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The Pedalshift Project 100: Bicycle touring past, present and future

We gather together some great bicycle touring minds for the 100th edition of The Pedalshift Project! On this edition, it’s a roundtable talking about bicycle touring stories, and even touch on the future of bicycle touring.  Read more

The Pedalshift Project 080: Paring down your gear and keeping things charged on bike tour

Let’s talk gear. If you’re like me, you probably carry too much, “just in case.” On this episode, I talk about my recent attempts to whittle the weight down. Plus, strategies for keeping things charged on bike tour!

The Pedalshift Project 080: Paring down your gear and keeping things charged on bike tourHey it’s the direct download link for The Pedalshift Project 080: Paring down your gear and keeping things charged on bike tour (mp3)

Subscribe to The Pedalshift Project:
RSSiTunes – Overcast – Android

Reach out to the show via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget to join the newsletter too.

Have some bike touring or overnight stories to share? Send your pics, audio or a quick tweet – all welcome. Email the show at pedalshift@pedalshift.net or call the lightly-used Pedalshift voicemail line at (202) 930-1109.

Pedalshift Guide to Bicycling the C&O

More entries… more info… check out the Pedalshift Guide to Bicycling the C&O!

Pedalshift Guide to Bicycling the C&O

Gear Talk: paring down and keeping things charged

Paring down your bike tour gear

Experiment: What’s the bare minimum for me balancing comfort and gear I own? Can I get into fewer bags?
Answer: yes!
tent
sleeping bag
pad
pump
spare tube
multitool
spork
spare shirt
spare underwear
spare socks
toiletry bag (incl. ibuprofin, caffeine and electrolyte pills)
hat
helmet
batteries and cable
iPhone
water bottles or bladder
wallet
Fits in 1 pannier, 1 compression bag (Brompton – NO BACKPACK NECESSARY!)
Fits in 1 compression bag and one rack bag (Safari) – adding a frame bag to try it out
No stove, no kit – all food is grab and go (a stove and kit *does* fit though)
Includes the rack bag so it can be easily broken down and carried/checked
Helmet. Would likely just clip on outside of the rack bag.
All the gear laid out
Brompton packing
Bag to check

Keeping things charged on bike tour

Keeping things charged – beyond batteries and dynohubs, where to plug in?
  • Coffee shops
  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery store eating areas
  • Outside – look for plugged in things and check behind. Often there’s a free outlet (soda and vending machines, lights, signs, etc.)

Connections

Hey Tim,
     Just wanted to share that the weather and my schedule finally aligned so that I was able to get my first bike overnight under my belt. Not anything super exciting, but did a good 46 mile ride from my house to John Bryan State Park near Yellow Springs Ohio, and then back the next morning. I didn’t really explore the park at all, I was pretty beat by the time I got there, so just cooked some dinner and got a fire going and relaxed at the campground.
Lessons learned:
1. My legs aren’t as strong as I thought they were!  I’m used to fairly flat roads here in central Ohio, but the last 10 miles to the park had some rolling hills coupled with a pretty good headwind, and I ended up having to hop off and push my bike up the last steep climb into the park.
2.  Make sure your bike fit is really dialed in before a loaded bike trip. This was my first real long ride on this bike with it loaded with all my gear, and I started getting some pretty bad knee pain on my way home the second day. After checking some adjustments I ended up tweaking the saddle position a bit, so hopefully that will solve it.
I have some more pictures up on my instagram @goingforabikeride , but here are a couple.

Pedalshift Society

Ethan Georgi
Kimberly Wilson
Caleb Jenkinson
Cameron Lien
Andrew MacGregor
Michael Hart
Josiah Matthews
Keith Nagel
Brock Dittus
Thomas Skadow
Seth Krieger
Marco Lo
Terrance Manson
Noah Schroer
Harry Telgadas
John Sikorski
Richard Killian
Chris Barron
Scott Taylor
Brian Hren
Mark Van Raam
Brad Hipwell
Paul Mulvey
Stuart Buchan
Todd Stutz
Mr. T
Roxy Arning
Nathan Poulton
Dereck Waggoner
Harry Hugel
And all anonymous and past contributors for helping make this show happen!

