The Circus Bike
My landlubber friends sometimes snicker at me when I ride my folding bike. I hope it’s the bike that is drawing the attention. When compared to a conventional one, the proportions are all wrong. The wheels are small like a BMX bike, but the frame is trying to be adult-sized, with high-rise extensions for the handlebars and the seat. That’s why I have taken to calling it the Circus Bike. However, I haven’t ridden it around the home town much, mostly reserving it for trips aboard Sampaguita. In particular, voyages throughout Puget Sound, the San Juans, Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast. It can be a convenient tool and time saver and good for exercise and entertainment. If you are considering carrying a bicycle on board, I offer these stories with the Circus Bike as an account of possibilities.
Why did I buy a folding bike to carry aboard my boat? When I purchased Sampaguita, a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, seven years ago, the seller also offered a folding bike and a Montgomery 7-11 dinghy. The bike was in excellent condition, and the dinghy had a sailing rig. I hadn’t considered having either before, but the price was right. I could sell them if they didn’t work out.
Now I have a bike, where do I put it? Following the previous owner’s lead, I initially stored the Circus Bike, lashed on the settee, next to the companionway. I quickly grew to dislike this location. I got tired of looking at it, and it took up valuable cabin space. If I forgot to lash it, it would fall to the sole. After the second time, I’d had enough. A Flicka’s diminutive size limits the options, but since Sampaguita does not have an inboard motor, I wondered if the Circus Bike might fit into that engine space. The Flicka mold accommodated an engine regardless. If the bike fit, it would be a great out of the way place.
Huh? How do I do that? Here is where it gets very builder specific. Pacific Seacrafts have a removable cockpit sole, held down with four knobs. While this gives full access to the engine space from above, it is an awkward reach. I found that standing inside the cabin and leaning against the companionway ladder, facing aft, I’m able to reach over the bridge. I can leverage my lower body off the bulkhead and ladder to lift the bike in and out. Coincidentally, it is also the best approach to remove and replace the cockpit sole. I put the sole on one side of the cockpit and the bike on the other. After trial and error, I was able to find a way to angle the Circus Bike in. It takes some shuffling around of other gear I stow in there, but everything still fits. I add some padding to protect the contact spots.
When do I use it? Having a bike pays off when tied to a dock. As a convenient, time-saving tool, it can be simpler and faster to use the bike and jerry cans to get gasoline for Sampaguita’s outboard than it is to move the boat to a fuel dock. Pumps aren’t always close. I have also seen them broke and stations out of fuel. Grocery runs have been great too. There is no cab fare and no waiting. For example, I was staying at the Orcas Island Yacht Club in West Sound of Orcas Island. There are no services there, but I was able to ride the bike to the village of East Sound, 6 miles away, for fuel and groceries. And the Orcas Island countryside is beautiful.
What else? I needed to top off my propane tank before I headed up to Princess Louisa Inlet one summer. I had aimed to do this in Port Townsend, but the propane station there was out of order. I waited until Nanaimo, thinking there would be some available there, but the closest filling station turned out to be two miles inland. I was informed taxis may consider a propane tank dangerous cargo and refuse service. Since everything on a Flicka is small, I have the 1.4-gallon, tall and slim, Worthington tank. It fits in my backpack. I used the Circus Bike to get to the station and back. It feels a little dangerous, but probably only marginally more dangerous than a car, and it worked great.
Is it only for work? No, not at all, I have explored many an island and peninsula on the Circus Bike just for fun. Lopez, San Juan, Orcas, Stuart, South Pender, to give just a sample. While docked in Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island, I rode the bike six-miles round-trip to the Turn Point Lighthouse. The bike did well, considering the dirt trail/road was more suited for a mountain bike, with its washouts and hills. Without the bike, I wouldn’t have had time to make the trip.
In Egmont, British Columbia, the bike first served for two gas runs to town. Back Eddy Resort’s gas pump, where I was staying, was broken(I don’t need to make this stuff up.) I then used the bike to get most of the way to Skookumchuck Narrows to watch the kayakers ride the standing waves in the Sechelt tidal rapids. From Back Eddy, it was seven miles round trip. Some of it was paved roads, but the park trail was not. It was early in the season, so I was able to ride on the trail without disturbing others. The Circus Bike got me to the rapids in time for the maximum flood and home for the sunset.
What about at anchor? All of my bike experiences have been with Sampaguita tied to a dock. I use an inflatable kayak when at anchor. The kayak is stable, but it doesn’t feel secure for transporting the bike ashore. I have yet to try this since I am nervous about it going in the water. What about the Montgomery? It was too big for long journeys with the Flicka and too tippy for me, so I sold it to buy the kayak.
If you have a small boat and can find an acceptable place to store a bike aboard, it could expand your shoreside possibilities when cruising. Each boat will require its unique approach to storage, but that is part of the fun of messing about. Whether it be for running errands or exploring, you will be able to travel farther and faster. Mine has a bike rack, so I can strap a small jerry can or a box of groceries to it, in addition to wearing a backpack. Folding bikes look a bit weak to an avid rider, but they are surprisingly strong. I have had mine for seven years. Since I reserve its use for cruising on Sampaguita and as a back up for my regular, land-based bike, it has required little maintenance. I have had to add a shim to one of the folding latches, for a more secure fit, and of course, keep the chain lubricated. Since I store it inside out of the elements, salt has not been an issue.