Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Packed

Packed
"If your bike has couplers, or if you have a spendy bike case, or if you pay a shop to pack your bike, or if you have a folding bike, shipping a bike is still a pain in the ass for everyone involved."
That is what one of the wisest blog posts of all time has to say about mailing bikes, and I am sure they would apply the same to travel. Based on the stories I've heard about traveling with bicycles, it certainly seems to be more often a pain than not.

So I am going abroad again, and this time I'm taking a bike along. Never done this before and I'm getting really nervous! It almost feels as if I am doing something illegal by putting a bicycle in a suitcase. "Can I get away with it?" I find myself thinking as I glance over my shoulder furtively.

Well, I guess I am about to find out for myself how much of a pain it really is. Will write about it once I cross the Atlantic!

34 comments:

  1. Velouria, have a safe and wonderful trip and just enjoy everything! Jim Duncan

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  2. You might email the Winnipeg Cycle Chick... she traveled internationally (Well, Canada/US) with a mondo $$$ bike in a Thule case. She might have some guidance for you. And a couple of topical pics to go along with it... (http://winnipegcyclechick.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/DSCN4462.jpg).

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  3. I took my 80's Dahon folder with me to Hong Kong in a hard shell delsey suitcase a year ago. No problem whatsoever. It was great!

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  4. We're travelling to Austria this week to cycle to Hungary. I packed one bike last week. It was such a giant PITA--super-small women's frame just barely fit in a full sized case, fenders had to come off, racks had to come off, etc, etc, etc--that we immediately started looking for rental places :)

    Obviously this is not a solution for every kind of touring, but this is my second short European tour on rented bikes. I'm not even going to try taking a bike overseas in the future unless (a) the trip is all about travelling fast, (b) the trip is all about covering very large distances, or (c) the terrain is very challenging.

    For those cases, I'll take a bike I know really well. For the rest of the time? I'd have to be crazy :)

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    1. Enjoy your ride along the Danube, I love it there!

      I cannot imagine packing a full sized bike, even a small one, into a suitcase. I attempted to do this when returning to the US from Vienna in 2010. Even the frame alone did not fit into my enormous hardshell, let alone the wheels. Ended up mailing the frame to myself (for 20eur!) via the post office 1st class international mail, but would not recommend that method with a valuable frame : )

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    2. Yeah. The smaller of the two bikes got into the case, but I really didn't want to have to do that amount of re-assembly at a friend's place (beginning of the trip) or that much re-disassembly in a B&B (end of the trip).

      I've had no problems with European rental bikes being in poor repair, and the range of sizes is generally ok--though riders under about 5'3" tall may have *real* difficulties renting small enough bikes in the Netherlands, but I would like to ride my own. I may have to reevaluate my 'no more bikes' policy and consider a couple of folders...

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  5. Safe and exciting (in a good way :p) trips,and a safe return to you,my friend :)

    The DC

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  6. I have 17 or 18 trips with a Bike Friday and I still think it's better than having to rent something in bad repair or unfamiliar or doesn't fit. What I learned: Pair of gloves is nice. Assemble/break down on a table. Take a 15 mm wrench for the pedals. Protect the lights, saddle and big chain ring in transit. Weigh the suitcase before you get to the airport.

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  7. I always go to the same places in Europe, so I've just stashed a couple of my bikes with friends and relatives. They get a bike to use while I'm not there and I don't have to lug one back and forth the Atlantic.

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  8. I believe a lot of airlines treat bikes special. That is, they won't cover damage to them unless (or, sometimes, even if) you buy their special insurance. Just make sure you're covered.

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  9. A friend of mine who's a longtime racer (as in "more than 50 years of racing"), has a stock line he uses when checking his bike in and being asked to pay a fee.
    He asks "what do you mean there's a fee? Isn't this the official airline?"
    He never specifies official airline of what, but it works three out of four times.

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    Replies
    1. Ha. He must be one charming guy, cause I can't imagine that working!

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  10. I've traveled with my B to Hawaii (twice), Florida (once), and DC (once) - and I'm taking the B to Portland, Seattle, Florida (again) this year. Delta and United, check-in, hard case. Hard case wonderful when arrived with film company amongst their hard cases for equipment. No damage or extra fees for B. I've checked it in at curbside (usual) with two bags and tip the guys 20.00 - never had a problem and they mark my bags priority. I've also checked it in at counter, no prob! I recommend taking tools as well:) Good luck!

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  11. I've heard the Queen Mary 2 will allow passengers to roll their bike aboard provided they booked a room that will fit it. Heck, flying always hurts my ears anyway.

