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Now There Are Three

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What is the correct number of bikes to own?

Courtesy of Kickstand Comics by Rick Smith and Brian Griggs

Courtesy of Rick Smith and Brian Griggs at

I’ve seen a third variation:  S – 1, where S is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

While I do not intend to discover the value of S where my biker chick is concerned, I can report that in her case S > 3.  I took delivery of bicycle number 3 last month. And my biker chick and I are still a happy unit.

Thoughts of a new bike started percolating in my mind as I planned a trip to the USA to ride in the BP MS150 from Houston to Austin, and the TD 5 Boro Bike Tour in New York City.  My friend Keat and I had discussed the travails of flying with a bicycle.  Airlines charge between USD 100 and USD 150 to transport bicycles.  Despite the additional fee, there is the ever-present danger of damage in transit – see United Breaks Guitars.

One way to avoid the additional fee and to mitigate the risk of damage in transit is to have a bike that can be disassembled and packed securely in a case which meets airline size restrictions.  Keat owns such a bike.  A Ritchey Break-Away travel bike.  He showed me the bike in its case, then assembled the bike and let me try it out.

I now own a Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti / Carbon travel bike.

Ritchey Breakaway Ti

Ritchey has designed an elegant coupling system for their travel bikes.  The two halves of the frame are held together by three bolts and a hinged clamp.  Two bolts secure the top tube and the seat tube to the seat post.  The seam between the top tube and the seat tube is visible below.  Also visible below the top tube is a cable splitter.  In this case for the rear brake cable.  The two halves of the splitter screw together to join the cable.

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at

A flanged interface between the bottom bracket and the down tube is secured by a hinged clamp.  One bolt holds the clamp in place.

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at

Also visible in the photograph above are the two other cable splitters.  The frame can be broken down into two halves in a matter of a minute.  Admittedly it does take more than loosening three bolts and three cable splitters to get the bike into its case.  I opted for an S&S Butterfly Latch hard case rather than the Ritchey soft case.  The dimensions of the case are 66cm x 66cm x 25cm / 26″ x 26″ x 10″.  The total length plus width plus height equals the airline standard maximum size for checked luggage.

In practical terms the case is just large enough to fit a 700c wheel.  It doesn’t look possible in this photograph, but with no air in the tire the wheel squeezes in.

S&S Hard Case

The first time I tried to get all the bike parts into the case it took me about forty five minutes.  With the help of ‘how-to’ videos and PDFs.  I have packed the bike three times now.  The third time was no faster, but I don’t need the visual aids anymore.

The easy step is separating the bars from the stem, removing the front brake from the fork, releasing the wheels, taking off the pedals and cranks, and unbolting the rear derailleur from the derailleur hanger.

The next step is to prepare everything for packing.  All the tubes and the fork go into the supplied wraparound covers.  There is an elastic strap that goes over the large chainring teeth, and a cover  for the chainrings.  Hub axle caps for the wheels and dropout spacers are also included.  The rear derailleur gets bubble wrapped.  I bought velcro cable ties to secure cables to the bars and the chain to the chain stay.

The final step is to fit everything into the case.  I prefer the S&S method to the Ritchey method.  The front triangle and fork go in to the case first.  The rear wheel is next.  Then comes the rear triangle.  The saddle, bars and crankset slide through and between the triangles and wheels.  Finally the front wheel goes on top.  There is enough space around and between the parts of the bike for shoes, tools, bottles and clothes.  It took a few attempts to position everything so that the case would close.  Here I am tightening everything down, ready for my first trip with the bike, from Houston to Denver.

The white disks and upright pipes are compression members.  Pressure is kept away from the packed bicycle by transferring loads from one side of the case to the other side through the plastic pipes which are held in place by plastic disks on either end.  The compression members work so well that I can stand on the case without deforming the sides of the case.

Photo courtesy of Azie Azizuddin

Photo courtesy of Azie Azizuddin

I ordered my Ritchey frame online from Bicycle Doctor USA.  This shop came up on Google as one of the larger Ritchey dealers around.  I emailed an enquiry about the availability of a Break-Away to Bicycle Doctor USA and two other shops.  Steve Dodds of Bicycle Doctor responded within three hours.  I didn’t hear from the other two places.

Steve and his son Eric have received many positive reviews and comments.  Those allayed some of my concerns about conducting what to me was a large transaction over the internet.  A telephone conversation with Steve put any other worries I had to rest.  Steve is easy to work with.  I get the feeling that Eric and he run a busy shop.  Despite that I always received prompt replies to my queries.  So it didn’t take long to decide to on the build kit for my chosen frame.  Steve kept me updated on the progress of the build, and sent me some photos as well.

As planned the built-up bike was delivered to my hotel in Houston a few days before I arrived there for the BP MS150.  Everything was as discussed and ordered.  Steve even emailed some hints and tips for assembling and packing the bike.  The first thing I did after checking in to the hotel was to put the bike together.  While taking photos of each step of the unpacking process (one of Steve’s great tips).

I couldn’t wait to go on a test ride.  Which is the subject of a post to come.

About alchemyrider

I left Malaysia in 2008 as a non-cyclist. I am back home now with three road bikes and all the paraphernalia that goes with being addicted to cycling.

3 responses »

  1. I also own a ti/carbon BAB… although I have a roomful of bikes, it’s become my main everyday bike! I love the S&S case.

  2. I’m pretty ordinary 4 bikes with 1 of them a Dahon folding bike. I have a 5th bike which I borrow when I gave it away to a sister when I relocated from Toronto. I had biked on it for over 9 yrs.

    So yea, I have bikes in 3 cities….all ready and I do bike them when I visit/am in one of these cities. Saves on air flight shipping costs! (But I know your luggage hides it all.)

    • I have lots of friends who have folding bikes. The geek in me likes the different folding mechanisms that each bike maker uses.

      You are doing it right. A bike in every port!


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