If you’re a regular traveller, then you’re probably the type of person who likes to really get to know a place – throw the guidebook to one side and explore for yourself. However, getting around a new location can be difficult, especially if you’re in a remote spot and reliable transport is hard to find locally. I’ve been travelling for over 12 years now and I’m also a keen cyclist – for the first few months of my travelling experience I routinely found myself wishing I had brought my bike with me.
The problem is, travelling with a bike can be awkward and often creates more hassle than it’s worth. Airlines do what they can to accommodate cyclists, but I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen snapped carbon frames, bent handlebars and buckled wheels as a result of bikes being thrown in with the general luggage makes me very reluctant to risk my own bike in that way. These instances all left me thinking that bringing my bike is really not worth it, and I continued my travels on foot – sometimes hiring bikes locally where possible.
My introduction to Foldable Bikes
I was having a drink with a close friend, Martyn Hicks, a professional photographer and seasoned traveller himself. Over a pint in our local pub, we were discussing this very issue. Martyn mentioned that he was also troubled by the same issue and was considering investing in a folding bike. Personally, I’d never even considered a foldable bicycle – as a keen cyclist, I always assumed they weren’t really built for travelling or riding long distances – I wanted a similar cycling experience to that which my normal bike gives me. Martyn was planning to visit a bike store the following day to checkout a folding bike from British brand, Brompton, and suggested I joined him.
After a quick test ride, I really took to the Brompton, but to be totally honest, the price tag left me a little unimpressed. The models they had in the store started at around £1,200 and progressed to way beyond £3,000 for the electric bikes. This seemed a little on the heavy side for a bike that, for me at least, was always going to be a bit of a compromise. I was still a folding bike newbie and I still wasn’t sure if a fold-up bicycle was the right choice for me.
At the same store, they had another folding bike brand called Ecosmo. These bikes were practically identical to the Bromptons, using the same materials for frame and forks, and almost identical brake and gear components. After looking through the range, I decided to take Ecosmo Alloy Folding Bike for a quick test ride and was pleasantly surprised at the similarity to the build quality of the Brompton. The only noticeable difference between the two was in the price tag – the Ecosmo lightweight folding bike came it at under £300 – saving £900 on the cheapest alternative! Thinking this deal was probably too good to be true, I decided to wait a while and do a little more research on the Ecosmo Folding Bike brand.
Also based in the UK, Ecosmo’s folding bike range is impressive, and reading through their reviews, the Ecosmo bicycles certainly seem to be popular with their customers, many of whom leave almost fanatical reviews about their purchases. The range includes everything from folding mountain bikes to folding tandems, which I imagine would be ideal if travelling in pairs. The model I had tested in the bike shop was a 20inch wheel alloy framed folding bicycle in white, and available on the website at just £295 with free next-day delivery. I decided to take the plunge and also added a carry bag to the deal for an extra £30. Although I placed my order well after the 2pm cut-off point for next-day delivery, the bike still arrived the following day, so an immediate thumbs-up for Ecosmo.
The bikes are delivered almost completely built, however, it did require a little assembly and checking when I received it. As an avid cyclist, the assembly was no problem, as only the brakes needed to be set-up and some simple adjustments made to the seat and handlebars.
Unfolding the bicycle was easy and, after inflating the tyres to the correct pressure, the bike was ready to ride within no more than 15 minutes. If there is one thing I would suggest – and this goes for all bikes delivered by courier – I did a quick check of the spokes to make sure they were tight and found a couple that had become loose. This is commonplace when bikes are shipped straight to your door, as the components can become loosened due to small vibrations in transit. Once I was comfortable the bike was ready to ride, I decided to take it along the towpath of my local canal to see how it would handle the rough track. That day I managed to cycle approximately 20 miles and the bike was really starting to grow on me. As I’m quite competitive, I’m always pushing myself and my bikes hard along roads, or up hills, but I found this to be a completely different cycling experience than I was used to. Due to the bike’s naturally upright riding position, you feel much more relaxed and I personally found it to be highly enjoyable.
After a good first ride, I was already becoming excited of taking this bike along with me on my travels. My next scheduled excursion was to Manchester, UK, so I decided that the Ecosmo had to come along for a real-life test.
Travelling with a Fold-up Bicycle
When flying, the bike still needs to be checked in at the airport, but it is folded down and protected from other objects, thanks to the carry bag. This also means that it can be collected from the luggage conveyer upon arrival, speeding up the process of getting through the airport. Once outside, you’re free to continue your journey in comfort. When I arrived in Manchester, I was collected from the airport by a colleague (as this was a working trip after all) so I didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy my bike straight away.
I’d reserved the second day to do some exploring and decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to put the Ecosmo through it’s paces. Staying just outside the city, I rode the 12 miles into the heart of Manchester, passing iconic landmarks along the way, including the home of English football club, Manchester City.
As a highly urbanised area, Manchester is the perfect place for exploring on a bicycle, and the Ecosmo helped make my visit a real joy. At no point did the bike ever become a hinderance, and I was able to fold it down and bring the bike into my hotel room at night, making sure it was safe and protected. The bike made very easy work of the gentle climbs and pedestrianised areas around the city centre, and due to its ability to fold the bike down, I was able to stow it away behind my table when I stopped at a pavement café for lunch. This trip cemented the Ecosmo’s appeal to me and I started to get the bug for taking it everywhere I could.
Since making the purchase, the Ecosmo has travelled with me throughout Europe, North America and Middle East, and I honestly could not be happier with it. These bikes are indestructible and really simple to maintain. I’ve been through a few tyres and a couple of chains because of the mileage that I do, as well as the occasional puncture, which is to be expected when you’re travelling with a bicycle. The grip-shift gears and V-brakes make the Ecosmo really easy to ride – but the thing I love most about this bike is that the upright seating position means that you’re not hunched over the bars all day, providing a much more serene riding experience than I am used to with my road or mountain bike. I find this to be my preferred way of travelling now, as its so relaxing being able to take in the scenery as you amble along the roads.
The 20inch wheels are capable of handling gravel and rough ground, but I certainly wouldn’t advise taking this bike ‘off-road’. That said, I never bought it for this reason. My Ecosmo is simply a way of exploring new places in a calm and comfortable way, and for that purpose, there really is no better bike available.
Since the start of the pandemic, and the restrictions that have been placed on travel globally, my Ecosmo has only been used for daily trips to the shops and cannot wait to get on the road with my folding bike once more. The next trip I have scheduled will be to the Philippines, later this year, and I plan to take the Ecosmo along with me too.
So, if you are thinking about buying a bike for your travels then I can certainly recommend an Ecosmo folding bike.