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I now own a Brompton folding bike.  (Fortunately, I bought my plane tickets first, as I am also now broke!)

Anyone here ever checked one into baggage in a B-bag, and suffer damage?  If so, what parts were damaged? I want to protect those parts, and I don't want to disassemble/reassemble. I suspect the bag itself is more likely to be damaged than the bike, but would like to learn from the experience of others.

Anyone here ever carried one on?  I've read that this can be done, but after seeing it in the bag, I don't believe it.  In fact, I think they're going to charge me extra for the size.  (See update below.)  Which reminds me of another related question:

Has anyone ever been charged extra on the grounds that the picture of a bike on each side of the bag makes it "sports equipment"?

UPDATE: Checked from IQT to LIM on Star-Peru.  Completely unusable on arrival.  Repairs very expensive.  Also, it does NOT fit in most airline overheads and is significantly larger than the explicit limits for carry-ons at many airlines.  Perhaps (as I've been told) it can be done on Southwest, but Southwest doesn't go anywhere that requires an airline.

UPDATE TWO: Every trip with the B-bag, there has been minor damage, but not nearly the disaster of Star-Peru. I finally went and got a Chubby which protects it much better and carries all my other stuff between flights. At the airport, fold the Brompton, empty the Chubby, put the Brompton in it, pack some of my things around it, and carry on the rest. Have to pay an oversize fee, or a bike fee, depending on the airline. Sometimes it's hard to predict which. Some airlines will treat it more gently if they know it's a bike; some the opposite. Also hard to predict.

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    @WGroleau yeah, t-bag is a whole other thing.
    – jqning
    Dec 29, 2015 at 20:35
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    @DanielRHicks bromptons usually have a complex, custom derailleur that you really, really don't want smashed in transit. But the fold puts it on the inside so it shouldn't be necessary to remove it.
    – Móż
    Dec 30, 2015 at 0:36
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    When folded the right pedal of the Brompton is protected by the rear wheel and the folded back front wheel protects the derailleur. The left pedal folds to rest on the crank. The bike comes with a standard carrying bag although hard or soft carrying cases are available. (The wife owns a Brompton.)
    – Carel
    Dec 30, 2015 at 8:58
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    Just in case anyone cares, StarPeru pretty much destroyed the thing. After its repaired (or replaced), I'm going to get a hard case that folds up to fit on the rack or on my back.
    – WGroleau
    Jan 14, 2017 at 3:01
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    I think there was something I don't remember, but I do remember two things: (1) the rear luggage rack was bent to one side so that the rear fender rubbed on the tire. It must have take a LOT of pressure to do that—to fix it, I had to lay the Brompton on its side, put a heavy weight on the bottom of the tire so that it would stay in position, and then JUMP on the luggage rack. I weigh 85 kilos, and just standing on it wasn't enough, nor did I have any effect trying to bending back by arm muscle. (cont'd)
    – WGroleau
    Feb 21, 2023 at 21:32

3 Answers 3

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I check in my Brompton when I fly. I built a special case for it in my workshop using 2020 extrusion and coroplast that is 24x24x11.5 inches and exactly fits the Brompton.

They also sell hard cases but I didn't want to spend $300 for one of them.

It doesn't look like a bike case so I don't get charged the bike surcharge. When asked what's in it, I say "circus equipment" which is appropriate as one of the sides was made with coroflex from a circus sign. 24x24x11.5 is exactly under the maximum size specification for luggage and so I don't get an oversize surcharge -- however, it still get put in the oversized luggage area, most notably because it doesn't have handles.

Works well. It's not collapsible so I have to store it at my destination. I think the next iteration of it will be to put wheels on it so it can turn into a bike trailer at the destination.

my brompton case

With your soft bag, I'd put duct tape over any bicycle logos. Not just to avoid the surcharge but to avoid theft. Baggage handlers ignore any fragile labels so that won't work.

The fragile bits: The parts most likely to break are the hinge clamps and the pedals. Be sure to take off the folding clamps and bolts completely as they are known to snap when exposed. Carry a small pedal wrench or hex wrench (depending on your pedals) so you can take off your pedals. Taking the seat off and tucking between the frame is also a known tip to prevent damage.

I'd also put pipe foam over any exposed tubing (especially the handlebars) and maybe a sweatshirt or other clothing on the rims to protect them and the spokes. You can also unloosen and rotate the handlebars with a hex wrench so that the controls aren't as exposed.

