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Carry S & S Hard Case on a Bike 5-15 Miles?

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Carry S & S Hard Case on a Bike 5-15 Miles?

Old 07-31-12, 12:09 AM
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DropBarFan
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Carry S & S Hard Case on a Bike 5-15 Miles?

Hello, I have a Surly Disc Trucker at Bilenky for the S & S coupler conversion. They are nice friendly folks...when I dropped off the frame they asked about my choice of case. I mentioned that I had read several posters endorsing the lightweight soft backpack case but they recommended the "original" S & S hard case. I have to agree with the Bilenky folks that the hard case is obviously much more protective. However part of the reason I'm getting the couplers is so I can ride directly from an airport to a hotel/apartment etc without using a taxi or public transit.

Would it be possible to lash the S & S hard case to the rear bike rack for moderate 5-15 mile distances? Seems as if that would be feasible although the 26" x 26" cases are a bit bulky & the 17-pound weight is not inconsiderable. Or another idea...just ride one-handed & tow the (wheeled) case with the other hand. 3rd idea...use nylon straps to rig the hard case as a temporary backpack? That would be rather uncomfortable I imagine but perhaps endurable for a 30-60 minute ride. Wondering if anyone has experience with this, thanks.
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Old 07-31-12, 01:01 AM
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I can't imagine riding with the case in any of the three scenarios you suggest. The case is stiff, awkward, and bulky. The wheels are recessed into the case and wouldn't tow well and likely couldn't keep up with bicycle speeds. A bump in the road (or small pebble) would likely cause damage to them.

You might be able to bring along something as a rack extender, say a piece of wood or thick cardboard, to help hold it on the rack but it would make the bike quite wide and likely a bit harder to control and a possible problem in traffic.

I've always traveled with mine into town and then assembled the bike. I don't know why you want to do what you are suggesting. Assembling an S&S coupled bike takes a bit of time (90 minutes or so-- longer the first couple of times) and doing it in an airport wouldn't be my first choice. Keep in mind that airport transfer options are designed to deal with people carrying large suitcases.
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Old 07-31-12, 01:18 AM
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Roads to/from airports tend to be rather bicycle unfriendly in my experience. I have a Bike Friday with their suitcase/trailer option and still sometimes prefer to hop on one of the hotel courtesy buses to get away from the airport and assemble the bike outside the hotel. But if you really want to transport the S&S case by bike I'd suggest doing something similar to the Bike Friday approach - use an aluminum rod as an axle that gets strapped to the case, a couple decent-size wheels at the ends of it, and a tow bar from the case to either your bike frame or rear rack.
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Old 07-31-12, 05:20 AM
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Much easier to take a bus, airport shuttle, light rail, or whatever before unpacking. Personally, I don't see the hard case as having much application to touring unless you usually fly to and from the same place on your tours (I seldom do). I have found even a soft case to be a pain in most situations. OTOH if you like loop tours I guess it is useful.
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Old 07-31-12, 07:27 AM
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^^^^
Agree that the soft case adds a layer of practicality.

I flew with mine through Mexican airports and bike arrived home intact. Not even a scuff on the soft case. Looks like a normal suitcase which is a plus through airports and raises less eyebrows and possibly fewer inspectors wondering what's so valuable inside.

I can see myself riding for a few miles with an empty S&S soft case which conveniently converts into a back pack, although it's still big and sits kind of low. It might hit anything on top of a rear rack and defeat the purpose. I would need to try it. As others have said, I would definitely try to make transportation arrangements, especially with the hard case.

Edit: Do consider the weight between the cases: 8 lb for the soft case and 18 lb for the hard case. Some airlines have a 50 lb max. (goes quickly w/ touring bike), or you gotta pay for extra weight.

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Old 07-31-12, 07:42 AM
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One thing is for sure, if you recently left your bike with Bilenky you will have plenty of time to ponder the question. It should be ready by Christmas. I am sort of joking, but sort of not.

