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  1. #1
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Flying with uncoupled tandem worked well

    end.jpgside.jpgtop2.jpg

    We just returned from my 50th HS reunion in Fairbanks. We took this opportunity to test traveling by air with our tandem as checked baggage. I built a box of 1/8" mahogany plywood stiffened with clear fir cleats and glued together with epoxy. The box measures 71" X 31" X 10" outside. I put 2" swivel casters on the bottom, which are removable. The box top hinges with some scraps of piano hinge I happened to have. The hinge is screwed to the top cleat of the box and is epoxy-bonded to the box top, no fasteners there. The box top seals down with duct tape. TSA just cuts the tape and retapes.

    Our medium/small Co-Motion Speedster tandem fits in there perfectly with wheels, rack, and rack bag. As you can see, I removed the wheels, captain's bar, stoker's bar, and stoker's saddle to get it to fit. Less obvious, I removed the RD, partly to protect it and partly to make the box shorter. I also removed the drum brake cover and cassette to make the rear wheel fit more friendly-like beside the frame. The box measures 114-7/8" with the casters on and 112" with the casters off. Some American airlines have either a 112" or 115" length+height+width total measurement limit for any oversize baggage, so this box can be taken almost anywhere. British Airways, though, has a 75in x 29.5in x 25.5in limit, so be sure to check with the particular airlines you will be flying.

    If one had a larger frame, I think it could still be done within this size limit by also removing the stoker's saddle and making the box both longer and lower. Our box with bike, wheels, rack, and bag filled with bike tools, ready to fly, weighed a hair under 70 lbs, the usual European overweight checked baggage limit being 70.5 lbs. or 32 kilos. We could have cut the checked baggage weight a little by putting the heaviest tools in the other checked bag with our panniers, thus a heavier tandem also could make the weight limit.

    The box and bike flew perfectly, no hint of damage. It was very convenient to be able to wheel the box around and the box made it very easy to slide the bike into various vehicles. It was all a great success. It would take many flights to save the money spent on a coupled tandem. We paid $50 each way on Alaska Airlines. It took about 2 hours to disassemble or assemble the bike at each end.

    Next month, we fly Condor Flugdienst to Frankfurt and then Lufthansa to Prague for a 3-week tour. We will store the box with our other luggage inside at our arrival and departure hotel.

    We used TG's system of 3/4" PVC tube with QRs to protect the drop-outs at each end.
    Last edited by Carbonfiberboy; 07-25-12 at 03:22 PM. Reason: Improved Google score for keywords

  2. #2
    Half Fast mwandaw's Avatar
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    Great design and information. Thanks!

    In the interest of making this information available in the future, you might want to talk to Tandem Geek about adding it to his website. His website is easy to find with Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.

    Another idea would be to leave it here on BikeForums.net, but edit the title to improve search engine rankings. Maybe use something like "Pack a Tandem Bike for Travel by Air" or "Shipping Box for Tandem Bicycle". Try to imagine what people would type into Google.

    What ever you decide, thanks again for the information, and it sounds like your trip was good!
    Not slow, not fast, but Half Fast!

  3. #3
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    Nice work, brilliant!

  4. #4
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    Well done carbonfiberboy - looks like a viable alternative...

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    What does the box alone weigh? With or without casters?

    We've been successful making three trips with our uncoupled tandem in a Crateworks box, which seems similar in size and shape. One trip to New Zealand (no baggage charge!), one to the east coast ($50 each way) and one to Europe ($200 for the round trip roughly). So far I think weve spent less on baggage fees than we would have with a coupled bike. But it does require a larger vehicle for ground transportation.

    The Crateworks box weighs 30 lbs without the extra cardboard baffles they supply, so we were able to stay below the 70 lb threshold comfortably. The removable casters have you dragging the box around on it's side, which isn't as nice as your arrangement.

  6. #6
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Very nice custom tandem box!
    Have traveled a couple times (before TSA) with tandem just rolled out with pedals removed and bars turned.
    One airline bent our rear wheel; they said I had signed a waiver on damages. Asked them to show me the waiver; they couldn't! They paid for fixing the wheel.
    Have traveled many times by air with tandem packed inside old Burley or Santana tandem box and even with 2 single bike boxes spliced together. No issues except some wear and tare on the box.
    Couplers are a nice, but expen$ive, extra if you will be a frequent flyer with the tandem.
    Just our input/experience.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member wheelspeed's Avatar
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    Very cool! I just figured we couldn't really travel with our tandem due to not having couplers. This is interesting!

