Unlock New Adventures: Folding Bike Touring Made Easy

By Mark Plummer •  Updated: 05/14/23 •  19 min read

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Do you know what’s awesome? Folding bikes. Yeah, you heard me right. These nifty little gadgets, once just the darlings of urban commuters, have become the go-to choice for touring enthusiasts. 

And why not? 

They’re compactportable, and super versatile. No wonder they’re quickly becoming a favorite for folks looking to hit the open road on two wheels.

So, what’s the deal with this folding bike touring popularity surge? Let me break it down for you:

  1. The tech and design of folding bikes have come a long way, baby! Nowadays, these beauties perform just as well as their full-sized cousins. No more choosing between a good ride and a space-saver.
  2. Foldable bikes and multi-modal transportation are a match made in heaven. Planes, trains, and buses? No problem! Just fold ’em up, and you’re good to go.

Honestly, who wouldn’t want to enjoy a fantastic journey without the hassles that come with traditional bike touring?

Touring On A Folding Bike
Touring On A Folding Bike

So, are you ready to join the folding bike bandwagon and try this new way of exploring the world? 

Trust me, once you do, you’ll never look back. Let’s dive into the world of folding bike touring and discover why it’s the bee’s knees!

Are Foldable Bikes Good For Long Distance?

Are Foldable Bikes Good For Long Distance

Foldable bikes can be great for long-distance touring when chosen and set up carefully. Key factors include wheel size, gearing options, and frame material for a comfortable ride. Smaller wheels affect riding speed, but proper setup can ensure a satisfying experience. Personal preferences and riding style determine if a foldable bike is ideal for your adventures.

Check out this video of riding 250km on a folding bike in Japan!

The key to a successful long-distance tour on a folding bike comes down to three main factors:

  1. Bike choice: It’s essential to select a folding bike designed with touring in mind. Some folding bikes are built more for short commutes, while others, like the Tern Verge Tour or the Brompton M6L, are explicitly designed for longer journeys. Choose a bike with a robust frame, good gearing options, and quality components to ensure it can handle the demands of touring.
  2. Folding Bike Touring Setup: A well-prepared folding bike touring setup is crucial for comfort and efficiency on the road. Customize your foldable bicycle to fit your body and preferences, whether adjusting seat height, investing in a comfy saddle, or adding a suspension seat post. These small changes can make a notable difference in your overall touring experience.
  3. Personal preferences: Touring on a foldable bike ultimately boils down to personal preference. Some riders may find that a traditional touring bike is a better fit, while others will appreciate the versatility, portability, and compactness of a folding bike.

Choosing The Best Folding Bike For Touring (4 Easy Steps!)

How To Choose The Best Folding Bike For Touring
How To Choose The Best Folding Bike For Touring?

So, you’re sold on folding bike touring, but how do you choose the perfect steed for your adventure? Here’s what I look for:

  1. Wheel size: Smaller wheels can be more portable and maneuverable, but larger wheels provide a smoother and more stable ride. What’s your priority? It’s a trade-off, but most folding bike tourers lean towards 20” wheels for that sweet spot of performance and portability. Keep in mind that smaller 16” wheels can still work for touring if you prioritize compactness and agility.
  2. Gearing options: Touring can take you from steep hills to flat terrain, so you’ll want a bike with a wide range of gears. Look for models with at least 7 gears or more if you plan to tackle diverse landscapes. This will make those long rides more enjoyable and less of a leg workout.
  3. Frame material and build quality: Durability is vital for touring, so make sure your folding bike is built to last. Look for frames made from aluminum or steel, as both offer strength and sturdiness. And always check reviews to ensure the build quality is up to par—remember, a little research now can save you from trouble on the road.
  4. Comfort and ergonomics: When spending hours in the saddle, comfort is crucial. Consider features like adjustable handlebars, ergonomic grips, and a supportive saddle to make your touring experience as enjoyable as possible.
Popular Folding Bike Brands For Touring
Popular Folding Bike Brands For Touring

Now that you know what folding bike features to look for, let’s check out some top folding bike brands that touring enthusiasts swear by. I’ve rounded up four of my favorites, each with its unique strengths:

  1. Brompton: This British brand is famous for its iconic folding design and 16” wheels. Brompton bikes are compact, well-engineered, and fully customizable, making them an excellent choice for touring. You can tailor your Brompton to suit your touring needs with various gearing options and accessories.
  2. Dahon: Dahon offers a wide range of folding bikes to suit various budgets and touring needs. Dahon bikes are a solid option for your adventures because they’re known for their quality and reliability. Models like the Dahon Speed and Mariner series come with multiple gears, sturdy frames, and features designed for long rides, making them popular among tourers.
  3. Tern Bikes: Tern folding bikes are built for touring with larger 20” or 24” wheels, multiple gears, and sturdy frames. They’re designed for long-distance comfort and performance, making them ideally suited to long-distance riding. The Tern Verge and Eclipse series are especially popular among touring enthusiasts for their blend of performance and practicality.
  4. Bike Friday: This American brand specializes in high-quality folding and travel bikes. Bike Friday models often feature custom builds, lots of gears, and sturdy construction, making them an excellent choice for touring fans who want a personalized ride. Their Pocket Llama and New World Tourist models are especially renowned for their adaptability and performance on the road.

Can You Ride Long Distances on A Brompton?

Can You Ride Long Distances on A Brompton
Can You Ride Long Distances on A Brompton?

The Brompton brand is known for its high-quality manufacturing, which will be durable enough for long-distance riding. However, the 16-inch wheels reduce your touring speed and make traveling over bumps and potholes uncomfortable. Brompton’s weight limit of 110 kg (242 pounds) may also be a problem for those going on a multi-day trip where you must carry a lot of gear.

Touring on a Tern Folding Bike

Are you considering giving a Tern folding bike a shot for your next touring adventure? You know, Tern bikes are incredible with their quality, innovative designs, and versatility. Many folding bike tourers are choosing them for a good reason. Riding a Tern folding bike while touring has some unique advantages:

“I’ve taken my Tern Verge Tour on several long-distance trips, and I love its versatility and adaptability. The wide gear range makes tackling hills a breeze!”

Laura – folding bike touring enthusiast.

Not all Tern folding bikes are equal when it comes to touring. But don’t worry; I’ll share a few models that are perfect companions for your long-distance tours:

  1. Tern Verge S8i: This baby’s got a low-maintenance belt drive, a wide gear range thanks to the Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal hub, and built-in lighting and fenders. A reliable, high-performance ride for touring enthusiasts.
  2. Tern Verge Tour: Made for touring, this model boasts a strong frame, many gears, and tough Schwalbe Marathon tires. The Verge Tour has a rear rack and integrated lights, so you’re all set for extended trips.
  3. Tern Node D16: It’s not as compact as other Tern models, but the Node D16 sports 24-inch wheels for a comfier ride over varied terrain. Its 16-speed drivetrain offers plenty of gear choices and has fenders and a rear rack to boot.

Folding Bike Touring Setup For Maximum Comfort

So, you’ve got your dream folding bike, but are you ready to hit the road? Before you pedal off into the sunset, setting up your touring folding bicycle for maximum comfort is essential.

Folding Bike Touring Setup
Folding Bike Touring Setup is essential for maximum comfort!

After all, a great touring experience goes hand-in-hand with a comfortable ride. A properly adjusted folding bike can prevent pain, strain, and discomfort, making your journey all the more enjoyable.

Comfortable Saddle Selection

The saddle is your throne; a good one can make or break your touring experience. So how do you pick the perfect perch? Try different saddles to find one that suits your anatomy and riding style. A good touring saddle should be supportive, well-padded, and designed for long-distance riding. Brands like Brooks, Selle Royal, and Terry offer a range of touring-specific saddles.

Optimal Handlebar Position And Ergonomic Grips

Regarding handlebars, it’s all about finding the perfect position. Adjusting the height and angle of your handlebars can alleviate pressure on your hands, wrists, and shoulders, making your ride a breeze. Look for a setup that allows a slight bend in your elbows and keeps your hands in a natural position. You can also consider ergonomic grips or bar ends, which provide additional hand positions and help distribute pressure more evenly.