Music

You’ve been hearing about Jason Kent and his music for 79 fine episodes. I got news for ya. New. Sunfields. Album. This August.

eastern express route

The Pedalshift Project 079: The new Eastern Express Route alternative to the Trans Am

Planning for a June tour… someplace… I stumbled upon a brand new tour option: the Eastern Express Route is an alternative eastern spur for the Trans Am route, starting in DC. It includes the C&O, the GAP and Katy trails and we chat with the person who did the heavy lifting (and cue sheet creation!) for this amazing new option.

The Pedalshift Project 079: The new Eastern Express Route alternative to the Trans AmHey it’s the direct download link for The Pedalshift Project 079: The Eastern Express – a new Trans Am bike touring alternative route (mp3)

Subscribe to The Pedalshift Project:
RSSiTunes – Overcast – Android

Reach out to the show via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget to join the newsletter too.

Have some bike touring or overnight stories to share? Send your pics, audio or a quick tweet – all welcome. Email the show at pedalshift@pedalshift.net or call the lightly-used Pedalshift voicemail line at (202) 930-1109.

Followup

Hey, the C&O Guide has *lots* more in it now!
  • Segmented into about 10 mile chunks
  • Adding descriptions over the rest of the spring
  • Embedded maps
  • Embedded campsite video reviews
  • More to come!

The Journal

  • West coast touring options for June?
  • Vancouver Island
  • Multimodal Oregon/Washington tour
  • Brompton or no?
  • Eastern Express as another option? C&O->GAP-> and beyond. Hooks up with the Katy eventually. Hmmm…
Reached out to the originator to get him on the show!

The Interview: The Eastern Express Route with Frank Mortiz

Frank Moritz, originator of the Eastern Express RouteFrank Moritz, is a veteran Adventure Cycling tour leader, instructor and board member, and completed the initial research to create an “eastern express route” addition to the legendary TransAmerica bike route. This new route provides a welcome option for TransAm cyclists to bypass the severe mountain climbs and nasty dogs that confront cyclists in southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southern Missouri on the eastern half of the existing route. It also replaces three major high-altitude climbs in Colorado with one gradual and scenic climb to the Continental Divide. Amazingly, almost 600 of the 2,100+ miles of this route are on dedicated bike/pedestrian paths, towpaths, or rail-trails.

Questions

  • Your background in bike touring, including your work with ACA
  • Your thoughts on the Trans Am route as it currently is routed in the east
  • It’s one thing to develop an alternate route, but quite another to do ALL of the great work with cue sheets etc. for the Eastern Express… what motivated this?
  • What is the plan for the route – it feels like this is a “public beta” and you’ll be doing some refinements after comments this year.
  • What can Pedalshift listeners do to help with this process?
  • Any other recommendations that might be different from “the usual” routes out there in the US?
You can learn more about Frank and the Eastern Express Route at easternexpressroute.com.

Connections

Where are you listening?
I hope you are well! I listened to a podcast where you where curious about from which countries your listeners are from. Well, I’m from Sweden (Stockholm) and I really enjoy listening to you. Keep up the good work!  – Paula in Stockholm
Data!
Perhaps not too surprising… most of you are in the United States. All 50 states listen (even Wyoming – someone has to be last, but you’re beautiful and windy Cowboy State listeners!) and the top states are:
  • Oregon (wonder why?)
  • California
  • New York (Empire State!)
  • Illinois (biggest surprise?)
  • Texas (everything’s bigger)
International
  • UK (about 25% the US DLs)
  • Canada (about 7% – c’mon Canada!)
  • Australia (4%)
  • Sweden (1.4%)
  • Ireland (my people! 1.3%)
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • China
  • Netherlands
  • Japan
Also hear from members of the US military who listened while stationed in Afghanistan and elsewhere… hey, if this dopey little show about riding bikes helped pass the time while you were serving, trust me when I say it is literally the least I can do.
Thank you all for listening! If you’re listening from exotic spot (well and exotic spot for me) drop a line or leave a note in the comments! Bonus points for calling the Pedalshift voicemail!!