  8. #8
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reburns View Post
    What does the box alone weigh? With or without casters?

    We've been successful making three trips with our uncoupled tandem in a Crateworks box, which seems similar in size and shape. One trip to New Zealand (no baggage charge!), one to the east coast ($50 each way) and one to Europe ($200 for the round trip roughly). So far I think weve spent less on baggage fees than we would have with a coupled bike. But it does require a larger vehicle for ground transportation.

    The Crateworks box weighs 30 lbs without the extra cardboard baffles they supply, so we were able to stay below the 70 lb threshold comfortably. The removable casters have you dragging the box around on it's side, which isn't as nice as your arrangement.
    Thanks to everyone for their kind words.

    My bathroom scale says the box weighs 33.6 lbs. The casters weigh 1.5 lbs. of that. Our bike, as packed, weighed 35.2 lbs. by the same scale. We were supposedly 69.8 lbs. at the airport, including the Tubus SS Cosmo rack (1.4 lbs.) and a rack bag with the pedals, tools, and other stuff weighing 6 lbs. So some scale was off a little. Our other checked bag was way light, so we could have moved stuff from the rack bag into it, had we been over.

    I'm a woodworker, so the box was fairly quick to build. I had about 10 hours into it. The Co-Pilot coupler option adds $2,000 to the price of the bike and the Co-Pilot cases are another $720, so yes one could fly quite a bit before one went in the hole on the deal.

  9. #9
    Senior Member wheelspeed's Avatar
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    Uh oh, if a wood-worker had 10 hours into it, I would have 20 hours into it! (Plus two cases at the curb on trashday that looked like trapezoids.)

  10. #10
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelspeed View Post
    Uh oh, if a wood-worker had 10 hours into it, I would have 20 hours into it! (Plus two cases at the curb on trashday that looked like trapezoids.)
    It's my profession - wood-epoxy structures. So it was a natural. I could make wages building these if anyone wanted one.

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    I spent a few hours last night packing our coupled tandem for a trip to Portland for the weekend. I will say that the idea of dropping the bike in a box with minimal tear down is enticing. When I break the bike down for packing everything comes apart, both cranks removed, fork removed, handle bars off of stems etc. The bike did fit quite easily in the 2 cases so my teardown may may be overkill.
    We will be riding oneway from Portland to The Dalles, picking up a rental car doing a partial disassembly to get the bike in a small car and returning to the Portland area for another ride. I make mention of this to point out that while it could be argued whether or not couplers are cost effective for flying, they do add flexability while traveling.

  12. #12
    Senior Member LuckySailor's Avatar
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    Nice job on the box! I am envious because I will be bringing ours back from Victoria, and WestJet has a limit of 90" cargo-80" as checked baggage. Once its over the 90" then they charge you for volumetric.....eeeeeK$!

  13. #13
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    Nice job!

    We're in Budapest right now, having just completed a Santana river cruise tandem rally on the Danube. More than sixty tandems, most with couplers.
    The dozen or so without couplers were transported in a variety of containers, Crateworks being the most common brand. Several others of the 'two- boxes- fastened- together' variety, and some soft-sided and hard-sided specialty cases.

    Traveling with a tandem can present some challenges, but "the juice is worth the squeezing" by far. Amazing scenery and memorable rides!
    B. Gross
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  14. #14
    Rod & Judy gracehowler's Avatar
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    Very well done, we think you should sell these!
    R&J

  15. #15
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    The box measures 71" X 31" X 10" outside.
    The box measures 114-7/8" with the casters on and 112" with the casters off. Some American airlines have either a 112" or 115" length+height+width total measurement limit for any oversize baggage, so this box can be taken almost anywhere. British Airways, though, has a 75in x 29.5in x 25.5in limit, so be sure to check with the particular airlines you will be flying.
    So where I'm confused is with your size allowance comment. So far as I can tell, United and seemingly all the others have a paltry 62" total measurement allowance, where besides Alaskan (N.American based that is) are you seeing allowances up to 112'?
    Last edited by CaptainHaddock; 07-30-12 at 11:26 AM.