Being toally serious...The guys and gals at Bilenky are fine people. They enlarged some holes in a custom rack of mine that allowed me to fit it on a bike that it was not made for. No local shop would do it for liability reasons. The British chap there said to me "We'll drill holes in anything as long as it's not ours." Then they refused to take any money, offered me something to eat and gave me a tour of the shop. I eventually pestered them into taking money. Thye pulled the fgure of $9 out of a hat, which just happened to be all the money I had in my wallet.

Isn't the place a hoot? It's literally at the end of a dead end street up against the tracks next to an old junk yard in a not-so-nice neighborhood. The building is bunker-like with full steel bars on the door. I thought I was lost. Yet they turn out great products.

I remember seeing their band play at several events back in the day. Wonder if they are still together.
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Old 07-31-12, 08:21 AM
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I've considered something similar with a hard suitcase and a folding bike that I can fit into it if the bike is sufficiently disassembled. I understand the people who are saying, "Just take the bike in the case from the airport." but that assumes you have somewhere to go relatively close the airport. There's definite appeal to being able to land in a new city and ride off. Plus, not every city has adequate public transportation. Cab rides might constitute an unnecessary expense, particularly if the place at the end of the cab ride was no more suitable for reassembling the bike then the airport. In my city, you can catch a bus at the airport only up to a point in the evening, and heaven help you if you land on a Sunday.

What I was picturing was a sort of L-shaped bracket with larger wheels on it larger and more robust than luggage wheels. Maybe 16 inch if they could be packed small enough, but maybe smaller would work, too, especially if you weren't carrying the box far. The bracket could hold the bottom of the case, and the top could be attached to the back of the rear rack somehow.

Just an idea, and I don't know how feasible it is, but I like the idea of being a completely autonomous unit once you collect your bags, and a hard case really challenges that. Bike Friday, I think, has the bike case/trailer idea that I think is worth emulating. Good luck. I hope you get it figured out. But, failing that, there do seem to be a lot of people who succeed with soft cases and minimal damage. The risk does seem like it would be higher, but maybe not high enough to dismiss the idea.
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Old 07-31-12, 07:18 PM
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I have both the hard case and several of the soft backpack cases for our S&S tandem, triplet and two singles. I've switched to using the backpack cases exclusively and have NEVER had a problem with them. Figuring that I use two cases each flight (for the tandem) and have done probably 6-7 transatlantic roundtrips, that's about 24-28 times I've used the backpack cases without issue. The big trick is to make sure you pack the outside pockets well with soft stuff like clothes in order to provide plenty of padding.

I think it would be pretty hard to bike with the hard case. They are pretty heavy and an awkward size to be sure. One time I did a short three-day tour and brought the backpack case along with me, albeit without the hard plastic stiffeners (I was traveling back by train and was carrying the bag myself). It's not the lightest thing, but it worked.

Bilenky does do nice work. They are 15 minutes from my house and I've been there several times. Someday when I get some extra bucks I'd love to have them do a full custom for me.
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Old 07-31-12, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by raybo View Post
I can't imagine riding with the case in any of the three scenarios you suggest. The case is stiff, awkward, and bulky. The wheels are recessed into the case and wouldn't tow well and likely couldn't keep up with bicycle speeds. A bump in the road (or small pebble) would likely cause damage to them.

You might be able to bring along something as a rack extender, say a piece of wood or thick cardboard, to help hold it on the rack but it would make the bike quite wide and likely a bit harder to control and a possible problem in traffic.

I've always traveled with mine into town and then assembled the bike. I don't know why you want to do what you are suggesting. Assembling an S&S coupled bike takes a bit of time (90 minutes or so-- longer the first couple of times) and doing it in an airport wouldn't be my first choice. Keep in mind that airport transfer options are designed to deal with people carrying large suitcases.
Yes I suppose the little wheels are only for walking. The rack extender is an idea, though I had the idea that using twine one could tightly lash the case to a rack & the half hanging over the back wouldn't be a problem...probably tipping to the side might be an issue. OTOH I used to carry a milk crate on the rear rack tied down with twine to carry junk. Worked pretty well if not very pretty.

