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Old 10-31-08, 10:25 AM   #1
veggie_lover
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Flying with folder and avoiding TSA Security repacking problems?

I am planning to follow the excellent packing advice here:

http://www.gaerlan.com/dahon/pack.htm

My concern is how will the TSA put things back together after they inspect it? One solution is if I carry-on one wheel, with the rack and fenders? Anyone had any problems taking these items as carry-on luggage?
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Old 10-31-08, 11:20 AM   #2
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I suspect TSA keeps a record. I always use the same case and it was inspected (they leave a note inside saying they did) only on the first flight. Your carry on plan might cause more problems as the TSA carry on scanners inspect stuff they haven't seen before. I forgot I had a tape measure in my backpack and that must have looked very strange in the x-ray machine. Plus there are always people jamming hard suitcases in the overhead bins, that will mess up your fenders for sure.

Bike Friday has a neat trick of using vinyl tubing to protect bike parts. It comes in many different diameters and is available in any Lowes or Home Depot in the plumbing section. It cuts easy with a utility knife, is durable and washable. When you have it cut to length, split it along the side, it will fit around the bike tube and still retain it's shape so it won't fall off. Plus it's clear, so if you case is inspected, there is no need to move anything to see what's in there.

Another trick I've found for greased items (like a seat tube) is to cut some strips of wax paper. It will stick to the greased areas and after, it peels off easily leaving the grease where it should be. Carry extra strips for the return flight.

I also leave on top a plastic bag that has a sheet with my cell phone number (in very large type). If they need help repacking they can easily get a hold of me.
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Old 10-31-08, 12:03 PM   #3
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Make it as simple as possible for them.... They will make some effort to replace as they found it. Tie or bundle the bike so as to make it easy to put back in the case. Don't pack so tightly that it will go in only one way ... They won't have any idea what way that is. Less is more, take only what you need ... Leave the extra fluff at home. Take pictures of the packing process and place them on top of the bundle. Just in case you get a sharp officer that is willing to read them (they do exist). Place your cell phone number conspicuously everywhere in the case.. It is rare, but you may get a call for assistance. Most likely you will not. They consider it their duty and resist your help.

Review the TSA website as to what is prohibited and what is allowed in checked baggage. Just a hint, CO2 is prohibited. One last note... As silly as this sounds deflate the air in your tires. This is especially true if you have presta valves. Because if they cannot figure out the valve, they will pull out a knife and cut the tire in order to deflate it.

On the plus side, inpections are getting rare. This is because they are getting better equipment and don't need to look inside as often anymore.

Now a word of warning about your airline ... When the agent asks what is inside your case, dont say a bicycle. You will be immediately charged the bicycle fee as if it wee full size. The ticket agent has no idea that fee originated because full size bikes had to be walked to the airplane. Folding bikes were supposed to be exempt because they could go through the converyor belt system without special handling. All the ticket agent knows is you said bicycle and her little book say she must charge you that fee. My advice .. don't lie, but don't be too descriptive... Say "sports equipment". The TSA will know what it is as soon as they X-Ray or inspect the bag, but they don't care about the airline's fees.

I'm not making this stuff up folks, and I don't mean to be crass. But I am an airline pilot of almost 20 years and I pack a folder of my own. I have encountered many differing attitudes among the TSA agents and I have watched in disgust at some of what I have witnessed.
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Old 10-31-08, 12:29 PM   #4
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I made a one-page instruction sheet that goes right on top of all the disassembled parts. At the very top of the page, in very large letters, it says THIS IS A FOLDING BICYCLE. Then it says THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY IT WILL FIT BACK IN THIS SUITCASE, and gives clear directions, including a photo of how it was packed when they opened the suitcase.

Nothing's idiot-proof, but I figure it can't hurt.
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Old 10-31-08, 12:44 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noteon View Post
I made a one-page instruction sheet that goes right on top of all the disassembled parts. At the very top of the page, in very large letters, it says THIS IS A FOLDING BICYCLE. Then it says THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY IT WILL FIT BACK IN THIS SUITCASE, and gives clear directions, including a photo of how it was packed when they opened the suitcase.
I did similar, but mine is more than one page and has lots of step by step pictures. I also tie things together so they have less problem with things staying in place.
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Old 10-31-08, 06:32 PM   #6
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When the agent asks what is inside your case, dont say a bicycle... Say "sports equipment".
Thanks, that's good. I'll start training my automatic response now.
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Old 10-31-08, 07:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noteon View Post
I made a one-page instruction sheet that goes right on top of all the disassembled parts. At the very top of the page, in very large letters, it says THIS IS A FOLDING BICYCLE. Then it says THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY IT WILL FIT BACK IN THIS SUITCASE, and gives clear directions, including a photo of how it was packed when they opened the suitcase.

Nothing's idiot-proof, but I figure it can't hurt.
I do something similar.

I have had my suitcase opened by TSA once. They left the bike undisturbed, but broke a couple of the latches on the case.

Now I'm going to try using one of those wide suitcase straps to hold it together.
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Old 10-31-08, 11:59 PM   #8
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All very good tips from everyone! I think Ill forget about taking the rack and fenders. Instead Ill use a small backpack and attach it to my front handle post as shown. I don't like wearing the backpack since it gets my back to sweaty.
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Old 11-01-08, 07:16 AM   #9
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Now I'm going to try using one of those wide suitcase straps to hold it together.
I think that's a good idea regardless of TSA concerns. Luggage handlers aren't gentle.
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Old 11-01-08, 06:00 PM   #10
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Does anyone think Ill have a problem bringing the front tire ( including the steel rim and hub ) as carry-on? It fits in a box that is less than 45 linear inches ( length+width+height).

Do you think TSA will have any issue with me bringing it on board? My concern is will they confiscate it if they do not allow it? Or will I have a chance to check it in my checked baggage?
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Old 11-01-08, 07:02 PM   #11
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Nah, I don't think TSA will ban it. It probably will confuse them for a minute or two. Cause when they look at the x-ray video they'll say, "What the hell is that? It kinda looks like a bicycle tire." They will probably do a visual inspection, but that's as far as they will go. Say something plausible, like you bought it on the trip (sweet deal-got it free-costs $100 at the local shop) and there's no room in the suitcase. At some time in the future, when the TSA guys talk in the break room about what was the strangest thing they ever saw, someone will get to say "bicycle wheel". So I vote you'll be able to take it on the plane, but probably will have to get it visually inspected at one of those nearby tables.

I probably wasn't clear in my first reply. But strange things throw the TSA inspectors when under x-ray, like the Stanley rolling measuring tape in my backpack once. So they just went over to one of those tables to check it out by hand. Takes about two minutes. The inspector was really interested in my tape measurer, but on a personal level. He kept going on "Wow, that's a really nice tape". Pulling it out, rolling it back. Contractor grade, thick steel that didn't flop around. He wanted one for himself, but he didn't confiscate it. It's hard to tell what an object will look like under x-ray, so if it look's strange to the operator they just check it out by hand. Takes two minutes or so. No one's ever held up a bank holding a 406 wheel, so it's no big deal.

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Old 11-03-08, 02:44 PM   #12
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I stopped carrying anything more than I need on planes or trains now. With the increase security (welcomed by me), plus the far greater chances of loss of the bicycle or any other piece of luggage now makes me carry only what I need. I would rent a bike at my destination or do without. The loss or damage of my own bikes are not worth taking them with me anymore.
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