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Folding Bikes and Sailboats

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Folding Bikes and Sailboats
Folding Bikes and Sailboats
By John M Maull
Posted: 2023-03-23T00:09:24Z

Traveling by sailboat is a wonderful adventure. The sailing experience, the wind, the waves, the scenery, and the unexpected repairs all add to the excitement and the memories. We have enjoyed visiting the seaside communities and experiencing the natural beauty of the New England coast as well as Atlantic Canada.

One way we have enhanced this experience is to get off the boat and see as much as we can of these communities and regions. You can get a mile or two from the harbor on foot, and that is what we often do. Occasionally friendly residents will offer you a ride.

Some of us have found we can extend our range and experience more of these places using bicycles. I have to laugh when I see the motor cruisers with full size bicycles lashed to the fly bridge. Wouldn’t it be great to bring that mountain bike?

Sailors can only dream of such an extravagance. We did see a 28 foot sailboat in Nova Scotia with a motorcycle lashed to the mast! Now that is taking it too far.

Which brings us to the topic of folding bicycles. These little machines are very practical for the cruising sailboat. We have been carrying a pair of folding Dahon 20 inch bicycles with us for 7 years and find they greatly enhance our ability so see the many seaside communities we visit, was well as making resupply more efficient, even possible.

In the years we have sailed with folding bikes, we have used them to pedal Cape Rosier, North Haven Island, Vinalhaven Island, Isle Au Haut, the Schoodic Park Loop, the Acadia Park Loop, the carriage roads of Acadia Park, the countryside around the St. John River, NB, Grand Manan Island, Michelon Island (part of St. Pierre off Newfoundland) and various ports in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Also with panniers and a bit of rope, you can fetch groceries, beverages, ice and even propane (those 5 lb bottles). That grocery a mile or more from the harbor is now very accessible.

I have to admit that folding bikes are not optimal for loose surfaces (the carriage roads) or longer trips of more than 10 miles. But, with some care such adventures are possible. Don’t go barreling down those steep hills!

Where do you store a folding bike on a sailboat? Well, that quarter berth is great for storage. Our folders just fit in the lazarette of a Bristol 40.

I carried a bike around Newfoundland in a bag tied on deck. That did result in some rust. It is very important to get the padded bags so you can store the bikes efficiently and move them to the dinghy, ashore, etc.. You can get a bike trailer from Burley if you want to carry larger, heavy items.

So which folding bicycle to buy and where to get them? Practical sailor has articles about various types and brands and a web search will bring these articles up. There are some fine and expensive machines out there. The Bromptons ($2000 and up) are the Cadillac of folding 20 inchers. But how might you feel when your $2000 bikes go over the side while transferring to the dinghy? Not too good!

We bought two used Dahon Boardwalk 7 speeds (with carry bags) for $325 on Craigslist. I felt a little guilty talking it down from $350.

These and other modestly priced bikes come up on eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist regularly. They often come with racks and you can purchase panniers.

One relatively new development is the electric assisted folding bicycle. Those look pretty nice, although are more expensive. Bike weight is also an important consideration since you are often transferring to a dinghy.

Adding bicycles to your cruising equipment will enhance your sailing experience. Don’t forget the appropriate safety equipment (helmets, flashers, bright clothing) and some repair tools. Happy sailing.