Traveling with a bike

by Brian Mullin on November 23, 2009

I was heading out to Thousand Oaks California for my Nephews Bar Mitzvah, and I wanted to do some mountain bike riding while I was there. My Father-In-Law has a cruiser bike, but getting to hit the nice singletrack in their local neighborhood was more my cup of tea! Although they do have some wicked steep hills in their neighborhood, and the cruiser bikes gearing makes for some good training. Last time I came out that way I drove with the family, and I brought my bike with me. This time I was flying, so I had to think of how to to transport it. I didn’t feel like paying an oversize charge for a normal size bike box/crate, so I decided to try and get a bike suitcase that stayed within the maximum luggage size, which is a 62 inch girth (length+width+height). Ritchey makes a soft sided case for their breakaway bike, but it hard to come by and a bit pricey for what you get. I had seen an S and S Machine bike metal case that has the proper regulation size. After speaking with S and S, I ordered up their 10″ Butterfly Latch hard case, which has a size of 26″x26″x10″.


Taking the bike apart (the breakdown) wasn’t much of a task, and it only took me 15-30 minutes. I simplified some things, so I took off the brakes and rotors. Here are all the pieces, parts and tools all laid out ready to pack, along with lots of paddings! My Mojo is relatively easy for a breakdown, but I think most any 26-inch full suspension bike will follow the same basic steps. The only difference would be how the rear triangle gets broken down so that it fits in the case.
To begin the loading process of packing the case, I deflated the wheels and placed one in each side, putting the rear wheel on the deeper side with the cassette facing down.
I found it was best to compress the fork and hold it down with a strap. It was a bit difficult getting a 150mm fork to fit properly without that trickery, and it was easier since the DT Swiss EXC 150 collapses to 90mm using its Launch Control system.
When I broke down the frame, I took the air out of the rear shock and disconnected it from the upper link (I later I found it easier just to take it off completely). I then removed one lower link bolt (rearward), plus one set of the upper link bolts (front set). I was then able to fold the bike back upon itself. You might be able to fold it more if you had a quick disconnect (cable splitter) for the rear derailleur cables, otherwise the cable housing binds a bit. Note, per the recently departed Sheldon Brown, Derailer, Not Derailleur!

Note: this is where another bike might deviate from the same steps?

The hard part was making the bike frame sit in the case! Move the frame one way, and it sticks out to far, move it another way and you can’t close the case. Then a wheel or some other part would move. It took me several iterations to get it just right. Somehow, when I re-packed to come back home nothing quite fits the same? I think with practice it would be a no brainer?

And my head I’d be scratchin’ while
my thoughts were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain.


I put all the small parts in a little box; it makes it much easier to keep track of things. Of course on the way out, they opened the case for inspection, and somehow the little box opened, so I had little bolts floating around in the case. On the way back home, I used rubber bands on the box, so that it would stay shut. And of course, don’t forget the proper tools for putting it together and taking it apart! When it was packed, the entire bike, tools, and case came in at 47 pounds. To meet the 50 pounds weight limit you may need to carry the tools in other baggage depending on your bike weight.

 

I put all the small parts in a little box; it makes it much easier to keep track of things. Of course on the way out, they opened the case for inspection, and somehow the little box opened partially, so I had little bolts floating around in the case. On the way back home, I used rubber bands on the box, so that it would stay shut. And of course, don’t forget the proper tools for putting it together and taking it apart!

Conclusion

The S and S Machine case was very durable and easily met my purposes for traveling with my bike. Knowing the way that baggage gets tossed around, it’s nice knowing that your bike is protected from most abuse. The bomber handles are easy to use, and they spring back flat against the case when not in use. It has a handle on top for hefting and lifting it around, and another one in front that is used to pull the case on its wheels. The rear wheels, which are recessed slightly, make it handy to pull the case around, since when it is full it’s a large, heavy and bulky case. The very simple butterfly latches work well, and you don’t have to worry about them accidentally popping open. I highly recommend this case, it makes traveling with a bike a breeze.


I might suggest the following optional equipment:

Security Net – http://www.sandsmachine.com/ac_net.htm
Compression Members – http://www.sandsmachine.com/ac_comp.htm
Cable Splitter – http://www.sandsmachine.com/ac_cable.htm

MSRP $396
Weight 14 lbs
Butterfly Latch hard cases Specs
———————————————
-The shell is made from textured black high density polyethylene which is extremely tough.
-Industrial style handles and hardware for high strength and durability.
-Two rugged steel butterfly latches that can take a beating without breaking.
-Padlock tabs so a regular or TSA approved padlock can be used.
-Heavy duty recessed ball bearing wheels.
-Wheels are placed farther apart than any other case we offer for extra stability when being pulled.
-Wheel pockets “molded in” instead of “cut in” for extra durability.
-Durable, full length, piano hinge.
-Rugged spring loaded steel flip out handle for pulling the case.
-Rugged spring loaded steel flip up handle for carrying the case.
-Molded in feet so they can’t be broken off and they are farther apart for added stability.
-We stock all the latches and hardware so in the unlikely event that something gets damaged, it’s repairable..
-No liner so it can easily be washed out after that mountain biking adventure.
-Lighter than our original hard case style so you can carry more cargo inside without exceeding the weight restrictions.
-Available in a combination edge / side pull version
-Made in the USA

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Nice. I hate paying bike fees. i just returned from a trip, thought everything arrived safely…until.. I put the wheels on. New rear disc $35. managed to straighten the front. But, wasn't charged for bike, so, basically 35 for the flight. I'll take it.
In my racing days, I'd put the frame in a big duffle bag, the wheels in a fold in half garment bag, and not have to pay extra.
Nice blog.
Cheers,
MPH

Reply

Jeffery December 2, 2009 at 1:47 pm

So I guess with a 29er you would be out of luck?

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet December 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Yep!

Reply

Gears April 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

Not bad dude.

Reply

judy freeman February 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for your post on this pack! I just got an S&S case and packed my Ibis Tranny for the first time yesterday. Your post helped loads!

Questions for you if you have a sec…
Have you traveled with it much since the trip you wrote about?
Have airlines always charged the box as luggage since it is in the limit sizes? Or have you gotten any questions/hassling on the contents?
Has that pack system continued to keep the bike in good shape on trips?

Thanks!

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet February 28, 2012 at 12:32 am

I have used it since then, for bikes and once as normal luggage. It has always been charged as normal luggage, as long as I kept it under the 50 lbs. limit. I was asked once if it contained a bike, and I told them it contained bike parts, which was true. TSA opened it once, but it was no worse for their re-packing. The box is still in excellent shape, with maybe a couple of scuff marks.

Reply

judy freeman February 28, 2012 at 1:59 am

thanks!

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Karkus March 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm

One 62" box. Very Impressive !

We just traveled to Nicaragua, but we needed two 62" boxes per bike. So its was $35 (for the second piece of luggage) instead of $150 for a regular cardboard bike box.

We basically started with two cardboard boxes from bikes stores (free) and cut them roughly in half. 28x26x8 for the frame and 28x25x9 for wheels. The nice thing of doing it that way is that you can put helmet , shoes, and lots of clothing in the boxes that way too. And you don't have to do quite as much disassembly.

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet March 22, 2012 at 6:19 am

Nice! Lots cheaper than paying for a fancy case!

Reply

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