best bike+luggage plan for a multi-week trans-euro tour:

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by pstock, Mar 24, 2006.

  1. pstock

    pstock Guest

    I am a keen and pretty fit cyclist who lived and rode in France for 10
    years. But I have always limited myself to day rides; I have never done
    a long distance with-gear trip.

    I am now 48 and on sabbatical and I have this dream of putting a bike
    on a plane, say in May, getting of in Amsterdam (or maybe London)
    unpacking and just riding off, destination Marseille (I used to live in
    Provence.)

    My stumbling block (besides getting over novice nerves) is this: which
    bike and "luggage" combination to use.

    I have read lots of threads about "panniers vs. trailers" and the
    merits of various weird folding bikes vs full-frames. But my
    circumstances are somewhat unique. And so I ask your advice.

    Admittedly I am spoiled with choice. I own an Air Friday, a Birdy and a
    Brompton in the folding category and an assortment of older but very
    servicable full-sized road bikes (one each in Canada, the UK and
    Southern France.)

    I want to do this car free. I want to maximize flexibility and
    spontenaeity. It is likely to be a one way trip (so I don't want to
    leave a cache of stuff or bike boxes at the start.) I want to just go.
    And go where I want. I would love to hear ideas on how best to do this.

    The Brompton is out. Folds quickest and smallest of all but is way too
    heavy and is too clunky a ride.

    Plan A was Birdy with panniers" as a) I love a Birdy for urban
    exploring the many cities I would want to check out and b) in case of
    emergency (like a snow squall or a mountain) I could easily throw it
    on/in a train, bus, car trunk or an airplane. The upside of the Birdy
    is how light it is, how good a ride it is over short distances and how
    quickly it folds.
    But I was told by my bike shop that a Birdy cannot take substantial
    enough panniers for the required gear and that my heel would not clear
    the bags...

    Plan B is the Air Friday. Better ride, more complicated fold and pack.
    But then would I do panniers or the trailer/suitcase? I understand
    installing panniers is apparently fiddly; needs special bits (who needs
    that?). And since the AF needs the suitcase to travel anyway, swapping
    the suitcase for panniers (as well as having to stash it somwhere)
    would kind of defeat the "just go" objective.

    So, Air Friiday with suitcase trailer?? People have talked about extra
    friction of 4 wheels vs. 2. Is it significant? Will I feel like a Mack
    truck instead of the Ferrari of my dreams?

    Plan C - pay the shipping cost and risk the damage to a full frame and
    slap traditional racks and panniers on it. Better ride. Easier set up.
    Low flexibilty - can;t just fold it and throw it on a train or plane.

    So, who says what?? (besides "get off your arse and get on with it...."
    which is the obvious correct response!)

    Peter

    does this belong in "rides" (or no where.)
     
    Tags:


  2. Ken Pisichko

    Ken Pisichko Guest

    Hey Peter,

    I had similar thoughts last year as I planned a 2500 km 6 week bicycle trip
    from Cairns to Darwin along the "Savannah Way"...

    I finally bought a bunch of parts on e-bay and had a bicycle built for my
    "frame". The wheels are both 48 spoke to keep "difficulties" to the
    minimum. You won't have that trouble in populated Europe. I bought a BOB
    Ibex trailer to help haul the extra water needed. I will use a Hennesy
    Hammock. There are lots of trees in the savannah. My stove will burn white
    gas - readily available. I will use a LOT of dry foods (rice, chick peas,
    etc) and a can of meat/fish a day. Oatmeal with dry fruit will be
    breakfast. Bannock/soda bread will be a staple along with cheese, peanut
    butter and conserves... then of course I will have a small espresso pot/tea
    bully and water filter.

    Europe will be different for you.. Fresh food will be readily available.
    You will have access to water. Roads will be hard surfaced. You will have
    more degrees of freedom than I will have.

    That said, no matter what you take, you WILL have a wonderful time. heck,
    you might occasionally stay in a bread&breakfast/auberge/hostel. You might
    not even need a hammock/tent nor water filter.Why bother with dry pasta etc
    when there is a wide variety of fresh food available everywhere in Europe?

