A Little Bike Goes On A Big Journey
By Marisa Fink, Ed.D. August 2017
What do you do when your extended family is going on a river cruise, and you want to be with them but hate cruises? You take your Bike Friday pakiT and ride along the cruise route, self-guided, self-contained, and unsupported, and you meet them in cities along the way from Budapest, Hungary to Nuremberg, Germany.
While described by Bike Friday as a great performance city bike, I wanted to see if my brand new pakiT could take me from city to city just as well as my Air Glide and Pocket Rocket had taken me on self-contained tours in the past.
First of all, let me tell you about my pakiT. After watching the 2017 Kickstarter video promoting Bike Friday’s newest addition about a dozen times, I knew I wanted to be one of the first owners, so I signed on as project backer. My pakiT is a Glacier blue cutie with Gates Carbon Belt Drive and Shimano Alfine 11-speed Internal Hub. The grease-free, maintenance-free belt drive was a big attraction for me and did not disappoint. What has always driven me to travel with my Bike Friday bikes was their spirited character and compact travel simplicity. My pakiT was even more compact and spirited.
When I arrived in Budapest after more than 20 hours of traveling from Eugene, Oregon, my hard-shell suitcase (9.5” tall x 20” wide x 12” deep) and I squeezed into the micro-elevator to the 3rd floor Airbnb apartment where I would stay for a few days while exploring Budapest. That was pakiT’s one and only elevator ride. I carried her easily up those three flights and more for the duration of our ten-day adventure. Unpacking and assembly of pakiT took less than 30 minutes and then I went to sleep to join life in the local time zone.
In the morning, I took the suitcase loaded only with my air-traveling clothes for the return flight home, to a nearby post office. Despite no common language between the postal worker and myself, we completed the shipping form and I forked over 10,784 Hungarian Forints (approximately $42.00 USD/$35 EUR) to ship the case to the Nuremberg hotel I had reserved for the end of my trip.
To acclimate myself to the city of Budapest, I joined a day-long city tour with a company called Bike Breeze. The other ten riders borrowed a bike from the company, and the ride leader finally agreed to let me take my own bike after I convinced her that packiT could handle the city’s castle district hills. My little packiT and I outperformed every other tourist in the group! I was surprised that I only saw two other cyclists wearing helmets; maybe the pavement here
doesn’t hurt so much here. Budapest, the Hungarian capital, is the result of an 1873 merger between two distinct cities: Buda on the hilly western bank of the Danube River and the flat Pest on the other connected by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
When I met my family at the cruise port, they couldn’t believe I was going to ride “those little wheels” and keep up with the cruise ship to meet them in Bratislava, Slovakia; Melk and Linz, Austria; and Passau, Germany. After some quick catching up and confirming meeting plans, I headed out of Budapest for my 101 km ride to Esztergom, Hungary.
Along the route I encountered city streets, bike paths, busy roadways, and farm roads. Late one afternoon, I took a wrong turn on a dirt farm road just before the village of Esztergom while running out of daylight. A young family stopped to help when they saw me standing along a three-way gravel intersection puzzling how to get to the village I saw ahead but couldn’t seem to reach. They threw me and my bike in the back of their pickup with the mom and their dog, and
dropped me off on the bike path where I should have been. Speaking in broken English, German, and Hungarian, I learned that they had been to Oregon (PDX airport) and that wild boars would have found my legs tasty if I had stayed in that rural area past dusk.
Esztergom to Győr, Hungary, was a long 84 km ride on Euro Velo 6, mostly on sand, gravel, and pebbles. It was a challenging day where the route was not remarkable, but pakiT’s performance was. Fields of sunflowers and soybeans were my constant companions on a solitary 90⁰ ride. The only English I heard today was a bicycling couple arguing about whether to turn right or left at a t-intersection on the route. 80.5 km the next day from Gyor to Bratislava, Slovakia was more of the same terrain through mostly undeveloped rural areas. The bumps and root heaves along the route made me glad of all the lifts and jumps we practice in indoor cycling classes at the YMCA.
My pakiT really showed her city self on the route from Bratislava to Vienna (79 km), from battling a headwind on the rough gravel of the Donauradweg (EV6) to being nimble and responsive in stop-and- go city navigating, dodging pedestrians and fellow cyclists on the busy ringstrasse circling Vienna.
It is always a thrill to meet a fellow Bike Friday rider. You can usually recognize them before you even see their bikes by the enthusiastic shout of “Bike Friday!!!” when spotting each other. I met Mary from Texas, riding a 20-year old SatRDay recumbent in Dürnstein, said to be one of the most beautiful towns in Austria. I also caught up to my family’s cruise boat here and passed them on the way into the next port, waving at them as I rode past!
Upon arriving in Nuremberg, I was thrilled when the hotel clerk wheeled my red Bike Friday suitcase out from behind the front desk. After nearly 600 km in ten days across 4 countries, pakiT and I were happy to celebrate an excellent adventure with a seat in the shade and six small Nuremberg sausages grilled to perfection with weinsauerkraut and kartuffel salat and a dunkel beer in the world’s oldest bratwurst restaurant in the world. Zum Gulden Stern’s history dates to around 1375.
So, can a great little city bike go on big adventure? If it’s a Bike Friday pakiT, you bet!
Big Adventure for a Little Bike Fun Facts:
- Riding days: 10
- Distance traveled: 587.2 km
- Countries visited: 4
- Train rides: 3
- pakiT folding demonstrations: 4
- Visits with the cruising family members: 5
- Mechanical problems: 0
- Flat tires: 0
- Hottest day: 99⁰ F
- Coolest day: 54⁰ F
- Photos taken: 654
Fifteen Lessons I Learned From My Solo Adventure:
- You’re never lost when you are on a bicycle.
- Hydration is more important than you think.
- Reapply sunscreen and chamois butter during the ride.
- Stop and smell the flowers and take pictures with them.
- Use Pocket Earth as a back up to any GPX tracks and maps.
- Don’t be in a hurry while riding on gravel or loose sand.
- When there’s no shoulder, don’t be ashamed of riding on the sidewalk along busy roads.
- Always wear your rearview mirror.
- Keep your headlights and taillights charged; you’ll need them.
- Keep the air pressure in your tires up to the recommended PSI.
- Don’t forget sunscreen on your ears.
- Get a good night’s sleep every day.
- Look for remarkable things when the route is not remarkable.
- Eat small meals or fruit during your ride, but don’t skip meals.
- You and your bike can do amazing things when you work together.