Thursday, September 2, 2021

Bike Overnight Aboard the Dahon Boardwalk


Loading up the Dahon Boardwalk for an overnight bike camping trip has been on my radar for a while now. With an upcoming vacation, it was one of my goals to access the viability of traveling by folding bike. 

The primary factors to figure out were baggage space and and bike handling. Could I carry enough gear to be comfortable plus ride without the added weight affecting steering?

I allowed two hours to pack my bike, loading the front purple bag several times, shifting straps, but eventually the solution was to add lightweight bulky items inside, tent poles and stakes in the rear sleeve, plus strapping the ground sheet on the exterior. I looped an extra webbed strap over the handlebars for extra support because all the weight is suspended from the handle bars. I'm happy that I had the foresight to add daisy chain webbing to the bag during construction as it allows maximum versatility. With the remaining portion of the tent compressed, it fit nicely behind the seatpost, snugged against the rack and attached with only one strap. I used a favorite short, lightweight duffel bag for most clothing and a sleeping quilt (more on that later), and stuffed the panniers with stove, pots, and remaining items wedged inside the panniers.

My husband and I set out from home - he, carrying his own gear - and crossed the causeway via the bike ferry, and cruised for the mostly flat 13 mile ride to Grand Isle State Park, a place I've camped at a few times. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bike handled the weight. The front system didn't sway; the tent stayed in place and my legs cleared it fine. Obviously, the bike was slower, so riding in lower gears meant the bike handled like a touring machine!

We arrived at the campground without mishap, set up our tents, awkwardly as it turned out because the ground was basically all gravel. My husband used rocks to secure most of his free-standing tent while mine needed staking. Fortunately, I had brought new aluminum pegs that worked well enough, pounded with a rock. Next time, we'll ask for a grassy site!

We cooked dinner using both stoves. I had initial trouble with mine, a 25 year old Coleman screw onto gas cannister model, because it was in pieces, literally, when I collected gear the day before. But my son and I were able to put it back together, but didn't try it until camping the following day. With the second stove as backup, my Coleman functioned fine and we used both stoves for two meals.

It was a warm and humid evening, never dipping below 60F, so it wasn't an ideal climate to try a new sleeping arrangement, but my new Cosmic Quilt and repurposing a sleeping bag liner as a sheet, should be a better system for colder weather going forward. As it turns out, by trying to save weight with a super lightweight down bag which then was eventually supplemented with a liner, essentially a sack with drawstring opening, that in turn wasn't appropriate for my particular needs. I would often frantically throw off the covers to cool off and/or struggle to extract myself from the liner. The things we learn! The Cosmic Quilt was an inexpensive solution. It is synthetic and thicker, rated to colder temperatures, compressible, has a toe box to keep my feet warmer, and secures in place beneath my blow up mattress with adjustable and removable cords. I was able to toss and turn all night without the bag or liner sheet moving - a sleeping revelation! The quilt can also function, more or less, like a sleeping bag (because of the toe box) but, of course, without a zipper. This system should provide more warmth and versatility on future trips.

It rained early the next morning so I was thankful to have covered my front handle bar bag and panniers. But I began to think about rain and camping/traveling on a folding bike. How would I keep gear dry when traveling? The front bag, especially with external attachments and pockets, would be a challenge to cover. And the small panniers? What would I do, short of taking up internal space by stuffing items inside a plastic bag? The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that a multiday camping journey, which may include inclement weather and the need to carry extra clothing, was not suitable on a folding bike with my particular set up. 

My September vacation, which now includes my husband (yay!), and the real probability of riding dirt roads to avoid the more heavily traveled routes, means I'll be taking my Clementine. But I have proven it's possible to bike tour on the Dahon Boardwalk. My specialized baggage might be better utilized for carrying extra clothing and if staying indoors, and if needed, would have the opportunity to dry out. So many possibilities for future adventures!

We arrived home safely and thankfully avoided a rain shower - a successful adventure.