Finally, you asked in comments about convertible trailer / cases. The Cyclone IV Chubby is one of them:

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  • The trouble with a box is, how do I get it to the airport? But if it's also a trailer, that solves that. I was hunting for a trailer that could double as the bikes shipping box. I guess I could build one.
    – WGroleau
    Jan 14, 2017 at 3:02
  • There are trailers that convert to Brompton shipping containers. When I get to a real internet connection, I'll post a link.
    – RoboKaren
    Jan 14, 2017 at 12:10
  • The SRM hardcase folds up to fit on the rear rack, but today, it's $450. It has wheels that MIGHT be tough enough to be a trailer if I could build a towing hookup. Other hardcases exist that can be carried or towed when riding? American just told me carry-on limit is 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 CM (including handles and wheels) which leaves the SRM out and probably the Brompton soft bag.
    – WGroleau
    Apr 29, 2017 at 21:21
  • I looked at the Chubby. It's a lot more expensive than the SRM but it's much more versatile. Not hard sided., though.
    – WGroleau
    Jul 11, 2017 at 12:21
  • I did buy a Chubby, s stated in my update. And not long afterward, found that the Brompton Junction in London has the SRM for only £120.
    – WGroleau
    Dec 29, 2017 at 21:48
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Flying with a Brompton [as a carryon] is typically dependent on the airport staff and flight crew, rather than airline policies and procedures. I've had success getting the bike on larger planes no problem, mostly because overhead compartments were very large, or because there was sufficient space to store the folded bike (with seat and pedals removed) with strollers and folded wheelchairs. I'll even refer to it as a "mobility device", which will sometimes spook TSA into thinking that they're denying me accessibility or civil rights.

Again, this is mostly dependent on the gate/flight crew's level of tolerance/patience. The easier you make the process for them, the more likely they are to let you take the bike on the plane.

Here is a good blog post about the process itself.

A second, great blog post with tips as well.

Technically speaking, here are a few tips:

  1. I use "Superior" MKS pedals that are completely removable. Nothing sticking out of the bike; they go into a separate bag in luggage.
  2. I'll typically put a small bungee cord around the bike (inside the bag) to keep the bike from rattling/moving too much. It's also much more stable when being handled by flight crew/TSA.
  3. Remove the seat; put it in your luggage/carry-on.
  4. I also deflate the tires a little. This helps when the luggage compartment is a tight fit, and let's the tire sticking out give a little when the latch is shut.

Generally, the bike has suffered no real damage when I've carried it on or gate-checked it.

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    So, I think you are answering the second question, that it DOES fit in an overhead as a carry-on? But then you say I should put the seat in a carry-on, so I guess not. I realize that handling is "dependent on the airport staff and flight crew," which is why I am wondering whether anyone has experienced damage and where (so that I could try to figure out a way to protect that part).
    – WGroleau
    Dec 29, 2015 at 20:30
  • Too late and too little money to buy a different kind of pedals!
    – WGroleau
    Dec 29, 2015 at 20:32
  • And the need for a bungee cord puzzles me. Mine seems to lock all the parts together when folded.
    – WGroleau
    Dec 29, 2015 at 20:33
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    @Wgroleau The bike overall has a little bit of wiggle room (mine is from the late 90's and has quite a bit of wear. The bungee cord keeps everything very snug, and there is no rattling if the bike is set down, or moving in the overhead bin.
    – JonR
    Dec 29, 2015 at 23:27
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    Nothing specific about parts that have been damaged or might need extra protection. But without that info, this is still a very useful answer and so I will mark it so. I will probably check the bike rather than try to carry on.
    – WGroleau
    Dec 31, 2015 at 5:03
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I've traveled a lot with a Brompton, but I'm not a fan of having to travel with a box for the Brompton (ie I don't want to carry it on a bicycle tour). So I make a box whenever I need one, and the only things I travel-with to make this box are:

  1. About 10 meters of paracord
  2. A knife
  3. A permanent marker

image of an unboxed and boxed brompton bicycle

Some days before I fly, I'll also get the following:

  1. A roll of plastic packaging tape
  2. 3-4 medium-sized boxes of cardboard (or big, if possible)

Luggage Fees

First, you do want to select your airline carefully. The Brompton is small enough to pack-up under the oversize luggage fees charged when shipping normal/big bikes on a plane, but weight may be an issue.