  16. #16
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainHaddock View Post
    So where I'm confused is with your size allowance comment. So far as I can tell, United and seemingly all the others have a paltry 62" total measurement allowance, where besides Alaskan (N.American based that is) are you seeing allowances up to 112'?
    Since you mention United particularly, here's the info from the United website:
    http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/trav...ageExcess.aspx
    Baggage in excess of 100 pounds (45 kilograms) or 115 linear inches (292 cm)(total length + width + height) will not be accepted as checked baggage. United will not accept more than 4 bags per customer that are overweight (more than 50 pounds), oversize (more than 62 linear inches) or a combination of overweight and oversize.
    You are referring to the no-charge maximum dimension sum, which for most airlines is 62". The charge for oversize items varies considerably from airline to airline, as does the maximum single bag weight. It's worth shopping around. One should note that they only charge you once for oversize/overweight items, not for both overweight and oversize.

  17. #17
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    It's not always easy to find, but many airlines have a baggage policy that is specifically for sports equipment, and often one that mentions bicycles. Lufthansa's site even specifically addresses tandems. These policies include exceptions to the maximum size and weight that otherwise applies. Sometimes a sports item can be substituted for one of the normal bag allowances for no charge.

  18. #18
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    "One should note that they only charge you once for oversize/overweight items, not for both overweight and oversize."

    So I went back and re-read the section you've quoted, went to far as to clarify with United directly. It looks like they will in-fact charge you for both over-size and for over-weight!

    http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/trav...ageExcess.aspx

    Oversize baggage

    • Checked baggage exceeding 62 linear inches (157 cm) but less than 115 linear inches (292cm) (total length + width + height) will be charged at the rate of $200 per piece.
    • Baggage measuring more than 115 inches (292 cm) (total outside dimensions; length + width + height) will not be accepted as checked baggage.
    • Additional, overweight and oversize charges are accumulative per piece


    Now, is it possible that the counter staff won't? Let's hope!
    Last edited by CaptainHaddock; 07-30-12 at 07:11 PM. Reason: updated info...

  19. #19
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainHaddock View Post
    "One should note that they only charge you once for oversize/overweight items, not for both overweight and oversize."

    So I went back and re-read the section you've quoted, went to far as to clarify with United directly. It looks like they will in-fact charge you for both over-size and for over-weight!

    http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/trav...ageExcess.aspx

    Oversize baggage

    • Checked baggage exceeding 62 linear inches (157 cm) but less than 115 linear inches (292cm) (total length + width + height) will be charged at the rate of $200 per piece.
    • Baggage measuring more than 115 inches (292 cm) (total outside dimensions; length + width + height) will not be accepted as checked baggage.
    • Additional, overweight and oversize charges are accumulative per piece


    Now, is it possible that the counter staff won't? Let's hope!
    Thanks for noticing that! I didn't read past the 115 paragraph. That would put United on my list of airlines I would not fly. Most airlines specifically state the opposite policy, that only one charge will apply.

  20. #20
    Clipless in Coeur d'Alene twocicle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainHaddock View Post
    "One should note that they only charge you once for oversize/overweight items, not for both overweight and oversize."

    So I went back and re-read the section you've quoted, went to far as to clarify with United directly. It looks like they will in-fact charge you for both over-size and for over-weight!

    http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/trav...ageExcess.aspx

    Oversize baggage

    • Checked baggage exceeding 62 linear inches (157 cm) but less than 115 linear inches (292cm) (total length + width + height) will be charged at the rate of $200 per piece.
    • Baggage measuring more than 115 inches (292 cm) (total outside dimensions; length + width + height) will not be accepted as checked baggage.
    • Additional, overweight and oversize charges are accumulative per piece


    Now, is it possible that the counter staff won't? Let's hope!
    We are flying United to France this fall with our uncoupled Calfee in a standard sized Bike Pro case. Based on the information in United's Sports Equipment section, We anticipate cost to be $200 service charge + normal checked bag fee each way.
    (http://www.united.com/web/en-US/cont...ge/sports.aspx)

    The cost is what it is, but it isn't $2500-$3000 for couplers. With our previous coupled tandem we only flew twice (albeit our tandem usage was curtailed due to stoker knee/leg issues) which turned out to cost us $1250 per trip.

    TBD, I am currently working on modifying our softish Bike Pro tandem case. Removing the heavy steel track (9lbs) from the bottom of the case and replacing it with a full PVC tube frame. I am more interested in crush proofing the case from all sides, than clamping the fork to the steel track and hoping for the best. Also will save a few pounds in the process.

