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  1. #1
    crazy bike girl msincredible's Avatar
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    Fed up with TSA and the Samsonite Oyster case

    I've been traveling with my Birdy in a Samsonite Oyster case for quite some time now. We have both logged a lot of frequent flier miles. The places we've visited have included St. Louis, Philadelphia (multiple times), Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Calgary, San Diego (multiple times), Singapore, Boston and Cape Cod (multiple times). These are all business trips and having the bike helps keep me sane during my 50% travel schedule.

    However, I have had a frustrating issue with keeping the case closed to keep the bike safe.

    The latches on the Oyster case require locks to keep them securely closed. The two on the sides use a keyed lock, the one in the center uses a combination. If you don't lock them, then it just takes a bump onto the spring-loaded latch for it to open.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the cases, here's a couple of pictures to illustrate (sorry I couldn't find better specific pictures of the latches themselves).





    Unfortunately the locks are not TSA-approved, so I was leaving the side latches unlocked and using the combination lock in the center, with a note attached right next to the combination lock saying what the combination was in case someone needed to open it.

    Over time one of the side latches has been knocked off the case. It had been bumped open, then bumped off.

    TSA must have forced the combination at some point, because it no longer locks. They seem to inspect the case about every other trip.

    So now I have two out of 3 latches left, either of them can open with a simple bump. The case is open on the left side.

    I didn't feel this was secure so I got a non-locking, buckling strap and and placed it around the case to hold it shut.

    This worked well for a bit, but the strap stretched out after a couple of uses and stopped holding the case shut securely.

    I next tried with a non-locking ratcheting strap. This held the case better, but didn't last past a TSA inspection. I suspect they couldn't figure out the ratcheting mechanism so they just cut the strap off the case.

    The last time I bought a strap with a combination lock that was TSA-approved. In addition to the combination, it had a keyed lock that matches TSA-standard keys so they could open it. It also had a little color coded symbol that would change from green to red when they opened it.

    Two trips later my case was again inspected. This time I did get the strap back, the color had changed to red. However, the TSA-specific lock was also missing from the strap. They must have forced that lock even though they had a key.

    Now I feel like I can't use the strap because when they want to open it I think they will just cut it and then I have to hope the case doesn't bounce open when they send it on. This means I feel like I can't take a bike on my trips right now.

    Anybody have any suggestions for an alternate case?
    Or some way to deal with how to keep one of these cases closed in a way that TSA won't destroy it?



    I'm sure on some TSA forum somewhere, somebody is asking "Why do people keep putting these annoying straps around suitcases with bicycle parts in them?"
    Countries I've ridden in: US, Canada, Ireland, UK, Germany, Netherlands, France, China, Singapore, Malaysia
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  2. #2
    I Fold bykerouac's Avatar
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    That just plain sucks, I wonder if being a Neanderthal is a requirement for the TSA job. Would a soft case be better perhaps?

  3. #3
    Each Drop of Sweat Counts
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    Get some velcro straps.

    John

  4. #4
    elcraft
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    Maybe Samsonite will retrofit TSA approved locks into the suitcase. Perhaps a call to them could clear it up. Another alternative would be to get the appropriate Pelican case. I'd bet these are even stronger and more watertight than the Samsonite case (although the wheels are oriented differently. http://www.caseclub.com/pelican-cases-wheeled.htm

  5. #5
    Senior Member JonnyHK's Avatar
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    Geez, don't these folks have x-ray machines! IT'S A BIKE.

    Apart from suggesting that you file a complaint every time your locks/straps etc get damaged or go missing, I can't offer much wisdom.

    Simple straps that don't have locks - easy for the security staff to take off and put back on. Low on security for you though, but you could put a lock on the bike inside the case (ie lock some of the main parts together to make it hard for people to take bits).

  6. #6
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msincredible View Post
    Or some way to deal with how to keep one of these cases closed in a way that TSA won't destroy it?
    Walk on Washington for your right to privacy? I don't fly anymore and I don't think I'd take a job which required me to often.

  7. #7
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your troubles with TSA. Interestingly, I have an older Oyster 29. The two side latches have a second, manual locking latch (instead of the key lock you have). That works well since it secures the side latches without requiring a key.

    I wonder if you can contact Samsonite to see if they still make/sell the old fashion side latches...

    I guess another option is to buy another case with the right latches....

  8. #8
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    First thing you have to do is contact TSA and complain about them breaking your lock on an approved strap/lock.

    It also sounds like your present case is shot and you should start looking for a new one before your next trip.

    If you don't mind the extra two inches, we use the Samsonite Flight with the Bike Fridays. They've never come open during a flight.

    Otherwise, you might call J. Gaerlan and use the suitcase he recommends. I recall that it is reasonably priced.

  9. #9
    Non-Spandex Commuter jdmitch's Avatar
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    If you really want a bomber case, you could always roll with a Pelican.
    Blogging My Ride to Work
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    Quote Originally Posted by KitN View Post
    You don't need to dress up like a spandex super hero to ride your bike.

