Folding Bike Blog

Touring South Africa on a Montague Folding Bike

Gregory and his trusty Montague X50 have seen more of the world by bike than most of us will in our lifetime. After leaving South America he’s now begun exploration of Africa, starting in Johannesburg, SA. In his own words:

I arrived in Johannesburg at 6:00 am after two successive delays in New York and Dubai. No time to think, I unfold the bike and come out of the airport without knowing where I am, and full of Colombian pesos in my pockets that nobody want to change. I just know I want to go East.

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My first real contact with the people is the supermarket because I had to get back some foods that Customs had confiscated. I soon discovered that people are always smiling and joking around here.

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Even away from the city, the density of walkers / hitchhikers along the road remains constant, no way to find a lonely place. I soon came upon a cornfield and spent a peaceful night away from prying eyes.

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On the road after Graskop, landscapes of great beauty continued for several days, and with the always funny discussions I had with the locals, I completely forgot the country’s reputation. I always hid to sleep but it was almost more out of habit than any real fear.

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The road that I chose overlooked a vast plain that could be seen intermittently. In just a few kilometers, The Pinnacle, God’s Window, and the Three Rondavels offered me some of the best scenery of my trip.

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Then I reached Burgersfort, a small town that I spotted on my map as the next place for refueling. I had seen the Spar supermarket, but I didn’t like the atmosphere that prevailed from those outside. No smiles, they answered my greetings with disdainful gestures. I did not stop. A gas station attendant advised that I do not sleep in this area tonight.

As I headed out of town, the houses became less frequent, and the people I encountered seemed more quiet and less confrontational. Some cars stop to see what I’m doing there, but we chat nicely. At sunset, I finally find refuge in Harry’s house, an electrical engineer from the platinum mine. He offers me a corner of his garden to set up my tent for the night and he laughed as I explained how I live while bike touring.

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In the morning, after a much needed bath, his wife took pity on me and my single wet shirt and offering me one of her husband’s. It was also confirmed to me that Burgerfort is definitely not a recommended place for a lonely cyclist from France. Besides the big cities, there are few places to avoid in South Africa. After this episode, I asked the guards of a mine that hosted me for a night if there was still racial tensions in South Africa. They almost laughed. For them “it’s in the past, but we can not prevent some fools to exist.”

A lot of people do not understand why I’m traveling this way. “But why are you doing this to yourself?” is a recurring question. What usually follows is a hilarious 20 minutes dialogue, and a crowd gathers around to talk about my journey. Motorists stop in the middle of the road to ask questions. Drivers honk behind them but nobody moves without at least knowing my final destination, where I come from, and why I do this. A question that sometimes is more difficult to answer than you might think.

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The road to the Botswana border is infinitely straight and flat. Drier too. I meet many tourists who are going on safari and learn that my route to Botswana includes a 300km stretch with lions and elephants in the wild. Lions?! But it is dangerous?! “Ah yes, but the elephants can be even more dangerous. If you stay on the road you should be OK.”

The bike trip seems to be a concept still not widespread in South Africa (compared to Latin America for example) and the reactions of the people left me almost to think I was the only rider in the country. Until one morning, some of them told me that my friend was here 20 minutes before me. My friend? Another cyclist? I have to catch up with this guy! After twenty kilometers, I caught up to Eelco, a South African who was riding from Cape Town to the Victoria Falls. He had already ridden the route before and knows a few places to sleep safely on the lions road. Very valuable information for me.

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South Africa was a great discovery. I was a bit scared before coming and I found a beautiful country both for its inhabitants and its amazing views. Yes, there are still some places to avoid, but this is true of traveling alone in many countries. Of course, the information you hear always puts more emphasis on this than the positives of a place. Do you hear a lot of good news by listening to the evening news? Shut off the TV, come discover South Africa, and bring your bike along:

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2 Comments

  1. Jonathan F.V.
    Posted July 3, 2015 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    That sounds like a really sweet adventure! I have to travel by bike, some day! Thanks a lot for sharing.

  2. Abby Watson
    Posted July 28, 2015 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    This is very adventures tour on bikes. It is a great idea.

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Posted in Adventure, Lifestyle, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Replacing Grips: A Trick for the Sticky Ones

There are a few reasons you might want to replace your grips. There’s a wide variety of ergonomic shapes and different color options on the market. They’re easily customizable to add some flair to your bike, or you may be looking to replace them if they get worn from extended use.

The steps seem simple (slide off old grip, slide on new grip), but they’re often quite difficult to work with. Here’s a trick I picked up for replacing particularly stubborn grips.

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All you need for tools is a flat head screwdriver (preferably a relatively thin one), a can of WD-40 with the straw, and Windex or a similar window cleaner.

Montague Folding Bike Grip Removal

Grips can really stick to the handlebars and sometimes won’t budge from any amount of twisting or pulling. Take your flat head screwdriver and slide it in between the grip and the bar. This might scratch the bars slightly, but it will always be hidden by your grips. I wouldn’t recommend doing this on a carbon bar however, as even a scratch can weaken it.

Montague Folding Bike Grip Removal with Lubricant

Extend the straw on the WD-40 can and slide it in along the screwdriver as far as you can. Spray a small amount here at the far end of the grip, pull the straw out slightly and spray again.

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Once that lubricant is between the grip and the bar, twist and it should easily slide off. Be sure to wipe off the excess WD-40 with a rag or paper towel. You could slide the new grip on with remaining WD-40 but it takes a long time to evaporate and your new grip would not stay in place.

Instead, dry it off thoroughly and grab that window cleaner. Spray a small amount on the bare handlebar and slide the new grip on. The alcohol in the window cleaner will evaporate very quickly and allow the new grip to stick to the bar.

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I’d recommend giving it a half hour to an hour to dry before you ride it just to be sure the grips are secured. Your hands will thank you for a fresh pair of grips!

Montague Folding Bike with Oury Grips

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Posted in Accessories, Maintenance, Tutorial | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Mountain Biking on a Folding Bike

This spring has been fantastic for mountain biking in the northeast. It took a while to warm up (it was cold well into april) but once it did it was like summer came early. With beautiful warm days and dry trails, our mountain bikes were calling to us.

The Montague Bikes team had some opportunities to get out and take our full size folding bikes off road. Many people may not expect a folding bike to be trail ready, but Montague is certainly the exception to the rule with full size wheels, a Rockshox or Suntur suspension fork, and a rigid frame that doesn’t break the tubing to accomplish folding.

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The Middlesex Fells is a reservation just outside Boston filled with ponds, reservoirs, and a wide variety of trails ranging from rolling doubletrack to rocky singletrack. It’s by far the closest and most accessible off road riding to the city.

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The Fells has a surprising variation in elevation as well which provides some great views.

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On the two highest points in the reservation are towers you can climb to get an even better vantage point.

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While this is unfortunately not our trail dog, there were lots of fury friends sharing the trails with us that day. I couldn’t resist documenting this guy’s Go Pro setup. I’d love to see that footage!

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Pit stop to take in the scenery. This area around the reservoir appeared to have been burned in recent years.

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From light paths…

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To rock gardens!

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Sometimes life behind bars is really tough….

 

One Comment

  1. Posted June 20, 2015 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    That dog’s GoPro is hilarious! WHich folding bike is that? Seems to be very durable in hard terrain.

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Posted in Adventure, Lifestyle, Recreation | 1 Comment