Technical > Luggage

Unpacking my S&S Nomad MkII from the S&S Backpack Case

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I occasionally had questions on how I fit my Nomad into an S&S case.  So, I have posted four photos here of how it went together when I unpacked it upon arriving in Halifax, NS Canada for my most recent trip.

The Nomad is size 590M.  I really do not think I could have packed a bigger frame size in the case.  I can't fit the fenders (mudguards) into the case with it.  The rear rack goes into my other checked luggage because of size and shape.  My Nomad has drop bars, that makes it even more complicated.  And the Nomad is a heavy bike, I usually put the saddle and pedals in a different bag to keep the weight down to the airline limit.  In USA (where I reside) the limit is 50 pounds, that is a hair under the common 23 kg limit elsewhere. 

The fork steerer tube has been cut down to a total fork length of about 29 inches or about 73 cm.

The S&S Backpack case has backpack straps that make it fairly easy to transport for short distances.  It tips the scale at a bit over 3 kg.  No wheels, it is a soft case that has four semi-rigid panels that go in the sides and are held in with velcro.  I find that leaving the corner velcro straps slightly loose is necessary to assemble it.  I have also put sheets of corroplast in the large square panels for extra stiffening.  The case is 26 X 26 X 10 inches in size that exactly matches the common USA airline limit of 62 inches (width+length+thickness).  Or in SI units, that is roughly 66 X 66 X 25 cm.

The side panels being semi-rigid allows a few bulges to stick out here and there, I do not know if the bike can actually be fit in a hard case of the same size, I would not be surprised if it would not fit.

As those of you with Nomads know, the front fork has the canti brake posts on the back instead of the front.  Thus the fork will not lie flat in the case without consuming a lot of space.  I have put the fork inside the rear triangle for packing.  I make sure that all of the headset parts are placed on the steerer tube in the correct order and orientation when I pack the bike so that it simplifies putting the fork back on the frame.  I have often had trouble getting the fork packed this way, I am inclined to remove my brakes from the frame and possibly the fork in the future to make packing the fork a bit easier.

I also used a home fabricated center support of a couple small rectangles of thin plywood and two long skinny wood cylinders, that is apparent in some photos.  This was not included when I bought the S&S case, I wanted extra protection for the bike.

A few bits of trivia that are not apparent in the photos:
 - I use bolt on skewers when touring. 
 - When I pack the bike I have a plastic tube that is 135mm long in between the rear dropouts, held in with skewer.
    This is to protect the frame.
 - There are many stories of bikes being removed from S&S cases by airport security and then the security
    personnel can't remember how it came out so they just force it all back in the case, damaging or destroying
    the bike.  Thus, I try to tie the frame and wheels together so that the package can be lifted out of the case.
    And I include a note saying that in the case.  And the note tells them to contact me for assistance with my
    cell number.
 - I used to use two sided velcro to hold much of the bike in a single unit, but am now also using some zip ties too.
 - Tires mostly deflated, this is needed to make it all fit as the tires can be squished down.
 - Many people use frame padding over all tubes.  I instead just use smaller bits of padding (green in photos)
    where padding is most needed.
 - Both crank arms (square taper) have to be removed to get it all in.  In other words, almost the entire bike
    has to be disassembled.
 - The dropout spacing consumes a lot of space, one wheel is placed above and one below the rear triangle.
    The dropouts are in a corner. 
 - The front frame member is on the bottom of the stack.
 - The corner of the case where the dropouts are is the thickest part of the package.  If the front frame
    member is under the wheel in that corner, that will make the package too thick to fit in the case.  In
    that corner, the wheel as to be on the bottom of the case.  The other wheel is on top of the stack.

Off topic note:  I have also packed my folding bike in the S&S case, that bike is a derailleur bike.  I find things fit better if I remove the rear cassette when I pack that bike.  That way I can put the two wheels together, the freehub body goes in between front wheel spokes to make the two wheels less thick when stacked.  The wide hub shell on the Rohloff makes the rear wheel quite thick, unfortunately you can't make it thinner by removing a cassette or anything like that.

