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  1. #1
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    I just returned from flying with my Brompton to Europe

    ...and boy, are my arms tired...

    More seriously - I just returned from spending four weeks in Europe (mostly Germany) with my Brompton. It wasn't specifically a biking vacation, but I ended up riding my bike on most days. Here are a couple of thoughts I had on the packing/transporting experience.

    1. Packing.

    I have the B&W clapton, which I used to pack the Brompton. I removed the twiddly knobs and put them in a bag, and rubber banded foam pipe tape over parts of the bike that looked particularly exposed (like the open hinges), although in a kind of ad hoc way. The bike suffered no damage, not even a scratch, despite having to switch planes in DC (on the way) and Newark (on the way back). The clapton itself suffered a superficial scratch but is perfectly functional.

    The clapton itself comes with fairly weak-seeming locks and built in velcro straps to keep it closed; I added my own aftermarket luggage strap, which made me more confident that the case would stay closed.

    2. Weight.

    The biggest issue with packing turned out to be weight. The Clapton weighs 18 lbs. My fully equipped M6R, with dynamo, weighs almost 29 lbs (with my B-67 saddle accounting for some of that). This gives me a comfortable 47 lbs, with leeway for some padding, for which I also used my rain cape and the brompton cover bag.

    However, I also needed to bring a lock and some minimal tools, which would take me over the 50lb limit, and I was not sure that TSA would allow me to bring the U-lock or the tools on the plane. So I ended up taking off the seat and carrying it on, while putting the tools and u-lock in the clapton. Official airline weight was 49.5 lbs. (Note: I weighed the thing about ten different times at home).

    I also own the brompton B-bag - the somewhat padded soft bag with wheels and metal bottom - which I've used for bus travel. It only weighs 4 lbs, which would make things much easier. I considered tarting it up with coroplast and some braces, but finally decided that I wanted the protection of the clapton. If I had nonstop flights (or time for more extensive modifications), I might have reconsidered.

    Although the fact that the bike didn't have a scratch is a pretty good advertisement for the clapton.

    3. Other issues

    When I was flying back from Berlin, the luggage attendants were acting like they might charge me for the bike (when they asked was in there, I told them), but I basically talked them out of it. However, buried in my luggage, I also had a copy of their actual policy (see paragraph 2):

    United accepts non-motorized bicycles with single or double seats (including tandem) or up to two non-motorized bicycles packed in one case as checked baggage. If the bicycle(s) are packed in a container that is over 50 pounds (23kg) and/or 62 (158 cm) total linear inches (L + W + H), a $100 service charge applies each way for travel between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a $200 service charge applies each way for all other travel. If the bicycle(s) are packed in a container that is less than 50 pounds (23kg) and 62 (158 cm) total linear inches (L + W + H), there is no bicycle service charge, but, if applicable, the first or second checked baggage service charge applies.

    If the bicycle(s) are packed in a container that is less than 50 pounds (23kg) and 62 (158 cm) total linear inches (L + W + H), there is no bicycle service charge, but, if applicable, the first or second checked baggage service charge applies.
    So it's good to have a printout of the policy with you. (And accessible).

    And it was great to have my bike there!
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  2. #2
    LET'S ROLL 1nterceptor's Avatar
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    Hard case or soft case is always discussed here when one is thinking of flying
    with a bike. Some have even suggested of checking in their bike as is. I was thinking
    of getting the B & W hard case. But changed my mind because of the weight and
    to some extent; the price. Someone on the Brompton Club of London facebook
    page mentioned that he got a Samsonite hard luggage on ebay for less than US$100
    that was an exact match for a Brompton.

    Me, I have used a cardboard box on 3 flights now. When I bought my first Brompton
    in Puerto Rico; I used the original box to check-in the bike to fly to Newark, NJ. I used
    the same box a 2nd time to check-in the bike from New York City to Los Angeles. When
    I got to LAX, I ditched the box and rode from the airport 50 miles to Anaheim. When my
    vacation was over, I called a few Brompton dealers asking for a box. I waited till the last
    day(it was also a Sunday) and had a hard time locating a box. Ended up making my own
    box out of 2 boxes and a lot of packing tape. The bike seemed to be fine on it's return
    trip, LA to NYC.