    ---

    To the OP (CF Boy), skimming through the above posts I didn't see the weight for your empty wood box with castors. Cough it up please.
    Last edited by twocicle; 07-31-12 at 10:03 AM.

  21. #21
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twocicle View Post
    We are flying United to France this fall with our uncoupled Calfee in a standard sized Bike Pro case. Based on the information in United's Sports Equipment section, We anticipate cost to be $200 service charge + normal checked bag fee each way.
    (http://www.united.com/web/en-US/cont...ge/sports.aspx)

    The cost is what it is, but it isn't $2500-$3000 for couplers. With our previous coupled tandem we only flew twice (albeit our tandem usage was curtailed due to stoker knee/leg issues) which turned out to cost us $1250 per trip.

    TBD, I am currently working on modifying our softish Bike Pro tandem case. Removing the heavy steel track (9lbs) from the bottom of the case and replacing it with a full PVC tube frame. I am more interested in crush proofing the case from all sides, than clamping the fork to the steel track and hoping for the best. Also will save a few pounds in the process.

    ---

    To the OP (CF Boy), skimming through the above posts I didn't see the weight for your empty wood box with castors. Cough it up please.
    Hack, hack, hack . . . uh,
    My bathroom scale says the box weighs 33.6 lbs. The casters weigh 1.5 lbs. of that. Our bike, as packed, weighed 35.2 lbs. by the same scale. We were supposedly 69.8 lbs. at the airport, including the Tubus SS Cosmo rack (1.4 lbs.) and a rack bag with the pedals, tools, and other stuff weighing 6 lbs. So some scale was off a little. Our other checked bag was way light, so we could have moved stuff from the rack bag into it, had we been over.
    It'll be informative to compare experiences this fall!

  22. #22
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    So one of the reasons I've been so interested in you're case, and figuring out the cost to transport is that I (just today in fact) picked up a used hard-sided Bike-pro tandem case from resident Longview WA. I've spent the evening running through a trial run packing it up. Next step is to close it up and step on the scale!

  23. #23
    Senior Member LuckySailor's Avatar
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    Ran into the same problem up here with WestJet, as they charge volumetrically for oversize after 90". That put our cost at approximately $250-ouch! Looking for another was to transport.....

  24. #24
    WPH
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    This thread is linked from chojn1's April 2014 thread about travel cases. I followed that link and realised this thread needed a tiny update!

    Anyway my brother TRH built a box based on Carbonfiberboy's design for our Trek T200. It is glued and screwed ply and Tasmanian oak. The lid on my box is not as fancy as that on CFB's - just a piece of ply that is taped into place. The Trek is pretty big and to fit it in the box both wheels, both sets of bars, both seats, both sets of pedals, racks and RD all have to come off. TRH added an aluminium bracket which clamps the rear dropouts (using the QR) and keeps the back of the bike off the bottom of the box, protecting the chainrings. The initial packing was tiresome because the captain's stem had to come off with the bars, but now we have a Nitto threadless adapter and a front-loading stem it's easy.

    The box travelled by road across the continent from Melbourne to Perth, then down from Perth to Albany on its maiden voyage. Bike and box were undamaged, and couriers commented on the 'nice box' along the way. I would be confident to take the box on a plane if the airline's conditions permitted it, especially if I ever get around to fibreglassing the corners. Cost could be anything - airline profitability has not improved in the two years since this thread was started and my impression is that they have all started to police uncharged baggage limits more strictly and increase service charges etc.

    Weight on the maiden voyage was just under 30kg - the bike weighed a bit over 20kg alone. External dimensions are 180 x 70 x 26 cm.

    Thanks TRH for the box and thanks CFB for the inspiration!

  25. #25
    Senior Member trayraynor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post

    Next month, we fly Condor Flugdienst to Frankfurt and then Lufthansa to Prague for a 3-week tour. We will store the box with our other luggage inside at our arrival and departure hotel.
    Hi CFB,

    I'm curious to hear an update on your experience bringing your very slick bike box onboard the Condor flight to FRA. Was the size, or weight an issue with Condor? Having traveled to FRA with Condor many times, I've found the ticket agents to be particularly watchful about luggage weight.

    My wife and I travel to Germany frequently, and use Condor (LAS-FRA) quite a bit. In fact, this summer we're planning to bring our un-coupled tandem with us to Germany. However, rather than returning to the US with the bike, we plan to store it in Germany (we will use a cardboard box for this trip) so we have our bike there ready to ride whenever we travel there.

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