Sunday, October 25, 2009

European Tour With a Dahon Folding Bike (Oct 2009)

OK, Before I proceed, please note that it is a European Tour WITH a folding bike and not BY a folding bike. The original plan was to tour the Alps and cycle down to Southern France but due to the HINI scare the trip was delayed and by the time of my journey the area is getting too cold. Nevertheless, I brought along my Dahon Mu 8 bike so that I can tour the cities that I will be visiting. Reasons why I wantd a bike are that I can save quite a bit on transport, the ability to mix and mingle with the local people and it is great fun. With a bicycle one can blend in to the locals and if you travel with a nice looking bike like the Dahon you always get stares and admiration from people around! The sight, sound and smells are much better when one is on a bicycle.

This is what my baggage looks like. The bike is folded and checked in as luggage and I use a haversack instead of a suitcase for my personal luggage. The Dahon weighs about 12 kilos and the haversack another few kilos so I still have a lot of weight to spare. One must learn to travel light.

My first destination is Rome in Italy. It is always a good idea to deflate the tyres about 30 % when air transporting bicycles due to expansion and contraction as we go up and down. Most of the airliners have their cabin and cargo areas pressurised to 8000 ft. Upon arrival at Rome, I have to unfold and inflate the bicycle.This picture will make a good sales promotion for Dahon bikes!Navigation around the foreign cities is primarily by tourist maps (free) and I had brought along my Garmn Nuvi 200 GPS. The wonderful thing about having a GPS is I can wander around where I like enjoying the sights and the ride without having to worry about the way home. At the end of the ride, just turn on the GPS and follow the way home. This is cyber age exploring.

On Sundays in Rome the roads are closed to all private motorised vehicles to the major tourist destinations. The only vehicles on the roads are tour buses and horse carts and of course bicycles! Make sure if you only have one day in Rome it is a Sunday. Because of it's Mediterranean climate influence, Rome is relatively warm compared to the French and English counterparts.
With a bicycle it is easy to know that Rome is built on a hill. Going away from the city centre (Termini Roma Area) is so need to pedal. Coming home is another story but with my 8 speeds on the Dahon it makes life a little easier.
From Rome I took a night sleeper train to to Aixen Provence in Southern France so in goes the bike to its bag again. Before I forget, I fold up my bicycle after every ride and keep it in my hotel room. A peace of mind and another advantage of a folding bike.See, my bicycle gets to sleep with me. How convenient! And the bike goes along for free too.I met a lady postman (or is it post woman) on this interesting bicycle just outside my hotel at Citardine, Aixen Provence. That place is quite hilly and I wonder where she got the strength to do her rounds. I convinced her to "loan" me the bicycle in exchange for delivering some letters nearby for her. To my suprise, the bicycle can easily be pedalled. It has a small "electric motor assist" which boost the pedal power when speed or uphill power is required. The cost of the bike is about 2000 Euros (RM10,000/). It handles very well even with a load. just like driving a super motor bike!I spent a few days in this part of France. It is beautiful and I like the rural setting. Most days I ride to the Ville Centre and explore the surroundings. I push my bike into shops to do shopping and ride along with the locals. It is so easy to make friends on a bicycle. By the third day I had became a familiar sight to some of the shop keepers ( I always buy fresh fruits to provide fuel for riding bicycles). The temperature is about 12 C most ofthe days and sometimes the "Mistral" blows. Mistrals are strong wind with speed up to about 110 km/hr. Under these conditions it is very difficult to ride.Going to the open air markets (Pasar malam) was no hassle with a bike. No worries about parking. Just push the bike along.I spent the last three nights of my tour in London. London is quite bicycle friendly too. One can bring a folder along in the underground trains FOC provided it can be folded. In London it cost 32 pounds to rent a bike and my Dahon cost almost twice of what I paid in Malaysia (580 pounds). Hmmm ...must start a Dahon bicycle export business to London.!

I am sure all these "tourist" attractions looks very familiar to most of you.

Even in all the parks in London a bicycle is welcomed. If one were to walk it may take hours to explore Hyde Park but with a bike it is just "a walk through the park"!

The real horse staring at my iron horse at Horse park in London. I think my iron horse has got more "horse power" and is more manageable!
See, I told bicycle is light.

This policeman came along after the previous picture was taken. He wanted to know if I was doing a commercial for the bicycle by lifting it up for a photo. Anyway, I politely invited him to be in the picture for a commercial too and that is how this photo was taken with the policeman

After 14 days of good life, it is time to go home again. More adventures coming is an adventure on a journey!


  1. Thanks for sharing, i will buy a dahon foldable bike very soon :-)

    with warm regards,
    Desmond Goh

  2. good idea. was toying between bring my Dahon or Scott Mtb for my cruise holiday next week. thanks

  3. I also was looking for one of those foldable... thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi, what you doing is very very inspiring and amirable. I'm getting my own foldie soon. Hope to go on some nice tours like you.

    Kim Fook

  5. Hi, I did a similiar trip to Canada last year(through Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal) with my Dahon folding bike - I drove to each area (which allowed me to stay at cheaper hotels at the outskirts of each city) and then drove into town, took my Dahon out of the trunk and biked around each day. It was a great way to explore those cities. I wasn't even thinking of doing this for an upcoming trip to Europe, but you've inspired me to do that.

    Thanks! Very cool.

  6. Thanks for sharing. I wanted to do the same in Spain.

    I have question on your bike check in. Did the bike came out ok considering it wasn't boxed?

    No additional charges for the airline for the bike?


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  8. thanks for posting - it looks like you had a great trip!! am thinking of doing a similar trip this spring - possibly a bit longer (I hope).
    am looking at the dahon too. can you tell me please how you like it and can you comfortably ride say 35-40 k per day? (that's what I am hoping to do - some touring and some riding between smaller towns!) thank