Having bought the Brompton I had to ensure that I could make the trip, do my work, look presentable and feel comfortable for over a week having squandered half my airline luggage allowance on the bike alone.
My first decision was to buy a Brompton touring pannier. This is a very capacious waterproof bag that clips on the front of the bike’s frame. The only permanent fixture on the bike is a small plastic bracket as the bag has an integral steel rack allowing it to carry a lot of weight. The pannier has two good external pockets at the rear which I use for tools, bike stuff and snacks or reading material depending on the journey. It also has three big elasticated mesh pockets on the outside to stuff in your drink, maps, bits of shopping etc.
In everyday use the pannier is ubiquitous. On business trips it will hold a briefcase and spare clothes and at the supermarket it will take a big load of groceries. Because it fits to the frame it doesn’t affect the steering like traditional front panniers and fitting and removing is very fast.
The pannier is one and a half times as big as a typical bike pannier and ideal for the job, but I still needed more capacity for my two week trip.
I trawled the Brompton user’s websites for advice on how to carry things and found a reference to a luggage rack, designed for mountain bikes, that fitted on the seat stem. I had seen such a thing and a trip to my local cycle shop, the truly excellent Albert Butterworth in Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, provided a very cheap Nimrod mountain bike rack consisting of an aluminium extrusion that clamped on to the seat stay with a couple of tubular loops sticking downwards to keep your pannier in place. It attached easily and securely to the bike (and came off just as quickly) Here it is:
It worked well with a pair of small panniers but I had decided to use a single backpack (I limited myself to bike + front pannier + backpack so that I could move the whole apparatus in one go with two hands and a pair of shoulders).
I had an Eagle Creek Backpack that was designed to double as an airline cabin bag so I experimented with that. It would not sit steadily on top of the rack but it had a sleeve on the back intended to slip over the handle of a trolley suitcase and that allowed me to sling it under the rack, as long as I cut off the loops first, like this:
This picture was doctored in Photoshop but the effect of taking a hacksaw to the pannier stay loops looks almost identical to the effect of the photoshop eraser doing the same job.
So with the aid of a couple of luggage straps I could secure the backpack to the rack so it would not swing about too much, and tie the rolled up bike bag on top. Here’s the Koffer bike bag supplied free by C.H.Whites when I bought the bike:
To protect the bike inside the bag from the ravages of baggage handlers I used a number of short pieces of foam pipe insulation clipped over various parts of the bike plus a couple of old mountain bike inner tubes (from Albert Butterworth’s scrap bin), partly inflated and wrapped round the bike, some gaffer tape ensured that everything stayed more or less in place. The various packing items and the tape lived in the rolled up bike bag and the mesh pockets of the Brompton front pannier when on the road. To keep everything stable in the bag I strapped a couple of heavy duty luggage straps round the outside, adding a bit of colour and something to hold on to.
Incidentally, I don’t recommend the use of a rack mounted on the seat stem. It worked OK for me but it’s not a recommended Brompton accessory. If you use one you have to judge whether the bike can take a loaded rack cantilevered off the seat stem. I took the view that heavier people than me use Brompton’s seat stem quite safely so it should take a bit of extra weight, but I could be wrong and it would not be nice to have the stem fail at speed in traffic.