2016 was the last time I travelled with my bike. I spent a week in the Alps based in Les Gets. It was then I started this blog for something to do when I wasn’t cycling. Had a great time. I haven’t used a bike box since the heady days of the mid-2000’s when a spring trip to Majorca was my regular early season, warm weather, get the miles in gig with club mates or a European sportive or two. Boxes have evolved now with them being heavy duty, injection moulded beasts which are strong and light but do come at a cost.
I once spent 3 weeks in Majorca training. I got ill in the last week and undid the previous 2 weeks work I’d put in!
My box for this trip is a Bike Box Alan (BBA) which retail at from £425. Ouch. They are obviously a long term investment. I don’t travel enough to justify one so lucky my mate is the custodian of one and let me borrow it me for free. So all its cost me to get my bike to Fuerteventura is £35 each way. Bargain! Hiring one would cost £120 for 10 days – the cost of hiring a bike.
From the outside, the box itself looks extremely robust and compact. Its quoted weight is 11.2kg. It has a recessed lid which holds the wheels. They are secured using quick release skewers. It has five secure secure clasps and decent castors to aid rolling it across airport floors. Inside, the frame rests on a dense, foam back and is secured with velcro straps. A layer of foam is provided to separate and protect the frame from the wheels in the lid. An ant-crush bar is provided too which sits in the centre of the box and does exactly what is says on the tin.
Onto the packing. Despite having 12mm thru-axles + rotors, my wheels were secured fine with quick release skewers although I had to take my gravel tyres off. For 700c wheels it seems the recess is only big enough for road tyres.
Having watched videos on how to pack the bike, I initially took my seatpost out which wasn’t necessary. In fact I raised it so it touched the top of the box to help inhibit movement. After initial panic that my bars didn’t sit between my fork dropouts and my chainset, as the video had shown, I managed to sit them nice and snuggly under the forks and steerer. My hoses and cables were to short to put them anywhere else.
There are plenty of Velcro straps to secure everything down. The only other thing I did was move the rear mech so the chain came away from the stay and used a bungy cord to pop a bit of tension in the chain so it didn’t float around. Tyres and tubes tucked in, the frame strapped down, a bit of pipe lagging on exposed parts of the frame and the anti-crush bar in, I popped the foam cover on that separates the wheels from the frame.
Making sure the spokes were out of the way of the crush bar, I had to carefully guide it into place which was bit of a faff. Lid closed and secured. Job done.
All I need to do now is bag up my cycling kit and pop that in too. This saves space in my case and serves as extra protection for the bike in the box. I normally just throw my kit in a black bag so it can be manipulated to fill the voids in and around the frame. Its a good tip.
Pumping up my tyres
The only other conundrum I had was how to pump my tyres up when I got there. Simple you think. Oh no! Although I’m taking a mini pump, using it will be so hard and a real effort to get decent pressure. Ideally I needed a floor pump but its too big to fit in the box. I considered CO2 gas canisters for convenience but the information available online about taking them on a plane is pretty ambiguous. Jet2 seemed to allow them, upto 4 (<28g each) in fact but checking the Birmingham Airport security web page and reading anecdotal accounts on various forums it became pretty clear no one actually knows. If the airline allow it, airport security may not. You can try and hide them and chance it but the general consensus was just don’t bother. I considered buying some there but didn’t see why I should. I probably won’t need them and I have a stack of them already. A bit more research and I found a solution. A mini-track pump, the Axiom EnforceAir HP. Small enough to fit on the bike (comes with a bracket) but high volume enough so pumping a tyre up is a breeze. A quick test on my 28mm commuter tyres was fine, just a few mins to get to a decent pressure. It has a fold out foot hold and the handle turns to make a T-bar so forcing the air in is easy. I like it, its a nets setup.
Bye, bye 50, hello 46
Prior to packing my bike, I cleaned my bike. This trip will be the last swansong for my transmission. Its original and over a year old and has done 5500km+. I expect the dust and sand to finish it off. When I get back I have a new Shimano GRX600 46/30 chainset, chain, cassette and headset waiting for it. I can’t wait to get back on a 46 for commuting. I’ve missed it.
See you all in Fuerteventura!