Pedalshift Society

Ethan Georgi
Kimberly Wilson
Caleb Jenkinson
Cameron Lien
Andrew MacGregor
Michael Hart
Josiah Matthews
Keith Nagel
Brock Dittus
Thomas Skadow
Seth Krieger
Marco Lo
Terrance Manson
Noah Schroer
Harry Telgadas
John Sikorski
Richard Killian
Chris Barron
Scott Taylor
Brian Hren
Mark Van Raam
Brad Hipwell
Paul Mulvey
Stuart Buchan
Todd Stutz
Mr. T
Roxy Arning
Nathan Poulton
Dereck Waggoner
Harry Hugel
And all anonymous and past contributors for helping make this show happen!

Music

You’ve been hearing about Jason Kent and his music for 79 fine episodes. I got news for ya. New. Sunfields. Album. This August.

The Pedalshift Project 077: Bike touring differently

Jeremy Mendelson joins the show to talk about his take on bike touring differently: from a bike touring focused lifestyle to vegan touring to riding  little clown bikes and much more.

The Pedalshift Project 077: Bike touring differentlyHey it’s the direct download link for The Pedalshift Project 077: Bike touring differently (mp3)

Subscribe to The Pedalshift Project:
RSSiTunes – Overcast – Android

Reach out to the show via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget to join the newsletter too.

Have some bike touring or overnight stories to share? Send your pics, audio or a quick tweet – all welcome. Email the show at pedalshift@pedalshift.net or call the lightly-used Pedalshift voicemail line at (202) 930-1109.

The Interview: bike touring differently with Jeremy Mendelson

Jeremy Mendelson is a transit planner, geographer, traveler, bus driver, advocate and co-founder of TransitMatters in Boston. He’s currently working in Colorado for the winter season and as we’ll talk about in the interview, that’s more of a means to an end in his bike travel oriented life setup. Living a more nomadic life that serves his bike touring is just the tip of the iceberg for how Jeremy tours differently. He’s a longtime vegan, which we chat about, and a fan of touring on the little clown bike itself, the Brompton. Such a great discussion…

Questions

  • So much to chat about, but I think we should start by talking about your lifestyle… you describe yourself as living a semi-nomadic lifestyle. What was your journey to end up there?
  • How did you get into bike touring differently?
  • How does your perspective being a geographer inform your bike touring? Do you think you tour differently because of that?
  • Let’s dive into the vegan thing. I find everyone who is fully plant-based eaters or trending in that direction have a good story to tell about how they got there. What’s yours?
  • My experience is it’s not hard to eat totally plant-based almost anyplace, but in parts of the country (and the world) the tradeoff tends to mean having to eat a lot of processed stuff or sugary foods I would rather avoid. What’s your experience like and what do you do in “food deserts” on tour?
  • Having just finished a weekend tour, I found my ability to stick with my eating plan was always battered by (a) my sudden intense caloric needs, (b) my weird cravings and (c) availability. What’s your general plan when you tour to eat plant-based?
  • One of the big benefits I see with plant based eating on tour is cost savings… can you chat a bit about that?
  • Let’s shift gears and chat about your adventures touring on a Brompton. What’s your favorite part about touring on “the little clown bike”?
  • What gear do you tend to leave at home or pare down on when on the Brompton and how do you split it all up on the bike?
  • You’re a bus driver and transit enthusiast so you’re a natural to chat about fast forwards. How do you use them and what’s your favorite one you’ve ever done?
  • What’s next for you?
  • Read and listen more at criticaltransit.com.

Resources

If you want to hear more about touring on a Brompton, check out Pedalshift Tour Journals Vol. 5: California Coast. Can a loaded Brompton handle the hills of Big Sur? An hour and 46 minutes of touring stories for 10 bucks… and it helps support the show! Here’s a preview:

Connections

Another 5-star review over on iTunes!

Pedalshift Society

A big thank you to all of the monthly supporters of the show! If you like what you hear, you can help me keep the show listener-supported while expanding the offerings. Five bucks, two bucks or even 1 helps with the costs of hosting the podcast and the website, and you can do it for a bit and cancel anytime. One-shot support is welcome if you’re not into the small monthly thing. Check it out and join at pedalshift.net/society. And society members please go to pedalshift.net/stickers and let me know where to send some Pedalshift stickers to you! On to the Society!

