Interview 002: Fin Madden | Touring on a Brompton + Tips For Cycling in Switzerland

I first met Finn in 2015 when I took a teaching job in southern Sweden. Somebody heard I liked cycling and said “you should meet Finn, he’s also a crazy cyclist”. Needless to say, we got on really well, and although we lived 100km away from each other, we did manage to get together a few times throughout the year for some pretty epic road and mountain biking fun. Having done a bit of touring myself prior to this, Finn and I started sharing stories about our experiences travelling by bike. 

I Googled, “can you ride 100km a day on a Brompton?”
and the answer was yes.

When Finn told me he used a Brompton, a bike designed as a compact folding commuter bike, something that is traditionally tucked under a seat on a train, or thrown in the trunk of a car, and rode it through 11 European countries and 5400km over two months. The next year he did a bike and sailing trip from Sweden to Spain and back. And just like that, my world changed and I started looking at folding bikes as a possible method of touring. As an expat teacher, I wanted to find a way to tour during holidays, while not paying a small fortune for my bike each time I wanted to travel by plane. Three years later I ended up buying a Bike Friday New World Tourist. Had I not met Finn and had a chance to hear his stories, it definitely never would have happened. 

I ended up doing four countries in one day… I did Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany. And had lunch in Germany.

While many people opt to use bicycles as a means of travel that is faster than walking, but slower than a car, for guys like Finn and I, cycling is a part of our lives, and, by extension, they become a central aspect of our travel experience. From the long epic adventure cycling and camping across thousands of kilometres,  short getaways with a loved one, cycling can be adapted to fit into any tour. More importantly, a bicycle tour doesn’t have to start and end on the bike, but can adapted as necessary. Such was the case when Finn and his wife Elaine planned their cross-Sweden tour, but decided to change their plans when the hot (Swedish) weather became too much. 

It was crazy, bailing on a bike tour in Sweden because of the heat.

Unlike most cyclists, Finn has challenged himself repeatedly by entering big cycling events in Sweden and Norway, and also doing the Everest Challenge two years in a row. From doing cycling events for the simple reason that that is what people do, riding in Norway in memory of a friend that passed away, to doing the Everest Challenge twice in order to raise money for people in need, Finn has shown to have the kind of grit and determination that many people only dream of. He even kind of knows when enough is enough and is not afraid to throw in the towel once the objective is achieved.

It started in the 50s. I was there for its 50th anniversary and there was like, 20 guys who had done every year. And these are guys, in their 80s, and, it’s incredible, but I didn’t really want to just keep doing the same race.

Dreaming about future tours is something that cyclists/bike tourists always have on their minds. Finn dreams to tour somewhere less travelled, a place that would challenge every aspect of his cycling skill, and to experience a remote adventure of nature and wilderness. However, this epic adventure will have to wait a few years, as he is about to have his first child and will be relegated to safer touring options with a Thule baby carriage attached to the back of his bike.

Cheers Finn. Keep on pedalling.

Chris

Show Notes

~ 30″ Introduction to Episode 002. 

~ 1′ Who is Finn Madden? Cycling in Korea. How he got the Brompton.
OMK Bike Camp, Ulsan, S. Korea

~ 5′ Can you ride a 100k in a day on a Brompton? Riding from Dublin to Germany

~ 8′ Finn tells us how to identify where people are from in Europe based on their biking kit and using biking maps in Germany.

~ 10′ Finn teaches us about the Swiss. Riding a Brompton in the mountains.

~ 11’45” Riding four countries in one day by lunchtime.

~ 12′ Biking from Sweden to Ireland, sailing to Spain, and riding back to Sweden.

~ 15′ Difference with riding a folding bike vs. a regular bike.

~ 18′ Showering in toilets in Europe. Stories about campgrounds in Europe. Being tired and wanting to give up.

~ 22′ Riding 10,000km a year the past three years.

~ 26′ Racing the largest cyclosportive in the world, the Vatternrundan, a 300km bike race around Sweden’s biggest lake.

~ 28′ 30″ Racing the Strykaproven, a 540km race from Trondheim to Oslo, Norway, in memory of a friend.

~ 39′ The rule to long-distance endurance riding

~ 41′ Attempting the Everest Challenge, getting sponsors and raising 50,000 kronor.

~ 50′ Wanting to ride the Balkans if he had time for a short trip.

~ 51′ The ultimate bike trip. Riding through Kerblakistan.

~ 52′ Ending the show and preview of the next episode.

 

About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.