Building a touring foldie

Hey Foldies! In this issue, we examine bicycle touring with a folding bike in detail. This is an extension of an article which I have written earlier on the ‘Joy of touring’.

POPULARITY OF TOURING BIKES

Bicycling tourists are on the increase in Malaysia, especially with the introduction of high-quality touring bikes from brands like Cinelli, Marin, Surly and such. But, folding bike owners who goes on a tour around the country are far and few in-between.

To me, one of the best way to soak-in the beauty of our countryside is by cycling and without question, the folding bike is the tool that does the job right.

FOLDING BIKE EVOLVED: Samo's 2009 Dahon Speed P8, now, touring ready.

Through my experience of doing my own tours around the Peninsula, I’ve been asked some really interesting questions. One in particular, from a fellow cycling-kaki – is my favourite: “Hey Samo, you did the Land’s End ride (195km one-way from Muar to Pontian in Johor) with an 8-speed bike ah?”

I told him that it was not impossible to tour on a 20″ bike if you have the will power to do so. The rest is based on preparation and setting up the bike to get the job done.

GETTING IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME

Ever since I first laid my eyes on a Dahon Speed P8 three years ago, my perception on folding bikes has never been the same.
Why? This is one folding bike that offered versatility which literally meant: “Go anywhere”.

PLENTY OF ADVANTAGE: A folding bike can be easily transported anytime and anywhere.

From short-distance rides to a full-Century ride, the Speed yielded hours of fun and as far as build-quality is concerned, its one of the most overlooked folding bikes for touring. But, before I started crunching gears and sweating it out on the trail, the first thing I did, was train for strength and stamina. As I gained more experience and got used to my bike-setting, I started to upgrade my bike with a set of Dahon front and rear traveler’s rack. With a small investment of RM380 (both items), the touring ride was slowly taking shape.

Later, I added a set of SKS front and rear fenders. This may ‘subdue’ the looks of the Speed P8, but it certainly prevented the mud and ‘road soup’ from spraying up my back during those ride in wet weather.

For safety, I fitted my right bar-end with a bicycle mirror. This allows me to see oncoming vehicles without the need to turn my head each time I come across a stretch with heavy road traffic.

SOME SAY ITS 'SISSY': Bicycle mirrors can save your life.

To clock-in the distance and making rough estimation on my journey, I’ve also added a Cateye Commuter cyclometer. This is a permanent feature on the bike as it is heavily used to record the actual mileage on the bike.

If you plan to go beyond the stateline and tour other places around the country, no experience would be complete without a proper bicyle Global Positioning System (GPS). I use a Garmin EDGE800 for the purpose of tracking my progress and navigate in places that are not familiar to me. The mapping feature on this bike gadget really helped.

NAVIGATIONAL AID: The Garmin EDGE800 bicycle GPS system.

It also gave real-time reading on the ‘distance to go’, ‘estimated time of arrival’ that is vital in calculating your progress while on the road.
As back-up, I always pack a trusty road map as this ‘old school’ style of navigation is never out of fashion.

BAGGAGE PORTAGE AND SOME ESSENTIAL GEARING

I consider the Dahon Speed P8 as a trusted mule.

And for portage, I depended on my trusty Ortlieb frontroller panniers. When I first started touring, I used a Topeak bicycle pannier. But soon, I learned that the design was too frail and had resorted to the Ortliebs. Good bicycle panniers are not cheap. To outfit a bike, it costs nearly RM1,000 to purchase two sets of bike bags (frontroller and backroller Classic) including a small 22-litre rack pack.

A set of Ortlieb Backroller panniers on Edmund Foo's Dahon MuP8 folding bike.

HUMBLE BEGINNER: Atmosphere Outfitter's Edmund Foo and his touring-ready ride.

Since the panniers are waterproof, riding in the rain was never an issue. Both our bikes (Michelle, my wife rides a Dahon Speed TR) are fitted with the Ortlieb system and we’ve never had a moment where our luggage got wet.

As far as fitting is concerned, the panniers integrated well with our Dahon racks.
Sometime back, I rode with a couple. One of them actually strapped a backpack on his top tube. And from my cycling mirror, I saw the dude struggling like a gorilla on a tricycle. This was so wrong. If he had invested on a set of panniers, it wouldn’t have been so bad..

For comfort on the road, I got rid of my standard bike saddle and replaced it with a Selle Royal Ergogel insert seat. This enabled me to ride longer distance with ease and the utmost comfort. Traveling on extended duration on the road can drain the juice on your GPS.

To overcome this, I use a Powertraveler ‘Powermonkey Explorer’ solar-charged energy pack. This is strapped permanently on my Speed P8′s front rack and is used to charge my EDGE800 GPS.

HARNESSING THE SUN'S ENERGY: A Powertraveler Solar Monkey Explorer solar panel on Samo's bike.

All I need to do, is leave the solar panel deployed so that it could harness energy from the Sun. Right now, my bike is fitted with a dynamo hub which I am testing and so far, its been the most efficient energy generator.

SUITABLE BIKES FOR THE JOB

I put this as the last mention because not many folding bikes are suitable to be converted for touring. Some bikes do not have luggage carrier fittings on its frame to allow racks to be mounted on.

As far as I’ve known, the Dahons and Terns are capable of being converted into a long-distance machine. And the usual debate about gear inches and torque was debunked by the famed Heinz Stucke who cycled around the world on his trusty 8-speed Shimano Nexus internal hub gear Bike Friday Pocket Llama.

Well, speaking about Bike Fridays, yeah, they are the most experienced people who offers customised bikes for touring. Its now available here through My Family Cycle Services in Bandar Utama and the man to see is Doc Andy and his partner Daisy Lee.

For Dahons, I would strongly recommend the Speed P8 and TR which is specially made for touring. As far as Tern Bicycles are concerned, their solution to a 20″ touring ride is the Link P24h. To me, the Link P9 is one sweet bike which I consider as a well-made upgrade if you are looking for something better than the Dahon Speed P8.

Other reliable brands include the Birdy from Pacific Cycles, KHS from Taiwan and the Raleigh Ugo.

Well, there you have it! So, the next time you are seriously thinking of doing a tour on a foldie, there are plenty of resources from the internet and one place where you can hangout and talk to the more experienced cyclists is at the Malaysian Foldies Forum (www.malaysianfoldies.rocks.it) and till we meet again, ride safe!

By Samo
samcheong@gmail.com

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  • D.

    Thank you! Very helpful and informative. I’ve recently bought a Dahon D7HG with the intention of touring France with it next summer. :)