Packing a Brompton folding bike to go cycle touring is NOT the same as packing our tandem or one of our own bikes. This may seem obvious, but took us slightly by surprise as we began seriously preparing for a Christmas Day flight to Devonport, Tasmania.
Bromptons can carry a fair bit of gear. The front T-Bag holds 31 litres and the rear Rack Sack holds 16 litres. This is comparable with a pair of our usual Ortlieb Back Roller Classics, which have a 40 litre capacity. Surely the gear we normally cart in two sets of Ortlieb panniers on our tandem would easily fit in our Brompton bags! After all, we will have two Bromptons complete with T-Bag and Rack Sack rear bag…
Of course the 31 litres relates to the capacity of the T-Bag when it is fully open. This is fantastic when you walk out of the grocery store with a whole lot more than you planned on and need the bunch of celery or kale to stick out the top of the bag.
This doesn’t work so well, however, when you are cycle touring and need the T-Bag to be closed up. We managed to put our sleeping bag and mat, clothes, Thermarest pillow, puffer jacket (it can get cold in Tassie, even in summer!), and toiletries in the T-Bags.
The bags are full to bursting when the top is rolled down and closed up, but we can still use double sided velcro (we love this stuff!) to attach a 1.25 or 1.5 litre bottle of water on the top. Mick will have our spare tyre strapped onto his T-Bag, and Jen will carry the cable lock in the same position.
A zippered pocket on the back of the T-Bag will carry a mini iPad, money, phones, power chargers and other random items. We are going to carry a big water bottle in the bottle holder rather than the 750ml size we normally use and that is shown in the photo. This will give us about 3 litres of water each, which should be sufficient to get us between water stops.
We bought Brompton Rack Sack rear bags with great excitement (as befits expensive purchases), and were equally disappointed when we realised our heels hit the Rack Sack! Why would Brompton design a bag that is wider than the rack! It might work well for people with very little feet, but our clod hoppers found the Rack Sack highly annoying! Considering the Brompton bike caters for riders up to 6’9″, you would expect the corresponding foot size to be taken into account when designing Brompton specific luggage…
ANYway…IF you remove the internal padding of the Rack Sack and put a strap around the outside and pull it tight, then you can reduce the width of the bag preventing those annoying heel strike issues.
Our Rack Sack hack means the capacity is no longer a full 16 litres. Nevertheless, we have managed to pack the cooking gear and first aid kit in one Rack Sack and the food, tools, light and other random items in the other Rack Sack. It also means we can strap the tent down on top of one of them, and our Helinox chairs (we know, pure luxury) on top of the other.
Everything held together on our test ride and we checked that all the luggage will fit in two big stripey grocery bags we have used a few times now for air travel. Now we just have to prepare ourselves for lots of hill climbing among those Tasmanian hills! We’ll be sure to let you know how we go :).
Have a great Christmas!