Friend of the Space, Barbara, shares her maiden voyage abroad with her Brompton.
What was the inspiration for the trip?
My 84-year old mother has been wanting to do a ‘roots’ trip back to where she grew up in Germany. So I took her to where she’d lived, Hamburg and Bremen. While there, I took advantage of the times that my mother slept in or spent hours shopping to run errands or go for “scouting rides.” After she left I took trains to some other lovely towns bordering the North & Baltic Seas where her grandparents were from (no luck finding any relatives, though). Since the best flights I found for myself were in & out of Berlin, and I have friends there, I also spent a few days in leafy, uncrowded Berlin.
Did you consider any other bikes before getting a Brompton? A full size bike is too much to deal with on this kind of trip. I considered other folders, but found them too flimsy and unstable in comparison.
Did you have any reservations? I was a little afraid of how overnight accommodations would receive a bicycle coming in, but it was never perceived as a bother or unusual. I hadn’t been to Germany since the wall came down (26 years ago!), and did not know how safe or easy it would be to get around by bike, so it was nice to find it’s not just cool, but ubiquitous! There is cycling infrastructure absolutely everywhere, and it’s not thought of as anything special. If anything, driving is the non-standard mode of transport.
Why was a Brompton such a good travel companion? Having the Brompton felt like having a travel companion who’s 100% in sync with you. With the ‘brommie,’ and a $10 local SIM card installed in my phone, I felt fearless to go anywhere without much baggage, guide books, or fixed itinerary. It was super easy to take it on trains, and once at a destination, I saw things and chatted with locals so much more than I would’ve if I’d relied on driving, or even subways. There are extensive subway systems in the cities (which you can also take a bike onto if uncrowded), but I prefer being above ground – you never know what you’ll see!
How long have you had your Brompton? I’d been hankering after one for a while, so planning for this trip was just the last bit of motivation needed. I only bought it a few weeks before leaving!
What do you use your Brompton for? Do you have a multi-modal commute? I have a too-long & hilly multi-modal commute! I’m not ready to give up my share bike membership yet, but do use the Brompton on occasional trips to work or shop. It's pretty handy since you can take it on the metro anytime.
Any tips for traveling with a Brompton? Surprisingly, the T-bag gave me enough space to pack for a 3 week trip. I’ve been experimenting with ways to pack the bike for travel (a Brompton cardboard box, regular luggage, fancy bags made for it, and Ikea storage bags), and have found the original cardboard box that it came in held up the best and could be disposed of on arrival. The only trick is finding one for the return trip. It wasn’t hard to do in Germany, since there are bike shops that specialize in Bromptons.
Are you planning any other Brompton trips in the future? From here on out, it’s going to hard to imagine going anywhere without it!