Friday, March 26, 2010

The FrankenBikeBox

I made it to Israel, but more on that later. Here's a recap of my amazing bike packing skills.

Those of you who read know me are aware that I often say, "I can make it work," when an item is working, slightly broken, or even busted. A recent example being when I thought I could fix my trusty Honda Accord by simply adding coolant when it was smoking heavily, and yes, I thought I could drive for 4 hours on a leaking coolant system, but I was wrong.

So, when it came to my next travel adventure I didn't bother learning the lesson and made a few questionable decisions regarding what bike(s?) to bring to Israel for 5 months and how to get it(them) there.

The first question was: Road or Mountain? It seemed like it'd be better racing/training on a road bike, but I'd get more general use of my MTB because I'll be living in the heart of the city, and there's trails, but not a lot of open roads to get to easily. My cousin, who runs the most popular biking website in Israel (, said MTB, and others said to bring a road bike. So I decided to bring both.

The second question was: How do you get 2 bikes to Israel? I first thought about shipping them, but upon further investigation it was around $500 USD each way and said to hell with that. Then I looked into which carrier I should take, and found the Israeli National Airline, EL AL, lets you bring a bike to/from North America for Free. So long as the bike was enclosed and weighed under 40kg (~88lbs), and the standards did say "one bike with one seat," so I thought I was done for. I figured a 2 bike BikePro USA case would be wicked expensive, and it is, a whopping $630.

So, I did the next best thing, get a bike box and see if I could make it work.

The first step was to head over to the shop, and see what they had laying around. I asked a few of the mechanics about how to handle 2 bikes in one box, and Jon C recommended this amazing cardboard construction used to ship a $10,000 Trek Madone 6.9.
And let me tell you, this box is glorious, it's a huge clamshell with the following features:
  • Built-in padding for under the bottom bracket
  • Built-in padding for the head tube
  • Built-in straps to die down the frame
  • A Built-In accessories section
  • Built-in padding for the rear drop outs.
  • Lots of extra foam bits and pieces saved inside the box
So the next step was to take it home and get to work. Since the box was going to be travelling across the pond and would probably be thrown by baggage handlers recklessly I knew I had go big on padding for the bikes and protection for the box.

I started by heading out to the hardware store and purchasing 36 feet of pipe insulation inf 3/4" and 3/8" inner diameter and a few rolls of duct tape.

When I got home, I decided that it'd be a good idea to protect all the edges as they are the most susceptible to tearing and falling apart. So added 2 layers of duct tape to each exterior edge and inside the corners to keep the box from wearing down.
Then, I started to dissasemble the bikes and used absurd amounts of foam pipe insulation to wrap each tube on each frame and held the foam in place with zip ties and tape. I also used spacers to spread the fork and rear dropouts, and removed the rear dérailleurs and covered them in bubble wrap.
I put my road bike in first, and added bits and pieces of foam where needed to keep the edges of things like the fork or bars from punching through the box. Then I placed my MTB frame (without the crankset) on top, and used the in-box straps to hold it all down.
From there, it was a matter of laying down some thin foam, removing the tires from my MTB wheels and add extra cardboard bits to the corners, add another 2 layers of cardboard on top of the wheels and throw in my camelbak and extra tires and tubes to fill gaps before closing up the whole system.

Afterwards I added some "straddles" to where the rope was going to be placed with extra bits of cardboard and got ready to tie it close. With help from some friends, we used some nylon rope to tie the whole thing shut and it was ready to go. A quick weight check with the bathroom scale, and we learned that the whole set up weighed just 31kg, with 9kg to spare (19.3) lbs.
The next day, went on over to Logan, checked in with American Airlines for my connecting flight to JFK. The charge for the bikes: $0.

18 Hours later, I landed in Tel Aviv, waited anxiously for my luggage, and low and behold, it was all good. The only problem: The Security folk had cut the rope and taped the box back together at Boston, and then again in NYC. Lastly, the were put atop my cousin's car, brought to his house for assembly. Where after opening up the box, I learned, much to my relief the bikes had arrived in fantastic condition, with out a dent, scratch or missing part.
A couple days later I moved in to my apartment in Tel Aviv. Where they have ample room, and live just below this view:

Coming Soon: First Israeli Race Report.

1 comment:

  1. Most excellent. I have always held Mr Hopengarten to the highest of standards when it comes to bike care and transport