Packing the Bike Friday Family Tandem
One thing I like about assembling and disassembling the Friday is that you have intimate contact with nearly every part of the bike. You can see and feel how everything works, if anything needs an adjustment, or needs to be replaced. That said you need to be be fairly comfortable with making basic brake and gear adjustments and understanding the way to finely tune them. Every time you reassemble the bike you will have to make slight adjustments to make sure everything is in its proper position. This has made its way onto some of the forums as a complaint, and it’s important to recognize what your comfort level is with maintenance and how much you are willing to work with when making adjustments. After a few adjustments it becomes easy to know what needs adjusting. I am constantly listening to the noises the bike makes and if something is out of the ordinary I know it’s time to pull over and take a look. I had a friend who went for a ride and heard a rattling noise pretty much the whole way. He thought it sounded weird but ignored it. After 20 miles he was pulling up his driveway when the front wheel fell off and he went over the handle bars. A little knowledge and connection to your bike can help keep you safe.
Using the suitcase as a trailer has its own advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is ease of one way touring. You don’t need to store your suitcase or bike box somewhere and eventually make it back to your starting point. Additionally, you have greater storage capacity and don’t require panniers. The bike will handle more naturally if it is not weighed down with panniers and for some people a trailer is a must. We still travel with two rear Ortlieb classic rollers and one Ortlieb pannier carry system. It makes it easier for us to pack our important belongings in an easily removable bag. When we head into a café we can leave the trailer on the street knowing if we lose the trailer contents we will only be out clothes and such. It is also possible to carry oddly shaped objects such as a tent and sleeping pad with ease.
The main disadvantage of the trailer is its size. It is pretty wide, and can be particularly sketchy on those narrow two lane roads with no shoulder. In a lot of traffic you have to be really aware of how wide you are and how close to the side of the road you need to be in order to ensure you can safely navigate with cars around. We try to pack light when we travel but on a tandem it is difficult to pack for two when you have limited rack space for panniers. Having a trailer can lend itself to over packing as well. The materials used for packing the tandem will take up a significant amount of space, about half of one suitcase. We have compression sacks
to help utilize the space more efficiently.
When we packed the suitcases for air travel we started with just the bicycle components and added our gear where we had space. After a little maneuvering we were able to fit all of our clothing (3 pairs of cycling shorts and shirts per person), 2 pairs of shoes, two helmets, two panniers, our handlebar bag, seat bag, a tent, and two water bottles.
We were really excited that we packed all that gear in the two suitcases since we wouldn’t have to pay for any extra checked bags. But our excitement was short lived when we weighed them and found out we were well overweight. We were allowed 54lbs per suitcase on Swiss Air and one bag weighed in at 65lbs and the other weighed in at 68lbs. We were a total of 25lbs over weight which would incur a charge of approximately $20/lb. The cost for an additional 54lb bag was only $250 which would prove to be half the price for our additional weight. We looked into shipping some stuff to Europe through UPS, FedEx, and the USPS, but those options were between $400 and $500 for boxes full of our gear. We decided that paying for an additional checked bag was the best course of action. In the end we packed our clothes, tent, shoes and pedals in our additional bag and we got each suitcase down to just under 54lbs. Normally we would each have a two checked bag allowance, but since we were sending the suitcases back with Briana’s father we had limited capacity.
One good thing we learned was that if we are traveling without a baggage weight limit (train, bus, etc.) we will be able to fit most of our gear in the two well packed and heavy Samsonites.
Below is a link to the pictures as we added each item to the suitcases. In addition we have a couple photos of our overweight packing job. We taped some instructions to the top of the suitcases including a picture of everything packed and the fully assembled bicycle. Many forums suggested this so curious TSA employees wouldn’t get overly ambitions unpacking everything. You can see the instructions we used here. You will probably want to make your own that shows your exact bike, but this should give you an idea.
We had wanted to take some time really documenting how the bike assembles and disassembles. But we ran out of time before we left and we only had a chance to document packing the bike. There is a great video on youtube produced by Bike Friday that walk you through the assembly process. We watched the entire video as part of our research process and it answered a lot of our questions and eventually sold us on purchasing the bike. We also had a conversation with our local dealer who further helped finalize our decision. Bike Friday includes a packing and assembling pamphlet with step by step instructions as well. The pamphlet aims to divide up the weight evenly between the two suitcases. As we packed we realized the instructions were just a recommendation. Most components can be juggled between both suitcases to accommodate helmets and other large items.
The Bike Friday package is one of a kind. We couldn’t find any other bike that would have suited our touring goals and lifestyle.