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Training the Folder
By Graham Smith - (contact)

Riding the rails to the Sydney: A first Australian train trip for my Bike Friday folding tourer

Training the Folder: My first try at combining a loaded Bike Friday tourer with Australian train travel

There are a few hard realities I have learned about cycle touring. One of these realities took a while to really soak into the old brain. It is fact though. Getting to and from a cycle-tour more often than not requires one's bicycle and other tour essentials to be transported by something other than one's legs. Be the transport by car, train, plane, boat or yak, some form of compaction and protection is usually essential.

Because cycle tourists are by nature an innovative and efficient breed, they have devised a multitude of clever ways to temporarily shrink and protect their bike travel stuff so that it can be shunted from home and onto some type of transit to a tour start with a minimum of cost, fuss, damage and hernias.

The packing technologies employed can range from high tech, such as S & S couplers, to low tech, such as a blanket and a big plastic bag. Lots of tape, cardboard, cable-ties and bubble wrap come into most packing stories. Packing stories also usually have a tale about obtaining the needs for repacking at the end of a trip because tourers can't cart lots of tape, cardboard, cable-ties and bubble wrap with them while riding.

There are almost as many tactics to manage the tour start/end packing as there are cycle tourers. I have tried quite a few ways and found that none of them are really satisfactory because of the inconvenience of extra weight, time, cost, awkward handing and risk of bike damage. None of these are tour show-stoppers, but they are show-slowers and major disincentives to doing tours other than those which start and end at my back gate.

When I first read about Bike Friday's folding bikes in Lynette Chiang's book "The Handsomest Man in Cuba", the advantages of a small-wheeled folder really caught my attention. Not surprisingly, the apparent ease of packing and shipping were what caught my attention. A few years passed though, before I decided to buy a Bike Friday New World Tourist.

The Bike Friday's ride quality and handling has proved to be just as good a bike as I could want. With or without a load, it is a pleasure to ride. Many others have written about their surprise of there being no major difference in the ride characteristics of a Bike Friday when compared to larger wheeled bikes and I agree. It is a very good bike which also happens to have small wheels and it can be folded.

A couple more years have passed and I have well and truly tested the ride of the Bike Friday, but I had not tried its usefulness for train travel. I wanted to give the folding bike-train combination a try-out on a short trip before doing a more ambitious journey.

The first trial of the folding bike with train travel was simple.

I bought a return Canberra-Sydney train ticket, rode the loaded Bike Friday to Canberra rail station, folded and packed the bike and gear into two soft bags. I took these into the carriage with me. They easily fitted into the luggage racks. About four hours comfortable train travel later, I alighted at Sydney's Central Station, assembled and loaded the bike and then rode the Cooks River cycle way tour through to Strathfield.

The bike was free to transport and (after consulting with the CountryLink rail travel office)did not need to be checked in.

After an overnight stay at Strathfield, I carried the packed bike and other gear to Strathfield station, boarded a return train to Canberra station where I re-assembled the bike and rode home.

The packing and unpacking took no more than five minutes and needed no tools or packing materials other than a soft bag for the bike and a soft bag for everything else. These bags, when full of bike and luggage, weighed 26 kg total. They were easy to carry a few hundred metres, but I could feel the weight would be awkward to manage for longer distances. Both soft carry-bags when empty, easily packed into the panniers for the ride section of the trip.

My conclusion then is that a good folding bike does indeed take away much of the logistical headache of packing and transporting bike and gear to and from a tour by train.


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"Training the Folder" Copyright © 2011-2014 By Graham Smith - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on August 17, 2011 21:18 PDT, last updated on August 18, 2011 04:45 PDT
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