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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Packing a folding bike into a suitcase

Note: whereas not technically bicycle camping, this is still interesting from a "traveling with a bicycle" perspective.  From a post I made to on Nov. 20, 2010:

Possibly this has been covered before. But I think some of you folks will find this interesting.

Wednesday I'm off to San Jose to visit my brother's family for Thanksgiving. I'll get there around 7:30am.

"Should I meet you at the airport and pick you up?" asks my brother. I know there's no damn way he's looking forward to that. So I make my little "announcement."

"No need," said I, exuding a confidence I didn't actually feel. "I'll be bringing a bike and I'll ride from the airport to your place."

"No, seriously, do you want me to meet you at the -"

"Seriously! I'm bringing a bike and I'll ride it to your place."

"It's your funeral."

Well, you know how brothers are. He lives in Campbell, which is a nice little burg and about 10 miles south of the airport. As it happens San Jose features a pretty decent network of bicycle paths. It's not all inclusive and at some point I'll be on the street but a nice path does run right alongside the airport. So that's a start.

Anyway, the point of this thread is How to Pack a Folding Bike into a Suitcase. Here are some photos of my progress:

The key is sliding the steering tube (stem) up and out of the frame. Once you do that you can get everything packed fairly flat. It took me awhile to figure that out.

The suitcase is the biggest, cheapest one Samsonite makes. I think it was about $160.00. That's a hell of a lot cheaper than the Dahon Mini-Airporter which runs some three hundred bucks. Three latches, so once get everything stuffed in there it closes up nice and tight.  I got the bright red model for easy identification on the carousel.

Packing the bike is Step 1. Seeing if I can get it on a plane shall be Step 2. We shall see. Wish me luck.

Continued Nov. 28, 2010:

Status report.

11-24-10, 5:00 a.m.: arrived at San Diego airport with folded bike contained in Samsonite suitcase. Checked in suitcase. No hassles.

8:00 a.m.: arrived in San Jose. Picked up suitcase from carousel. Again, no hassles. Rolled suitcase outside, across street. Eventually found a nice, isolated area in front of car rental lot and assembled bike.

10:00 a.m.: FINALLY assembled bike. After many tries mounted suitcase on rear rack. Road along airport road (1) looking for way to access bike trail and (2) stopping twice to re-mount suitcase and fine tune seat/handlebar height.

10:15 a.m.: accessed trail by walking across muddy field. Damn. Shoes covered in mud; bicycle tires covered in mud. Not happy. Began riding trail and quickly found out that suitcase pressing into back is distrinctly uncomfortabe. Stopped to once again re-position suitcase. Passing cyclist asked: "Is everything OK?"

10:30 a.m.: discover that Guadalupe River Trail has been closed for repairs. Access Coleman St. Proceed to ride surface streets in search of first landmark, HP Pavillion. Wondering to myself, How do you lose something that big? I ask a guy at a bus stop. Turns out I'm already way to the west of it.

10:45 a.m.: by dead reckoning, studying position of sun, looking for moss on tree bark, and... oh yeah... by asking a friendly UPS driver, I discover I'm off by only a few blocks.

11:00 a.m.: find entrance to Los Gatos Creek Trail. Follow it to Campbell Ave. In a few short minutes I'm at my destination.

Here's how the bike looked loaded:

Bottom line: I did not enjoy riding with that big suitcase digging into my back. I tried repositioning it so many times and I never found a comfortable position. I suggest that if you plan on transporting your bike by suitcase, take a cab from the airport to wherever it is you're going and assemble the bike there.

I also wouldn't want to ride it back to airport and then have to break it down outside. Breakdown and packing require a lot of strategic planning... under a time constraint you're likely to forget something. As it was the check-in counter for the return flight (Southwest) told me I was 2 lbs over. I removed the pedals and some shoes, but the consequent hassle of trying to rearrange my backpack while going through the security line was a pain.

Assembly and packing take some of the fun out of the experience. I recommend you do those things in a non-hectic environment.


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