Ethan Georgi
Kimberly Wilson
Caleb Jenkinson
Cameron Lien
Andrew MacGregor
Michael Hart
Josiah Matthews
Keith Nagel
Brock Dittus
Thomas Skadow
Michael Riscica
Seth Krieger
Marco Lo
Terrance Manson
Noah Schroer
Harry Telgadas
John Sikorski
Richard Killian
Chris Barron
Scott Taylor
Brian Hren
Mark Van Raam
Brad Hipwell
Paul Mulvey
Stuart Buchan
Todd Stutz
Mr. T
Roxy Arning
Nathan Poulton
And all anonymous and past contributors for helping make this show happen!

Music

You’ve been hearing about Jason Kent and his music for 77 fine episodes. I got news for ya. New. Sunfields. Album. This August.

The Pedalshift Project 073: Yoga for bike touring

How do I class up this podcast? Easy… ask my better half to come on the show and chat up how great yoga is for bike touring! On this episode of the pod, we discuss yoga for bike tourists with Kimberly Wilson, founder and owner of Tranquil Space yoga studios in Washington, DC. Plus connections and more!

Hey it’s the direct download link for The Pedalshift Project 073: Yoga for bike touringThe Pedalshift Project 073: Yoga for bike touring (mp3)

Reach out to the show via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget to join the newsletter too.

Have some bike touring or overnight stories to share? Send your pics, audio or a quick tweet – all welcome. Email the show at pedalshiftproject@gmail.com or call the lightly-used Pedalshift voicemail line at (202) 930-1109.

The Interview: Kimberly Wilson on yoga for bike touring

Kimberly Wilson is the founder of Tranquil Space yoga studios—named among the top 25 in the world by Travel + Leisure, designer of  TranquiliT lifestyle line, director of Tranquil Space Foundation, and author of five books {Hip Tranquil ChickTranquilistaTranquilologie,Tranquility du Jour Anthology52 Weeks of Tranquility Journal}.

Learn more at kimberlywilson.com and listen to her podcast, Tranquility du Jour wherever cool podcasts are podded.

Kimberly Wilson yoga for bike touring

Yoga resources

Pedal Stretch Breathe by Kelli Refer is broader than yoga for bike touring, but it’s the best yoga and bikes zine out there!

A short sun salutation practice by Kimberly herself:

sun salutations direct download (mp3)

Something we didn’t talk about but is super awesome for bike tourists is understanding the six movements of one’s spine. Check out this video Kimberly did on that:

And, finally… a nice yoga practice lead by Kimberly from my WV cabin! (I don’t think I’ve ever shown it on the site before?)

Connections

Turns out we tied!

42-42-16 tie for Pedalshift and Sprocket

Bike oasis

Brock recommends this awesome GoFundMe to support the revamp of Newton Bike Shop’s bike touring hostel The Oasis in the Grass Desert:

https://www.gofundme.com/buildtheoasis

Cool pods and pics

Jeremy of Critical Transit shared a bunch of images and podcasts from his tour of New England… check them out! He’s also a big Brompton tourer, with plans to repeat that ride with his “little clown bike” as I like to call them!

Pedalshift Society

A big thank you to all of the monthly supporters of the show! If you like what you hear, you can help me keep the show listener-supported while expanding the offerings. Five bucks, two bucks or even 1 helps with the costs of hosting the podcast and the website, and you can do it for a bit and cancel anytime. One-shot support is welcome if you’re not into the small monthly thing. Check it out and join at pedalshift.net/society. And society members please go to pedalshift.net/stickers and let me know where to send some Pedalshift stickers to you! On to the Society!

Ethan Georgi
Matt Buker
Kimberly Wilson
Caleb Jenkinson
Cameron Lien
Andrew MacGregor
Michael Hart
Josiah Matthews
Keith Nagel
Brock Dittus
Thomas Skadow
Michael Riscica
Seth Krieger
Marco Lo
Terrance Manson
Noah Schroer
Harry Telgadas
John Sikorski
Richard Killian
Chris Barron
Scott Taylor
Brian Hren
Mark Van Raam
Brad Hipwell
Paul Mulvey
Stuart Buchan
Todd Stutz
Mr. T
Roxanna Arning
And all anonymous and past contributors for helping make this show happen!

Music

The Pedalshift Project theme is America courtesy of Jason Kent off his self-titled solo album. Check out his band Sunfields‘ latest release, Habitat, wherever cool music resides. And a little birdy tells me Jason’s recording some new music. More when I know…

The Pedalshift Project 065: The Pedalshift Holiday Spectacular 2016

It’s the end of the year and that means it’s time for the Pedalshift Holiday Spectacular! Join Shifty the Elf and Tim for a showcase of the best of Pedalshift in 2016!

