England Ireland Find Havens
England Ireland Find Routes

Next Previous

Getting about ashore more efficiently

1 comment

What is the issue?
A dinghy or berth will take the crew to the shoreline, but after that sailors tend to get about on foot. This is very slow going and range restrictive to the extreme.

Why address this?
Walking is great exercise and very pleasant. However, when this is the only form of locomotion, the number of errands that can be achieved or places visited in any day will always be pitifully small.

How to address this?
One of the joys of cruising has to be exploring the various places visited ashore. To widen the possibilities and reduce the time there is no more simple and efficient way than to invest in folding bikes. A bicycle will dramatically increase each landing's roaming range and enable you to achieve much more in a shorter amount of time.


Adding bicycles to the cruising kit list has become much more viable thanks to the wide range of excellent folding bicycle solutions that are available today. They come in many different guises from full frame road bike to compact folders.

You can now get full frame bikes that have 26-inch or 27-inch wheels and offer a full road bike experience for real bikers who want to undertake long and arduous rides. But they are big and unwieldy and to stow them you typically need to remove at least one wheel from the frame and usually take the handlebars and pedals off or fold them down. Even after doing this they remain awkward when it comes to moving them around the boat, storing them, transferring them to a dinghy and taking them ashore.

A full size Montague folding bike with 27 inch wheels
Photo: Montaguebikes via ASA 4.0

Sadly though they may be the lightest, and have the best gearing and the best ride, their assembly, disassembly, storage and moving effort will in time create a hurdle that offsets usage and most likely lead to buyers remorse in the long term.

Unless you are a complete cycling enthusiast, a small folding frame bicycle that requires no tools to fold and stows easily will likely be the most serviceable option for cruisers. There is less disassembly and they fit into smaller lockers, dinghies and rowboats a bit more easily. Some fold down to little more than the size of their small wheels and can be carried about in a handy sized luggage bag. A further benefit of these bike's compact size is that when it's folded, you can just as easily take it into buildings that you are visiting with the carrying bag option, when the area is a little uncertain regarding security.

DAHON folding bike in folded position
Photo: Dahon North America Inc. via CC ASA 4.0

Yet, despite their size, modern folders are also perfectly ride-able and their low centre of gravity makes them quite nimble. A good one will offer years of solid service and the space they take up on a yacht is negligible considering the service they offer.


Take a look at the storage space your boat offers and then go down to a helpful bike shop. Here is a list of some considerations that may be useful when selecting a small folding bike.

  • 1/ Be prepared to invest to get a good folding bike. Folding bikes require highly skilled welding and materials for construction as the frame and solid joint in the middle of the bike is crucial to a good ride. Going cheap here will result in a poor bike and miles of daily regret.

  • 2/ Conversely, don’t get too hung up on a folders weight relative to regular bikes as folding bikes tend to be heavier due to the additional folding requirement and they make up for the extra weight by being more closely-packed and easily handled.

  • 3/ Smaller wheels make for more compact storage on the boat. However, the small wheels tend to be slower on the road and take more effort from the rider. So it is a storage space efficiency versus bike efficiency tradeoff that has to be determined for your vessel and expected usage. An average folding bike has a 16-inch wheel and a 20-inch wheel is considered on the comfortable side for long distance riding. If you can go for the larger wheel size you will enjoy riding the bike all the more.

  • 4/ Likewise narrower tyres are faster and fatter tyres slower. But if roads are bad narrow tyers will transfer the hard surface into the rider.

  • 5/ Folding mechanisms vary and this is something you should try before you buy.

  • 6/ For the boat-shop runs a basket will be helpful or preferably a luggage rack and panniers. Even though they add bulk they are essential extras as it is always best that the bike carries the weight of provisions rather than the rider.

  • 7/Don’t get put off a certain bike because of particular aspects such as a saddle for instance or its tyre size. A good bike shop will be delighted to substitute standard equipment items that can be easily changed.

  • 8/Try to get a bike that has a hardwearing durable storage bag or have one made up.

  • 9/Finaly, is there a electric option? If you can afford it and can charge it, you can add countless miles to your explorations.

Dahon folding bike with aluminum frame and carbon parts
Photo: Dahon North America Inc. via CC ASA 4.0


Bicycles are one of the easiest mechanical systems to work on and a practical cruiser should have no problem learning how to disassemble one and take care of any required repairs. Most cycle maintenance can be carried out by the tools that service the yacht and the toolkit that should come with the bicycle will take care of any oddities. A largish bicycle pump that fits your bike tyre valve and the cycle frame, when out and about, should not be overlooked. Take some spare tyres, tubes and copious patches.

Clean any excess dirt off with a damp rag after a day's ride ashore. Then dry it off, fold the bicycle and place it in its protective bag. Then double bag it in a heavy-duty garbage bag and seal off the top so it is not subject to any salt splashes that may occur during the dinghy ride out to the boat.

Every week or so, or before putting a bike away for a passage, spray a water dispersant and preserving oil into a cloth and wipe it over all the bare metal components such as the spokes, hubs, seat and handlebar posts, and pedals. Spray the gears and chain with a light coat of gear oil but not in excess to have it dripping and attracting dirt. Keep the rim of the wheels where the brake pads contact, free of oil or the brakes will fail.

When putting a bike away double bag it and securely stow it in a locker where it will not roll about and cause its sharp edges to cut through the protective bags. Once folded down a pair of folding bicycles should easily fit into a cockpit locker or at the very worst into a spare berth such as a quarter berth.

Good folding bicycles may be an expensive acquisition on the day they are bought, but looked after, they will cost you very little and save you money and time every day you take them out. You will be surprised to find out how useful they will be, how enjoyable they are to use, and how they will expand your horizons when you take them cruising.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

Folding bikes, electric scooters and unicycles for sailing

A photograph is worth a thousand words. We are always looking for bright sunny photographs that illustrate this experience. If you have some images that we could use please upload them here. All we need to know is how you would like to be credited for your work and a brief description of the image if it is not readily apparent. If you would like us to add a hyperlink from the image that goes back to your site please include the desired link and we will be delighted to that for you.

Add your review or comment:

Bill Forde wrote this review on Jul 22nd 2014:
Im planning an extended cruise long distance next year or maybe 2016 and I bought a Dahon Jack folding bike and a special padded Carry bag to keep it from scratching woodwork as I sail. It fits neatly into a spare cabin sois never in the way. The Dahon is a full size strong bike with 26" wheels and aluminium 400 frame. Its light and strong. I converted it to electric with a hub motor and split Battery pack that goes on a removeable panier on the rear rack. I have a DC to DC converter that charges the batteries from 12V Via 180watt solar panels as I cruise. When I arrive anywhere I can unpack & unfold the bike in a few minutes. If I feel like exploring the countryside I can add the Battery pack if I choose and I get a 150 Klm range with powerful assistance. I have a great Burley trailer which doubles as a 2 wheel shopping cart and is strong enough to carry 40l of diesel if required. I Travelled 40KLM with 40L of water on the trailer to test it and it was a dream, easy peasy. So no taxis and no petrol and lots of freedom to explore foreign treasures. More info and photos available on request

Average Rating: Unrated

Please log in to leave a review of this tip.

eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, you must read our legal page. However, we ask you to help us increase accuracy. If you spot an inaccuracy or an omission on this page please contact us and we will be delighted to rectify it. Don't forget to help us by sharing your own experience.