Originally Posted by pengyou
Does anyone have personal experience with taking a folding bike on a plane as checked baggage?
I've commuted on a Brompton since 2005. Winter 2007-08 I took mine to Denmark (DK) from New York City by plane. I packed the bike into the same cardboard box it ships in from the UK. I got the box from my dealer (B-Fold, NYC) at no charge. At that time, the airline I flew (Continental) checked baggage WITHOUT surcharge, no hassle, if it weighs less than 50 lbs. The size limitations are the standard ones, which I believe are 62 linear inches (others have posted the correct figure).
My Brompton, in its shipping box weighed about 30lbs (heavier due to Brooks Saddle, hub generator and Schwalbe marathons), which gave me another 20 lbs in that box for clothes, which also served to -- needlessly, mind you -- cushion and protect the bike. The only place that really needs protecting is where the folding pedal touches the top tube. Otherwise, both the box and the bike are more than strong enough, though I did reinforce the edges with tape.
No problems of any sort.
Also, the Brompton is designed to fit between the seat backs of British trains. It also fits perfectly between the seat backs of DK trains as well as the seats of New Jersey Transit. It's also easy to carry onto trains due to the compactness and tightness of the fold.
In terms of riding it for distances, here's my 2 cents.
- I commuted on it everyday 15-25 miles roundtrip (~100 to 150 mi / week) for three years through New York City's worst streets and traffic, loaded up with 10-25 lbs of personal luggage (laptop, change of clothes, books, paper work, shopping, etc.). The ride always felt safe. My longest ride was about 40 miles, with hills, to New Jersey, but that did give me some light knee pain. The bike is not highly adjustable, so you are largely stuck with the size of the stock cranks and geometry.
- The bike is slow (~8-10/mph cruising). I believe this is because of wind resistance from the upright riding position and the large flat-fronted front pannier. But slow also makes it safer, e.g., stopping fast for a opened door and avoid broken glass, pot holes, etc. Also, a large pothole more easily swallows the small wheels, so I've preferred a slow, safe speed.
- BUT being fast is also about having a smooth road and being strong. When I have no extra luggage on the bike and a smooth road, I can go faster than big-wheelers. Also, you can easily get into an slight aero position on the Brompton with hands on the base of the handlebars or forearms on the hand grips.
- I only use Schwalbe Marathons and I've only had one flat over about 15,000 miles. Important, because I don't know how to remove the wheels.
- I used to break a huge number of back wheel spokes with the stock build, but my dealer rebuilt the wheel with stronger spokes, solving the problem.
- The bike folds small enough and looks sufficiently cute when folded that IF you do a long ride and get stranded, you can hitchhike to your destination.
- The Brompton brakes are soft and breaking is slow, so high speeds seem dangerous to me and I have been hesitant to attach my Burley trailer to it, being afraid that it won't properly stop going downhill with the extra weight.
- The advantage of riding a "slow" bike for my daily commute is that I'm a LOT stronger on my "fast" bike.
Even today, with the higher BP to USD exchange rate, I'd still buy a Brompton. Good luck with this.