The Pedalshift Project Holiday Spectacular 2016Hey it’s the direct download link for The Pedalshift Project 065: The Pedalshift Holiday Spectacular 2016
(mp3)

Reach out to the show via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget to join the newsletter too.

Have some bike touring or overnight stories to share? Send your pics, audio or a quick tweet – all welcome. Email the show at pedalshiftproject@gmail.com or call the lightly-used Pedalshift voicemail line at (202) 930-1109.

The Pedalshift Holiday Spectacular 2016

The Pedalshift Project 065: The Pedalshift Holiday Spectacular 2016

Music

The Pedalshift Project theme is America courtesy of Jason Kent off his self-titled solo album. Check out his band Sunfields‘ latest release, Habitat, wherever cool music resides. And a little birdy tells me Jason’s recording some new music. More when I know…

FEATURED IMAGE,ONE-SEVENTY-NINE/THREE-SIXTY-FIVE (CC) LAURA BITTNER
Bike Touring Gift Guide

Holiday Bike Touring Gift Guide

Just say no to the bikey pizza cutter. I mean, delicious, but no. This is a bike touring gift guide for the bike tourist in your life (hint: this might be you).  These are (almost all) things I personally use and love.

Bike Touring Gift Guide

Tent: Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2 person ($125)

This tent saved me from a flood. Like, for real.

Sleeping bagHyke and Byke 32º down sleeping bag ($99)

A newer addition to my gear… works great and super affordable.

Ultrlight StoveEtekcity Ultralight foldable stove ($9.99)
Runner up: Trangia Spirit Burner alcohol stove  ($14.53)

Love the Etekcity, and the Trangia is a great value.

Lights: Portland Design Works Radbot 1000 ($29)
Runner up: Ascher USB rechargeable LED set ($13.99)

I swear by PDW as my rear light, and I just bought the Ascher set for Kimberly.

Bike Touring Gift Guide

Panniers: Ortlieb back roller classic (prices/colors vary)
Ortlieb front roller classic (prices/colors vary)

Look, there are a lot on the market. But Ortlieb stands the test of time for me. Plus: orange.

Dry Bag: Sea to Summit eVent Compression dry bag, large ($42.95)

I think this is one of the most clever items on the list… waterproof but lets air out for easy compression. I use the large size for sleeping kits, but all sizes are great.

Support the Parks: National Park and Federal Land Annual Pass ($80)

I ride the C&O a lot, and while there isn’t an entrance fee, this pass makes me feel like I support the system. Oh, it also lets me in all the others… which is nice.

Water Bottles: Brita Sport Water Filter bottle (2 pack for $16)

Filters built in make this a great way to help less than tasty water sources (it filters out iodine taste too for you backcountry types with iodine pills).

External Battery: Anker Astro E7 ($60)
Runner up: Anker Power Core 20100 ($40)

Anker is my brand for these.. get the biggest battery that makes sense for you.

Rain jacket: Showers Pass Double Century ($159)

Best rain jacket I’ve ever had. Looks nice too!

Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Plus (Price varies by size)
or
Schwalbbe Marathon Supreme (Price varies by size)

Nearly puncture proof, but more importantly, Schwalbe stands by their product with great warranties.

Tune up: contact your LBS (price varies by service)

Your bike will thank you.

Maps: ACA maps for a future tour (price varies)

For you paper types!

Stocking stuffers:

  • Freeze dried instant meals
  • Caffeine pills
  • Electrolyte pills
  • VIA Instant coffee packets
  • First aid kit
  • Tubes
  • Patch kit
  • Wool socks

For you big spender types… a touring bike: 
Brompton, Pedalshift Style from CelverCycles in PDX (Oregon has no sales tax!) or your LBS… (just no orange)
Runner up: Surly Long Haul Trucker from your LBS


FYI, some of these are affiliate links.

touring brompton

Touring Brompton specs: “The Pedalshift Touring Brompton”

<disclaimer> Ok, ok it’s not technically a Pedalshift Touring Brompton in the sense it’s, well… it’s not official from Brompton’s perspective. Like, at all. Ok… </disclaimer>

However… I’ve had a lot of people ask me the specs on the Brompton I recommend for touring, so I thought I’d finally share them here.

