I own two six-speed unYOUsual U arc 20-inch Folding City bikes, and they fit well in my Cessna 170B with the rear seat removed (I had weight and balance sheets done by an A&P/IA to be able to fly the airplane with the rear seat installed or uninstalled). But, I can’t even fit one in with the rear seat installed because they are bulky and don’t stay folded.
I recently tested the Brompton C Line Utility folding bike and was impressed with the thought engineers put into not only folding the bike compactly but also into the locking mechanisms that keep the bike in the folded position, making it easy to carry, lift, and maneuver into and out of the airplane’s baggage compartment. I was able to lift the folded 26-pound bike into my Cessna 170, fold the rear seat forward, and lift the bike over the seat into the baggage area (my airplane doesn’t have an exterior baggage door). The locking mechanisms on the bike kept it securely folded. I also loaded it in the baggage compartment of a Cessna 172. It was easier to get into my baggage compartment because the opening is bigger when I fold the rear seat back forward. However, with a little finagling I could fit it through the Cessna 172’s baggage compartment door. (The folded size is 25.3 inches high by 23 inches wide by 10.6 inches deep, according to the manufacturer, if you want to measure your baggage door or compartment.)
The C Line Utility bike has three speeds; smooth tires for riding on sidewalks, roads, or paved bike trails; and fenders to keep away water on wet surfaces. It doesn’t have shocks (neither does my other folding bike), but it’s fine if you are riding on smooth surfaces. I don’t recommend riding it on a gravel or dirt bike path. The three speeds are acceptable for biking short distances with relatively small inclines, but if you are going to go more than a couple of miles, you might want a model with six speeds. It comes with a bike pump attached to the frame. And, if you want, you could add a universal bag to the seat post. I’ve done that with my folding bike to hold a wallet, water, snacks, sunglasses, and other necessities, and it would work on the Brompton too.
I tested the Brompton when I flew back to AOPA’s headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, where I tied down for the day. After unloading and unfolding the bike, I rode to a popular burgers and ice cream restaurant, Beef ‘n Buns ‘n Paradise, just over a mile from the airport.
I only found a couple of minuses—this model does not have a kickstand, so you must hold the bike, lay it down, or fold the back tire under when you aren’t riding it. If you are riding in an area that doesn’t have bike racks for parking, you would need to lean it against something, lay it down, or partially fold it.
I also wish the handlebar height were adjustable. I have my handles positioned a little higher on my folding bike so that it is more comfortable for me to ride. The Brompton handlebar height worked OK for my 5-foot, 6-inch frame, but it could be a problem for someone who is tall. Brompton accounts for this by offering mid and high handlebar options. That could be good for anyone who would be riding the bike exclusively and not sharing it with friends or family members who might have different heights.
Overall, the Brompton folding bike is the perfect accessory for pilots who want to fly to new destinations and explore the area on their own.