The biggest downside to long distance bicycle travel is that once you set out on a bike you are committed to riding a bike. Sometimes possible to put a bike on a train or bus, but it’s always a hassle that is often not worth doing — especially when you’re in places where you have [...]
The biggest downside to long distance bicycle travel is that once you set out on a bike you are committed to riding a bike. Sometimes possible to put a bike on a train or bus, but it’s always a hassle that is often not worth doing — especially when you’re in places where you have to pay extra to cart a bike on public transport.
I am looking for the Ultimate Vagabonding Machine. I want a self-powered vehicle that I can fold up, stuff into a rucksack, and carry if I choose to hike up a mountain, that I can store in the overhead bin on buses and trains, that I can pack easily into a car if I decide to hitchhike, that I can take into my hotel rooms and shove into a corner. I want to be able to jump off a bus or train, fold out my vagabonding machine, and go without bothering with taxis or city buses. I want the best of both worlds: a bicycle that I can travel on when I wish and fold up and carry when I don’t.
One possible solution is a fold-up bicycle.
These weird looking little bikes look silly, but they are incredibly common commuter vehicles in East Asia. They are everywhere in Japan, and the same goes for China. Many people use these miniature bicycles as their main means of transportation, and the reasons why are clear: they do the job, they are versatile, and they are small enough to be taken just about anywhere.
I want one of these fold-out bicycles for long distance travel, a usage they are not really intended for. To be honest, I know these bikes perform well in urban areas but I have no idea how they will handle out in the countryside on 10 hour long dirges. The fact that some of these fold-up bikes are five speeds hint to me that it could be possible to use them for vagabonding, but I know that I will not know the answer to this question until I try it.
The biggest problem with using a fold-up bike as a vagabonding solution is that the wheels on them are incredibly small — typically under 20 inches. This means a heck of a lot more pedaling to get to where I want to go. Another issue is that I can only shake my head when I think about how well they will perform on inclines when going up hills and through mountains. I’m not hopeful that these little beast will do very well on a 30 degree slope going uphill.
On the upside these bike are super light weight and if the going gets too tough I can always just fold it up, stick out my thumb, and hitch a ride. These bikes allow for transportation alternatives, and this is something I want when moving through a country. Vagabond travel is anything but a race, so speed and efficiency mean virtually nothing to me. What I want is the freedom of having my own means of self-propelled transportation with the option of cashing it in for the speed and comfort of a train, bus, or car.
I’m looking into testing out a fold-up bicycle while in China. A decent one sells for around $250. I could land one for half this price, but cheap in this country is all too often cheap. The biggest problem here is that I’m broke, so it looks like I’ll continue on my walking trips through China until I can come up with the excess cash to up my transportation methods a notch or two.
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