The photos are in reverse order of when I took the photos.

First photo - the fork zip tied to the frame rear triangle.  In the future I expect to make this simpler by removing the brakes too.

Second photo - the frame parts and wheels were lifted out of the case as a single unit and placed on the flagstone ground surface.  Thus you can see how the two frame members and two wheels sit together.  The front frame member is on the bottom in the stack, then the front wheel on top of that, then the rear triangle and then the rear wheel on top.

Third photo, that same frame and wheel bundle inside the S&S Backpack case.  The white color is the sheet of corroplast that I put in to stiffen the case.

Fourth photo, this includes a lot of the rest of stuff shoved in where there was room, such as seatpost, water bottles, tool kit, water bottle cages, these were loose parts that were just shoved in.  The crankset is in a padded package.  Many of the other parts are in zip lock bags to hold things together.

Next post, first photo - The luggage I took to Halifax for my trip.  The S&S case, a large backpack was my other checked bag.  Historically I have used Ortlieb roll top panniers, but I bought the rear Carradry panniers a number of years ago and never really used them.  Decided to try them on the trip.  I had to make the lower hook, as the Carradry stock pannier lower hook will not work with the Tubus Logo EVO.  Front panniers, I bought those from someone having a garage sale for less than $10 USD, I decided that the gray front panniers went best with the gray rear panniers.  The Carradry pannier was my carry on bag, the front Axiom pannier was my "personal item".  And I wear the helmet onto the plane so that airline luggage handlers do not have an opportunity to break it.

Second photo - Everything arrived in Halifax.

Third photo - The bike while on that tour.

Forth photo - this photo is three years old from my Iceland trip. I put short sleeves of inner tube rubber over the ends of my S&S coupler "nuts" to keep the dirt and crud out of the threads.

If any of you try to pack up a bike this way, it is best to do this well ahead of time so you are not checking the time every five minutes to see if you will miss your flight.  Packing the bike along with the disassembly is very time consuming.  The bike is pretty much fully disassembled. 

I built up the bike myself, built the wheels, etc.  So, I am quite comfortable doing this, but some that are less mechanically inclined might be better off not attempting this.  Or if they do, keep good photo documentation of what the bike is supposed to look like when you are done.

.  .

I added a photo of the case the way I stored it at the Hostel in Halifax during my trip.  The orange backpack was also stored inside the case.  The side panels were removed to collapse the size down much thinner.

And if anyone is wondering why I go through the hassle of packing and reassembling the bike instead of shipping it in a big bike box, a smaller case really helps with logistics.   The convenience of having a bike in a case that is a size that will fit in the trunk of the taxi that I take to and from the airport is just as important as avoiding oversize fees. The local taxi companies that I usually use drive Prius taxis. I can fit both the S&S Backpack case and also the other checked bag in the trunk.

On this tour, the bike in the S&S case rode in two taxi cabs, two multi-state bus rides, two motel shuttle van trips, and two airport-to-downtown shuttle bus trips. Thus the non-monetary convenience of a smaller case made that tour (international) a lot easier. I will readily admit that the time to pack a bike in an S&S case and reassemble later is much more time consuming that in a full size bike box. So there also are disadvantages to coupled bikes. You have to weigh all the aspects and options to figure out what works best for you.

What a nicely done topic, George!

I'm sure this information will prove helpful to those contemplating S&S couplings as well as those who have them but have not yet shipped their bikes in a compact, airline-compliant case.



John Saxby:
Exemplary summary, George, both with text and photos.

The only thing I'd add (with respect) for readers, is that you don't have to do all this to go to & enjoy Halifax and surrounds.  Without a doubt, tho', a Nomad or similar will help you do so  ;)

Cheers,  John


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