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Hiring (borrowing?) a foldingbike for a narrowboat


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We live in the Netherlands and will be renting a narrowboat at Wrenburymill from 10th until 20th June.

We would love to explore the villages and townships once we dock at a harbour on a bicycle.

Any chance of finding a place where we could hire 2 folding bikes? Looking forward to any of your ideas,  many thanks

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22 minutes ago, David Mack said:

If you are travelling to Wrenbury via Manchester you can hire a Brompton folding bike for up to 30 days.

https://bromptonhire.com/locations/manchester/

 

Whilst I have a Brompton and love it for commuting to work, I wouldn't recommend them for the towpath as they have smaller (16") wheels than most folding bikes and do not fair well over rough ground in my experience. If purely for roadwork at your destination then they'll be fine, and of course fold smaller than anything else.

Edited by chris.holden
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I too have a Brompton, and it is OK on recently surfaced towpaths, but not for the rest!

But the OP is likely to have a limited choice of options, so it might have to be a Brompton.

 

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My vintage Bickerton folder's 10" and 12" wheels usually coped with untarmacked  tow paths unless they were really bad, when its light weight meant it was easy enough  to be carried over bad patches. 

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I had folding bike with 20" wheels and it was awful, hard work! I thought I'd get one with slightly larger wheels for a folding bike but even with 20" wheels it was not fun, it was particularly difficult on towpaths. To be honest it was easier and less faff to walk. Towpaths & roads in the UK can be somewhat undulating and of varying quality and imo folding bikes just don't have the rigidity, gearing or appropriately sized wheels to handle the terrain. It's a nice idea but just not practical or at least that was my personal experience. A full sized mountain bike chained to the roof may be a better option if you want to cover more ground for exploration, though obviously it would be wise to invest in a good lock/chain/cover etc.

 

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I assume you are travelling to the UK by plane? If you are travelling to the UK by car you might have a go renting them at your local bike shop or at Bergsma.

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Note that the OP wants to rent the bike to go exploring local towns and villages, not to ride long distances along a muddy towpath -- so two Bromptons should be fine, can be hired (Stoke-on-Trent is nearest if driving), and will fit on the boat easier than anything else... 😉

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FWIW my son and wife used to chain their standard bikes to one side of the cruiser stern handrail and still plenty of room to control the boat and fit the two of them into the cockpit, and it was not a large cockpit because it had a gas tank against the bulkhead. However, I  expect the boat being hired is a semi-trad, so this will not work. I would have thought some old carpet on the roof and try to chain them up at night and when in a pub. The OP could then bring their own bikes if coming by car.

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First time we ever hired i took the bikes, old chap at the yard said we'd be too busy and they'd not get much use, he was right. Once to see what was ahead whilst waiting for the Five Rise, and once when my MiL and daughter had gone for a walk and i ended up giving the daughter (9 at the time) a croggy back to the boat as she was tired. Also spent a noisy night in Saltaire paranoid they would be nicked off the roof. Never took them again.

 

Hire base was happy to let us stick them on the roof, as long as we put a mat down to protect the paintwork.

  • Greenie 1
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The bike didn't see much use when boating with my children, but when it was just myself and my wife, it saw frequent use on flights of locks when there were no other boaters around.  While the lock we were in was filling/emptying, I could cycle ahead to the next lock to open paddles to empty/fill it,  cycle back to lock us out, and cycle ahead again to open the gates of the next lock so my wife could go straight in. A great time-saver. 

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58 minutes ago, Hudds Lad said:

First time we ever hired i took the bikes, old chap at the yard said we'd be too busy and they'd not get much use, he was right. Once to see what was ahead whilst waiting for the Five Rise, and once when my MiL and daughter had gone for a walk and i ended up giving the daughter (9 at the time) a croggy back to the boat as she was tired. Also spent a noisy night in Saltaire paranoid they would be nicked off the roof. Never took them again.

 

Hire base was happy to let us stick them on the roof, as long as we put a mat down to protect the paintwork.

 

If the bikes are hired I'm pretty sure they'll require them to be kept secure -- especially at night -- to stop them being nicked, so on the roof is a no-no. They might also be unhappy about them being left outside, even if chained to something solid (e.g. stern handrail) with a decent lock (which I doubt the OP will have). Which probably means finding space inside, which might be difficult (less so with a couple of Bromptons) depending on the boat layout -- and given the legendary nickability (and value) of Bromptons this is likely to be essential...

 

I'm sure this is all down to the OP being from the Netherlands where almost everybody cycles everywhere (and bikes to rent for visitors are easily available and common), but the UK isn't really set up for this -- most places near the canals are exploreable on foot, and you don't have to worry about locking bikes up where there's often nowhere to do this securely. My suggestion would be to walk... 😉 

18 minutes ago, Ronaldo47 said:

The bike didn't see much use when boating with my children, but when it was just myself and my wife, it saw frequent use on flights of locks when there were no other boaters around.  While the lock we were in was filling/emptying, I could cycle ahead to the next lock to open paddles to empty/fill it,  cycle back to lock us out, and cycle ahead again to open the gates of the next lock so my wife could go straight in. A great time-saver. 