Pedalshift Touring Brompton specs

Build: M6R

Oh, you don’t speak Bromptonese? Yeah, me neither… in fact, I had to look this up again! M is for the style of handlebars… they lend to a mostly upright riding position, which I know goes against most bike touring dynamics, but on a Brompton, it’s better in my opinion. I did a bunch of research on this and it seems most people who tour on them prefer the M bars.

6 stands for the 6-speed variety. It doesn’t say it here, but get the -12% gearing (hi hills!). We’ll be doing one more thing later too, stay tuned.

R stands for rear rack. You’ll want this for carrying stuff and things.

touring brompton

Color: Orange

Horror of horrors, I learned from Anna at Clever Cycles that Brompton is suspending orange as a color for bikes in 2016! A true Pedalshift Touring Brompton would be all orange. Yours may have to not be, barring a custom after market paint job or Brompton changing it’s mind in 2017.

Telescopic seat post

You may be the size of a small giraffe like our friend MJ, or you may be regular sized like yours truly. Either way, get the telescopic seat post for easier removal of the saddle while traveling.

telescoping post

Cushioning: Firm

The softer cush is too soft for handling with weight. Go firm.

Tires: Schwalbe Marathon

But, Tim! Rolling resistance! GRAMS!

Stop. Shake yourself. Say “Schwalbe Marathons.” You’re welcome.

Extras you probably want

Front carrier block

This gives you the option for any number of front bags, including ones you build or hack yourself using the Brompton luggage frame.

Brompton in SLO

Saddle bag & cover

I use these rarely, but when I do it’s in airports. Stealth mode is critical to get past some of the people that would stand in your way to overhead carry-on bliss.

stealth mode brompton

The key extra: ATS Speed Drive

This is a Clever Cycles recommended add on, and I have to say it’s pretty brilliant. ATS makes a gizmawahoo1 that effectively doubles your gears by effectively making a hub not unlike a double chainring. It’s an internal hub that is activated with a tap of the heel on the pedal crank. Remember when I said go for the -12% gearing? Well his helps to get you even lower at the bottom gear, getting you gear inches comparable to a standard touring bike. I’m here to say it’s awesome. I know Clever Cycles can do it… maybe your Brompton shop can too?

Maybes

Brompfication Ez wheels

I almost would leave this one off if you’re torn. I find the rubber “wheels” come off a little too easily when the bike is rolled on things like, say, Parisian cobblestone. Perhaps my standards are a little high, non?

Saddle: Brooks

I’m on record as a person who can handle stock saddles. If you spend this much on a bike, many would argue putting anything less than the king (or queen) of saddles on it would be a disgrace. I’ll let you be the judge… I happened to get a Brooks for this one.

detach your saddle while flying with your Brompton

So… there you have it! The completely officially non-official Pedalshift Touring Brompton. Chime away in the comments if you have thoughts on touring with your bike!


  1. technical term

flying with your brompton

Flying with your Brompton

A typical Brompton with a rear rack and ez-wheels is a great bike for touring or just using for transportation at whatever destination is on your itinerary. What’s amazing about them is they can also fit in the overhead compartment of most larger aircraft… meaning you can have your bike with you as your carry on. Here are a few tips you need to know when flying with your Brompton.

Download Pedalshift Project #34: Flying with your Brompton

#1 Telescoping seat post FTW

detach your saddle while flying with your BromptonThe telescoping seat post is a real help when you’re planning on bringing your Brompton aboard with you. It lets you easily remove the saddle without tools, making your Brompton more compact to fit into two important places – the carry-on luggage belt and the overhead bins of most larger planes. It’s not that you can’t do this with the standard seatpost, but it requires you to unbolt your saddle… kind of a drag if you can avoid it.

#2 Know your plane

You probably noticed I keep hedging on this… you can get your Brompton in the overhead bins of most larger planes. If your itinerary includes a regional jet, or worse, something with propellers… your Brompton won’t fit on board. You’ll need to gate-check it and that means it goes into the belly of the beast. A lot of times you get the bike back as you exit, but sometimes the airlines make you collect the bike at baggage check along with the masses. If you do gate check the bike, ask to get it right after you land on the jetway to be safe. Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn’t.