    So far I'm liking the cardboard box for check-in technique. My bike is protected and because
    the bike and box probably only weight around 30 pounds; I can put close to 20 pounds worth
    of stuff inside. Pump, tools, clothes, etc. And the price is right, free

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNuuT-nRer4

  3. #3
    Senior Member blakcloud's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review and tips. You have convinced me that this is the way to go. The B&W case would allow me to have peace of mind when travelling. The only thing is I have to buy two, one for the wife and one for me and that is expensive.

  4. #4
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    This was a tricky issue for me to figure out. While I think that I would prefer the protection that a hard case offers, I don't want to deal with it after arrival and don't want to convert a piece of luggage into a trailer. I opted for the Brompton B-Bag.

    I tried to think of ways to provide additional light weight padding and looked at different self inflating mattresses, as made by thermorest but the sizes were never quite right and there is the possibility of a puncture. I also considered the use of huge ziplock bags that could be placed around the bike mostly closed and inflated with a straw, then completely closed (even bigger puncture concern, but may have worked). In the end I decided to get a thermarest z lite mattress, as shown here:

    http://www.rei.com/product/829826/th...l-sleeping-pad

    I adapted the size by cutting off excess panels. I place these under the bike for some drop protection and over it as well, for stack protection. The main part of the Z-lite pad goes around the bike, supplementing the thin foam on the sides of the b-bag. International warning stickers applied to the outside may hopefully help but who knows. One nice thing is that many european airlines charge by weigh class and this package weighs just under 15 kg total, bike included.

    With the zlite pad folded accordion style, opended double wide, it fits nicely into the bottom of the B-bag which can be closed just as tightly as without and secured closed by the straps on the b-bag. The b-bag then straps onto the top of the t-bag. The furthest I have ridden with the t-bag strapped on is about 30 miles (with stops at wineries in between) and it seemed to work fine. In a real pinch, trapped in a train station or airport overnight, I suppose the sleeping pad could be pulled out and actually used for sleeping.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    allhedges... I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who worries about these things! Well, I guess a lot of us do.

    I have the B&W hard case and the B-bag, and I wrestle with the weight issue all the time. What I end up doing is taking off my saddle and throwing that in my carry on, giving me just a couple of pounds leeway to pack some tools, etc.

    I've actually had my B&W case bent, so I'm glad I didn't just use a soft case. What I suspect happened is that during loading or unloading, the case was thrown, and the bike impacted the inside, bending part of the seam. The case is fine, but clearly, it hit hard. My worry is that I end up at my destination with 30 lbs of twisted metal: it would be a waste of time and money to have brought it in the first place, never mind the cost of a repair. That being said, the B&W case isn't any great work of art, and does feel a bit flimsy in places.

    I've got some ideas on seeing if I could retrofit the B-bag into a durable case-like cover; if so, it would lighter and possibly foldable so that you could ride away with the bag later on.

    ... the never ending quest...
    Rivendell Sam Hillborne and Hunqapillar; Brompton M6R Sage Green; Salsa Mukluk 3 FAT Bike; Nerdy Academic; Nikonian; Wing Chun; and a Patridge in a Pear Tree.

  6. #6
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDiamonDog View Post
    This was a tricky issue for me to figure out. While I think that I would prefer the protection that a hard case offers, I don't want to deal with it after arrival and don't want to convert a piece of luggage into a trailer. I opted for the Brompton B-Bag.

    I tried to think of ways to provide additional light weight padding and looked at different self inflating mattresses, as made by thermorest but the sizes were never quite right and there is the possibility of a puncture. I also considered the use of huge ziplock bags that could be placed around the bike mostly closed and inflated with a straw, then completely closed (even bigger puncture concern, but may have worked). In the end I decided to get a thermarest z lite mattress, as shown here:
    You might try filling the ziploc bags with packing peanuts; you can buy them at Staples. I bought some while I was still experimenting, but ended up not using them. I also bought some sheets of bubble wrap.

    http://www.rei.com/product/829826/th...l-sleeping-pad

    I adapted the size by cutting off excess panels. I place these under the bike for some drop protection and over it as well, for stack protection. The main part of the Z-lite pad goes around the bike, supplementing the thin foam on the sides of the b-bag. International warning stickers applied to the outside may hopefully help but who knows. One nice thing is that many european airlines charge by weigh class and this package weighs just under 15 kg total, bike included.

