Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Brompton, the Megabus, and Philly: A Love Story

This past Sunday, I took a short day trip to Philadelphia to see family for Father's Day.  Although the Amtrak is the fastest and most delightful way to get to Philly, I am trying to save money and can really only justify Amtrak when my law firm is paying for the trip.  I ended up with a last-minute Megabus ticket.  Megabus, for those who are unfamiliar, is a bus company that runs cheap bus routes between relatively close-together cities.  A round-trip fare from DC to Philly set me back a whole $30.

This trip seemed as good a time as any to experiment with out-of-town mass transit on my Brompton.  And yes, I know that I still owe you a proper review of the Brompton, but I don't see how I can do that review without video, and I think I will need a volunteer cameraperson to aid me in shooting said video, so this may take a little while still.

Anyhoo, I left the house on Sunday morning with only my Brompton, my purse, and a father's day gift as cargo.  I opted not to take my large front-fastening cargo bag because once I off-loaded the gift I knew I would not need any extra cargo space.  The gift fit easily on the rear rack of the bike, secured by the included bungee cords.

The rear rack + bungees (image).

When I arrived at the Megabus stop in Union Station, I unfastened the gift, folded up the bike, and handed it to the bus baggage handler.  I didn't have any kind of bag or carrying case for the bike, but nobody seemed to have a problem with this.  The ticket-taking lady asked me why I didn't have a bag for the bike, but I think she was more worried about the bike's safety than about any kind of company policy.*

(Spoiler alert:  The bike emerged from both legs of the trip undamaged.  I wonder whether the lack of a bag actually kept it safe, because the baggage handlers could clearly see they were dealing with a bike and thus were inclined not to toss it around or throw things on top of it.)

Upon arrival at 30th Street Station in Philly, I grabbed my bike, unfolded it, and immediately rode to Center City where I met my fam.  No dealing with public transit, no paying for a cab, and no inconveniencing anybody with the task of coming to pick me up.

I was most worried about spending a day in the city lugging a bike around with me, but I found this to be mostly a non-issue.  It is possible to only partially fold the Brompton so that the handlebars stick out, turning it into kind of a wheely cart.

(FYI:  This is an M6R.  I realize that means nothing to 95% of my readers but in case anyone gets here by Googling Bromptons, there you have it.  Hopefully by the time you find me I have finally written a real review of this thing.)

That's how I got around the city with the bike in tow given the fact that my two companions were walking.  It was only a slight inconvenience (the way it would be to lug anything around with you), but most importantly wheeling the bike around this way was not difficult and didn't exhaust me with exertion.  The bike weighs 25 pounds, so it's definitely too heavy to carry around for five hours.

Once the day wrapped to a close, I made my way back to the bus stop on the Brompton.  I was an hour early for my bus and was not particularly looking forward to killing an hour on line outside the station.  As I approached my destination, I passed over the Schuylkill River and stared longingly at the long, beautiful bike bath that runs along the river, up into Fairmount Park.  I thought about what I lovely bike ride that would be and wished I could . . .

. . . wait a minute . . .

. . . I HAD a bike with me!  In fact, I was riding it in that exact moment!  And I had an hour to kill!

I came to a screeching halt, turned myself around, and made my way onto the trail for an hour-long bike ride into Fairmount Park.

And because I clearly cannot get enough sunsets:

There's a cemetary along the way.  I didn't go inside, but from the trail it looked old and regal.


A marble angel watching over the road.

It was mostly dark by the time I made my way back to the bus stop.  Along the way, the fireflies came out.

Can you see them in the grass?

Who could resist a photo opp like this?

The Philly museum of art (Rocky steps!)

I rode back to 30th Street Station and took my place in line with the Brompton, thrilled to have both gotten a bit of exercise and cut my wait time down to fifteen minutes. 

Upon arrival in D.C., I had an easy time of unfolding the Brompton and riding the easy mile back home.  I was not at all disappointed to skip the late-night taxi line at the station:

Overall, I didn't have any problems taking my folding bike on Megabus* and having my own mode of transport made it much easier to get to and from the station on both ends of the trip!  If this tale was a love story between the Brompton and Megabus, then the Schuylkill River Trail would be their love child.  The trail from Center City a bit up into Fairmont Park was a beautiful bike ride that I would love to repeat with more time.

* [Edit:  Note that it appears from their website that Megabus's official policy is not to allow bikes on board.  I'm not sure if the policy is not applied to folding bikes or if I just got away with something, but there you go.]

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