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By Jim Ralston
Three of us from Memphis, TN take a European bike tour each year.
This past September we rode the Rhine River from Karlsruhe, Germany to Lake Constance in Switzerland -- a 368-mile adventure.
The first photo captures two of us at the Tanners Lane in the medieval part of Strasbourg, France, with our Bike Fridays set up for touring.
That's Neil Sharpe and his New World Tourist on the left, and me with my Pocket Sport on the right.
The third member of our trio, Bill Waters, had his New World Tourist stolen from his truck just seven days before we departed, so he did not have enough time to have a new Bike Friday built and shipped for the trip.
He ordered his new NWT after we returned and is waiting for it now. We made him take the picture since he did not have his Bike Friday.
We rode for 10 days completely unsupported and had to carry all of our gear in the panniers. The bikes handled the trip with no problems at all.
Best of all, Delta treated our bikes as just another suitcase and did not charge us the extra fee of several hundred dollars per leg of the journey as they do for other bicycle shipping cases.
A few more tours and we will have saved in extra luggage fees the total cost of the Bike Fridays.
Over many years of touring I have acquired three touring bikes, but now consider my Bike Friday as my primary touring bike.
Our general format is to fly in and stay at a reserved hotel near the airport that agrees to store our bike cases while we ride. We also reserve a room at this hotel for our last night so that we can reclaim our boxes and pack the bikes.
Except for Ireland, we typically reserve a few rooms along the way in places where we think it may be hard to find a room, and otherwise we search for a room every afternoon.
Usually, the Tourist Information Office in each town is a great help. We reserved rooms every night in Ireland because it is often very hard to find rooms. We travel completely unsupported and carry our clothes and gear in panniers on the bikes.
Breakfast is typically included in the lodging cost, and we have lunch on the road in a local sit down restaurant. For lunch we usually look for a place that is serving a lot of working people. These usually have good food at a reasonable price. For dinner we look for a nice place, but not based on cost, but on reputation. We are looking for a reasonable cost and better than average meals. We usually succeed.
Neil and I previously rode Co-Motion Nor'easters as they broke apart and could be carried in one checkable case. However, due to weight restrictions and lack of room in the case, the bike alone was about all that fit. I carried a second suitcase with fenders, luggage racks, lights, spare parts and tools, panniers, and my biking clothes and off the bike clothes.
Both cases were at max weight. It took about 2 hours to assemble and adjust the Co-Motion and about an hour or more to take it apart and pack it. The BF can be gotten ready in about 30 minutes and packing it takes a few minutes less. That is nice. Co-Motions are good touring bikes.
However, new luggage restrictions and extra luggage costs pointed us in the direction of a folding bike and our choice was Bike Friday.
Bill started touring with his NWT about 4 years ago. He liked it and it performed well and he was always finished assembling or packing well before Neil or I.
I bought my Pocket Sport about two years ago to have a bike with me wherever I drove or flew. I am retired and travel a lot and it is nice to have a bike with me wherever I go. I also like to keep the bike in the travel case rather than hanging it on an external bike rack. That keeps it cleaner and I feel that it is less likely to be stolen or vandalized inside my truck.
In order to convert the Pocket Sport to a touring bike I bought a rear rack, Schwalbe puncture resistant tires, and a bar to mount my handlebar bag down lower on the steering post. I spent two years in the army and learned to pack light because we had to carry everything we needed. Neil got a NWT to shorten his packing time about two tours back.
On 9/6/2012, we flew from our homes and arrived in Frankfurt, Germany the next morning. Upon arrival we assembled the bikes and got ready to ride. The next morning we took a train to Stuttgart, Germany and spent a day and one-half touring the Mercedes Benz museum and the Porsche museum. While we devote one vacation each year to unsupported bike touring, we also have an interest in automobiles. The museums were very interesting showing examples of cars from dream cars, to the present, to the historical.
Following that we took a train to Karlsruhe to begin the cycling portion of our tour. Most trains in Europe are very clean, punctual, and allow bikes to be brought on board except for some business day rush hour commuter trains. Some trains also charge moderate fares for transporting a bike.
On the second to last day of our tour we rode a train from Constance to Frankfurt, checked in to our first night's hotel, cleaned and disassembled our bikes, packed them in their suitcases, and had our celebratory last dinner together. One of the nicest things about touring with a Friday is the ease of taking it down and packing it. At that point with the tour completed some fatigue often sets in and the few minutes that it takes to pack is welcomed. The next morning we took the shuttle to the airport and headed home.
- Arctic Circle
- British Columbia
- Down Under
- Eastern US
- Eastern Seaboard
- French Alps
- Hyogo Prefecture
- Italian Alps
- New England
- New York
- North Carolina
- Southeast Asia
- Southern Spain
- Southern USA
- South West
- Virgin Islands
- Western U.S.
- Jackson Hole
- Key West
- Lake Tahoe
- Lanikai Beach
- Las Vegas
- Martha's Vineyard
- McKenzie Pass
- Mountaim View
- Mount Evans
- Mt. Michel Castle
- New York City
- Niagara Falls
- Port Orford
- Ross Island
- San Francisco
- San Diego
- Sappho's Isle
- South Hobart
- Washington, DC