19 Aug 2014
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Vienna Pedaler: Traveling With Folding Bikes

Bringing a bike on vacation gives you a new way to see your destination, our columnist says

Vienna Pedaler: Traveling With Folding Bikes Vienna Pedaler: Traveling With Folding Bikes

As regular readers of this column probably know, I’m a big fan of folding bikes. With the right bicycle, you can combine your riding with various other forms of transportation, for both practical riding and recreation. I’ve carried my folding bikes on buses, cars, planes, trains and subways ... and now, on a ship!

On May 25th, most of my family, four generations worth, boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Enchantment of the Seas in the port of Baltimore. The occasion was my mother’s 85th birthday, and the destination was Bermuda. I’d never been on a cruise before, nor had I been to Bermuda, so I was very excited. Before leaving on the trip, my girlfriend and I decided we’d look into bringing our Brompton folding bicycles, so we’d have more freedom and flexibility to explore the islands.

I’d heard conflicting information about whether or not such a thing would be allowed, so I fired off an email to the cruise line. The response was that as long as the bikes remained in our stateroom at sea, and we only used them on land in port, we were welcome to bring them. I guess they wanted to make it clear that we were not to zoom around the decks on them!

The bikes packed up very easily, and were checked with the rest of our luggage at the terminal. A few hours after departure, all of our baggage, including the bikes, was lined up outside our stateroom. We soon found that the packed bikes both tucked into the closet pretty easily, where they stayed until the morning of our scheduled arrival in Bermuda.

We only had two half days and one full day in port, so as soon as we were able, we headed off the ship with our folded bikes. Unfolding them as soon as we got on shore (and drawing a lot of attention in the process), we headed out on our first of several cycling adventures ashore. Our first ride took us out of the main port, the Royal Navy Dockyard, by road down to the town of Somerset, where we picked up the Bermuda Railway Trail. One thing that took a little getting used to was the fact that folks drive on the left side of the road in Bermuda, just like in England. And the roads are pretty narrow, with traffic that is at times heavy and fast. Still, drivers seemed pretty alert and considerate overall, passing safely and sanely in most instances.

Once on the Railway Trail, we could relax a little more and just take in the scenery. Bermuda is a beautiful place, and I highly recommend it as a vacation destination. We saw all manner of beautiful greenery, blue skies, and an ocean that was amazingly clear and blue. I found it hard to believe it was the same Atlantic I knew from growing up on the East Coast. Over the course of the time in Bermuda, our bikes enabled us to find some wonderful places and things... and old 1800s fort (built to defend against those pesky Americans, apparently), a gorgeous secluded beach where we swam and relaxed, practically alone, as well as a ferry/bike trip to the main city of Hamilton.

There were certainly some challenges. As I mentioned, riding on the roads was a little stressful, though no worse than many places in the US, and better than some. And while the Railway Trail takes you to some beautiful and interesting places, including through some neighborhoods you probably don’t see otherwise, it’s also not like our own W&OD. Our research had prepared us for the trail to be less well developed and rougher in spots than what we typically have here, but we were still a little surprised, especially on one stretch on our second day, where it took us about an hour to go three miles! It seemed we had to dismount every hundred yards or so, to either lift our bikes over barriers designed to keep cars out, or carry them up rough sets of stairs. Even so, we had a lot of fun discovering the trail and exploring the island. I’d gladly do it all again!

Now, not everyone has a folding bike, but if you want to travel places and have a bike with you where ever you go, I highly recommend buying one. You’ll be amazed at how convenient and fun they can be.

A few pointers if you want to try such a trip with your bike:

  • Make absolutely certain you know the policies of the cruise line, airline, or railway you are using. There’s little to no consistency on such things, and the information is not generally readily available, so it’s up to you to do some research. In our case, I looked high and low for any information on the Royal Caribbean website about bikes, and couldn’t find a thing.
  • If you can’t find a clear policy, do what I did, and call, write, or email to find out. Once you have found the information, you should also do the one thing I DIDN’T do ... print a copy out and carry it with you as you travel. We got off and on the ship four or five times on our trip, and it went without a hitch, except for one time when a company employee, who had not been there the other times, challenged our bringing the bikes back on board. It all worked out fine, but I was really wishing I had a printed copy of the email I had from R.C. telling me we could bring the bikes on board, and keep them in our stateroom.

With proper preparation and planning, a folding bike can really add to the quality of your experience when traveling. I know we got to see things we never would have gotten to if we had relied on more typical forms of transportation available to tourists. Bermuda has a good bus system, and there are a variety of other options available, including scooter, moped, and bike rentals. But there’s nothing quite like having your own bike with you,ready to take you where ever you want to go, whenever you want to go there. Give it a try some time!

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