Even if you know you’re on bigger planes with bigger overhead bins, sometimes the world conspires against you… it’s always best to be ready for gate checking. A $5 Dimpa bag from IKEA fits a Brompton like a glove and gives baggage handlers a handle. I also recommend using some velcro straps to ensure your bike remains folded. I had to gate-check my Brompton once because of the volume of carry-ons and the Dimpa bag worked great and the bike came through without a scratch or a dent. Pro-tip: tighten down the frame bolts so they are locked down. This minimizes the chance they can get jostled and break. If things go well, you’ll get the bike in the overhead bin and you won’t need any of this advice. If not, you’ve got it as a backup.

For the record, here are a list of jets with overhead bins that a Brompton fits based on personal experience:

  • Airbus A319
  • Airbus A330-300
  • Boeing 757-300
  • Boeing 737-800
  • Boeing 7771

(there are way more, of course)

#3 Know when to roll em, know how to fold em

rolling Brompton at IADI learned this the hard way as a newbie in the airport so learn from my mistakes! The Brompton rolls like a champ if you have the easywheels and you extend the handlebars or saddle post. I prefer the saddle post for a little more stealth. Problem is when it’s extended and you need to lift the Brompton, it unfolds just when you least want it.

Pro tip – extend the saddle post when you roll, collapse it to lift. Like I did over there at Dulles airport on a trip to Italy…

#4 Stealth mode

stealth mode bromptonI prefer to keep the identity of my bike as secret as I can. It helps to avoid overly officious airline personnel from trying to tag you with a fee or require you to gate check. That’s why I love the Brompton bike cover. It easily slips over the bike and makes it look like an odd piece of rolling luggage rather than a super cool bicycle. I always have the cover on when I’m near the check-in desk and the gate.

Update 12/15/15 — Never has it been more clear that stealth mode is important than now.

Ugh. Wanna know how and why?

#5 TSA/security + boarding tips

Ok, so you’re checked in for your flight, maybe checked your backpack or touring gear and you’re rolling to security. If you haven’t already, remove the saddle before you get too far in the line. Your Brompton is now small enough to go on the conveyer belt. It’s a bit of a dance to get your shoes off, and your other gear binned up but the bike’s pretty easy. Put it folding pedal side down and the shorter side facing the scanner. First time you do it, you’ll swear it won’t make it… but it does. Trust me.

Be prepared to have a security agent give you a knowing smile – the scanner gives away your secret pretty quickly.

Once you’re done with security, it’s best to get in position at the gate as soon as you can. Your best chance of getting your bike in the overhead bin is to be on the plane before as many people as possible. You know all those jerks who hover around the line waiting for their group to be called? Be that person this time.

Keep your cover on and roll your bike so you’re between it and the check-in attendant. This is the first of two human obstacles to the overhead bin, so stealth mode is pretty important here.

Once you get your boarding pass processed, keep rolling to your plane!

#6 Getting down the aisle and in the overhead

So you’re rolling down the jetway like a champ… now comes the tricky part. Collapse the seat post so you can lift the Brompton without inadvertently unfolding. Lift the bike by the top tube and make sure you give the flight attendant a big smile and a hello. On full flights most are trained to discourage larger roll aboards and encourage gate checking. I’ve run into a few that think my “bag” won’t fit. Being friendly and saying you’ve flown with it before and been able to stow it often works. This is where getting aboard early pays back big dividends.

Once past the flight attendant, it’s time to get to your seat and stow the bike above! I always keep an eye several rows ahead in case the overhead for my row is occupied. If it is and there’s a spot before, grab it. Worst case, keep looking past your seat for a spot in a bin toward the rear. It means waiting for everyone when you land, but better to be in the overhead than running out of space and sheepishly needing to gate check your bike after everyone’s boarded.

Congratulations! You’re flying with your Brompton AND you got it on as a carry on! Take that celebratory photo and impress your friends and family…

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  1. The overhead bins on newer jets like the 777 are the style where the whole bin drops down, not just the door. It makes for a heavy close with the Brompton in there and you may need to adjust it on the way up. It fit, but when I first boarded a 777 flight in June 2016 I wasn’t sure it was going to work!