One possible destination is near Ft Lauderdale airport--it's served by shuttle buses which takes about an hour. You're probably right that it would be easier to take that than hassle with riding the bike with the case. OTOH other airports might not have convenient buses/trains & I hate to pay $$ taxi fare.
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Old 07-31-12, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Roads to/from airports tend to be rather bicycle unfriendly in my experience. I have a Bike Friday with their suitcase/trailer option and still sometimes prefer to hop on one of the hotel courtesy buses to get away from the airport and assemble the bike outside the hotel. But if you really want to transport the S&S case by bike I'd suggest doing something similar to the Bike Friday approach - use an aluminum rod as an axle that gets strapped to the case, a couple decent-size wheels at the ends of it, and a tow bar from the case to either your bike frame or rear rack.
Yes some airports are only on high-speed roads but some airports are pretty convenient to bikeable roads. DC-area Dulles is near a big bike path that goes all the way to DC & Reagan National is also next to a big bike path that goes to DC or Alexandria. Ft Lauderale is next to Rt 1 which is fast but with huge shoulders--you only have to ride for about 3 miles on the fast part before being able to switch to a slower road. OTOH those 3 airports have pretty good public transport too. Rigging up a little trailer, hmm maybe. Roller Blade wheels, but I'm having a hard time thinking of an easy was to rig the axle esp in re attaching it to the case.
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Old 07-31-12, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Much easier to take a bus, airport shuttle, light rail, or whatever before unpacking. Personally, I don't see the hard case as having much application to touring unless you usually fly to and from the same place on your tours (I seldom do). I have found even a soft case to be a pain in most situations. OTOH if you like loop tours I guess it is useful.
Yes taking a case is a pain, either hard or soft. I wish airports would be nice & rent plastic bike boxes or at least sell cardboard boxes. Even simpler if the plane luggage compartments had hooks to hang up bikes. But on non-loop tours I understand that some folks ship their cases to their final hotel for storage.
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Old 07-31-12, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
One thing is for sure, if you recently left your bike with Bilenky you will have plenty of time to ponder the question. It should be ready by Christmas. I am sort of joking, but sort of not.

Being toally serious...The guys and gals at Bilenky are fine people. They enlarged some holes in a custom rack of mine that allowed me to fit it on a bike that it was not made for. No local shop would do it for liability reasons. The British chap there said to me "We'll drill holes in anything as long as it's not ours." Then they refused to take any money, offered me something to eat and gave me a tour of the shop. I eventually pestered them into taking money. Thye pulled the fgure of $9 out of a hat, which just happened to be all the money I had in my wallet.

Isn't the place a hoot? It's literally at the end of a dead end street up against the tracks next to an old junk yard in a not-so-nice neighborhood. The building is bunker-like with full steel bars on the door. I thought I was lost. Yet they turn out great products.

I remember seeing their band play at several events back in the day. Wonder if they are still together.
Surly was a little late releasing the new Disc Trucker frames & Bilenky told me it would be up to two months for S & S + powder coating. So I knew I wouldn't get the bike until nearly fall time at best, OTOH I still have the Novara Randonee for the meantime. & if frame isn't finished until Christmas I guess the 559 mm wheeled Disc Trucker will have plenty of room for snow tires, heh.