    Just my thoughts about populated Europe.....

    Ken
    Canada
     
  3. BobT

    BobT Guest

    "pstock" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    >I am a keen and pretty fit cyclist who lived and rode in France for 10
    > years. But I have always limited myself to day rides; I have never done
    > a long distance with-gear trip.
    >
    > I am now 48 and on sabbatical and I have this dream of putting a bike
    > on a plane, say in May, getting of in Amsterdam (or maybe London)
    > unpacking and just riding off, destination Marseille (I used to live in
    > Provence.)


    If you get off in London and want to pedal to Marseille, I suggest this
    bike:

    http://tinyurl.com/l97q5

    BobT
     
  4. pstock

    pstock Guest

    Hi Bob.

    I am intrigued. But your URL came up with:

    "Error: Unable to find site's URL to redirect to."

    any suggestions?
     
  5. peter

    peter Guest

    pstock wrote:
    > Plan A was Birdy with panniers" as a) I love a Birdy for urban
    > exploring the many cities I would want to check out and b) in case of
    > emergency (like a snow squall or a mountain) I could easily throw it
    > on/in a train, bus, car trunk or an airplane. The upside of the Birdy
    > is how light it is, how good a ride it is over short distances and how
    > quickly it folds.
    > But I was told by my bike shop that a Birdy cannot take substantial
    > enough panniers for the required gear and that my heel would not clear
    > the bags...
    >
    > Plan B is the Air Friday. Better ride, more complicated fold and pack.
    > But then would I do panniers or the trailer/suitcase? I understand
    > installing panniers is apparently fiddly; needs special bits (who needs
    > that?). And since the AF needs the suitcase to travel anyway, swapping
    > the suitcase for panniers (as well as having to stash it somwhere)
    > would kind of defeat the "just go" objective.
    >
    > So, Air Friiday with suitcase trailer?? People have talked about extra
    > friction of 4 wheels vs. 2. Is it significant? Will I feel like a Mack
    > truck instead of the Ferrari of my dreams?
    >
    > Plan C - pay the shipping cost and risk the damage to a full frame and
    > slap traditional racks and panniers on it. Better ride. Easier set up.
    > Low flexibilty - can;t just fold it and throw it on a train or plane.
    >
    > So, who says what??


    Haven't done any really long tours, but have done a number of week-long
    camping trips both with my regular road bike and with a Bike Friday
    Pocket Rocket.
    One consideration is how much luggage you plan to be carrying. I try
    to limit my camping trip load to about 25 pounds. This fits easily in
    panniers and I found the added weight and drag of the Friday trailer to
    be less desirable. (But if I wanted to carry more gear then the
    tradeoff might well be different.) My preference would be to ship the
    suitcase ahead to a hotel at the planned destination once I arrive in
    Europe and do the bike ride using panniers.
     
  6. pstock

    pstock Guest

    Ken.
    I should have added that I have NO intention of camping on this trip. I
    am a rotten camper. Instead, I plan to string together a chain of
    friends and cheap hotel/B&B rooms along the way.
    But thanks for your encouragement.
    Peter
     
  7. pstock

    pstock Guest

    Thankls Peter.
    how easy were the racks for the panniers to afix? could you use regular
    panniers?
    My Air Friday (as I am sure you know) has a gap where the down tube
    should be. I am not sure how easy it is to afix racks to this part.
    There are 4 braze-ons (sp?) here but I am not exactly sure what they
    are for. I await info from GreenGear/BikeFriday.
     
  8. mark

    mark Guest

    If, as you say in a subsequent post, you have no intention of camping, I
    would consider dispensing with panniers and trailers, and using a seat bag.
    Carradice and Rivendell both make excellent seatbags, and if your saddle
    doesn't have bag loops Wallingford Bicycle Parts (www.wallbike.com) sells a
    very good adaptor to let any saddle take a saddlebag. No racks to mess with,
    no trailer to haul up hills, and the load is nicely centered on the bike. A
    handlebar bag would also be nice for a little extra capacity and a place to
    put all those little things you need during the day (map, snacks, money,
    etc.).

