I actually want to talk about flying with bicycle
There is plenty of bike boxes available on the market today and I’m sure they are all great but none of them is actually aimed at bicycle tourist. They are big, heavy and only make sense if you have a car waiting for you at the airport. So for years bike tourers were using a cheap cardboard bicycle boxes that you can get for free in any bike store. Great, secure and cheap solution but with a few drawbacks:
- Those boxes are a chore to carry around for one person unless you make an effort of fabricating some sort of handles and straps.
- You usually have to dispose your box and obtain a new box for the return journey which is not always possible or convenient.
- On some airports you may be asked to open the box which will ruin all your duck taping.
I wanted a bag, something without padding – sturdy but light. When I was almost ready to make a bag myself I came across an interesting product.
It’s roughly 1650x750mm and allows you to keep the rear wheel and rack (!) on while the front wheel is tucked next to the frame’s main triangle. Zombie model on the left gives you an impression of the scale (bear in mind that this zombie is extra tall an dwarfs any bag). Bag weights 1.15kg and is made of heavy duty cordura and when not in use folds down to a size of a fat A4 book (in the photo below strapped at the front of the rear rack).
My 29er XL Salsa Fargo (shortish ETT=600mm) just about fits and I can keep rear rack and mudguard on. Front wheel goes next to the frame and so does front rack, front mudguard and two small front panniers with clothes and food inside them. I also need to remove handlebars (zip tied to the fork leg) and saddle. Stem stays in place. If you have smaller frame you might get away with just turning handlebars and dropping the saddle. Conversely if your bike frame is more than 10mm longer than mine than probably it will not fit in this configuration, at least not with a 29 inch wheel at the back.
Now because bag isn’t padded I use my Thermarest Ridgerest on one side and my small panniers and cardboard on the other. Also coming with the bag is spacer for the front fork protecting from squashing during transport.
I pack all my other gear in two big rear panniers, tape them together and check them in as my main luggage.
This strategy worked well during my latest trip to Iceland. The bag has shoulder strap for lugging around (hard work with 30kg of bike and food) and doubles as a robust footprint for the tent.
I would only change two things in this design:
- Make the bag unzip fully so it can serve its tent footprint duties more efficiently.
- Make the bag 50mm longer to accommodate standard XL 29er frames with effective top tubes lenghts around 640mm.
The bag has to be ordered from NZ as there is no distributor in UK (or Europe for that matter) and with shipping ended up around £60 which is not bad considering great quality and that there is not a single similar product on the market.