Drove up to Philly to drop off the frame & got to the shop early morning, Mr Bilenky was just getting up from his sleeping bag in the office, his wife was puttering around & the cat was eating breakfast. I shoulda brought some coffee & doughnuts maybe. Not a posh neighborhood but I dunno, looked sorta like the sort of area where mafia keeps a lid on street crime.
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Old 07-31-12, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
I've considered something similar with a hard suitcase and a folding bike that I can fit into it if the bike is sufficiently disassembled. I understand the people who are saying, "Just take the bike in the case from the airport." but that assumes you have somewhere to go relatively close the airport. There's definite appeal to being able to land in a new city and ride off. Plus, not every city has adequate public transportation. Cab rides might constitute an unnecessary expense, particularly if the place at the end of the cab ride was no more suitable for reassembling the bike then the airport. In my city, you can catch a bus at the airport only up to a point in the evening, and heaven help you if you land on a Sunday.

What I was picturing was a sort of L-shaped bracket with larger wheels on it larger and more robust than luggage wheels. Maybe 16 inch if they could be packed small enough, but maybe smaller would work, too, especially if you weren't carrying the box far. The bracket could hold the bottom of the case, and the top could be attached to the back of the rear rack somehow.

Just an idea, and I don't know how feasible it is, but I like the idea of being a completely autonomous unit once you collect your bags, and a hard case really challenges that. Bike Friday, I think, has the bike case/trailer idea that I think is worth emulating. Good luck. I hope you get it figured out. But, failing that, there do seem to be a lot of people who succeed with soft cases and minimal damage. The risk does seem like it would be higher, but maybe not high enough to dismiss the idea.
Bike Friday trailer-cases seem to be somewhat popular, too bad S & S hasn't produced something similar. What would be sweet: a lightweight carbon trailer case with stowable wheels designed for touring. Case alone would hold nice amount of stuff + it would have attachments for lashing on additional stuff. Lots of folks swear by trailers for touring though I've never tried it. As for a homemade short-distance setup, I'm not super-handy & don't have access to nice scrap so who knows. Wondering if the S & S hard case is strong enough to drill & add trucks for Roller Blade-type wheels. Thinking maybe to try buying the hard case & experiment at home with carrying on rear rack or on back. One could tape a section of foam to prevent case from pressing too hard on spine. The temporary-trailer idea seems sorta like a potential PITA but I appreciate your input.
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Old 07-31-12, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by briwasson View Post
I have both the hard case and several of the soft backpack cases for our S&S tandem, triplet and two singles. I've switched to using the backpack cases exclusively and have NEVER had a problem with them. Figuring that I use two cases each flight (for the tandem) and have done probably 6-7 transatlantic roundtrips, that's about 24-28 times I've used the backpack cases without issue. The big trick is to make sure you pack the outside pockets well with soft stuff like clothes in order to provide plenty of padding.

I think it would be pretty hard to bike with the hard case. They are pretty heavy and an awkward size to be sure. One time I did a short three-day tour and brought the backpack case along with me, albeit without the hard plastic stiffeners (I was traveling back by train and was carrying the bag myself). It's not the lightest thing, but it worked.

Bilenky does do nice work. They are 15 minutes from my house and I've been there several times. Someday when I get some extra bucks I'd love to have them do a full custom for me.
25 trips is a pretty good record for no damage eh? Use the plastic stiffeners and/or padding...also with foam to protect frame tubes plus unscrewing rear derailleur & removing brake discs & braces for forks & rear dropouts...seems like that would be pretty protective. You're lucky to live so close to Bilenky. DC used to have the Proteus shop which was popular, they sold lots of British Falcons but also did custom frames. Searched for DC area custom builders a couple of years ago & surprised to see basically nothing now. OTOH in Portland or Seattle I think they have custom builders every other block!
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Old 07-31-12, 10:04 PM
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It's possible you could take the case on something like a Burley Travoy. https://www.burley.com/home/bur/page_416/travoy.html

Although in general I agree with those who suggest taking a cab or shuttle to the hotel and putting the bike together there; I wouldn't want to assemble my bike in an airport full of people.
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Old 07-31-12, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
^^^^
Agree that the soft case adds a layer of practicality.

