I’ve been in Chautauqua County for the past four days on a business trip. This is my first time bring my Brompton on an airplane. It’s come along for some overnight trips that were in driving distance and that went very easily. After much thought and some worrying, I had previously bought the Brompton B bag to use for air travel. While part of me feared that it was not enough protection, another part realized it must be ok. Brompton recommends the B bag for this use, with some additional padding. Surely they wouldn’t recommend it if the bikes got destroyed when packed in it, right? I thought the B bag would be lighter and also easier to deal with when empty than a hard-sided case. For those who would rather have a hard-sided case, while Brompton presently does not have one, NYCE does. Here’s what it was like using the B-bag:
Sunday I packed the bike, which involved just folding it normally. I also removed the clamp that holds the stem together and storing it in the bag’s pocket. A video on the NYCE site advises doing this with all the clamps, as they can get bent. I thought just one of them looked vulnerable. I used a combination of bubble wrap and clothes to provide additional padding for the bike.
There’s a lot of extra room in the bag . My cycling clothes fit easily. I probably could have packed all my clothes in it, but didn’t want to take the chance of getting grease on my work clothes, so I also brought a small carry on.
Though the packing process is easy, it is possible to make a mistake, and I did. The bag is asymmetrical as you can see from the photo. Position the folded bike so the saddle is in the taller side. Naturally I did it the wrong way around the first time.
Getting the B-bag in the car was no problem. Dragging it around the airport was awkward though. I can easily enough lift the bike for but it’s heavy to carry for any length of time. I was disappointed to learn that it is extremely difficult to pull the bike in the B-bag for even a short distance. The bag has just 2 wheels. To pull it, there is a short strap with which to tilt the bag back on its wheels and the weight just hangs on your arm. Using the shoulder strap to carry it slung across your back might work for some; it’s not something I can do though. Would 4 wheels on the bag help? It seems it could be designed to be truly easy to roll. Perhaps that is where the hardsided case is better; I don’t know.
I flew Southwest and so checked the bike for no extra fee. That part was a breeze. So was retrieving it in Buffalo. There was a hassle again with dragging it around as I searched for the van to pick up my rental car. The obvious solution is to use a luggage cart which I will do on the return trip.
I held my breath when unpacking the bike. What if it was damaged? I am happy report that it came out of the bag in fine shape. There was just one small issue. The front wheel was not spinning freely. I flipped the bike over and inspected the brakes, which seemed to be positioned correctly. When I looked further, I saw that the little metal connector bars (sorry I have no idea what they are really called) that hold the fender to the frame were a bit bent and touching the tire. I pulled them gently away from the tire and, voila, all was well. Whew, a “repair” that even I could do.
Cycling in Chautauqua County
Cycling is quite prevalent here, more so than I had expected. Nice! I read in the local paper about a new bike/pedestrian plan being developed in Jamestown, a new bike lane funded for Dunkirk, and a charity ride to benefit Red Cross. This morning’s paper featured a story on 30 young cyclists who came through town on Wednesday. They ride raised funds for cancer research and was going from Baltimore to Seattle. Despite all this sharing the road here seems to be an emerging concept. Or perhaps what is accepted as ok is different from what I have gotten used to. No one drove too close to me but at 4-way stop intersections I was treated as invisible by drivers. I am used to taking my turn to go just as car drivers do. Here, my turn came after the drivers were all done.
My hotel is right on NY Bike Route 517 (Route 5 for cars). I am not sure how far the route goes. I went just about 5 fairly flat miles on it (back and forth), after pedalling through town doing some sight-seeing for about half an hour. My first ride on Tuesday was a beautiful, if short one along Lake Erie.
The small towns here are close together and there are highways with bikeable shoulders connecting them, as well as smaller, lightly travelled roads. I saw several cyclists along Route 60, and many more doing short rides around town. Bikes seem to be popular for transportation and recreation in the region.
I’d like to ride the 50 mile route around Lake Chautauqua one day. I’d have loved to explore more by bike during but I am really here for work, and my free time has been limited. My goal in bringing the bike was to keep up with my miles/week goal and have an opportunity for outdoor exercise. I only got in 2 short rides in the 4 days here. Ideally I would have done more, but two rides are better than none! I’ve brought the Brompton to 3-4 hotels so far. I have never gotten any objections and the bike has been much admired.
So Was it Worth It?