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  1. #1
    Senior Member FedericoMena's Avatar
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    Flying with a Brompton in a suitcase

    In a few weeks I'll be doing an overseas trip with my Brompton inside a semi-rigid suitcase - this weekend I found a suitcase that fits the Brompton if I remove the saddle from the seatpost.

    The suitcase's exterior seems to be polycarbonate or something not super-stiff. It has a bit of flex, which seems to help in fitting the bike's protruding parts.

    Does anyone have recommendations for actually packing the bike and clothes around it? I'm thinking of wrapping the bike in plastic to avoid getting oil on the clothes, and putting some padding around the parts that actually touch the suitcase. But should I pay particular attention to any one part of the bike?

    Thanks!

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    Bike Friday supplies a couple 'crush protectors' to protect against the relatively soft plastic sides of the suitcase from being pushed in and damaging the bike. They consist of a couple circular pieces that screw onto the ends of a piece of PVC tubing:
    https://store.bikefriday.com/product...roducts_id=652
    You place one of the circular pieces attached to the tubing under the bike and then screw the other piece in place, adjusting the height to closely fit the closed suitcase lid.

    I think the equivalent could also be made from items at a hardware store.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by FedericoMena View Post
    In a few weeks I'll be doing an overseas trip with my Brompton inside a semi-rigid suitcase - this weekend I found a suitcase that fits the Brompton if I remove the saddle from the seatpost.

    The suitcase's exterior seems to be polycarbonate or something not super-stiff. It has a bit of flex, which seems to help in fitting the bike's protruding parts.

    Does anyone have recommendations for actually packing the bike and clothes around it? I'm thinking of wrapping the bike in plastic to avoid getting oil on the clothes, and putting some padding around the parts that actually touch the suitcase. But should I pay particular attention to any one part of the bike?

    Thanks!
    I think you guys call it saran wrap, but thin, self-sealing plastic kitchen wrap is very handy for encasing parts in when travelling. It stops metallic bits from rubbing directly on each other, and keeps greasy chains and cassettes from dropping grime. Plain old socks also can be helpful for smaller parts.

    I like the idea of dedicated crush protectors, and have used a similar concept in the form of tightly rolled up corrugated cardboard strips of the correct widths strategically placed to stop the sides of bike boxes from crushing in on the contents.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  4. #4
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    The nut on the rear wheel is a pressure point that has the potential to damage the suitcase wall e.g. when other cases are stacked on it. I use about an inch of high density foam to surround it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    Make sure you weigh the whole thing (bike, padding, clothes) to ensure it meets regulations for checked luggage; typically, that's 50 lbs. I've traveled by plane with my Brompton packed into the black B&W case about five times now. By the time I include a few extras (tools, spare tire, lubricant, etc. that typically aren't allowed in carry on luggage), it pushes the weight right up to 50 lbs. I typically remove the seat too and toss that into my carry on bag. Depending on the weight of the case you've used, you might be severely limited by how many extra clothes will fit in.

    Packed BW Case Small.jpg
    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 FedericoMena's Avatar
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    Thanks for the suggestions! This is very useful!

    (About the nut on the rear wheel being a pressure point... my calves agree.)

  7. #7
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    I got some pipe insulating foam (it's a cylinder of foam with a hole in the middle and a split down the side used for insulating pipes in a home, cut it to an appropriate size, and rubber banded it to exposed metal parts of my B. - like the seatpost (I also removed my seat, although for weight purposes and the parts where the hinges are. Just kind of open the foam, fold it over the exposed metal, and use the rubber bands to keep it in place.

  8. #8
    Schwinnasaur Schwinnsta's Avatar
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    What suitcase? And where did you get it?