Agreed, I've often wished I had a bike on the boat for lock-wheeling. New boat will have a secure locker for a folding bike... 🙂

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You will also need to check with the hire company whether they allow bicycles (even folding ones) to be taken onboard possibly?  Different companies have different restrictions, and even they do permit them may have rules about where they can be stored on the boat. 

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9 minutes ago, RebeccaM said:

You will also need to check with the hire company whether they allow bicycles (even folding ones) to be taken onboard possibly?  Different companies have different restrictions, and even they do permit them may have rules about where they can be stored on the boat. 

The advantage of a Brompton is that it folds smaller (and squarer) than many other folders, so is probably more easily accommodated in the bottom of a wardrobe.

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2 minutes ago, David Mack said:

The advantage of a Brompton is that it folds smaller (and squarer) than many other folders, so is probably more easily accommodated in the bottom of a wardrobe.

Will need to check with the compamny though - Wyvern's guidelines for instance are:

 

"13. Bicycles and Canoes
Bicycles are not allowed on board any of our boats, however by prior arrangement a small folding bicycle may be carried provided it can be stowed under the cockpit seats. Under no circumstances may bicycles be carried on the roof. One canoe per boat may be carried on the roof, provided there is adequate padding and strapping."

 

ABC's guidelines say to check with the marina you're hiring from and says they can only be stored on the roof, but it doesn't make any specific mention of folding bikes: 

 

"If you are planning to bring bikes on your holiday please check with the marina as not all locations are able to offer this facility. Please be aware that the only place to store them is on the roof of your boat. You cannot place the bikes inside the boat at any time. Any damage to the boat caused by carrying bikes is your responsibility. 

HOLIDAYS FROM GOYTRE WHARF
Due to a really low bridge on the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal, bikes are not permitted on board."

 

...those are just two quick examples which at a first read would suggest storing in the wardrobe isn't an option, and Wyvern would only allow one bike. 

 

 

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57 minutes ago, David Mack said:

Brompton with a storage bag.... then it's just part of your luggage (and clean on the outside).

Don't know if the Brompton hire scheme offers this -- you need to register to find out details, including prices... 😞

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Wow! Many, many thanks for sharing all your ideas.

As it is the very first time we are hiring a narrow boat, I have no idea what to expect. It seems nice to us, once having birthed for the night, to explore the surrounding by bicycle, instead of by foot. Our trip is for 10 days on the Llangollen canal from Wrenbury, we are very much looking forward to it.

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On 17/05/2022 at 15:04, David Mack said:

Brompton with a storage bag.... then it's just part of your luggage (and clean on the outside).

That was how the Bickerton qualified for free transport on any train in the 1980's. It had to be totally enclosed in its carry bag to be allowed  on a train in rush hour as an item of luggage. On one occasion a ticket collector at Liverpool Street who had just refused entry to a passenger with a folding cycle that was not enclosed in a carry bag, was going to do the same to me. I pointed out that mine was in its carry bag,  so he let me pass.  I think the rules for trains may have  been relaxed since then, if only for the reason that you rarely see ticket collectors at stations these days.

 

As a student in the 1960's I had to buy a ticket at the child fare to take my bike on the train to college, but in those days, trains had guards vans with luggage space for bikes.

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On 17/05/2022 at 16:02, IanD said:

Don't know if the Brompton hire scheme offers this -- you need to register to find out details, including prices... 😞

 

No bag included, You walk up to the locker and input the code you are given to unlock. The one in Peterborough is located by the Railway Station next to the X1 Bus Stop. The locker are a standard design so are easy to find and as the bike is fully enclosed, no risk from damage by the local Ne'er-do-well's.

 

 

 

 

bike locker.jpg

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Llangollen is perfect for bromptons - its pretty well surfaced towpath and our bromptons coped just fine. Up by Llangollen itself the bikes were really useful for exploring too. 

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On 21/05/2022 at 08:35, Tigerr said:

Llangollen is perfect for bromptons - its pretty well surfaced towpath and our bromptons coped just fine. Up by Llangollen itself the bikes were really useful for exploring too. 

Indeed, I'm there right now and two passed me on the towpath on the way up today 🙂

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks all;  in the end we did not rent any bikes, too busy enjoying the boating itself, thanks again for all your suggestions,

 

 

  • Greenie 3
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We had two Bromptons on Helvetia, and I used mine regularly for lock wheeling. It is true that the ride could be a bit uncomfortable on very bumpy towpaths, but not often so bad for me to get of and push. The biggest problem was if the towpath grass had not been cut for a long time. With the chain only being about six inches off the ground, long grass could get caught between the chain and the rear sprocket, causing either slipping or jamming, that is when I did have to get off and walk.

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