One of the beauties of a Brompton is how easy it is to mix them with other forms of transport. Hop on a train, sling it in the boot of a car (even my SLK, which has about the same boot space as the glove compartment of some cars) … or take it on a plane.
When I did a lot of business travel, I used to take it just as it was, asking to gate-check it (as per pushchairs). I’d then ask at the aircraft door if they might be able to find space for it inside, and because I flew business class, they usually obliged …
However, I wasn’t optimistic that would hold true when flying economy, and I’d experienced a number of airports where gate-checked baggage was delivered by conveyor belt into the baggage hall. I thus decided it would be safer to get a case for it.
I looked first at the B&W Folding Bike Case, which looked great on-screen. When I examined one in the plastic, however, it felt very flimsy and poorly protected.
I then looked at the Polaris Folding Bike Pod. This felt much better designed and constructed, with the shell of the case able to flex to absorb impacts. RRP is £200, and I managed to find a scarcely used secondhand one for considerably less.
Everything else I need for a trip fits comfortably into a Brompton T Bag, supplemented by a small camera bag, both of which get taken on board.
The test trip was a flight to Miami. The first good news was that the bike fitted comfortably into the bag with only the hinges removed. Saddle, saddlebag and even camcorder mount remain in situ. The bag was easy to close.
The pull-out handle is rather short for comfort, but not a major hassle over the typically short distances it is wheeled. I stuck a couple of Fragile stickers on it and handed it over at check-in with just a small amount of trepidation.
At the far end, I removed it from the bag in my hotel room.
An evening ride, confirmed that it had come through unscathed.
There was some debate about whether Fragile stickers would serve as protection or challenge, and checking-in for the return flight, I discovered a downside: as it was labelled as fragile, I was asked to sign a disclaimer to limit the airline’s liability. I removed the stickers afterwards!
Waiting for it to emerge from the depths of the baggage system is a little nerve-wracking, but even at Heathrow it put in a reasonably prompt appearance.
This time there was one small piece of damage: the rear of the Garmin camera mount had snapped off. In retrospect, leaving this in place probably was a little optimistic. Note to self: remove it next time.
I will also take a piece of advice offered in the London Brompton Club facebook group: adding a tube to provide some crush protection. My next trip is likely to be quite soon, so this will be a project for sometime next week, and I’ll update when it’s done.