Touring on a folding bike

The title missed out the most important aspect of the folding bike, it has a small electric motor. Without that, I ( Cliff) would be touring on my own. 400km into our second (and most ambitious) tour on the Onya F19 e-folders what is the verdict? Well Ruth is starting to hint that I will be touring on my own in future but I am sure she is not serious.

Ruth’s bike setup during our current ride – we have a water bottle holder on the handlebars, carry another bottle of water/rehydration in the front bag and her bike bag (for the odd bus connection) packs on top of the North Face cargo (blue) bag. We have a spare tyre in the blue bag and a spare chain, due to the remoteness of 200km of this journey.

I guess the first question to be answered is; why would you tour on a folder?

For us, that is simple. Economics. At our stage in life, having an e-bike, mountain bike and road bike taking up storage space that we do not have, does not make sense. So we went for folders for; the ability to easily transport them, a small electric motor to get us up those nasty hills and we had them configured so that they cut through the (flat) kms without battery power. They also have tyres that can handle the rougher stuff (within reason). However, deep loose gravel (and sand)is challenging as it on any bike with out farm bike type tyres. Finally, as Ruth is small she has always struggled to manage a larger bike. Laden with gear she really struggles to manage any bike if anything unexpected happens. The smaller bike and close proximity to the ground does make it easier for her.

You have to be ready for anything on this ride.

There are limits to the amount of gear we can safely carry but, as Ruth will not tour unless there is a reasonable bed at the end of the journey, we don’t have to accommodate camping gear. We get by with around 7-8 kg of luggage each although split about 6 in Ruth’s bag and 9 in mine.

Ugly hills don’t bother us as long as we have enough battery in reserve.

Again, we have not invested in a lot of bike touring luggage as we simply do not have the space at home to store it. Furthermore, the smaller bike frames have limited scope for hanging too much on them. So we each have a 30 litre North Face weather proof cargo bag and we have adapted camera bags to function as our front bags. The camera bags have plenty of handy pockets to store the bits and pieces that you need to easily access while on the bike. All of the bags also work for us for the majority of the time when we are not biking. The package deal may not look very ‘professional’ but it is functional. Our biggest challenge has been getting Ruth’s bike set up in a way that works for her.

Our riding companions on and off for a few days – we had an unusual game of pool at Wimbledon tavern before they moved on. It was over 30c and they were only 30% into their trip that day – we had managed to fluke the timing of our shortest trip with the hottest day. Quite an achievement if you have followed our travels over the years.

Initially it was too heavy so we reconfigured her luggage layout and added a front bag. As mentioned in an earlier post we normalised her handlebar setup but she found that the changed riding stance causes neck issues. We have lowered her handlebars and raised the seat a little. She seemed happier on the first day with the new setup but that was probably because we arrived at our destination under the ‘ budgeted’ kms that I had given her. Furthermore it was a short ride and we have a “kind of” rest day tomorrow.

On the bike you have time too see and appreciate fairly ordinary scenes in more detail – and you can stop and snap them.

On the road, the Onya F19 feels and handles just like a grown-ups bike. It is only when you look down or pass a mamil that you realise that you are on a “toy bike”. In the case of the latter, you get the feeling that you are letting down the team (serious road warriors).

I read a tourist guide that dismissed this area as having nothing worth detouring for. In short, no bucket list items – but there is plenty here if you look.

We do need to plan our daily rides to ensure that we don’t run out of battery. You still have pedals but if those last 10km involve any of the dreaded H words (hills, headwinds or heat) my life is not worth living.


A number plate collection snapped on the GoPro that Cliff has mounted on his handlebars.

I am asked how many kilometres we get out of a battery but that is not the correct question. For us it is how many metres of ascent do we get. So far on this trip we have probably used pedal assist 20% of the time. We had a 66km ride with 530m of steady ascent, that looked challenging but the gradient was such that little pedal assist was required. We used most of our battery in the last 10 km of the ride when the temperature had hit the early thirties and we had a headwind and more obvious climb.

Ruth powers past me up a decent sized hill out of Porangahau. With her lighter body weight and luggage she now has an advantage over me on those hills.

