Although we pretty much exclusively carry the Bromptons on these days and put them in the overhead compartment these days, we used to like to check them as baggage when we traveled. The fee for checking your bike on a US Domestic flight can be up to $150 each way – actually bikes are not even allowed on some flights – but we have never paid a bike fee when traveling with our Bromptons or had any arguments when checking them because we packed them into standard size suitcases.
- A folded Brompton (with the seat removed) fits snugly into a Samsonite Lift 29’’ suitcase
- Remove hinges for travel and pad any sharp/protruding bits to protect the bike and your suitcase
- Provided that you are below the airline’s maximum weight, there shouldn’t be any additional fees for checking your bike as luggage. We still had enough room (and weight allowance under 50 lbs) to fit some clothes into the suitcase along with the bike
- In the unlikely even that the gate agent asks what is in your suitcase, you can always say it is a “personal mobility device” or “luggage carrier”
A Samsonite suitcase will fit both a folded Brompton and the majority of our other packable items. A Brompton T-Bags, which goes onto the front of the bike, makes a great carry-on for anything that doesn’t fit in the suitcase.
To pack the bike, first remove the seat. Seat removal is very quick and easy with the optional telescoping seat post, otherwise you need a hex-key (and readjusting the seat pitch on arrival can be annoying). We also remove the hinges (or as Mila calls them, the “fiddly bits”) and place them into a ziploc baggie, then tape padding onto any points that are protruding and/or sharp. In particular: pedals, hinge points, easy wheels, wheel hub bolt, etc. (For padding we used a cut-up tube of foam pipe insulation purchased from the local hardware store.) The padding may not be strictly necessary, but it’s a fairly quick process and has provided us peace of mind (and probably kept the suitcases in better condition).
Once the bike is padded, we slip it into an Ikea Dimpa bag. These are only $12 and are a perfect fit for the Brompton. We have read that other people check their bikes without the suitcase, just inside a Dimpa – but we haven’t tried it yet (though we have gate checked this way). The Dimpa keeps the inside of the suitcase (and its contents) clean. The first few times we traveled, we also taped a printed page about Bromptons inside the suitcase, just in case TSA opened the bag and wondered what it was. Pretty sure that was also unnecessary, but it didn’t hurt either.
Unpacking is a cinch – re-attach the seat, take out the padding (it can be re-used multiple times), screw the fiddly bits back in, and you are ready to ride. Mila’s gears once got a little out of whack after coming out of the suitcase, but Dmitry fixed them by adjusting the indicator chain.
Although it is a little bit of a pain to have a big suitcase and therefore not be able to ride straight out of the airport, checking the bikes in luggage made sense for us when the majority of our travel was by car/bus/train and we knew we would only use the bikes for day trips. That said, we have read about contraptions to wheel a suitcase behind the Brompton, and Dmitry did once carry a Samsonite on his back while riding.
Make sure to check your weight allowance and to weigh your bag – we generally haven’t had trouble keeping the bags under 50 pounds, but it really sucks to get hit with baggage fees at the airport. A hand-held luggage scale can be very helpful! And just in case the gate agent asks what is in your suitcase, you can always say it is a “personal mobility device” or a “luggage carrier” – both of which are strictly true and avoid any argument about bike fees.