    Plan C sounds good to me. A number of European airlines will take one
    bicycle as part of your checked baggage with no charge between North America
    and Europe (Lufthansa, which I will use in May, British Airways, which I
    used 2 yrs ago with good results, and possibly others). On my last trip (BA,
    Denver-London r/t) I turned the handlebars sideways, took off the pedals and
    wheeled the bike to the check-in counter. It completed both legs of the trip
    unscathed. I wouldn't do this with a bike with a carbon-fiber fork or frame,
    but this approach seems to work fine for a steel-framed bike. Getting full
    sized bikes on trains in Europe isn't the no brainer it used to be, but it's
    still quite doable. Most countries allow unboxed bikes on some or all of
    their local/regional trains, but bikes have to be boxed for most high speed
    long distance (TGV, etc.) trains.Check the websites for various national
    rail lines, you can sometimes get more complete information if you read it
    in the original language instead of using the English translation of the
    company's website.

    HTH,
    --
    mark
     
  9. "pstock" <[email protected]> wrote

    [snip]

    > I am now 48 and on sabbatical and I have this dream of putting a

    bike
    > on a plane, say in May, getting of in Amsterdam (or maybe London)
    > unpacking and just riding off, destination Marseille (I used to

    live in
    > Provence.)
    >
    > My stumbling block (besides getting over novice nerves) is this:

    which
    > bike and "luggage" combination to use.


    Well, hotelling does make life easier. Some people do manage with
    just a large saddlebag, even managing to appear in a coat and tie at
    meetings, but you will have to plan your wardrobe *very* carefully,
    including keeping things clean and dry.

    Plan for one or two weekend trips beforehand, as shakedown cruises -
    out to a Saturday night motel, back on Sunday.

    I think the trans-Atlantic routes are probably easiest of any for
    taking a bike as baggage. My theory is that, if you can, use a
    transparent bag for your bike. A very large box goes at the bottom
    of any pile of luggage. If your bike looks like a bike, the baggage
    handlers know how to treat it, and put it on top of any pile, not at
    the bottom.

    The airlines want your bike boxed, not to protect your bike, but to
    protect all the other luggage from your bike, from the chain oil,
    mud, sharp things that stick out, etc. You have to admit, that is a
    reasonable point of view, so you should try to accommodate them.

    My bike - I'm 5'11" - just about goes through the giant x-ray machine
    without lowering the saddle, but the baggage handlers aren't very
    happy at having to hold it up so that it fits through the hole
    diagonally. Lowering the saddle would make for happy baggage
    handlers, which is probably a good thing.

    I'm not sure what holidays there are in France in May that might make
    hotels full - May Day? Whitsun? You could probably start by using
    the tourist offices to find a hotel one day down the road, and
    booking ahead by phone.

    I prefer IGN maps to Michelin - each to his own taste. You can get
    them on CD-ROM nowadays, but I imagine they are expensive.

    If you land at London, you should be able to pick up a leaflet about
    how to extract yourself from the airport by bike

    Jeremy Parker
    London
     
  10. Ken Pisichko

    Ken Pisichko Guest

    pstock wrote:

    > Ken.
    > I should have added that I have NO intention of camping on this trip. I
    > am a rotten camper. Instead, I plan to string together a chain of
    > friends and cheap hotel/B&B rooms along the way.
    > But thanks for your encouragement.
    > Peter


    Europe is FULL of wonderful accommodation of all standards. Same with food
    sources (shoppes, cafes, bars, pubs, markets..) Your decisions are thus
    easier to make regarding the bicycle and pannier/trailer: KISS. Oh, one
    more thing: Bon voyage :)
     
  11. SMS

    SMS Guest

    pstock wrote:
    > I am a keen and pretty fit cyclist who lived and rode in France for 10
    > years. But I have always limited myself to day rides; I have never done
    > a long distance with-gear trip.


