Author Topic: Flying with Tandem  (Read 351 times)

hendrich

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Flying with Tandem
« on: October 01, 2017, 04:03:11 PM »
We are considering a Thorn tandem and have general questions concerning flying with one having S&S couplers.  That is, the bike breaks into large and small pieces. I have not seen many comments on this subject specific to Thorn tandems, and baggage restrictions and fees are continually changing, so I would appreciate your experiences.

Do you usually box the two halves separately and is finding a box which fits the larger half a challenge?
Do baggage restrictions become problematic?
What are typical baggage fees for your configuration?

Thank You, Mike

Danneaux

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2017, 07:00:47 PM »
Hi Mike!

I'm a tandem owner who loves riding it, but mine has no couplers, so I'm afraid I can't answer your questions in any meaningful way.

I can only make some general observations about tandem travel abroad in the hope something in them might prove thought-provoking or helpful.

One thing to keep in mind if you plan to tour the European continent: If trains are to be an option, tandems of any sort without couplers could be a problem -- and with couplers, as well. Typically, the first corner at the top of the entry stairs on older trains (as found more commonly in Eastern Europe) is pretty sharp, as is the dog-leg into the area where the bike-hooks are located. These are assigned one hook per seated passenger, and the Raven Tour I used at the time just cleared the floor. If the train is full (and they fill up with more cyclists' bikes as you pass additional stops), then I don't think there would be room to hand a "second half" of an uncoupled tandem.

Newer trains are a dream by comparison with entry only about a curb-height hop at most above the station platform. However, once inside, the bike storage areas are comprised of folded-up seats and what amounts to seat-belts on reels with hooks coming out of the walls to secure the bikes. Again, there is a fairly sharp turn on entry and another dogleg this time around the toilets. Not in any way a problem even for a single tourer with fully loaded panniers, but would be problematic with a fully assembled tandem and I would think it might be a bit difficult to secure both uncoupled halves while underway. I was on a train that pulled out of the station leaving a couple with their tandem on the platform. It did not have couplers and try as they might, they could not figure a way to get it on the more modern train and 'round the corner...the bike made it about as far as the front of the chainstays. I think it could have been done if both wheels had been removed, but in the press of impending departure, they had not gotten that far.

I mention these restrictions not because they would affect air shipment, but because if you tour and find you really *need* to take a train, it could be a bit difficult if you don't have the time to disassemble and pack the bike in boxes that could then be checked in a baggage car. A similar situation hit a French tourist I met along the way. He was riding with a lot of stuff -- fully loaded bike hauling a fully loaded trailer. He got sick and needed to go home, but...the trailer presented allkindsa problems in that regard when he really needed to take the train. It was a real surprise, as he had planned to ride the entire trip. There were no flight options or airports near where he was when he got sick.

I also met an American couple outside Vienna who were riding a tandem produced by a firm located just a couple miles from my home. In their case, the bike had couplers. Her mother back home in the States took ill as the couple approached Vienna, and they told me how grateful they were to be a) near an airport and b) how lucky they were to have a coupled tandem. They did figure on an extra day for the disassembly and boxing before they could fly home. They depended on locally-sourced boxes and -- depending on what was available -- figured on either two or three for the frame (2) and fork (1, if it didn't fit in the other two boxes). They did not give details, but told me the airline baggage costs for the flight over were pretty steep and they expected the same on return. The man did mention they needed to engage a second baggage cart at the airport to haul the boxes containing the tandem and their panniers and also needed to engage a van-taxi rather than a car to bring the disassembled lot to the airport on departure. In this way, I wouldn't think it much different than if they had toured on two single bikes.

As for other resources, questions similar to yours were posted here:
https://tandem-club.org.uk/files/public_html/cgi-bin/db_config.pl?noframes;read=16441
Semi-specific comments here:
http://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=2521.0
Directly relevant comments here:
http://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=2521.msg15506#msg15506

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2017, 05:51:47 AM by Danneaux »

hendrich

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2017, 04:08:08 AM »
Dan,
Thank you for the information. Your comments regarding train travel are useful since I had hoped that a break-apart would be ok for train travel in Europe. Our tandem does not break apart and we have managed for many years in the states, but that involves rental trucks if we need transport not associated with our car. At least, the 2 piece Thorn break would allow travel with rental cars. However, eventually we would like to fly with it and I have not be able to find much discussion regarding flying with a Thorn Tandem. Thank you for the threads.