    Thanks

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FedericoMena View Post
    In a few weeks I'll be doing an overseas trip with my Brompton inside a semi-rigid suitcase - this weekend I found a suitcase that fits the Brompton if I remove the saddle from the seatpost.
    Alternatively, you can use an Ikea bag filled with clothes and/or sleeping mats:

    Riding a folding bike around Manila: IKEA Dimpa Bag

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozonation View Post
    Just for a broader perspective on strategies, I've used no padding whatsoever, just have been dropping our Brompton into the B&W case and taking off, no straps no nothing. Over time I ripped a bit the foam that the B&W case comes with and filled the damage with spray-on construction foam - works very well. Even that ripping has been mostly done when I forced our Dahon bikes into the case - they don't fit as well a Brompton.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2_i View Post
    Just for a broader perspective on strategies, I've used no padding whatsoever, just have been dropping our Brompton into the B&W case and taking off, no straps no nothing. Over time I ripped a bit the foam that the B&W case comes with and filled the damage with spray-on construction foam - works very well. Even that ripping has been mostly done when I forced our Dahon bikes into the case - they don't fit as well a Brompton.
    The Brompton does fill the B&W case fairly well, so you're probably fine with it as is. When I got the B&W case though, I skeptical about the rather thin padding it came with, so for a cheap investment of $30 of foam, I figured that cost was worth it to protect an $1800 bike. Now that the bike has been through a bit.. meh... it'll survive. I figure better safe than sorry, so I continue to pack it the way I do. It only takes about 10 minutes to pack up the way I do.
    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.

  12. #12
    Senior Member FedericoMena's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnsta View Post
    What suitcase? And where did you get it?
    It's an "It Luggage" model 12-0733-09, quite similar to this one: PORTO - STYLISH AND DURABLE EXPANDER | IT Luggage

    I got it at a local department store. Basically I rode the Brompton to the store, folded it, and asked the salespeople to show me suitcases where it would fit.

    There was a really good looking Victorinox suitcase where it fits, and it seemed really well made, but it was too expensive. Let's see if I regret going for the cheaper one after my trip

  13. #13
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    Mine is not a Brompton, however on my Dahon I would remove my rear derailleur to protect it during travel. I taped it inside to the frame. Its easy to reinstall.

  14. #14
    Schwinnasaur Schwinnsta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FedericoMena View Post
    It's an "It Luggage" model 12-0733-09, quite similar to this one: PORTO - STYLISH AND DURABLE EXPANDER | IT Luggage

    I got it at a local department store. Basically I rode the Brompton to the store, folded it, and asked the salespeople to show me suitcases where it would fit.

    There was a really good looking Victorinox suitcase where it fits, and it seemed really well made, but it was too expensive. Let's see if I regret going for the cheaper one after my trip

    Thanks, I think I will use the same strategy.

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    Sounds very complicated.

    I use the Brompton B bag , insert two sheets of cardboard on either side and off I go . No need to remove any parts.

    I've been flying with the Brompton about dozen times and have no problem. I think the trick is the aluminium reinforced bottom of the B- bag deflect all the impact .

  16. #16
    Senior Member ThorUSA's Avatar
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    Tern came up with a "flight suit" which is of course for Terns but others will work as well obviously. I have them on order but havent seen one yet. Looks to me that this is a good method of protecting your investment. As weight is definitely an issue I will weight the whole thing when I get it ...
    otherwise foam works well

    thor
    Having fun selling Terns and Dahons for a living. My personal website is also my business website, same as my profile name, therefore no link given to follow forum rules.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozonation View Post
    The Brompton does fill the B&W case fairly well, so you're probably fine with it as is. When I got the B&W case though, I skeptical about the rather thin padding it came with, so for a cheap investment of $30 of foam, I figured that cost was worth it to protect an $1800 bike.
    The stock foam in the B&W case is almost pointless, in my opinion - it's so soft and light that it's immediately completely crushed or penetrated by any protrusions. Maybe it gives some scratch protection.

    Do you also have a sheet of foam under/over the bike, i.e. where the B&W case's stock foam was? One thing I do find is that the fit is tightest in the depth axis. The case squeeze the bars / stem, and one of the cables (I forget which) is really squeezed against the fork. I have helicopter tape there to protect it.

    That said, the bike has been completely unharmed in a dozen trips or so.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Grey View Post
    The stock foam in the B&W case is almost pointless, in my opinion - it's so soft and light that it's immediately completely crushed or penetrated by any protrusions. Maybe it gives some scratch protection.

    Do you also have a sheet of foam under/over the bike, i.e. where the B&W case's stock foam was? One thing I do find is that the fit is tightest in the depth axis. The case squeeze the bars / stem, and one of the cables (I forget which) is really squeezed against the fork. I have helicopter tape there to protect it.