    None of those three folders is really ideal for long distance touring,
    for the reasons that you pointed out.

    A bike friday New World Tourist, or a Dahon Speed TR
    ("http://gaerlan.com/bikes/speed/speedsp39.htm") would be ideal. I have
    a Speed TR, which is similar to the mid-range New World Tourist. It
    would probably cost around $1000 by the time you're done, but in some
    ways it's better than the comparable New World Tourist, which is about
    $1500.

    The Gaerlan gt20 is also an excellent choice, actually the best 20"
    touring bicycle on the market, but it doesn't really fold as much as it
    disassembles, see "http://gaerlan.com/bikes/gotravel/gotravel.htm"

    Of course the other option is to travel relatively light, with a big
    saddlebag, see "http://www.rivbike.com/webalog/baggage_racks/" and use
    the Air Friday. I think I'd pass on taking the Birdy, as there are too
    many chances for something on it to break, with no source of spare parts.
     
  12. BobT

    BobT Guest

  13. pstock

    pstock Guest

    very droll Bob. I have considered adjunct transportation for these
    trips. Like buses, trains and ....ferries (or Chunnels)
     
  14. Dane Buson

    Dane Buson Guest

    mark <[email protected]> wrote:
    > If, as you say in a subsequent post, you have no intention of camping, I
    > would consider dispensing with panniers and trailers, and using a seat bag.
    > Carradice and Rivendell both make excellent seatbags, and if your saddle
    > doesn't have bag loops Wallingford Bicycle Parts (www.wallbike.com) sells a
    > very good adaptor to let any saddle take a saddlebag. No racks to mess with,
    > no trailer to haul up hills, and the load is nicely centered on the bike. A
    > handlebar bag would also be nice for a little extra capacity and a place to
    > put all those little things you need during the day (map, snacks, money,
    > etc.).


    This was what I was thinking too. Use a Carradice for clothes + tools +
    whatnot, then have a handlebar bag for maps + snacks + things you want
    more to hand. That should be enough for credit card touring.

    --
    Dane Buson - [email protected]
    "Nuclear war would really set back cable."
    -- Ted Turner
     
  15. pstock

    pstock Guest

    Thanks for the sugggestions.
    But you fellows are either much better packers than I am or just way
    more optimistic.
    One veteran here told me to pack in anticipation of snow for example.
    (one never knows)
    As asinine as it must sound, I would also plan to carry a laptop and
    its power pack. and a camera. and some guidebooks for hotels. and.....
    cold, and warm weather gear.
    So while this will be CC touring I don't expect that I can really
    travel completely naked.
    This weekend I will lay out my "ideal" kit and see what I come up with.
    But the Seat bags, while dandy, seemed just way too small for a long
    3-4 week trip.
    we press on with our plans.
     
  16. peter

    peter Guest

    pstock wrote:
    > Thankls Peter.
    > how easy were the racks for the panniers to afix?


    I have a standard Blackburn rack, but with two modifications. Instead
    of the two short metal straps that normally go to the top of the bike
    seat stays there are a couple longer bent metal straps that extend down
    to the much lower seat stays of the Pocket Rocket. The second
    modification is that the loop extending up from the rack at the front
    (to keep luggage from sliding forward and hitting the rider's legs) is
    cut off to make it easier to fit the rack into the suitcase.

    > could you use regular
    > panniers?


    Yes, no problem mounting the panniers I already had for my more
    customary bikes.

    > My Air Friday (as I am sure you know) has a gap where the down tube
    > should be. I am not sure how easy it is to afix racks to this part.
    > There are 4 braze-ons (sp?) here but I am not exactly sure what they
    > are for. I await info from GreenGear/BikeFriday.


    I'd expect them to have similar modified hardware for the AirFriday
    that they do for the Pocket Rocket.