Adjusting Gears For The Terrain

Being able to tackle diverse terrains is the beauty of bike touring, but you’ll need to ensure your folding bike’s gears are up for the challenge. 

Before setting off:

  1. Familiarize yourself with your bike’s gearing system and practice shifting smoothly through the gears.
  2. Make sure you’re comfortable with both climbing and descending, as well as cruising on flats.
  3. If you find your gears lacking in range or flexibility, consider upgrading your gear ratios or adding an extra gear, such as a smaller chainring, to suit better the terrain you’ll be conquering.

Essential Gear for Folding Bike Touring

Essential Gear for Folding Bike Touring
Essential Gear for Folding Bike Touring

If you want to tour comfortably on a folding bike, here is the essential equipment that you will need to take with you:

Of course, this list covers the basics and should be personalized to suit your needs. For example, you might need camping gear and a gas stove on a longer trip. 

Here are the clothes that you should be wearing during this journey: 

Packing Tips For Your Touring Folding Bike

Here are my favorite packing tips to help you optimize performance on your touring folding bike: 

Planning Your Tour

There are a few types of bike tours that you can try, each with slightly different needs. The options include: 

Factors To Consider When Planning A Tour

Here are three factors you should keep in mind to create a safe and comfortable bike tour on your folding bike:

Resources To Help You Plan Routes

There are plenty of great cycling routes for you to explore. Here are some ways to help find them: 

On the Road: Tips for a Successful Folding Bike Tour

Here are my favorite tips you can use to help you complete a tour on a folding bike safely and comfortably. First, it’s essential to understand your fitness levels.

Adjust the route to suit your needs.

For example, if this is your first bike tour, you should try a relatively short trail that travels over mostly flat ground. 

Before you leave, you should ensure you are familiar with your bike.

Tips for a Successful Folding Bike Tour
Tips for a Successful Folding Bike Tour

You should know how to repair any mechanical defects that you encounter along the way. If you plan self-supported camping, spend a few nights in the tent first. This ensures you know how to put it up and operate equipment, like a camp stove. 

Don’t forget to give yourself regular breaks along the way.

This is an excellent chance to get off the bike and drink water and a bite of food. Stretch your legs before getting back behind the saddle. 

Scan the path ahead for potholes and other bumps as you are riding. Due to the smaller wheels and lack of suspension, you’ll feel these bumps hardest when on a folding bike. 

Lastly, make sure to correctly set up your folding bike before you leave to ensure that you can maintain a comfortable riding position. Make sure that you have relaxed shoulders and a straight back. Your elbows should be bent, so you can better absorb any impacts. 

How To Overcome Common Challenges

You will face obstacles no matter how well you plan your biking tour. Here are some handy tips I’ve learned over the last 15 years of bicycle touring:

Popular Folding Bike Touring Destinations
Popular Folding Bike Touring Destinations

There are so many incredible places that you can explore on your folding bike; some of the most popular options are: 

Folding Bike Touring Recap

In this article, we’ve explored the world of folding bike touring, discussing: 

  1. The advantages of touring on folding bikes
  2. Choosing the best folding bike for touring; and 
  3. Setting up your bike for maximum comfort. 

I’ve also touched on the unique experience of touring on a Tern folding bike, essential gear and accessories, and tips for planning your route.

Hopefully, now you can see folding bikes offer a versatile and convenient alternative to traditional bikes for touring. 

With their compact design, portability, and potential for customization, folding bikes can take you on a memorable touring adventure. 

So why not give it a try? 

Pick the right folding bike, gear up, and hit the open road – your next incredible journey awaits!

Mark Plummer

Mark Plummer is an experienced bike mechanic who has built, repaired, and customized thousands of bikes over the years. A former mountain biking athlete, his cycling adventures have taken him all over the globe from the mountains of Scotland to the South Island of New Zealand. These days he enjoys the benefits of commuting to work and touring on his Dahon and Brompton folding bikes.

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