Using a folding bike for touring, on the face of it, looks like a great idea. The ability pack the bike away if you need to use alternative transport, easy to pack away for staying in small hostels or houses, can keep your bike with you rather than locked out of sight. Using a Brompton will inevitably mean that you are using small radius wheel meaning that you will be pretty much limited to tarmac (unless you enjoy the burn). Even with this limitation, there are still many miles and amazing sights to see, but how do you make the ride as easy as possible? Here are a few tips that I have found to help.
Creating a Pack-horse
As with any tour, weight and pack size are always a main concern and doubly so for a using a folding bike. Brompton have many great luggage solutions from the giant T-bag that fits on the front, to the tool kit that fits in the frame. If you want to use your own rear panniers though, you will find that the standard rear rack for Brompton is too short and the bags scrape on the ground with any lean. Seat post mounted rack allows you to use deeper bags with minimal change in size. Rotating the saddle to face backwards brings the rack over the top of the frame, increasing the height slightly but keeping the length the same. Also provides a useful handle for wheeling the folded Brompton around. If you can't use bags specific for the bike, this is an excellent work around.
Alternatively, panniers may not be the best solution. With the low down rear pannier rack and large seat post, it is the perfect size to fit a large ruck sack in. Make sure you have it good an stable though as it would be a lot of weight sloshing from side to side. We recommend plenty of rope or a security bag net holding it down. The added benefit of using a ruck sack is that if you do need to fold up your bike, the majority of your stuff can easily be transferred to your back for easy carriage.
Spec for the Job
Brompton are fantastic for tailoring the bike for what you need, use this functionality as much as you can. A firm suspension block will compensate for the extra weight and give a smooth ride. Try out different handle bars and saddles as you will be spending a lot of time here, get comfortable. Think about the terrain you are covering, lots of gears means that you are ready for hills but more weight and more moving parts, therefore the possibility of more problems.
Smaller Bike, Smaller Spares, Bigger Knowledge
A bonus of the smaller wheel size of a Brompton is that the inner tubes, spokes, and tyres are all smaller. This means less weight and less space taken up reducing the issue of space. Carrying spares is essential though as parts will be more difficult to come by, as will expertise on the bike. Mechanics are an ingenious lots and will be able to fix most things in a pinch but if they break something it can be expensive and potentially trip ending. Get familiar with the working of the bike and what key components can't be bodged. Knowledge doesn't weigh anything but it can be the most valuable thing you can carry.
These are just a few things that might help, please share your own tips & tricks in the comments. Big thanks to Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative who helped supply the images and have posted the article. Please go check them out, it is a great company with really friendly staff that are always happy to help.