    BTW, here's a picture of my Pocket Rocket on a camping trip down the
    California coast near Big Sur:
    http://home.comcast.net/~prathman/p1010023.jpg
     
  17. mark

    mark Guest

    "pstock" wrote...
    > Thanks for the sugggestions.
    > But you fellows are either much better packers than I am or just way
    > more optimistic.
    > One veteran here told me to pack in anticipation of snow for example.
    > (one never knows)
    > As asinine as it must sound, I would also plan to carry a laptop and
    > its power pack. and a camera. and some guidebooks for hotels. and.....
    > cold, and warm weather gear.
    > So while this will be CC touring I don't expect that I can really
    > travel completely naked.
    > This weekend I will lay out my "ideal" kit and see what I come up with.
    > But the Seat bags, while dandy, seemed just way too small for a long
    > 3-4 week trip.
    > we press on with our plans.
    >


    If this seat bag (and a decent size handlebar bag) aren't big enough then
    you, my friend, are bringing way too much stuff:

    http://www.rivendellbicycles.com/webalog/baggage_racks/20078.html

    A few thoughts:

    Unless you're cycling through the Alps, packing for snow might be a little
    too pessimistic. Even then, you can always just hole up in a nice hotel for
    a day or two.

    Instead of a laptop, consider using internet cafes and other public
    computers. Many ISP's offer some kind of web-based e-mail option
    (Earthlink's WebMail, for example) or you can just get a free
    Yahoo/Excite/Hotmail e-mail address. I've booked marked URLs for my credit
    cards and checking/savings accounts on my Earthlink start page, you can do
    the same with start pages from the various free portals.

    Instead of a cell phone, carry a phone card.

    For guidebooks, photo copy pages for the areas you will be travelling
    through, or cut out pages from the book that cover areas you won't be
    visiting.

    Keep in mind the words of Yvon Chouinard, owner/founder of Patagonia
    clothing company and accomplished alpinist, surfer, skier and all around fun
    hog: "Nothing kills enjoyment like excess weight".

    HTH,
    --
    mark
     
  18. pstock

    pstock Guest

    Mark.
    thanks for the lead to Rivindell. That Hoss is an amazingly big looking
    bag.

    why though you do you think the NWT is more suitable for touring than
    an Air Friday?

    The only real purpose in taking a folder (besides novelty) would be a)
    free air transport to and around Europe and b) security: never having
    to leave it out on the street in citites, just folding it up and taking
    it inside. The AF is only really useful if I trailer the suitcase with
    me so that I don't have to leave it at the arrival airport and go back
    there to pick it up.

    Peter
     
  19. SMS

    SMS Guest

    pstock wrote:

    > The only real purpose in taking a folder (besides novelty) would be a)
    > free air transport to and around Europe and b) security: never having
    > to leave it out on the street in citites, just folding it up and taking
    > it inside.


    That's a lot of purposes.

    > The AF is only really useful if I trailer the suitcase with
    > me so that I don't have to leave it at the arrival airport and go back
    > there to pick it up.


    The NWT can take a rack for panniers, which is why I would go that way.
    Don't the airports in Europe sell boxes or bike bags? A box may really
    be sufficient. I've purchased four Bromptons in Asia, and brought them
    all back in the original box that the Taiwanese manufacturer shipped it
    to the dealer in.
     
  20. Pat Lamb

    Pat Lamb Guest

    pstock wrote:
    > Thanks for the sugggestions.
    > But you fellows are either much better packers than I am or just way
    > more optimistic.
    > One veteran here told me to pack in anticipation of snow for example.
    > (one never knows)


    What do you need to pack for snow? I'd think arm warmers, leg warmers
    or tights would be the only additional gear; aren't you already planning
    to take some sort of cap, jacket, and warm gloves?

    > As asinine as it must sound, I would also plan to carry a laptop and
    > its power pack. and a camera. and some guidebooks for hotels. and.....
    > cold, and warm weather gear.
    > So while this will be CC touring I don't expect that I can really
    > travel completely naked.
    > This weekend I will lay out my "ideal" kit and see what I come up with.
    > But the Seat bags, while dandy, seemed just way too small for a long
    > 3-4 week trip.
    > we press on with our plans.


    Remember, while you're laying out all that gear, you're riding a bike,
    not driving a car.
     
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