On Saturday we had a 42km ride with 600m of ascent and that is all largely over one rather steep hill. I estimated that we would use around 80-100% of our battery. Was was most concerning was the speed of depletion on the big hill. However, with the long downhill run that followed and some flat riding, our consumption was as anticipated. Our longest ride is 73km. It is, after an initial climb, mostly down hill. Our last two days are 110 km on the flat – the battery will get used at the end when the legs are starting to tire.

Wouldn’t it be easier to drive the car? Ruth thinks so but even she will admit under the intense light of my interrogation lamp, that touring on a toy bike is mostly a really great way to see the country. It certainly also is a great conversation starter.

At the moment we seem to be as far away from the rest of the World as you can get. Our neighbours are sheep and magpies, the very occasional vehicle rumbles past. The talk in the neighbouring tavern last evening was of the heat, sheep dipping and simple rural solutions to domestic problems. “I gave her the digger and truck and told her to **** off”. Global problems, politics, etc, did not figure. It is like being in a completely different country – who needs to travel abroad for a unique experience.

Heavily metaled roads are not so good

Over the last few days we have been cycling on and off with a couple of hardened cycle tourers. Their setup made ours look pretty pathetic and they were over 800km into their travels from Cape Reinga to Dunedin. However, the two ladies quickly discovered that they had a lot in common in their mistrust of distances conveyed by husbands. They were carry around 40kg of gear between them and the hills were challenging her in particular. We would always catch up and pass them on the hills but they would usually catch us on the flat. We said farewell to them after three days while we have relaxed here at Wimbledon.

As we headed down from the summit of a 300m hill we passed a young Scotsman, we had a quick chat – he was exhausted from the hills and still had a lot to cover. We fessed up that we cheated on the hills – he gave us a envious looke and said “I would call that being smart”. It is so long as you get your sums right.

4 comments

  1. Hi Cliff and Ruth
    John and I are enjoying following your journey. When will you be getting to Wellington? It would be fun to meet up if you have time on your hands. We live in Churton Park (near Johnsonville) but are happy to travel to wherever you are – and bring the foldies, of course. Or if you are coming over the Rimutaka Rail Trail, we could even meet you at the Summit.
    Cheers
    Desiree

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    1. Hi Desiree & John
      We would be keen to catch up. We head to Masterton tomorrow and then through to Martinborough for two nights on Tuesday & Wednesday. We are heading across to Wellington on Friday 22nd. After our Rainbow mountain experience we are not going to attempt the east – west rail trail ride so will catch the train to Maymorn and then ride onto my brothers in Trentham from there – we could meet there or we wouldn’t mind riding to the Rimutaka Summit withou the bags on Sunday or Monday (weather permitting) or we could catch up for any other ride that you think we should undertake (on those two days or Tuesday 26th when we are in the city). We are in Upper Hutt until Tuesday when we head into the city for the night to catch the train up to Auckland early on Wed 27th. Cheers Cliff & Ruth

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      1. Hello again Cliff and Ruth

        Thanks for your speedy reply. It will be great to meet you and have a good yarn, and compare notes on touring on folding e-bikes.

        Our suggestion would be for either Sunday 22 or Monday 23 Feb. We could take the train to Trentham (with our bikes – we would park our car at Petone and hop on the 10 am train from there), meet you at Trentham Station at 10:30 am, then bike down the Hutt River Trail to either Fig Leaf Café in Heretaunga, or to Janus Bakkerij in Lower Hutt for lunch and chat. Then you could either cycle back or come along with us as far as Petone (or Wellington) and take the train back to Trentham.

        Monday would be preferable, with regard to availability of bike spots on the train, and also the cafes won’t be quite so busy. But either day would be OK for us. Whichever way, we are happy to fit in with your plans and availability.

        Looking forward to meeting you. Enjoy the rest of your ride.

        Cheers Désirée

        Désirée Patterson dpatterson@actrix.co.nz http://dizzysfoldingbike.blogspot.co.nz/

        >

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      2. Hi Desiree – 10:30 Monday at Tretham Station works for us. If the weather looks dodgy or you cannot make it – drop us an email or our mobile is 021 505 227.
        Cheers
        Cliff & Ruth

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