I flew with mine through Mexican airports and bike arrived home intact. Not even a scuff on the soft case. Looks like a normal suitcase which is a plus through airports and raises less eyebrows and possibly fewer inspectors wondering what's so valuable inside.

I can see myself riding for a few miles with an empty S&S soft case which conveniently converts into a back pack, although it's still big and sits kind of low. It might hit anything on top of a rear rack and defeat the purpose. I would need to try it. As others have said, I would definitely try to make transportation arrangements, especially with the hard case.

Edit: Do consider the weight between the cases: 8 lb for the soft case and 18 lb for the hard case. Some airlines have a 50 lb max. (goes quickly w/ touring bike), or you gotta pay for extra weight.

Didn't even think about the soft case advantage of looking like a normal suitcase though I've read about TSA hassles involving unpacking bike & such. Actually I was just thinking about using/borrowing a hard suitcase to experiment carrying on rack/back but realized almost everyone uses soft luggage now whereas hard suitcases used to be the norm. With the soft case the worst-case (no pun intended) problem is frame damage & I suppose one could claim for damage. Weight advantage for soft-case is a huge plus both for airline limits & personal comfort.

Used to live in Mexico City as a little kid & have visited the country a couple of times since. Mexico has some awesome scenery, friendly folks etc. While I'm skeptical of MSM propaganda about danger for tourists it still seems sort of risky for bike touring esp solo. Do you have links to posts on that?
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Old 08-01-12, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Not a posh neighborhood but I dunno, looked sorta like the sort of area where mafia keeps a lid on street crime.
Uh...No. Rarely does a two week or three week period go by that you don't hear about a murder or other serious crime in the Olney section.

I think 2 months is what they told my pal earlier this year for S&S and maybe paint stripping (He might have done that part himself.) Took longer. I will probably see the guy tonight. If I do, I will ask him.
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Old 08-02-12, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Uh...No. Rarely does a two week or three week period go by that you don't hear about a murder or other serious crime in the Olney section.

I think 2 months is what they told my pal earlier this year for S&S and maybe paint stripping (He might have done that part himself.) Took longer. I will probably see the guy tonight. If I do, I will ask him.
Yeah, Philly has some tough neighborhoods. Olney doesn't look all that bad though clearly not a prestige neighborhood. Been going to the Race almost every year since it's started & pretty amazed my parked car never got broken into. Once lived in a working-class area of DC & the guy that was next to rent the house drove in late nite (he wasn't from the area) & left all his expensive clothes in the car--they all got stolen that very same nite.

Well anyway I'm hoping that if Bilenky is slow it's because they're popular for doing good work. BTW they told me that while the couplers would take a month at least, the powder coating could take even longer since that's done by a 3rd party which apparently is itself pretty busy.
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Old 08-02-12, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
With the soft case the worst-case (no pun intended) problem is frame damage & I suppose one could claim for damage. Weight advantage for soft-case is a huge plus both for airline limits & personal comfort.
I don't even want to think about the hassle of claiming for a damaged bike with an airline. Many are not even liable on sports equipment. Hopefully, it's just a damaged handlebar or broken spokes in the worst case which most people can deal with. Total (frame) damage seems to me it is very unlikely with a S&S frame now that I own one and see how they pack in the case with the velcro padding to protect every part of the frame. To minimize something like this from happening, I would also use one or two of the internal plastic supports (I only use one.) Also agree with the poster above who recommends to use lots of clothing or old bunched up newspapers in the external side pockets for extra protection (if you end up getting the soft case.) BTW, I bought the optional netting and it's totally worth it if inspectors ever want to open your bag.


