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Packing A Folding Bike For Air Travel

Posted December 13th, 2012

For our latest bike touring adventure (a winter trip to Cuba), we’re travelling with folding bikes: one Brompton and one Dahon Speed TR.

Outrageous airline fees were the original reason we decided to take folding bike to Cuba. When we booked our flights, we were quoted €800 to fly two full-sized touring bikes to Cuba and back with KLM (it seems this fee has now dropped by half but that’s not what we were told at the time).

Other airlines have more reasonable fees but they don’t fly direct to Cuba from the Netherlands and a direct flight was important to us because we have a baby. Plane changes and airport layovers are to be avoided at this stage of our lives.

To avoid the crazy bicycle charge, we must pack the bikes within the standard limits for weight and size. We also want to make the bikes look as much like regular luggage as possible. Hopefully a ‘normal’ piece of luggage will prevent any chance of a dispute. Sometimes check-in staff freak out as soon as they hear the word ‘bicycle’.

Reader Beware: At the time of writing, our theories are untested. We’ll update with pictures and actual experiences when we return from Cuba.

We debated for a long time about how to pack the bikes. We were more concerned about the Speed TR, because of its larger size.

A friend who also tours with a Speed TR suggested sewing a bag. He even sent us a pattern for his custom-made bag.

Dahon Speed TR Bag

That was a nice idea, but we just didn’t have the time to start sewing a bag.

Next, it was off to our local folding bike shop to see what they could suggest. For the Brompton, they offered the standard box that all Bromptons are shipped in. This is what our friend is using for an upcoming flight.

Bringing a brompton box homeA Brompton and its box. Photo by _Alicia.

We looked at the Brompton box. It’s very robust but we weren’t sure if the B&B in Havana would want to store it for us. There’s also a big picture of a bicycle on the box, which ruins our attempt to arrive at the airport with incognito bikes. And the Brompton box didn’t solve the problem of how to pack the (bigger) Dahon Speed TR….

Back To The Drawing Board 
We searched around the internet a bit more. On the Dahon website we found some bags but they were EXPENSIVE. We asked to see them at our local bike shop and were disappointed by the quality. The bags seemed flimsy for the price.

Note: The Arthurs have done quite some travelling on their Speed TRs and use Dahon bags, bought in China for about $20 U.S. The bags we were shown started at €60.

After quite some hunting, we found the Outeredge 20″ Bike Bags on Amazon. We liked them because:

  • The price was reasonable.
  • The reviews were decent and seemed to suggest that the Dahon Speed TR would fit inside.
  • They weigh 1.3kg and are fairly compact when folded. We’ll try to leave them at the hotel but if we can’t then it won’t be a problem to carry them around Cuba.

Our requirements were met. We ordered two bags.

Outeredge 20

So far, we’re happy with our purchase. The fabric is pleasingly thick. The Brompton fits with tons of room to spare. It takes a little more work to get the Dahon Speed TR inside but it is possible. We will have to:

  • Take the pedals off (they are designed to come off easily; no pedal wrench required).
  • Remove the handlebars from the handlebar stem.
  • Rotate the back rack slightly.

We’ll also pad both bikes out with a bit of foam and cardboard. And we’ll likely follow most of the advice given by the Arthurs. They advised us to:

  1. Put the bike in the lowest gear (biggest cog on the cluster), and remove the click box and the skewer.
  2. Remove the seat post and seat, and remove (or fold) the pedals.
  3. Let down the tyres enough to satisfy the airline staff.
  4. Rotate the cranks so they are horizontal to the ground.
  5. Poke the click box somewhere safe between the spokes, and put a plastic bag around it for protection.
  6. Fold the bike and tape the wheels to the frame so that they do not rotate.
  7. Protect the hydraulic brake cables, especially where they are likely to contact the top of the frame near the base of the handlebar post.
  8. Protect any spot where metal is likely to rub against metal.
  9. Protect the chain ring with bits of cardboard box taped in place.
  10. Put some packing between the spokes and the derailleur.
  11. Pack bubble wrap liberally around the cluster and derailleur, and tape it all together to the wheel.
  12. In summary: tape it into a nice little bundle so that not too many things move.

Another friend suggested putting the bike in a box, inside the bag, and adding inflated balloons for packing. His packed Dahon Speed TR looks like this:

Dahon Speed TR

We’ll be packing our bikes this weekend. Then it’s time to cross our fingers and head for the airport!

A Handlebar Bag Hack (and a newsletter ‘whooops’)

Posted October 24th, 2012

Our website might be called TravellingTwo but here’s a little secret: while Friedel does all of the writing, this site wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Andrew’s IT skills.

Leave anything technical up to Friedel and something’s bound to go wrong, as it did with our latest monthly newsletter. We told you about a handlebar bag that our friend Blanche put together by attaching a Klick-fix bracket to the back of a normal Ortlieb front pannier.

