November 14, 2009
As airline fees for bikes continue to climb, so does the popularity of bike couplings. The most common option right now is the S & S system, which allow the main triangle of your bike to be disassembled at the top tube and downtube by threaded couplings. Through doing this, you can get most bikes to fit in a case that can be checked as regular luggage on a plane.
The S & S couplings themselves are very simple to use, and require no special tools, however, they do require some special attention. First and foremost, avoid cross threading when putting your frame back together. If it seems like the couplings aren't threading smoothly, don't force them through. Back them off, realign the threads, and start over. If they still give you trouble, clean the threads, apply some light grease, and you should be in good shape. You will also want to wrap up the couplings with a rag or sock during transit. When pulling a bike apart, don't forget about cable disconnects, which are basically couplings for your brake and derailleur cables that will save you a great deal of time on setup and breakdown.
While S & S couplings are most commonly found on steel bikes, they are also making appearances on titanium, and carbon bikes as well. Tandems riders are also another target for this design, and some tandems can convert to a triple, or a quad through the coupling system.
If an S & S coupling system is appealing to you, but you don't want to go out and buy another bike, there are some companies out there, such as Bilenky Cycle Works, that will retrofit your steel or titanium bike with couplings.
For you folding bike fans out there, don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you. I'm saving that topic for its own post.
Photo by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.
It will be great to get the bike into a suitcase, but what about the fenders and racks? How does one transport them on a plane? We'll still have the panniers, sleeping bags, tents, etc. so we don't want to get dinged for too much luggage.
You note "light grease" ~ but S&S notes extreme caution using anything OTHER THAN the recommended grease. Please refer to their web site for information on what grease to use.
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You will have a tricky time fitting racks and panniers into a bike case this size. I end up packing my racks and panniers into a second checked duffel bag that contains the rest of my personal items (tent, sleeping bag, clothes, tools, etc). Just make sure you keep track of all the bolts and mounting hardware for the rack, otherwise you could experience a nasty headache trying to get it all setup again.