New Airline Baggage Rules mean a new strategy for flying with my Brompton
In recent years most European airlines have changed their rules to emphasise the number of bags rather than weight. So you can carry a bit more weight but only one bag unless you want to pay an extra bag charge.
My previous approach was to carry the bike in a Carradice bag and pack most of my possessions in my touring pannier, making two pieces of hold baggage. Then I used my C-bag as a carry on bag. With the new rules I had to get everything into one hold bag so on a trip to China I put the bike plus a lot of my luggage in the Carradice bag (a bit of a jigsaw puzzle but OK) and on the road I carried the Carradice bag and luggage in a packaway holdall on a seatpost luggage rack. Like this.
As you can see I also overstuffed the C-bag on the road to reduce the weight on the rear rack.
That was OK but there were a few problems. The arrangement on the bike was a bit of a mess and hard to manage when loading folding and unfolding but the main one was that the Carradice bag ready for the flight was a very heavy lump and hard to handle. I would like something tidier and easier to manage when transferring, especially as I’m just off on a complicated 1 week trip involving various kinds of transport: cycle – train – plane – car – cycle – train – plane – train – cyclecyclecycle – train – plane – train – cycle.
So I decided it was time to explore the Brompton B-bag. Somebody on the Bromptontalk forum had commented that you could roll it up to transport on the bike and with its wheels and stiffening it might make a more stable package that’s easier to handle. My idea was to see if it would convert to a neat package that could be carried on my seatpost rack with luggage inside.
When the bag arrived and I tried rolling it up with some cushions inside it was a bit of a bulky mess. I then got together something like my normal luggage (Laptop, clothing in packing cubes and books) for a proper trial. The sturdy base of the bag was just the right size for my gear and I then folded/rolled the top part of the bag down to make a reasonably compact bag. After some experiment I realised that my Muji luggage strap, with the built-in handle was perfect to convert it into a holdall like this:
You can see the luggage rack alongside with some Fasty straps in place ready for the next stage. The grey Muji strap is a nice blend with the B-bag colours. At this point the B-Bag is quite stable but still a bit bulky as it is not tightly rolled. Then it goes on the rack and the two straps fasten into each other to make a continuous strap that can be really cinched down round the bag, making the pack acceptably compact and a lot neater than the Carradice arrangement, mainly because the rigid base of the B-bag gives a firm foundation.
And here it is ready to go on the bike. You could use a couple of extra straps near the ends of the bag to make the “sausage” neater. That out of control corner is the extra material formed bu the high end of the B-bag that accommodates the saddle. As I always remove my Brooks saddle for transport that feature is a bit pointless for me but I guess it’s designed for every user.
And on the bike. The Muji strap handle is great as it lets you easily support the pack and rack with one hand while tightening and adjusting the rack’s clamp onto the seatpost with the other.
Of course it’s possible to use a similar approach with the normal Brompton rack if you have one and members of the Bromptontalk forum report that the Brompton rack has a good location for strapping which keeps a pack like this far enough back to avoid your heels. However I like having my bike without the clutter and weight of the rack for everyday use since most needs are met bu the excellent Brompton front luggage system.
For the first test I mounted it relatively high as I think there will be heel clearance problems with my preferred position at the bottom of the post. I’m not happy with that as I’ve experienced slippage of the post before and of course it adds a cantilever load to the seatpost. But I’ll work on that. I’m really pleased that it is so tidy although I think the B-bag is intrinsically bulky so I’m also thinking about building a custom bag based on a Carradice bag with wheels, extra zips, maybe a telescoping handle and even a front luggage mount. I’ve found a lot of good components available in the music flight-case industry so watch this space (but don’t hold your breath).
I don’t think this is a sensible touring setup but I’m very happy with it for my normal airport/train transfer cycling which is usually two or three miles but can be up to 20 miles.
Meanwhile the next part is to pack the B-bag for flight. Tomorrow’s challenge.
Postscript. Having given this setup a good testing on a long multimode trip I have decides that it works really well but I’m not impressed by the B-bag and would not recommend buying one.