Can you go bikepacking on a Brompton?

Can you go bikepacking on a Brompton?

Sitting in the pub after one of our customary Thursday night fixed gear rides, one by one, our phones lit up.

“Fancy a weekend of sightseeing and off-road riding on Bromptons?”

Never one to turn down an opportunity to do something silly on an inappropriate bike, I put my other weekend plans on hold and gave Nathan the thumbs up.

The plan was straightforward; bring comfortable clothing and an overnight bag, and we would use a combination of rail and cindertrack to travel from Leeds to Robin Hood’s Bay, with stops in York and Scarborough to soak up the sights and sounds of North Yorkshire.

We met the following Friday at Restrap HQ and Nathan and I rolled down to Leeds train station to catch whatever train we fancied. Benefit number one of Bromptons – no rail reservation required!

Jon and Alex met us at the station and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast watching the Friday commuters going about their business. The Bromptons sparked some interesting conversations with passers-by, including a chap who had completed some seriously gruelling endurance races. Our little jaunt certainly paled in comparison!

The train we took to York wasn’t busy, so we didn’t even need to fold the bikes up. We spent the 20 minute journey going through the list of places to visit that Jon had put together, and making a rough route plan.

We had arranged to borrow two Bromptons from the kind folks at Cycle Heaven in York, a local bike shop who kindly helped supply us with the tiny-wheeled machines we would be spending the weekend on. When we arrived at Cycle Heaven, we took the opportunity to have a coffee while they gave the bikes a once over.

With all four of us now properly equipped, we headed out in search of some architectural marvels and rough cobbles. Taking in the Castle Museum, Clifford’s Tower (completely hidden by scaffolding, alas), The Shambles, York Minster and various pleasant Riverside paths, I was reminded of why I so love cycling. We were able to get from spot to spot in no time at all, beholden to nothing but our own whims.

With plenty of sights seen and a couple of riverside beers in us, we hopped on the train to Scarborough. Folding all the bikes up, we were able to easily stow them on what was quite a busy service.

Arriving in Scarborough as dusk was drawing in, we unfurled the bikes and shot down towards the sea. We whizzed along the front, stealing the last few minutes of daylight to watch the tide rolling out. We folded the bikes, took them into our rooms and unpacked our luggage ready for the day’s ride tomorrow.

After a refreshing night’s sleep we sat down to breakfast with a beautiful view of the bay below and set about planning our day. Having only 12 or so miles to travel to Robin Hood’s Bay, we decided to take things easy.

We pressed along the foreshore road into an almighty headwind, skirting our way around the headland under Scarborough Castle. Our progress was waylaid, however, when we spotted a skatepark. Undaunted by the thought of the bike folding up underneath him, Nathan treated us to a masterful demonstration of exactly what a Brompton is capable of when ragged around like a BMX. It seems there is little that these cycles can’t do.

Having reprised our youthful credentials, we set off once more along the coast road. Shortly thereafter, we joined the cinder trail that would take us to Robin Hood’s Bay.

Our first impressions of the track were not entirely positive. The tarmac had certainly seen better days, and the going was far from smooth. Once onto out of the suburbs and onto true cinder, however, we were much happier. The little wheels of our Bromptons coped admirably with the hardpack surface.

Every small lump and bump was made more exciting than it would have been on a full-size bicycle. I think I had far more fun ripping along the path on the fun little folder than I would have on something better suited. Riding on wheels that could disappear completely in potholes that would go unnoticed on a high volume 650b made for a more engaging, absorbing experience.

We made good time along the sheltered track, protected from an incredibly strong crosswind by the trees on either side. Before we knew it, we had reached the top of Robin Hood’s Bay.

The 30% descent down New Road to the bay was terrific fun, tempered only by the thought of having to come back up. Once down to the waterside, we found a nice spot to sit and take in the sea air. We chatted about the day so far and considered the best route to our Youth Hostel for the night at Boggle Hole.

Our last few miles of cycling started uneventfully enough, save a few metres of hike-a-bike back up the hill. This soon changed.

Jon, while showing us his planned route, had mentioned that there would be a ford. Even on little wheels I was not too concerned by the prospect. When we arrived at the crossing, however, I realised that my definition of a ford was somewhat narrower than Jon’s. About 50 metres narrower, to be precise. Rather than the road passing through the river at a right-angle, we were on a track that followed the riverbed for some distance, with a rocky surface to challenge even normal-sized tyres.

It was only when we reached the other side, soggy and triumphant, that we noticed the bone-dry footpath running the full length of the ford behind some trees. Something to remember for next time!

The last mile or so to Boggle Hole went by at some pace, with the prospect of a wood-burning stove to dry our socks spurring us on. We arrived in time to catch a beautiful sunset on the tiny, secluded beach. Watching the sun disappear, I felt a warm sense of satisfaction; I had ridden, walked and sat on trains from Leeds to Boggle Hole with next to no forward planning. The delicious spontaneity of cycling distilled into a wonderful weekend.

Touring on a Brompton certainly takes a different approach to a usual bike tour. The riding is steady-paced and fun and the convenience of being able to package up the bike with your luggage and throw it on a train to hop those larger distances allows you to travel in a way that’s new and fresh. If you get the chance, give it a good go.

Words by Alex Sainsbury

We want to extend a big thank you to Cycle Heaven in York (@cycleheavenyork) for lending us a couple of Bromptons to make this trip possible. If you’re in York, be sure to pop by and say hello!


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