    That said, the bike has been completely unharmed in a dozen trips or so.
    I actually don't put a full sheet underneath the Brompton, but on the axis where parts protrude the most (bar/stem as you point out, as well as the pedal, etc.), I do put some extra padding. The stock foam has started to rip in some spots now.

    I think the most value is probably the case itself: I'm not sure how soft sided or semi-soft sided luggage would hold up.
    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.

  19. #19
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    Thanks for the info. I actually flew with it today, and it's the shift cable that gets squeezed against the fork. I could prevent that by cranking out the steerer fold 'stop' on it's threaded rod, but I'm a bit concerned that I'd be transferring the force from the fork / cable (which might get scratched but won't break) to the brazed-on threaded rod (which probably could).

    In any case, I think getting some additional denser foam and following your example would be a good idea. I do wish Brompton would come up with their own hard-shell, although it'd probably be twice the price of the B&W...

    Tangential, but since my last trip, I had also moved the shift lever in perhaps 1/4" (literally - no more and probably less) to fit Ergon grips, and in transit the shift cable housing was crushed / cracked against the slightly fatter central part of the S-bar because the cable run was moved inboard correspondingly. It's amazing how the smallest 'improvement' on the Brompton actually tends to mess something up. Obviously, the design has be refined incrementally over a couple of decades (and I should have cut the Ergons down).

  20. #20
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Grey View Post
    In any case, I think getting some additional denser foam and following your example would be a good idea. I do wish Brompton would come up with their own hard-shell, although it'd probably be twice the price of the B&W...
    Just as I bought my Brompton two years ago, the Brompton announced and almost came out with their own semi-hard shell. I phoned around to many dealers, but the case was never shipped to any of them. Apparently it was too hard to design and build a case to that met their expectations, so they stopped the project.

    I can't recall any problems with the cables being squeezed. Like you, I also moved the shifters as far down on the bar at they could go so that I could put Ergon grips on. That being said, I haven't checked specifically on the cables when packing, but when unpacked, I don't notice any cable damage.

    As an aside, my local LBS recently suggested I put a notch into the Ergon grip to accommodate the shifter clamp so that the grip could slide down further - worked pretty well (of course, it can only go so far). (I had already trimmed the grips down a bit when I first put them on a couple of years ago.) A utility knife can cut out a small section really well.
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  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Re: Ergon, I just got the short, 2x gripshift, ones , and took a round grip and cut it up to fill in the gap.. [M bar]

  22. #22
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    Cutting a notch sounds like a great idea now I have the grips already. They are a huge improvement generally. I still have to back off the bolt and twist them around the put the bike in the case (as well as taking off the saddle since I have the taller seatpost).

    BTW, Ozonation, I don't think you'd see the problem with the cable crushing on the M-type. On the S-, moving the shifter inboard just a few mm is enough to run the cable over the fatter central portion of the bar, which then squeezes it against the fork. I'll replace it when I get back from this trip and modify the grip.

    Sorry to the OP for the slight hijack...

  23. #23
    MAK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozonation View Post
    Just as I bought my Brompton two years ago, the Brompton announced and almost came out with their own semi-hard shell. I phoned around to many dealers, but the case was never shipped to any of them. Apparently it was too hard to design and build a case to that met their expectations, so they stopped the project.

    I can't recall any problems with the cables being squeezed. Like you, I also moved the shifters as far down on the bar at they could go so that I could put Ergon grips on. That being said, I haven't checked specifically on the cables when packing, but when unpacked, I don't notice any cable damage.

    As an aside, my local LBS recently suggested I put a notch into the Ergon grip to accommodate the shifter clamp so that the grip could slide down further - worked pretty well (of course, it can only go so far). (I had already trimmed the grips down a bit when I first put them on a couple of years ago.) A utility knife can cut out a small section really well.
    Here's the Brompton case.

    Brompton Folding Bike Travel Suitcase

  24. #24
    Senior Member smallwheeler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAK View Post
    Here's the Brompton case.

    Brompton Folding Bike Travel Suitcase

  25. #25
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Nice to see you can make the case do something Useful Between Trips ..

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