fitness

Brompton v. airline: airline wins

Last Sunday I headed to the American Public Health Association meetings in Atlanta.  I was excited about the trip because I always learn a lot at these meetings– 12,000 people attended this year, and there are zillions of sessions on every aspect of health for everyone.  But there was an extra reason to be psyched– I was finally traveling with my foldable Brompton bike.  In case you didn’t see my blog post about it, here it is in all its two-tone glory:

My Brompton foldable bike, in two colors: bright orange and celadon green.
My Brompton foldable bike, in two colors: bright orange and celadon green.

 

I have been using it off and on around town, but had yet to take it on the road.  I had bought a specially designed-for-it hard shell suitcase, and was packing it for the first time.  It was easy-peasy:  just fold and remove one pedal, and it goes in like buttah.

My open Brompton suitcase, with padding all around, and my folded bike snugly and comfortably resting inside.
My open Brompton suitcase, with padding all around, and my folded bike snugly and comfortably resting inside.

Yes it’s heavy (48.5 lbs/22 kilos), but with a handle and wheels I could manage it.  I checked it, got on the plane and settled in for my flight.

At baggage claim in Atlanta, all seemed well, and my friend Gal and I (plus luggage) took the subway to her hotel.  That’s when I discovered that my bike case wouldn’t open.

Long story short, Jet Blue banged the crap out of my hard shell/metal reinforced suitcase, breaking the lock mechanism in the process.

View of my bike suitcase, with the metal siding dented and caved in.
View of my bike suitcase, with the metal siding dented and caved in.

The damage looks minor, but it was enough to prevent me from opening the case.  This was a problem.

Another long story short:  after hauling the case back to the airport, 2 employees and I finally succeeded in opening the case– one of the employees hit both side of the case, hard, and it popped open.  Good, but also not good.

I finally arrived at my Airbnb with all my luggage late that evening.  The next morning I dressed for cycling to the conference (shorts and T shirt– it was Atlanta, after all), when I discovered I couldn’t reopen the bag.  ARGH!  Again, long story short (there are lots of long side stories here that you can infer) I had to go to the conference without the bike.  Eventually, with the help of my Airbnb host, we got the bike reopened, but this was not working.  I decided to give up, as I was worried that I would have problems with getting the bike back to Boston intact, and wasn’t sure how long any part of the lock mechanism would last.

So there was no Brompton riding for me in Atlanta.  Instead I walked, took the subway, and took some lyft rides.  It was fine, and I had a great time at the conference.

When I got back to the airport, I had to take the bag to TSA for inspection, and we had similar problems reopening the case. It took four of us to reopen it, and after that I had to duct tape the suitcase shut (thanks, Gal, for finding duct tape in downtown Atlanta for me!)  The good news is that Jet Blue is probably reimbursing me for my broken bag.

Now this is not news to anyone who travels– sometimes airlines crunch and mangle our stuff.  But this whole business is making me rethink the idea of traveling with a bike.  It’s so much fun to ride a bike in a new city, and bringing a bike with me seemed like a great idea.  However, the implementation is quite different, even without a broken suitcase.

Reading fieldpoppy’s blog post Friday, I am really feeling like I need to slow down a bit.  Maybe ambitious multi-tasking travel and activity plans are too much for now.  Once I finish all the paperwork (ugh!) for getting whatever reimbursement I get from JetBlue, I’m going to let the Brompton stay home for a while.  We can both use a break.

Not my Brompton, but a lovely cut-out nook under a wood sideboard for a nice green Brompton to take a load off and rest.
Not my Brompton, but a lovely cut-out nook under a wood sideboard for a nice green Brompton to take a load off and rest.

 

15 thoughts on “Brompton v. airline: airline wins

  1. I’m annoyed just thinking about the whole situation, and I feel you on the need to simplify. When I was in Halifax I rented a bike for a couple of days to get around and that satisfied both the “easier route” approach and having a way to get around. But I also took a couple of cabs 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, a lot of cities (Atlanta included) have bike share programs, and I’ve used a bunch of them (I love Washington DC’s program). But I wanted to use a bike as transportation to and from the conference, which bike share wouldn’t work for (there was no bike share station near my place, and you can’t keep them for hours or days on end). However, I will see what makes most sense for my next trip.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment; yes, you can take them as carry-on on some but not all planes. I don’t think Jet Blue would’ve allowed it, but I’m going to explore that option, too.

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  2. How disappointing. Hope you simply find a suitcase and just pack it. I have a friend who does that with her Bike Friday. No special case. She pads the bike frame with bags of clothing,etc.

    Major airlines we’ve used, don’t allow bike in carry-on luggage. On buses and trains, yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rebecca– oh how cool that you were there! Next time I’ll try to arrange a Fit is a Feminist Issue reunion… Wouldn’t that be fun?

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      1. That would be awesome and so much fun to connect with what seems to be a great group of kindred spirits! Count me in on the planning. Find me via the NH Affiliate.

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  3. Go with the soft cordura Brompton bag. There are some third-party retail out there. Mine is made by an outfit called Radical design out of the Netherlands. Take a decent inflatable mattress, the kind you sleep on, and put it in the bag. Put the bike in the bag/ mattress. stuff all your bike clothes in the the spaces in the bag. Check in. Let the monkeys at it. Smile.

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