Passagemaker Article

Passagemaker Newsletter Article 6/2008

By Bill Parlatore
When the time comes to slip the lines and head off on your next extended cruise, several issues may await you when you get to the next destination. If you plan to stay any length of time in one place, for example, the issue of how best to get around becomes very real. For a couple of days, it is no big deal, but after a week or more, you’ll feel the need for wheels.
This past winter, we spent a couple of months in Marathon, in the heart of the Florida Keys. While that location is not particularly relevant, and could just as easily have been Friday Harbor, or Port Austin, or Bar Harbor, the fact that we chose an established town highlights the issue of transportation.
Except for all-encompassing resort marinas, which have everything one could possibly want or need, getting around poses a challenge to most folks, especially older folks on trawlers. I spend time with lots of trawler owners, who arrange to stay in either marinas or moorings, and find most choose bicycles as the form of transport most accommodating to the trawler lifestyle. A few have motorcycles, a growing number have scooters, and I’ve recently encountered electric bicycles and Segways coming off the mothership.
To be fair and complete the transportation picture, I must acknowledge there is usually at least one couple on the dock who have access to a car, either their own or a rental, and who freely provide group transport to the local grocery, wine shop, hardware, or marine store. Such trips turn into memorable social events on occasion, as lunch or ice cream work their way onto the agenda.
For the daily routine of life, however, there are numerous (often daily) reasons for one to head away from the marina or dinghy dock, farther than practical for walking, perhaps just to buy a newspaper.
And so it is common for the trawler crowd to carry bicycles, and they are used for all sorts of trips around town. The marinas I visit all have racks of full-size rusting bikes, dutifully chained to racks or each other, some with the ubiquitous milk carton zip-tied on the rear rack to better carry a load of groceries back to the boat or dinghy. In my experience, it is an image found in every cruising destination around the country.
I’ve never been a big fan of those tiny folding bikes, usually ridden by folks with floppy hats and backpacks. They seem too fragile, and I feel sort of silly on them. Yet the alternative of full-size bikes poses a storage challenge and these bikes don’t fare well in the marine environment when lashed to stanchions on the upper boat deck.
Enter a new bike option from DownTube ( I got one from the company to use on this extended cruise, and I can say it is an impressive package. Folded up the bike fits in one of my lazarette hatches (and I’m on a 36-foot lobster boat, not known for enormous storage or deep lazarette space). Its small folded footprint is certainly nice, but its real beauty is when it is unfolded and transformed into a working bicycle that is fully adjustable to fit every member of the crew.
What I really appreciate about the DownTube bicycle, and I have the 8H model, is the fact that it is designed for a low maintenance life while providing a fully modern transportation option. By that I mean it has an 8-speed internal gear hub that operates from the handlebar grip. That provides all the gearing one might want, simply changed up or down, while keeping the delicate gear mechanism out of the elements. The bike also has a front suspension to cushion the bumps of a road or bike path, and the cushy seat helps ease one into a biking routine as one adjusts to being back on terra firma.
To further elaborate why this bike is such a good idea for a trawler owner, even the chain is all stainless steel. The overall low maintenance design of this bike means you can leave it assembled and reasonably covered out of the rain, chained by the dinghy dock if need be, and not have to worry about it becoming a mass of rust later after just a few months of cruising.
With disk brake up front, a nice practical rear rack, and fully adjustable handlebars and seat, the DownTube represents a modern way to get around without having to hide under your Tilley hat or slink behind a tree to unchain a rusting mountain bike that has long since lost its looks.
I used to think old folks on bikes looked almost comedic, but now that I’ve joined the ranks, I concede bicycling is a healthy form of transportation for anyone who cruises on a trawler. With bikes that show so much forethought as this, every couple should have a pair to go off to the beach, that funky pub with no name, or Ed’s Tiki Bar, where the margaritas flow to the tunes of James Taylor and spicy hot wings are the hot specialty of the house.
The Cajun wings are especially my favorite.
Reprint with permission. Copyright 2008 PassageMaker Magazine