Mike

anniesboy

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2017, 05:29:51 PM »

percussionken

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2017, 08:53:52 AM »
Hi Mike!

Weve had a Thorn tandem with couplings for 7 years and we live in Sweden. Been flying every year in Europe and ones to India. Used train in Europe several times.
Trains in Europe can be very different from country to country. In Sweden we are not even allowed to bring a bicycle on the train so thats why we dont do any touring here!
But we have been on trains in France, Germany Austria and Italy and the couplings have been very useful to shorten the length and make it easier to board. But I advise you to make your homework before leaving home. To use trains with bicycle, single or tandem, is stressful. A good resource is;
https://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query2.exe/en?ld=15094&country=DEU&protocol=https:&seqnr=1&ident=ic.0848094.1507880643&rt=1&newrequest=yes&&country=GBR
Remember to tick the box at the bottom"carrige of bicycle"  and you will only get trains with a possibility to bring a bicycle. This site covers big parts of Europe.

Regarding flying we put the front part and rear wheel and all the parts in the S&S soft bag. The rear with front wheel we put in this bag;
https://www.groundeffect.co.nz/collections/baggage/products/body-bag-compact-bike-bag
We cover the sides with card board taken from a bicycle card board box..
The frame is covered with pipe insulation and bubble wrap at rear and front. And, very important the bottom is protected with two of this ;
https://www.rosebikes.se/artikel/rose-bigblock/aid:21988
You put front and rear chain wheels in this blocks and the bottom is protected, they have never failed us.

We always fly in and out from the same place and keep our bags with packing materials at the same hotel, sleeping there coming in and going out.
We dont camp any more and now we only use one pannier each at the rear, we use this;
https://www.ortlieb.com/en/Back-Roller%20Pro%20Classic/
Thats 35 liters each plus handlebar bag.

The two first years we camped and then we used this trailer because it was easy to pack down for trains and flights;
https://www.radicaldesign.com/bicycle-trailers/cyclone-bicycle-trailers.html

Regarding cost for flying, the S&S soft bag goes as normal luggage and the rear as a bicycle.
Other than that one has to study all the fine prints regarding the rules and cost for each airline.

Here is another Thorn tandem crew who has been flying a lot, check them out;
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1mr&page_id=487382&v=129
They have more couplings and pack everything in bubble wrap and put it in the self-made bag.
Advantage? They only need to keep there light self-made bag on the tour and can source bubble wrap at the other end before flying home.
Here ready at the airport.
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/pic/?o=1mr&pic_id=3129964&size=large

I would recommend this way if you want to fly in at one place and fly out at another place.
This is how the tandem looks with extra couplings.
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1mr&page_id=387758&v=en

Lastly we find it much funnier to use the tandem then singles on tour :)

Regards
Kenneth


hendrich

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2017, 02:08:22 PM »
Kenneth,
Thank you for your detailed reply. I know of the 7 coupler tandem and have been meaning to contact them. If I could trouble you with another question, you posed the question "Advantage?"  Given that the couplers add complexity, cost, and a bit more weight, do you wish your bike had the additional couplers?

Mike

mickeg

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2017, 05:03:21 PM »
I have never even ridden on a tandem, so I can't make any tandem specific suggestions.  But I have used an S&S solo touring bike and can offer a few tidbits.

I use the S&S backpack case, quite happy with it but since I have not used other cases I can't compare.  The side pieces are attached to each other with velcro, in my case I found that if I left these velcro straps a bit loose it worked better.  I put a large piece of cardboard inside the case on top and bottom, that makes it slightly stiffer when packing it.  It does not come with any center support, I made a center support out of spare lumber.

I patch my backpack case when I get home with pieces of nylon fabric glued on with Seam Grip, that is a seam sealer commonly used on tents.  Airline personnel do a good job of chaffing holes into my backpack case.