Unfortunately, Friedel made a mistake inserting the pictures so everyone on the mailing list saw an error rather than a handlebar bag. Whooooops…..

We debated sending out the newsletter again but instead opted to show you the pictures here.

Blanche's Handlebar Bag

Despite our technical mistake, a few readers understood what we were talking about and one wrote to share his experience with this idea.

I did this a few years ago using a Karrimor pannier but the temptation is to fill it and it the weight has an adverse effect on the steering. I eventually fitted a Brompton front carrier block to the headtube and used a Brompton bag. That way the weight is on the frame and has little effect on the steering. -Derek

Costs For An Extended Bike Tour

Posted October 18th, 2012

chris & MargoSome months ago we added a new section to the blog: the costs of bike touring.

It’s where we feature the costs of various bike tourists on all manner of trips: from luxury budgets to the bare bones, from the comforts of Europe to rougher roads in Africa and Asia.

The latest addition comes from Chris & Margo. They share the costs related to their 11-month bike tour from Bangkok to Paris.

Read more…

Going Bike Touring? Don’t Forget To Back Up Your Data!

Posted August 29th, 2012

Bike tourist Grace Johnson gives us all a valuable reminder about something that few cyclists think about on tour: backing up photos and other important documents.  


Have you lost computer data? Who hasn’t!

Backing up photosAt some point all of us have felt a bit lazy and put off backing up our data. The next thing you know… ‘DISASTER’ as your computer emits smoke, dies and you realize that your last backup was a half year ago. Because of a computer crash a friend of ours lost 9 months of work on her university thesis paper. Still, she was able to go back and re-write the paper. With trip photos – they can’t be re-taken.

You would be shocked if you knew how many people have lost their pictures. I regularly contact cyclists about publishing their photos in Bicycle Traveler magazine and unfortunately many of them reply saying: “I only have low resolution photos since my hard drive was stolen.”

You can also substitute ‘stolen’ for: hard drive fell in water, computer malfunction due to sand, pannier containing electronics fell into a canyon and so on…

There’s a simple solution to this problem: keep your images safe by backing them up. Making backups is like saving for your pension; it’s boring and you know you should be doing it but it’s so easy to put off. Still, think back to events that happened 10 years earlier. How much of the event can you remember without looking at pictures from it? The same holds true with memories of your bike tour.

Backing up data

Backing up data should begin before your trip starts. First, consider how you will back up your data. I won’t go into the specifics of different backup photo storage units, since there are so many and each month new devices come on the market. Plus, every cyclist has different backup requirements, depending on how many pictures they take per day and how long their trip will last. I do, however, have some general points that will help you get started.

First of all, you should know that a backup isn’t having all of your pictures on just one external hard drive. You need to store multiple copies of your photos in at least two different places such as a laptop, external hard drive, tablet, image tank, memory stick, etc. That way if one of your electronic devices is stolen or breaks down, you still have another copy of your pictures in another place.

My partner Paul Jeurissen carries two external hard drives – each with a copy of trip photos. He also uploads his favorite pictures to an online site.

That’s another precaution you should consider taking: uploading your best pictures to an online storage site. That way if all of your gear is stolen you will still have a copy of these images. There are many free cloud services available such as Dropbox and Amazon, or you can upload high resolution jpgs to photo sites such as Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket. Note: we’re talking about ‘favorite’ photos and not all of the images you take, unless you have regular access to a strong internet connection.

Every time we edit a new load of photos on our computer, we pick out a group of favorites that we want to save online. When we come across a hotel with wifi, we immediately start batch uploading them and let the computer run the whole night through.

Note: If you are worried about photo copyright theft on photo sites such as Flickr, set all of your high-res photo view permissions to ‘private’ so that others can’t see and download them. Unless your picture is embedded in Flash or a video, it’s still easy for other people to download it via other means than a right mouse click.

Some more information on backing up photos and online picture storage:

Keep Dirt Away With Homemade Bike Mudguards

Posted August 21st, 2012

One of the things we love about hosting cyclists is the chance to learn new things.

The latest couple to come through – Bez & Dave – proudly showed us how they’d made their mudguards (or fenders) a bit longer than the standard shop variety.

Using a thin yet relatively stiff sheet of rubber (easily found in local hardware or do-it-yourself shops) and some zip ties, this is what they came up with:

Mudguard Extenders

According to Bez & Dave, the longer mudguards are just the thing to keep every last bit of mud and dirt off your legs and bags – an essential addition to any touring bike if you end up pedalling through a lot of rainy territory.

After we initially published this tip, we heard from Julie and Mark – another cycling couple who’ve also turned their hands to making mudguards.

They are made from damp-proof course, which you can buy in builders merchants. We use nuts and bolts to attach the mudflap.

Homemade Mudguards
Photo by Julie & Mark.