  10. #10
    Pedaling fool ShinyBiker's Avatar
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    I use a clickable multicolored luggage strap. I make sure I put the buckle protected inside the handle of the suitcase, though. Case hasn't popped open yet and I know that TSA looks at it since they leave their brochures inside of it.

  11. #11
    crazy bike girl msincredible's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the input, keep it coming.

    I guess I will contact TSA and complain.
    I'll also contact Samsonite and see what they have to suggest.

    I'm not married to the case, it doesn't roll very easily (the handle is poorly designed) so I might consider something else.

    The Pelicans are really nice (we sometimes use them for work equipment), but so heavy, I'd definitely be paying extra fees every time.

    Time for me to do some research I guess!
    Countries I've ridden in: US, Canada, Ireland, UK, Germany, Netherlands, France, China, Singapore, Malaysia
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  12. #12
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    msincredible...check out this thread:

    Packing A Brompton M3L Into An Airline-Approved Suitcase.

    that suitcase also have tsa approved locks.

  13. #13
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    I borrowed a (Bike Friday owning) friend's Samsonite Flite for a trip with my Birdy and it worked fine - though the monkeys at TSA didn't open the case on my out/back trips. I don't think my friend has had any trouble flying with his BF either.

    As an added bonus, the Flite was very roomy for the Birdy, which meant I had room for most of my clothes and other junk in the case too. Hence, only a small additional piece of carry-on.
    ICE B1, Brompton H6, Schwinn Mirada drop-bar vintage mtb

  14. #14
    747 Freight Pilot bicycleflyer's Avatar
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    I installed hasp locks on mine and then used carbieners in place of locks. Works good.
    Flying an airplane is really very simple...Push the stick forward, the house gets big. Pull the stick back, the house gets small. Keep holding the stick back, the house gets big again.

  15. #15
    Senior Member
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    I have the case that Bike Friday sells. Is it the Samsonite Flite? In any case, it works very well. It does not require keys, although it has them, and the latches stay closed.

  16. #16
    crazy bike girl msincredible's Avatar
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    Sorry, I really had no intention of opening a political debate.

    I'm not annoyed with TSA because they search my luggage.

    I'm annoyed with them because when they do so, they keep destroying straps or clasps intended to keep my luggage in one piece.

    Anyway, it looks like I've gotten some good suggestions to follow up on, thanks everyone!
    Countries I've ridden in: US, Canada, Ireland, UK, Germany, Netherlands, France, China, Singapore, Malaysia
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  17. #17
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msincredible View Post
    Sorry, I really had no intention of opening a political debate.
    You have nothing to be sorry about.

  18. #18
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    Doubt that it's anything specific about the choices you've made. Latches will break and straps will break or be lost. Out of the past 4 flights, I think I've had a strap lost every time between 2 checked suitcases. I tried taping the straps to the suitcases with duct tape, but still no luck last trip. Same issue with the tsa approved locks on my suitcase, one was broken open. Probably what you said: it somehow unlatched or wasn't closed well, then was slammed into something else.

    I watched both 70lb suitcases go through the xray machine behind counter a few days ago and them slam into the ramp. Then the luggage handler drops it onto the floor. He saw me so was gentler with the second one.

    What's irritating is that it would take 1-2 more seconds per piece to handle them gently rather than throw them.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Niked's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your travel problems msincredible as it appeared you had found the perfect case for your Birdy. Good luck resolving the issue and avoid Philly International if you can. I know I do.

  20. #20
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    Moderators: Is it possible for certain posters to be removed posting access from a thread? Then off-topic issues could be mitigated and those wishing to follow a thread aren't wasting their time.

  21. #21
    Seņor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimBeans83 View Post
    Moderators: Is it possible for certain posters to be removed posting access from a thread? Then off-topic issues could be mitigated and those wishing to follow a thread aren't wasting their time.
    Thanks for re-injecting perspective.

    If you want to get into the politics of the origin of TSA, or other off-topic side discussions, feel free to - in the P&R Forum. This thread is about bicycle cases.
    The search for inner peace continues...

  22. #22
    Nobody mconlonx's Avatar
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    Like others said: Get a strap and use it. Travel stores sell them; thrift stores do, too... they're called "belts."
    I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.

  23. #23
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
    Thanks for re-injecting perspective.

    If you want to get into the politics of the origin of TSA, or other off-topic side discussions, feel free to - in the P&R Forum. This thread is about bicycle cases.

    Excellent. Thanks!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by bykerouac View Post
    That just plain sucks, I wonder if being a Neanderthal is a requirement for the TSA job.
    Only at senior management levels. The rest are lower life forms.

  25. #25
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    Msincredible, I cant see the locks well enough but can lock pins be used in lieu of locks? This would keep the latch closed but would allow inspection of the case when required.
    Last edited by jdon; 09-28-09 at 10:04 AM.

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