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    1. I think I'd go nuts on a ship, with a bike I can only stare at but not ride for a week or more. But it's nice that they'll allow it.

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    2. You can ride the upper deck and ring the bell when the QM2 blows that Tyfon 575.

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  12. I travel with my Brompton quite often, using exactly the case in your picture. I've never had a problem but here are some tips.

    1. If you're having trouble getting the bike all the way into the case - sometimes happens - just loosen the knob on the seat post and twist the saddle sideways. Works every time. Once I figured that out, it saved a lot of hassle.

    2. Remove the two twiddly knobs and carry them with you. Do NOT place them in the suitcase. Of the 16 times I've flown with the Brompton in the last years, the TSA has opened the case all but one time. Having just the bike in the case and nothing else saves you a lot of problems.

    3. When you check in, tell them simply it's sporting equipment. That way, you won't get into an argument about whether you have to lay the bike fee, even though you're using airline compliant luggage.

    4. The Brompton luggage is superb as a carry on. But if yours not using it, take a small saddlebag with you. Sometime like the Carradice zipped roll or the smallest Rivendell bags. It can actually be left on the saddle.

    Have a great trip. I love your blog.

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    1. Is that the B&W case? Sure looks like it would do the job nicely. I'm wondering if the foam does much to keep it all from bouncing around inside there. Absolutely right about the TSA opening anything that looks remotely interesting. For packing, I can highly recommend checking out the compression pillars from S&S machine. They're little more than sections of lightweight PVC pipe with flanges on the ends, but they make it possible for a 17-stone guy like me to stand atop the luggage(so far without any crunchy-bendy noises). I don't know how well they would work with foam in the case.
      Bon Voyage!
      -Bill

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    2. Excellent point on No.2 - one of my twiddly knobs broke on my last trip and I didn't notice it until today (TSA!). So, I guess I'm going to buy a few and take them off when I put them in the suitcase!

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  13. When I gifted my wife with a week in Bermuda she said, "But that's almost Europe!"

    So lately we go to coastal Portugal. They have normal bikes there waiting for us.

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  14. Velouria did you finally bought a Brompton???
    How big is your suitcase to contain a Brompton?
    how do you divide your clothes from the brompton? using a plastic bag?

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    Replies
    1. My husband and I both got them recently, you can read a little more about it here. I will write in detail about the suitcase and the process I used to transport the bike soon.

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  15. I've done some pretty extensive travel with my bike, and I've never found it to be much of a problem. Hope it goes smoothly for you too.

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  16. The best way to take a Brompton by air is a controversial issue. Some say you need to pack it in a hard case. Others say the hard case is a hassle once you unfold the bike.

    Brompton by Air update - Seven League Boots

    Have a great trip!

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  17. in a recent post you complained of being cold in New York even with 3 pairs of socks, I hope you are well prepared for Northern Ireland!

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    1. Yes, I am prepared this time! Just above freezing by the sea near Dublin today and I was cycling around comfortably. The temps in the North are supposed to be 40s-60s as well.

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  18. You're on our fair isle already, try and make time for Mulligans in Stoneybatter while you are in Dublin.

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  19. Yea folding bike! The wind up in Belfast can be extreme, so be prepared for that. It whistles in off the North Sea like a freight train! And while driving in Ireland was truly terrifying, riding was great. Irish drivers are used to strange things in the middle of the road, and were very patient with us when I went there last year.

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  20. first time i travelled with a brompton i forgot to deflate the tyres (with obvious results, including finding out LBS's in France don't stock it), enjoy the trip!

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  21. One must think like an airline baggage handler when traveling with a bicycle. They beat the bejeezus out of carefully packed, well-protected bicycles. Expect damage. What works: Wrapping and taping all frame tubes with polystyrene pipe insulation. They can see it's an "unprotected" bicycle, and treat it with proportionate respect and care.

    In this manner, your bicycle will be leaned on things, instead of crushed under things.

    This method takes a leap of faith, and comes with my usual "not for everyone" disclaimer.

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  22. I'm riding the Great Divide from Banff, Alberta to Whitefish, MT with ACA this July. My bike is a Tout Terrain Silkroad. It's a expedition touring bike and it's massive. I've never traveled with a bike. I'm so stressed-out about getting the bike there that I'm going to pay someone to pack and ship it to a bike shop in Whitefish (the tour drives from there to Banff for the start). The shop advertises it's shipping and receiving services. I'm not worried about the grizzlies, mountain lions or the demanding trail itself but I am so worried about getting the bike there and back.

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