Used to live in Mexico City as a little kid & have visited the country a couple of times since. Mexico has some awesome scenery, friendly folks etc. While I'm skeptical of MSM propaganda about danger for tourists it still seems sort of risky for bike touring esp solo. Do you have links to posts on that?
There have been some things posted recently here in the touring forum about safety for bike tourists in Mexico. To quickly answer your question, bike tourists are actually at the very bottom of the list of people being targetted down here. Actually, if you are traveling with your whole family in a big truck or SUV you are definitely at the very top of the list. Your vehicle is highly desirable. Anything else is just petty crime (e.g., getting bike stolen) that could happen anywhere. It's obviously safer to bike tour with someone else. Mexico remains an amazing country in its people, scenery, culture, arts and cuisine. For sure the bicycle is the best way to explore it.

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Old 08-06-12, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
I don't even want to think about the hassle of claiming for a damaged bike with an airline. Many are not even liable on sports equipment. Hopefully, it's just a damaged handlebar or broken spokes in the worst case which most people can deal with. Total (frame) damage seems to me it is very unlikely with a S&S frame now that I own one and see how they pack in the case with the velcro padding to protect every part of the frame. To minimize something like this from happening, I would also use one or two of the internal plastic supports (I only use one.) Also agree with the poster above who recommends to use lots of clothing or old bunched up newspapers in the external side pockets for extra protection (if you end up getting the soft case.) BTW, I bought the optional netting and it's totally worth it if inspectors ever want to open your bag.
Yes the netting sounds wise since so many bike air travelers seem to run into curious TSA staff. Last time I flew (no bike but a few tools & lock) they selected me for extra screening, asked about the U-lock. I guess if I was going to travel with a custom dream bike I'd automatically select the hard case but otherwise the added weight & difficulty of portability is an issue. Maybe I should toss a coin, heh.


There have been some things posted recently here in the touring forum about safety for bike tourists in Mexico. To quickly answer your question, bike tourists are actually at the very bottom of the list of people being targetted down here. Actually, if you are traveling with your whole family in a big truck or SUV you are definitely at the very top of the list. Your vehicle is highly desirable. Anything else is just petty crime (e.g., getting bike stolen) that could happen anywhere. It's obviously safer to bike tour with someone else. Mexico remains an amazing country in its people, scenery, culture, arts and cuisine. For sure the bicycle is the best way to explore it.
Yeah one can run into crime (ie robbery, bike theft) in the bad parts of many US cities. Car theft seems like a problem in Mexico, AFAIK at least for cars stolen in US & taken into Mexico. MSM & State Dep't talk much about the crime but the worst stuff seems to be related to drugs not tourists. Have driven thru Mexico with friends a couple of times as an adult...the Washington Post had done a couple of articles about "La Mordida"...yes we did get stopped by cops a couple of times & instead of a formal citation they umm, take cash. However (my more oblivious friends) were driving when we got stopped & actually did do the infractions so it's not like the cops were just hassling w/o reason. Once in Mexico City I was driving & we got stopped by a cop for violating the air pollution rule about even/odd-numbered license plates. We knew about the rule (IIRC it starts applying after 4:30 AM) & we got a slightly late start. Anyway the cop was nice & polite & REFUSED to take a bribe. Mexican roads seem to be pretty OK for biking, many have shoulders & they are fairly accustomed to seeing bikers. Last time I flew back from Mexico I met an American woman at the Dallas airport. She said that she frequently traveled by herself to rural Mexican areas to research regional Mexican cuisines.
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Old 08-10-12, 08:56 AM
  #21  
njkayaker
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Yes taking a case is a pain, either hard or soft. I wish airports would be nice & rent plastic bike boxes or at least sell cardboard boxes. Even simpler if the plane luggage compartments had hooks to hang up bikes.
Funny.

You are more likely to get this.

Last edited by njkayaker; 08-10-12 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 08-10-12, 08:54 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Funny.

You are more likely to get this.
Ouch. But if the bike was hanging from the roof & held into place there wouldn't be huge piles of luggage resting on top. I guess turbulence would sometimes cause luggage to bump into bikes though. I guess it's a pipe dream to imagine airports/airlines making any effort to smooth traveling for bikers since avg travelers are treated like cattle.
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