I’m getting ready for my third touring trip. I picked Ireland since it has been a dream of mine to ride across the lush green plains: I envision being on a horse, galloping over endless rolling hills and open fields with stone buildings in the far distance. One day that may come true. For now, though, my bicycle must do.
I reviewed the different airlines flying to Shannon to find a reasonable rate where the bicycle fee (sporting good) would be either free or just $50 for each leg of the trip. The cheapest deal would have been with Air Canada for $780, which included transporting the bicycle for free (yeah, Canada!). Air Lingus was about $100 more but its rules say the bicycle counts as checked luggage as long as it does not exceed 50 pounds. A big selling point was that the Air Lingus flight was direct and would take only seven hours, versus 22 hours with Air Canada.
Packing Jamie and meeting the Air Lingus 50 lbs Requirements
For my trip to Alaska, I packed Jamie in the bicycle hard case I bought a few years back. It was tough to close the case with all the extra clothing and equipment. On my return from Alaska, I was sitting and putting my full weight on it. The other cyclists were ready to join in when I was finally able to get the case shut and close the straps.
I took Jet Blue, which had no weight restrictions and charged $50 per leg. Air Lingus would charge me $100 per leg for the extra weight. My alternative would be to pack her in a cardboard box the manufacturer uses to ship bikes to stores. Most stores typically throw the boxes out, so they are happy give you one for free.
Last year I bought Jamie from Bicycle World, a small store down in Bayridge, which is a neighborhood down in Brooklyn. There were numerous reasons why I bought Jamie from Anthony, who is the owner of the store. One reason is that it takes me about 1-1.5 hours by subway or 1 hour cycling for the 15-mile trip.
While we were reviewing various bicycles and the differences, Anthony offered to show me how to fix and pack my bike for the tours. It was not part of the sales pitch and his offer came genuinely as part of what he believes in. It touched me. The Jamis Aurora Elite 2013 is not a well-known touring bike like the Surely Long Haul Trucker, but I ultimately settled for Jamie because of her disc brakes.
This past Saturday I scheduled a session with Anthony’s mechanic, Juan, to learn how to pack Jamie in a regular cardboard box. April and May are busy seasons and there was a lot of customer turn-around when I arrived in the late afternoon. Regardless how busy they were, Anthony made sure that Juan could take the time to work with me.
I snuck to the back of the store where the mechanics were working and slipped underneath the chain with the “Staff Only” sign. I am always a little bit excited to sneak into the back where most customers have no access. Juan lifted Jamie up, clamped her down, and showed me first how to install the front rack for the panniers. After that, he started with the front of the bike. I borrowed his tools to loosen the screws on the back rack and to take the wheels off. As he showed me last year, I released all the air out of the wheels and unmounted the vendors. The other mechanics looked highly amused and started joking, asking when I would start working there. My hands were greasy by now and I didn’t mind.
Juan let me know that anytime I pack my bike in a cardboard box, I need to keep the back wheel on. Jamie was wrapped with paddings and cardboard sheets before we lowered her into the box. It seemed huge compared to the much smaller compact hard case. Yet, the box was much lighter. It made me think about possibly selling my hard case to avoid dealing again with the airlines’ weight policies.