expensive and potentially trip-ending. Get familiar with the working of the bike and what key components can’t be bodged. Knowledge doesn’t weigh anything but it can be the most valuable thing you can carry!

Easy to clip and unclip, and cavernous too, the Brompton C-Bag.

Easy to clip and unclip, and cavernous too, the Brompton C-Bag.

These are just a few things that might help, please share your own tips & tricks in the comments.

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5 comments on “How to go touring with a folding bike

  1. Martin Edney on

    You’ll damage your seatpost if you hang heavy bags on it using a seatpost pannier rack.

    And if you want to carry a lot on a Brompton, why not use a T-Bag on the front? At 31 litres, it’s the biggest official Brompton bag available (the “T” stands for “touring”, so the clue’s in the name).

    I think this article needs a bit of revision.

    Reply
    • Web Master on

      Thanks for your comments, Martin. Stuart reports that the seatpost will be fine as long as the weight in the panniers doesn’t exceed the recommended weight on the rack. Missing out the T-Bag was an error, it’s now been added – thanks!

      Reply
      • Alan Braggins on

        I’d be surprised if you can usefully fill a 70l pair of panniers without exceeding the recommended weight on most seatpost racks though. And, having had one folding bike frame crack near the seat-tube, I’d also hesitate to put that much weight on the top of a folding bike seatpost anyway, though if I was lighter myself, and wasn’t using it at maximum extension, it would be less of an issue.
        At the very least, I’d mount the rack much lower, so the panniers are in a more normal position. Yes, that means moving it to fold the bike; that would be a pain for a mixed mode commute, but at the start and end of a tour, I think it would be worthwhile.

        (It was a second-hand Dahon, and I think a Brompton frame would be stronger, but it also has more leverage on the seatpost (I’ve tried a Brompton, and definitely needed the extended seatpost).)

        Reply
  2. Alan Braggins on

    Some more articles and/or photos of touring Bromptons, one of them from earlier on this blog:
    https://www.edinburghbicycle.com/info/brompton-cross-country-touring-bike/
    http://www.shanecycles.com/the-genius-of-brompton-touring/
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/armb/2871832149

    (As it happens, all of them using largish bags on top of the standard Brompton rear rack (or, in one case, a trailer), not a seat-post rack and panniers. Which doesn’t mean you can’t use a seat-post rack if you want, and it’s not a large sample.)

    Reply

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