Canal boater’s Guide to Buying a Bike

Welcome back to Canal Boat UK. Today I want to address the idea of buying a bike that best suits living on a narrowboat or canal boat. There are a lot of things to consider, so I hope I can help you in your bike buying journey 🙂

During this article, you can click the product images to be taken over to Amazon to view it in more detail yourself.

Why Do Narrowboaters or Canal Boaters Need Bikes?

Whether you are a boater in a marina or cruising the cut, you will have a good use for a decent bike. Especially if you don’t own a car. Unless you are a complete recluse, you would want to be able to explore the local area when you are not on the boat. Or at the very least buy a pint of milk from the local shop.

All of this is made so much easier if you have access to a bicycle, as well as being great excercise too!

Considerations for Buying a Bike as a Boater?

  • A boat bike will need to be compact, so that it won’t take up too much space on your already cramped boat (unless you have a massive wide beam boat of course).
  • A boat bike will need to be able to cope with the muddy canal towpaths they will have to use from time to time (or rather regularly if you are a continuous cruiser).
  • Your narrowboat based bike will either need to be very cheap or easy to store away from nimble fingered thieves (trust me, it happens).
  • A boat bike needs to be lightweight.
  • A boat bike needs to be able to cover good ground with ease, for those times when you are moored in the middle of nowhere.

My Best Canal Boat Bikes

When all that is said and done, what bike would I recommend? Personally, I would go with a folding bike. These days folding bikes are easy to come by and can be stored away with ease. I like the example below that I found over at Amazon, as it has good features and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Click the image to view it for yourself over there at Amazon.

I know that some of you may scoff at the thought of having a foldable bike, but you would be surprised how easy a good one is to ride and even with the small wheels it can cover a lot of ground with ease. And for me personally, being able to store in a tight compact space is a must.

Having a full sized bike is all well and good, but you then need to store it in your well deck or somehow fit a bike rack to the exterior of your canal boat. Not only does it look ugly to me, but you are just asking for people to steal your shiny new bike. And over time the weather will turn this shiny new bike to rust if you don’t cover it well.

If you find cycling long distances hard, you might want to consider an electric bike, just make sure that you have a power system and batteries on board that can easily charge such a bike 🙂

My current favourite is the eelo folding electric bike seen below (again click the image to view it for yourself over at Amazon). It comes in a small but powerful package. With power assistance, some users are reporting speeds of up to 13mph whilst going up hills. Impressive stuff. And yes, the wheels are small, but you will soon get used to them in my opinion.

eelo even sell this excellent backpack as an added extra, that will give you flashing LED signal indicators. Pretty cool stuff 🙂

If you are a continuous cruiser, you may like the bike below as it has bigger wheels to tackle those muddy Winter canal towpaths!

Don’t Forget to Buy a Trailer Too 🙂

One of the beauties of owning a bike as a boater is, after adding a trailer, you can now transport double the groceries or coal to your boat than before. It really will make a massive difference to the amount you can move to and from your boat.

These trailers simply attach to your bike’s seat post and come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Just make sure to buy one that folds up to store!

If carrying amount is your key consideration, I would go with the Pawhut bike trailer below. It is designed for dogs, but is equally as good at hauling shopping and other such items. It can be folded up for easy storage and has wheels that could cope with the muddiest towpaths! This trailer may look big, but it can fit pretty much any bike.

The only downside is that it can only take 30KG of weight, not as much as the smaller trailer recommended after this.

If you feel like the first bike trailer was a bit big and bulky, I would then recommend something like the one below. It can also be folded for storage and can take up to 40KG of weight. The steel construction gives this trailer a sturdy and long lasting quality too.

And there you have it, the bikes and trailers I would recommend to anyone living on a narrowboat. Trust me, you may think you look silly towing a trailer behind you, but the simplicity and practicality of this arrangement will blow your mind. I have even heard of boaters ditching their cars (and all the costs that go with them) after having a setup like this. Looking stupid will be totally worth it 🙂

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