Packing Zippy

After the new Tandem Bicycle facebook page started a discussion about how to fly with an uncoupled tandem, I thought we should share again how we do it.

In 1999, Zippy made the trip to Australia in a Cannondale tandem box which a friend saved for us for the eleven months we toured there. The heavy duty box was in good enough shape to be used once more.zippy-wrap

Update: Zippy arrived in Leh in fine shape except for a minor chainring bend that we fixed with a Cool Tool 

For the Silk Road tour in 2005, we used two cobbled together boxes that didn’t hold up well and showed evidence of having been stabbed by a forklift. By then, we’d already decided to have the paint stripped from the frame so we could see any cracks. There was no paint to scratch, but there was evidence of a glancing blow to the frame. The other problem was the Hugi hub drop out spacer that fell out of the box when it was stabbed.

Coming home from Turkey required the bike handlebars be turned and the pedals turned in or removed–for the international segment. We’ve found the domestic airlines/flights much more difficult to work with, as they most usuaally require a box and they always charge extra.

On our 2009 Shangri-La trip, we used an Amtrak box cut to such an odd shape that no one would dare stack anything on top of it. For the return, we scoured Bangkok for 16 meters of bubble wrap and provided an hour’s worth of entertainment at the airport while we wrapped Zippy.

Some South American airlines have embargoes on bulky luggage during our summer months, so we were concerned. Finding an airline without this embargo was our main concern. Again we used a heavily reinforced Amtrak bike box because we had a domestic connection.

We prefer Bob’s (now, well practiced) method of breaking the bike all the way down to just the frame, with the derailleur detatched and protected, the handlebars off and zip-tied to the frame, and the same with the pedals and saddles. This time, our concern is with the weight limit of 15 kgs on the GoAir leg from Delhi to Leh, so the wheels and the bike tools and parts go in separate boxes. It takes Bob about a week of off and on work to get this done as he wants. It does take a full day to put the bike back together, but we find the most difficult part of that is doing it under the influence of jet lag. Shrink wrap or pallet wrap, lots of it, is what holds it all together. This time, we added pieces of foam core to smooth the sharper angles. The ticket agents hate anything that looks like it could snag. [See photo above.]

We like that the odd shape gets baggage handlers’ attention, the clear wrap means they can (sort of) see that it is a bike, and once it is stripped down, it doesn’t look too oversized (and it’s impossible to get dimensions.) The latest issue we have with this method is how much trash we’re generating.

I don’t tell him this , but I’m very proud of how hard Bob works to get it right.

On our way to India

Applause, Zippy ready for India

Applause, Zippy ready for India

We leave Tucson today for a few months in India. We begin in Ladakh, tight between Pakistan and China, in the Tibetan cultural, and landscape land. We start in Leh, in an 11,000 ft. valley in the Himalayas.

We’ll hang out exploring temples while we acclimatize, then test some passes, and ourselves. We’ll stay about a month in the mountains and then descend, we think via the Spiti Valley, into the plains where we may take some trains/busses to avoid the most populated areas, and go to the west coast. We’ll be working on stories for Desert Leaf.

We have a one way ticket, so we’re don’t know where we’ll fly home from. It’s nice not to know. We don’t have a phone. We should have internet fairly often and we’ll post here.

The preparation craziness is done, so now we can allow ourselves to be excited. This is going to be fun. No doubt some physical and mental challenges along the way; hey, that’s what makes life interesting, memorable.

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I expect my camera to get a workout: Ladakh is called The top of the World for good reason, with the highest motorable road, spectacular scenery, and the Tibetan people are colorful and friendly. We rode across the eastern part of Tibet on our In Search of Shangri-La trip, and want to see how the Tibetans are different here in their western-most range. We expect some differences: they are free in India, not so much in China.

Comments are welcome.