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First Impressions: Costa Rican Dog Adventure on the Brompton C-Line Explore Folding Bicycle

River and I converted our new Brompton folding bike to a dogpacking bike, travelled by air to Costa Rica and cycled around Jaco Beach. Read on to find out our experience and first impressions.

Product Specs

Model we are riding
C-Line 6-speed Explore with rear rack
Available in a range of colours
12 kg (26.6 lb)
Plastic dog basket
Idomy plastic collapsible basket

Product overview

Brompton bicycles are known for their icon fold of their frame into thirds, making the bike small enough to meet standard baggage allowances on most airlines. Comprised of 16-inch wheels, Bromptons are available as 3-, 6- and 12-speed with frame choices of steel, steel-and-titanium and all-titanium. We opted for a model called the C-Line Explore which has a steel frame and fork, 6-speeds and a rear rack.

The interest in a Brompton came about when, earlier this year during a trip to Cancun, Mexico, I rented a bike and added a plastic fruit basket for River.

This worked out okay, but renting a bike does get expensive and it’s really nice to have a consistent set-up for dogpacking regardless of where you go. Hence us looking into a folding bike capable of joining us on our travels.

Testing conditions

We purchased the Brompton primarily to have a bicycle that is easy to transport by air, offers River and me wheels at our travel destinations, and is capable of light to moderate touring.

So far, we have flown with it twice from Toronto, Canada to San Jose, Costa Rica and cycled around on it on paved and packed dirt roads in Costa Rica. Read on to hear how that went.

Our initial impressions and prep for flying

Weighing in at approx 12kg for the stock steel bike, it is reasonable to carry as checked luggage. After reviewing some online recommendations by other Brompton owners, we purchased two IKEA Dimple bags to pack it (we double bagged it) in for our trip to San Jose and then slid the bags into a cardboard box of dimensions 24 in x 24 in x 14 in (=62 linear inches, the maximum linear-inch allowance by most airlines for a standard checked bag).

Converting the Brompton for dogpacking

The rear rack can accommodate 10kg of weight, so in true dogpacking fashion, I upgraded the bike to carry River. This involved removing the rack’s small wheels and adding her basket as follows:

First I drilled holes in the floor of a collapsible plastic crate, adjacent to the underlying rack, then secured it to the rack using cable ties. The crate needed to be shifted back enough to allow clearance for me to pedal to bike. Too far forward would allow for heel strike.

River’s folded sleeping mat was then cut to fit the floor of her crate. Since her crate cantilevers a few inches off the back of the rack, I inserted a large cutting board on the floor of the crate, under her sleeping pad. this adds significant stiffness to the floor to prevent it from cracking where it surpasses the back of the rack. Finally, we cut a pool noodle to pad the sides of her crate.

I am pleased with this set-up although Bromptom’s stock rear rack tilts backwards rather than being level. I am looking at some aftermarket racks that would keep her crate level.

Flying with a Brompton

When the bike is boxed up for air transportation, the cable ties can be removed, the plastic crate collapsed flat and the pool noodles used to protect the folded Brompton frame tubes.

The IKEA Dimple bags and cardboard box protected the bike well during air travel, but the box got soaked while it was on the tarmac and wasn’t sturdy enough for another trip. So we looked for a different solution for our second visit to Costa Rica: a Samsonite Stryde 2 hardcase. It fits the folded Brompton, River sleeping pad, her collapsed crate, the pool noodle pieces and there’s some leftover room for clothing, etc..

Riding with a dog on the Brompton

Since the top of River’s basket, when mounted on the Brompton’s rear rack, is only 2 feet off the ground, it’s easy for her to jump in and out of the basket as needed yet high enough off the ground to offer some protection against curious street dogs.

We added a waterproof Borough’s Bag (size small) on the front of the bike (mounts included), which has been perfect for grocery runs. It would also be useful for light touring.

We have been riding our Brompton around Jaco, Costa Rica for the past 2 weeks. This area is quite flat with one decent hill near a friend’s house in Uvita. On the flats we generally ride in the middle range of the six gears but on the steep hill I was in first gear and needed River to get out of the basket and me out of the saddle. Downsizing to a 44-tooth chainring (I think stock is 52T) is an option to lower the lowest gear.

The Brompton is really fun to ride, accelerates faster than I had expected and we got up to a good speed (unmeasured but likely 20km.hr) on paved streets in town. Handling can be a little bit twitchy because of the small diameter wheels, and you do need to watch out for bumps and potholes.

It handles well on a pavement, but can manage packed dirt as well. However, in sand or any loose substrate, the narrow tires cause it to quickly sink. We didn’t make it very far onto the beach before I had to hop off and push.

So far our impressions are that the Brompton is a very portable and air-travel-friendly bike that is heaps of fun to ride on flat and gentle to moderate hills. It has converted well into a dogpacking bike for our purposes, and we love that the front-mounted bag holds groceries or other cargo. If you like the idea of having wheels at your destination and bringing a small furry friend along, the Brompton may be the perfect bike for you.

We look forward to doing a long term review of the Brompton 6-speed C-line bicycle. Until then, happy adventuring!

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