My (Break-Apart) Touring Bike
Some of my bicycle touring requires air travel to a distant starting point. Hence this idea for a break-apart touring bike unfolded - pardon the pun! - because of my discomfort with schlepping a full size bike together with a full complement of equipment through airports. For the times that I have travelled by plane with my Cannondale T2000, I packed the bike into a large plastic bag after removing the pedals and turning the handlebars in line with the frame - some judicious padding and removal of sticky-out components was also necessary. The package always arrived virtually unscathed, but it was a real burden before it could be checked in.
I couldn't see the advantage of using a commercial bike box, such as an "Ironcase", as the size of those boxes still makes them unwieldy and difficult to store at a destination. It can also be a challenge to find a taxi-cab that can shoehorn in the box for a ride to a starting point.
I pondered about purchasing a folding bike, such as a Bike Friday, and also investigated having a frame built with S&S couplers for a break-apart bike. Both options were expensive with S&S coupled frames topping the scale by the time that I added my component preferences and large format suitcases to pack the travel bikes into. Although I have never heard any detrimental reports other than the fact of a slightly rougher ride with smaller wheels, I also couldn't convince myself into the 20" wheels of a Bike Friday - and I still had a hankering for a 26" wheeled tourer.
So I figured that I could build up a suitable bike for a reasonable cost, get some personal satisfaction out of the deal and use up some components that I had lying around from other projects... And of course there's Ebay!!!
The above aluminium K2 frame I acquired on Ebay and is what I started the project with. I chose this type of full suspension frame for two reasons - a) the rear triangle is in two pieces, and b) the seat tube is continuous, unlike many full suspension frames on the market today. I could add, c) the price was right!
I just couldn't go touring with a green metal-flake bike though, so after disassembly, I had the frame stripped and powder-coated black - a nondescript colour that is not too appealing to the light fingered and easily touched up when inevitably scratched. Below is the result...
The shock absorber, bearings and bushings for the rear swingarm were removed. I machined up replacement parts out of aluminium that would allow the rear swingarm to be bolted solidly to the main frame and unbolted for packing into a case.
This whole bike will have to break apart easily with as little component removal as possible, then fit into a custom case that I've had fabricated using 14ga aluminium and sized to the airline authorized dimensions of 62" overall; i.e. 28" x 24" x 10".
What's left to do?...
Test ride unloaded and fully loaded...
Well, I took the bike out for test rides...
Only about 15kms though. I rode the bike empty for the first run of 15km and then put the full touring load on - 4 panniers, handlebar bag, dry sack on top of rack - about 45lbs of gear total and rode the same 15km route. The empty run gave me a chance to adjust the saddle and handlebars to my preference and also gave me an indication on how the bike would handle, corner etc.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bike rode and handled. Once loaded there was the obvious difference of a load present, but the handling was still very good. As with my Cannondale T2000, mounting a handlebar bag with a fair bit of weight affected the steering somewhat. I did overload the bar bag on purpose just to see how bad things could get - no worse than the T2000.
I did obtain an answer to my rear rack support doubts. The length of the forward struts were quite long and allowed some sideways movement at the front end of the rear rack. So I've now changed the support to come off a bracket at the top of the seat tube. I used solid aluminium rod for the stays and they are now adjustable using a similar system as the Tubus brand racks - solid now! Below are the photos of the modifications...
Overall, I was very pleased with the performance of the bike and am looking forward to a full test tour. I disassembled the bike and have started packing into its case to determine the best method. I was surprised at how quickly I could take the bike apart and feel that my estimate of two hours, at each end of a trip, can easily be accomplished.
Here's the results of the Packing escapade...
Nothing ever goes smooth and the original packing plans changed somewhat. I had planned to pack the frame in the lid and the two wheels in the bottom of the case. That turned out to not be possible. Also, the formed joint of the case reduced the inside dimensions slightly - this was not a big problem for any parts other than the wheels. I skimped a bit on the size and should have made the case 27" x 25" x10" instead of 28" x 24" x 10". But that's what I had, and due to the heavy belt of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, I had to peel one side of the tires off the rims to allow them to pass the lip of the case. One crank was also removed, but that's quite an easy operation using the self-extractors that I installed. Otherwise, I figured out a good sequence - after a while! - and got the bike packed OK. I did not have to use any cable splitters as the Paul's Thumbie's slide off the bar easily and I removed the rear derailleur as a unit at the other end. The brake cables can be disconnected at the lever.
I lined the case with some thin closed cell foam and installed some zap tie hold-downs with pop-rivets. Here's some photos that I took stage by stage...
I didn't like the original catches, so I bought some suitable ones together with a sprung handle. I also reinforced the corners with some ball-corners that I pop-riveted on...
Bike reassembled and all modifications completed
The weight of the completed case with bike inside is a little over 51lbs - airlines seem to differ on allowances and it is sometimes dependent on destinations, but generally somewhere between 50lbs and 66lbs per bag. The number of bags allowed also varies with destination; international flights seem to usually allow two bags, otherwise the rule is only one bag - always best to check before you book your flights as charges can be considerable for excess baggage.
All my other riding and camping gear fits into a large duffel bag which has to be my second piece of luggage.
I'm down to about one and half hours to pack and the same to reassemble - not too bad!
Now, should I add some removable wheels and a tow-bar to the case??? - Hmmm!!!
2008 - I built the bike up in early 2005, since then it has accompanied me to Poland, the UK, Scotland, France and other local venues too. It rides beautifully, loaded and unloaded, and I have made only minor changes to it such as replacement of the rear rack (with a Tubus Cargo). There was nothing wrong with the original rear rack, I just had a hankering to upgrade!
The only other change is that I switched from clipless pedals to the MKS Foot Jaws pedals. I've actually switched to flat pedals on both my touring bikes - ah, freedom! Oh, and I switched the Zoom adjustable stem for a fixed version.
2016 - As I don't have plans to travel overseas with this bike anymore, I have no real need to disassemble the bike at all. So I decided to make some room in my shop and sold the case. This is my main touring bike now
and it is still serving me very well.
With the availability of lighter and smaller camping equipment, I've also managed to pare down my touring load from four to two panniers. This has allowed me to remove the front rack from the bike and utilise the mid-fork mounts for extra water bottle racks - very handy.
Frame - 7000 Series Aluminium alloy
Rear Derailleur - Shimano XT
Front Derailleur - Shimano LX
Pedals - MKS Foot Jaws
Shifters - Paul's Thumbies & Shimano bar-cons
Brakes - Avid Single Digit 7
Brake levers - Avid Single Digit 3
Crankset - Shimano LX cranks - Chainrings 46-32-22
Chain - SRAM PC68
Cassette - SRAM, 8 speed, 11-32
Bottom Bracket - Race Face Taper Lock
Headset - Race Face
Rear hub - Shimano XT
Front hub - Shimano XT
Rims - Front: Sun CR18 - Rear: Mavic F519
Fork - Kona Project - rigid
Saddle - Brooks Conquest