Brompton by air update 2012 – Part 1 (B-bag rack bag)

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.

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6 Responses to “Brompton by air update 2012 – Part 1 (B-bag rack bag)”

  1. Gary Mac Says:

    Hi Chris,
    Do you think that the B Bag would attach directly to the saddle if it was left empty? My wife and I are just about to fly from Australia to Europe for a 2 mth planes, trains and automobiles Brompton tour. We initially were planning on using boxes for the long haul and then just Ikea Dimpla bags and the saddle bag cover for the other journeys but I am a bit worried about baggage handlers in airports.

  2. chrisrust Says:

    The B-bag is big and not light, quite a big sausage rolled up empty. If you strap it to the saddle loops it would probably swing about a lot. Having just got back from a week with 3 flights and 6 trains I think the B-bag approach I have described can work pretty well, although I don’t think the bag is perfect, I might even recommend it for moderate touring.
    But really each of us is different and whatever approach you take will not just work straight out of the box. Time spent at home on tinkering and testing will pay you back.
    I’m beginning to think that fitting a reinforcing base to my Carradice bag might be more practical. The B-bag wheels are the main benefit but it is not an easy pull for a shorter person (I’m 5’7″, 170cm). As long as you can find luggage trolleys at airports and stations a non-wheeled bag might be better.
    Just make sure you have some Euro coins to unlock the baggage trolley you will need when you get your bags off the carousel.
    Incidentally there is no difference between long haul and short haul flights for a Brompton – they get the same amount of conveyor mileage etc.
    I’ll write some more about my experience this week soon.

  3. A. Lopes Says:

    Hi Chis, can you please tell me the weight of the B-bag?

  4. chrisrust Says:

    I have not weighed the bag separately. Brompton don’t give a weight on their site (that’s pathetic) but scscycles, who are the leading international online retailer for Brompton parts and accessories, say it’s 2.4kg

  5. John Says:

    B bag without straps is 2.2kg

  6. John Says:

    I wish there was somewhere that could rent five b bags for just a week. I’ve planned a Danube trip and can leave all six bags at munich airport for a week for around 60 euros. I’m hoping I can get 6 b bags into a (idea) dimpa bag and that the dimensions will be under 90 by 60 by 30. The pack combined will certainly be under 30kg.

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