Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I love to race in Ironman Triathlon events. I don’t know why, but I do.
I hate to travel to Ironman races, and I do know why.
I love my bike and I don’t like to be separated from it for the two week period surrounding a race. Historically, I have always used Tri BikeTransport to get my bike to and from races. It is a great service. They will get your bike safely from your home city to the Ironman event with a minimum amount of hassle.
The only problem is that in most cases I have had to drop my bike off approximately a week before the race. That leaves me with the unappealing option of doing my final rides on my mountain bike. It also seems to take me about an hour or so to get my bike from my house to the drop-off point and back. It is also expensive. In the last few years I have spent over $1000 getting my bike to and from races.
For all of these reasons I have never traveled with my bicycle, unless on my way to a specific Ironman event.
In the past couple of years I have been to Hawaii several times. I have never taken my bicycle there. I have always been nervous at the thought of packing my own bike. I have been worried about the unpredictability of baggage handlers. I’ve always felt like it was a waste of money to pay for the ridiculous baggage fees incurred by bicycle owners.
It always seems like a shame to be in Hawaii and only be able to run and swim.
But I have recently found a new remedy for all of these problems.
A couple of months ago I purchased a new bike case: the Ruster Sports Hen House Bike Case.
The case is a soft sided bicycle travel case which is specifically designed by a professional triathlete/engineer named T.J. Tollakson. He actually created the case to address all the concerns that I expressed above.
The ingenious case is actually 2 separate pieces so that the wheels fit in one bag in the frame, forks, aerobars, etc. fit in the other bag. Both of these pieces of luggage are less than 62 linear inches: the crucial number to beat when avoiding excess baggage charges on the airlines.
The case is extremely well-made and I expect my grandchildren will love it when they transport their bikes to races 50 years from now. Until they are born, I will fly often with my bike tucked safely in the bomb-proof case.
The Hen House is made of ballistics nylon with heavily reinforced padding. Pipe-insulation is included to further scratch-proof the whole thing. The zippers are super-strong as well. The shoulder straps make carrying the bike case and wheel case a snap, even while chasing my 4-year old through the airport.
Although my bike is on the larger side (size 58) there is still plenty of room to pack my cycling shoes, clothes, and wetsuit. Adding the clothes and wetsuit to the bag simply increase the padding and keeps the bike even safer. The wheel bag is sturdy and stiff enough that my carbon race wheels with Powertap all fly worry-free.
I feel like my bike is totally safe and secure.
The picture above was taken as soon as I landed and collected my bags in the Las Vegas airport on my way to Ironman St. George. My beloved Cervelo is nestled in the Hen House. Safe and sound on her maiden voyage!
On that particular flight, I was flying on Southwest Airlines. When I got to the check-in counter at San Francisco International Airport the agent looked at the bag and said that’ll be 50 Dollars Each Way for the bicycle.
As I removed the shoulder straps and tucked them inside the bag, I smiled and said, “I don’t think so… It’s less than linear 62 linear inches and weighs far less than the maximum weight requirement.”
“Oh! No problem. Enjoy your flight….” she said.
Total Charge: $0
Total savings: $100
The Hen House was off to a great start!
A couple of weeks later I was going to Ironman Texas. I packed all of my clothes AND all of my sons clothes in the two bags. I had no additional luggage to check.
Total Charge: $100
Total savings: $200
The biggest advantage I discovered on my Ironman Texas trip was in terms of time savings. I timed the bicycle disassembly and reassembly process involved with packing the bike in the Hen House. Less than 30 minutes each. (This was even on the day after the race, where admittedly, I wasn’t moving too fast.)
So I quite literally rode my bicycle on my final bike ride in San Francisco AND packed the bike in the Hen House in less time than it would have taken to drive the bicycle to and from the drop-off point for Tri-Bike Transport.
I flew to Texas the next day. I unpacked the bike and reassembled it in less time than it would have taken me to drive to the event to pick up my bicycle.
No more carbon separation anxiety.
Next week I will apply the ultimate test. I will be flying from San Francisco to Nice to race at Ironman France. The Delta website says that bringing my bike should set me back $300...unless...I can work within the rules and avoid the gargantuan bike case!
I expect to pack all of my belongings in the Hen House with my bike and save $300. After this particular trip the case will be paid for by the baggage fee savings alone. If I compare this to the bike transport companies, I would have saved nearly $1000 over these three trips.
Most importantly, the next time I go to Hawaii I am bringing my bike!
Disclosure: Dr. Christopher Segler is a sports medicine podiatrist and foot surgeon practicing in San Francisco California. He sometimes writes reviews about products he loves. He did not get paid to write this review. He has never met TJ Tollakson, and has no affiliation with him. Dr. Segler paid for the Hen House bike case in full, at retail price and believes it has been worth every penny. He did not get any sort of discount, nor anything else of value, for writing this review. Buy a Ruster Sports Hen House...travel cheap, fast and happy!