In my opinion, parts that are loose are more likely to be damaged.  I use two sided velcro straps to strap all my larger bike parts in the case together, I can actually lift that package out of the case as a unit if I want.  Some people have instead tied their package together with zip ties.

In USA some airlines (Delta in particular) has been known to charge people the bike fee, even if the case meets the luggage dimensions.  If asked, I will say that the case has bicyle parts but not a complete bicycle.  In my case, the Nomad is heavy enough that I can't fit the bike in the case and stay under the weight limit, so I put some parts in other luggage.  In your case, I assume you can't get a tandem in one case so that should not be an issue with you.

There is some controversy about whether or not you need to deflate the tires.  In my case, I deflate them because a 2.25 inch (57mm) wide tire that is fully aired up will take too much space and I can't fit everything in the case, a deflated tire packs easier.

Some people carry a shop type wrench for disassembly and reassembly instead of a small bike multi-tool.  Removing and later re-attaching racks, water bottle cages, etc., can go quicker with a good wrench.

I prefer a bike to have fenders (mud guards) but they are much of a hassle so when I travel using the S&S, they stay home.

A luggage scale is your best friend.  While dimensions of a box or case might cost you more, that might be up to the whim of the airline employee.  But you can't argue with a airline weight scale very easily, I suspect that the weight scale will automatically add the over-weight fee when you put your case on the scale if it is overweight.

I bought the special S&S grease, but now that I own it I can't recommend it at the high cost they charge.

I try to keep the crud out of my S&S threads.  I used to wrap electrical tape around the edge of the S&S "nut" but now I instead use a short length of inner tube rubber cut afrom a fairly fat inner tube.  First photo shows electrical tape, second photo is inner tube rubber.  A couple times I removed the tape and checked the S&S "nuts" for tightness, they were always tight.  The inner tube rubber does not need to be removed if you want to check the tightness.

percussionken

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2017, 08:46:51 PM »
Hi Mike

Regarding more couplers? No Im happy with what we have but I can see the advantage with more couplings and the method the other Thorn tandem couple use, when wanting total flexibility in tour planning.
They have the self made bag which has room for the tandem protected with bubble wrap. The bag I guess doesnt weigh much so you can take it with you on the tandem. And then easily, I suppose, at the finish end find bubble wrap for packing.

We have to find somewhere to leave the bags at the start of the tour and then pick them up before flying home, though I would not say that it has been any problem for us. As I said before, the same hotel at start and before flying home has been happy to keep the bags.
With this said maybe I could find a better way of solving this to not restrict us to find a place for our bags. But I feel confident with my packing method to take the beating from the treatment when flying. So I will keep on going for this method though Im always a bit nervous when unpacking at the tour start. But that has more, I think, to do with my personality then the packing method.

Have this restricted us in what tours we wanted to do? Not at all and we have not been forced to do loop tours. Because there always been a possibility to take a train or rent a car if needed to get back to the hotel before flying home.
The only thing I wouldnt miss in this process is the 2 1/2 hours to pack it and then to unpack it, but I guess there is nowhere to get around that. 

hendrich

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2017, 10:46:08 PM »
Kenneth,
Good to know that you have found the one set of couplers sufficient. If we flew often, perhaps more couplers would be better, but one set of coupler seems to be sufficient to bring the weight of the separate bike parts in line with most baggage regulations. And as you comment, one set allows rental car or perhaps train transport. Thank you again for sharing your experience. As an aside, I was hoping that a three piece tandem might reduce the exorbitantly high shipping fees to the states.

Mickeg,
Thank you for the information, your comments are similar to what I have read from others.  No unmanageable problems and we would need to figure out a packaging system that works for our particular bike (a good winter project).  We generally camp while touring and often in wet climates. I could not imagine touring without mud guards...well, perhaps in the American southwest or Australia.

mickeg

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Re: Flying with Tandem
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2017, 12:32:51 PM »
.... We generally camp while touring and often in wet climates. I could not imagine touring without mud guards...well, perhaps in the American southwest or Australia.

I wished I had my fenders, especially on this day.  But, my luggage was full so was unable to bring them.