Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today is the proverbial start of the countdown that takes all my years of touring experience mixes that with the ‘but I want to take this and this and this and don’t forget this “ toss with a generous sprinkle of reality and hopefully come up with a bike bag and gear combo that weighs less than a house.
A couple of wrinkles have now been exposed with my original touring plan. First is the city commuter bike. The concept was could a medium priced commuter/city bike be ridden all winter then with the addition of a few panniers become a solid touring beast. And the Answer is ??? Sort of yes and no.
How is that you might ask and a good question if I must say so myself. This bike to stay within the price point has some parts that the manufacture cut corners to stay within this price range. I have in roughly five hundred miles replaced my brake pads twice and am due for another set. Rim wear is starting to show as this brake problem and rim problem are related. Tires are ready to be replaced. Now all in all this isn’t the fault of the bike as a five hundred dollar bike was not expected to be bomb proof. But I look at the possible failure of other parts as a sure bet. Replacement costs would not/will not be high that was and still is the beauty of this bike. The ease of wheeling it into the Local Bike Shop and having them take care of these issues or new failures not a problem. Having a failure on a back road in Greece, finding a shop, hoping they have the right parts, not my picture of a great day spent on tour.
So I am back to using my touring beast. Loaded photos will be posted soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Part 2 Bags, Bikes & Aero Planes

Bags, Bikes & Aero Planes

So here we are at the airport with a pile of gear. Let’s go from big to small, for the big is the easy one being my bike broken down in its case. Next is the two rear panniers, the trunk bag, the handle bar bag, then the carry-on bag not to exceed one cubit by. (“Lord what’s a cubit?”) And then finally my man purse, yeah I know but with all the funky airline rules in place to nickel and dime you for each and every little thing this falls under the level playing field doctrine. If a woman can carry a purse stuffed with every item for a dinner party for eight then still is allowed a “carry-on bag” well then I am going to carry a man purse each and every time I fly. Level playing field right?
What a pile of stuff I now have lying at my feet. Let alone trying to move it. Once I did use “the bungee cord method” with a wrapped cord trying to hold it all as one piece. Utter fail was that comedy, for as soon as I picked up one bag another bag found away to escape to the floor and I was once again starring at the pile swearing it was all possessed by some demonic curse.
Then one day before a tour as I wandered the local sporting goods store I spied large cheap nylon duffel bags. I had the moment where the light comes on and there is a clear map from problem to solution..okay so I am embellishing this, as the real thought was a Homer like DUH:) I grabbed the largest bag in bright red. This was not going to be a life time quality bag as the thin nylon material wanted for its small size when empty was … thin. At home I assembled all of the above pieces from my travel kit and one by one stuffed then in their new big red one home. I took my bike cable lock and threaded it through all of my gear. If the bag failed somewhere over the Atlantic I still wanted to have everything on the inside of the red bag hooked together.
That was the beauty of that bag was now I was traveling with two bags and no longer got that look of scorn from the airline check in people. I also was able to fold it up and store it in the bottom of one of my pannier. This having it with me on a ride worked well when I had to pull all my gear off the bike for a train ride.
I so far have gotten two trips of use from big red. One more and it will most likely get retired with big red #2 taking its place.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Another year and it gets harder and harder to be able to travel with a bicycle.

Fees for taking a bike have gone from nothing to depending on the air carrier a whopping $300.00 each way. I understand the airlines need to be profitable though the nice blurb that some of them have written on their web page for traveling with sporting goods can only be viewed as funny.

“We want you to be able to continue your sports activities even when you are traveling.

For this reason, (airline name) offers special excess baggage rates for sports baggage.”

So a one way fee of $150-300 dollars is ‘special’. Can you hear me laughing….

So the search is always to find the airline with both the most reasonable airfare combined with the most reasonable fee for hauling a bike to the start of my next tour.

Often the issue isn’t that the policy and fee schedule that is plain on carrier “A” but that with what is called “code share” that puts you on two airlines planes using one ticket to get to your destination. Airline “B” has a different set of rules that use a totally different fee schedule and ignore the policies of Airline “A”.

A biking friend ran into this problem after a tour in New Zealand. Arriving at LAX the airline that was to take him from LAX to Portland charged him $75 dollars extra to bring his bike. Even though he knew that charge did not apply he was forced to pay it. Arguing with the counter folks was shortly seen as a waste of time as their knowledge of their own rules was only based on memory. He accepted the charge that was refunded by the airline after he returned home. He now also carries a copy of the rules concerning bicycles for each carrier he flies with as an added precaution from this lesson learned.

When confronted with a bike rule that was as easy to understand as the IRS tax code I have sent off an email to the airlines customer service asking direct questions of the rules and fees. It was nice to have their corporate email reply in my hand as I checked my bicycle in. They read the email and passed my bike on without a single word.

There are several ways to box you bike for airline travel. Cardboard, hard shell, canvas bag, wrapped in plastic are all the common choices. I have always opted for a hard shell case with the thinking that very few people travel under the old adage of half the clothes, twice the money vacation rule. If the airline allows one bag to weigh fifty pounds then aunt bertha is going to use each and every ounce. Can my cardboard box or canvas bag handle that crushing weight? Do I want to discover the answer to that question at the baggage carousel in Madrid?

Asking around at the local bike shops I found that several had hard shell cases that they were willing to rent, Nice to use on the trip, even nicer not to have to store at home when the case is not being used.

Today is a good day to ride.