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Have folding bike, can travel! But remember to deflate those tyres! 

I stirred and awoke in a large darkened room, with numerous flashing lights, and beeping sounds.

I felt very happy and euphoric, (I realised later it was the liquid morphine!). Then I remembered where I was. I was in the Intensive Care Unit at Southampton General Hospital, having just come out of surgery, having had a quadruple heart bypass operation.

What followed was seven days in hospital on the ward, and then home for a three months’ recovery period and some rehab. My thoughts turned quickly to some regular exercise that I could do, that would also be fun. Solution – I would buy a bicycle!

Like most people I first learned to ride whilst at school. Once I had started working, followed by courting, marriage and then children, the bicycle was quickly banished to the garden shed. Here I was 45 years later contemplating getting back on two wheels. What type should I buy?

My son had recently started working and living in London, and on several visits to see him, I was able to see that this is a very common mode of transport for anyone living or working in the capital. Every type of bicycle was in use, with every recognisable type of rider in the saddle.

There were the racing types, on bikes with very thin wheels, low handlebars, wearing the compulsory lycra shorts and top, hurtling around the streets, weaving in and out of the traffic, and looking quite scary.

Another group stood out, they were often as not more casually dressed in jeans and tee shirt. Their mode of transport was the mountain bike, all shapes and frame sizes, with off road tyres. They would weave in and out of the traffic, shaking their fists at any motorist who dared to encroach on their road space.

A third group of cyclists caught my eye. They were often dressed ready for the office, some wearing suits, and riding very strange machines with very small wheels, and a tall saddle. When they arrived at their destination, either the office, bus stop, or train station, something very strange happened. The rider dismounted, and proceeded to unscrew a couple of clamps, fold the bike in to three sections, pick it up, and carry it off. It was a ritual I had not seen before. I later found out that the type of bike they were riding, was in many cases, the ubiquitous Brompton folding bike.

I was immediately hooked, and after looking at the Brompton web site, organised a test ride at my local bike shop. I bought the bike in August 2014, and have been riding it regularly ever since.

I have used the bike almost daily in the UK, riding around my home town of Romsey. On other occasions, travelling further afield, with the bike folded in the boot of the car, or taken on a train, I have been able to use the bike in London, and various places on the South coast. When folded, the bike also fits into a small suitcase, the weight of the bike and case combined is approximately 16Kg, which allows you to book it in as luggage on any airline flight.

Having recently retired, and planned a two-month holiday to Tenerife, I decided it would be a good idea to take the bike with me. I had arranged a flight with Ryan Air, who charged £36 each way for a suitcase up to 20kg.

I checked in at Bourne-mouth airport, and made my way through to security. Whilst standing patiently in the queue, I suddenly heard my name being called over the public address, for me to return to check in. What could be the problem? I approached the check in desk, and my suitcase with bike was sitting there. I was informed that the tyres must be deflated prior to being checked in and loaded on the aircraft. In front of the audience of waiting passengers, I duly removed the bike from the case, and deflated the tyres. This apparently avoids any problems with tyres possibly bursting during the flight.

I could have arranged to hire a bike in Tenerife but typical costs can be approximately 10 euros per day. I worked out this could have cost between 400 to 500 euros for the duration of my stay.

I have been staying in Palm Mar for three weeks now, and am using the bike on a daily basis, for an hour’s exercise, usually riding down to the sea front. The ride from the apartment is easy, downhill all of the way. It might be possible to wear out a set of brake pads in a couple of months, following the same route!

Along the sea front is the best and easiest part of the ride, being completely flat, with stunning views across to Los Cristianos, with La Gomera in the distance, (on a clear day). The other advantages of the sea front ride are the two beach bars, for light refreshments, (alright, I know, I really mean beer).

Now we come to the harder task, and the real exercise, riding back to the apartment. It is now obviously uphill all of the way, and is the part of the ride where you get the benefit of an increased heart rate, (at least that’s what the doctor told me). There is one final section of road that is so steep it is only possible get off and push the bike the final hundred yards.

Riding in other resorts in Tenerife I would imagine is very similar to Palm Mar, in that you usually have a free ride in one direction and a hard slog in the other. I am sure the racing bike / lycra brigade would laugh at that suggestion! But hey we are not talking “Tour de France” standards here.

The difference between riding in Tenerife and back in the UK could not be more different. The obvious one here is the very hot mid-day and afternoon temperatures, meaning an early morning or evening ride is the preferred and sometimes only option.

I am planning on returning to Tenerife next year and will certainly be bringing my bike with me. If I should decide to hire a car, this will allow me to take the bike to some other local resorts for further exploration. My ultimate dream ride would be to take the bike up to the highest road point at Mount Teide, (by car of course), and then ride all the way down, at a leisurely and easy pace. I think this will require some research on the internet, and could probably be done as a fun ride with a local cycling club.

If you would like to get in touch with Phil, please do so on felipegodwin@gmail.com

by Phil Goodwin