    With the zlite pad folded accordion style, opended double wide, it fits nicely into the bottom of the B-bag which can be closed just as tightly as without and secured closed by the straps on the b-bag. The b-bag then straps onto the top of the t-bag. The furthest I have ridden with the t-bag strapped on is about 30 miles (with stops at wineries in between) and it seemed to work fine. In a real pinch, trapped in a train station or airport overnight, I suppose the sleeping pad could be pulled out and actually used for sleeping.
    I've ridden about 10 miles with the B-Bag, but I strapped it to my rack. But I've forgotten how - I think I mounted it transversely at first, but then found it worked better the other way - but maybe that's backwards. I know I used an additional bungie cord.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ozonation View Post
    allhedges... I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who worries about these things! Well, I guess a lot of us do.

    I have the B&W hard case and the B-bag, and I wrestle with the weight issue all the time. What I end up doing is taking off my saddle and throwing that in my carry on, giving me just a couple of pounds leeway to pack some tools, etc.
    Yeah, that's what I did with my saddle, too - the security guys in Berlin who X-rayed my bag were laughing about it (the B-67 has the rear springs, which make it pretty obvious, if it's not already).

    I've actually had my B&W case bent, so I'm glad I didn't just use a soft case. What I suspect happened is that during loading or unloading, the case was thrown, and the bike impacted the inside, bending part of the seam. The case is fine, but clearly, it hit hard. My worry is that I end up at my destination with 30 lbs of twisted metal: it would be a waste of time and money to have brought it in the first place, never mind the cost of a repair. That being said, the B&W case isn't any great work of art, and does feel a bit flimsy in places.
    That was basically my thought process, too. And you're right about the B&W case being weak in some ways - the latches, in particular, I don't trust. That's why I used an additional luggage strap.

    I also wedged in some random pieces of styrofoam to try and keep the B from moving too much - they were maybe 3x3 or 4x4 x 9".

    I think if I were buying one again, I might go for a case from S&S machine: http://www.sandsmachine.com/ac_hard.htm

    They look a little more durable, and while they don't come with the foam the B&W case does, I think that something a little denser might make for better padding anyway. They weigh slightly less (15.2 lbs), although some of that benefit might be lost with the extra padding I'd need to add.

    What I really need is memory foam!


    I've got some ideas on seeing if I could retrofit the B-bag into a durable case-like cover; if so, it would lighter and possibly foldable so that you could ride away with the bag later on.

    ... the never ending quest...
    I think this might work if you added some sort of stiffener to the sides (extra strong cardboard might work), and then used a few of Bike Friday's crush protectors to prevent sideways crushing:
    http://store.bikefriday.com/product_...roducts_id=652

    I'm also wondering whether - since I have to take my saddle off anyway - the bike might fit in a regular samsonite hardcase suitcase. Which would be much lighter, and which I already own.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    Good point about maybe reverting back to a Samsonite. When I first started looking, I never thought about removing the saddle (and yes, I know what you mean about security... LOL), so if I do that now, maybe regular luggage would work. The taller, narrower luggage style is the challenge: luggage used to be much more square shaped, so that obviously works better for a folding bike.

    I recall there was another thread in which a converted rubbermaid action packer (supposedly within 62 linear inches) was used, and at the destination, could be converted into a bike trailer.

    What we need is a portable Star Trek energy shield that will protect the bike in travel.
    Rivendell Sam Hillborne and Hunqapillar; Brompton M6R Sage Green; Salsa Mukluk 3 FAT Bike; Nerdy Academic; Nikonian; Wing Chun; and a Patridge in a Pear Tree.

  8. #8
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozonation View Post

    What we need is a portable Star Trek energy shield that will protect the bike in travel.
    I wonder how much those energy shields weigh? I did think about putting pads on the bike, and then wrapping it in bubble wrap, and then shrink-wrapping the whole thing. I think that would be extremely protective - but I also think that TSA might not like the shrink wrap.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by alhedges View Post
    . . . . but I also think that TSA might not like the shrink wrap.
    They'll just make the bike take its pedals off

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