Brompton says their bike weighs 9-13 kg. With my upgrades, accessories, and added padding for shipping, my Brompton usually comes-to 20 kg. YMMV, but -- personally -- I avoid airlines that limit checked bags to max 18 kg (though 23 kg or 30 kg is a more common limit).

Obtaining Materials

I buy a whole new roll of packaging tape. I use about half of the roll, and I always travel with the last half, just in-case it the box needs to be opened/re-sealed.

I've never bought cardboard. I've packed my brompton for flying in North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. In every country I found cardboard for free and recycled it.

Preparing Brompton

The first thing I do is prepare the Brompton, so it's well protected.

The Brompton is a pretty rugged beast, and it's protects itself pretty well when folded, but I'm particularly interested in protecting the following vulnerable/expensive-to-replace parts:

  1. The hinges
  2. The front mounting block
  3. The wheel spokes
  4. The pedals

First, I unscrew the bolts and clamps from the hinges. I put these in a ziplock baggie and I either check it with my other luggage or wrap it in cardboard and tape it inside the folded brompton's triangle or something.

Second, I rip/cut pieces cardboard from the smallest box I have, and I bend the strips around the above-listed parts to add padding to protect them (this will, of course, be redundant padding in-addition to the box you'll put it in).

Photo of a folded brompton photo of a folded brompton with cardboard covering its hinges, pedals, and spokes

Don't be afraid to use a lot of cardboard and tape! You'll be making your Brompton wider, longer, and taller in dimensions, but the Brompton is so small that you're very unlikely to pad the brompton so much that you get slapped with a oversize luggage fee (generally max 158 cm).

photo of a Brompton Bicycle wrapped in cardboard and a sleeping pad for protection when shipping on an airplane

Finally, when I'm satisfied Brompton's vulnerable components are well-covered in cardboard, I wrap it in a sleeping pad. And if I'm traveling with a big (synthetic) winter jacket, I'll cover it with that too

Making the Box

When the Brompton is sufficiently covered in padding, it probably won't fit in any of the cardboard boxes. So I usually open one side of the biggest box until the Brompton fits in it, and then bend a new edge into the cardboard so it fits perfectly.

I may re-bend other walls of this big box so that the box fits the Brompton perfectly.

Then I'll use the remnants of the other couple boxes to build-out a top of the box and reinforce any sides where one sheet of cardboard meets the other. Use just a small bit of tape as you go.

When the box is completed around the Brompton, I write my name and every airport code the box should travel to/through on literally every side of the box. Maybe this is paranoid, but I did arrive to an airport one time and my Brompton did not. Fortunately, it arrived within a couple days. I'm glad it was clearly marked and not lost; checked luggage with this airline was only insured up to $3,000.

After clearly writing your info on the box, tape it up really, really, really well (you want to write the info before this because you can't write on plastic tape). If you built a box by combining multiple boxes together, I can't stress how important it is to use a lot of tape.

enter image description here

Tie it up

The resulting ~20kg box should offer great protection of your precious Brompton, but it'll be large, heavy, and clumsy to carry.

To make this easier, I usually just wrap & tie about 10 meters of paracord around the box, so it's easier for me and the airline workers handle it.

enter image description here

Bonus: The result doesn't look like the contents are very valuable, and I've never had an airline ask me what's inside; the last thing they'd expect is an expensive bicycle.

Alternatively: Suitcase

The first time I shipped a Brompton, I bought a secondhand Samsonite suitcase that was 158 cm (L+W+H).

enter image description here

I still prepared it with the cardboard on the vulnerable parts and it just barely fit inside the suitcase.

This was the last time I shipped the brompton this way, because I didn't want to carry a suitcase with me on a bicycle tour through the desert. But it could be a good option if you're not cycle touring.

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  • Sounds like a heck of a lot of work. Sometime after posting the question, I purchased a "chubby" from Radical Design: youtu.be/eY1HiqzEz2M which holds the Brompton for check-in with padding (towels and clothing). Upon landing, I remove the Brompton, put my carry-ons into the trailer, and pedal off to where-ever.
    – WGroleau
    Feb 21, 2023 at 2:21
  • I definitely prefer spending 3 hours a couple times a year making a box out of cardboard than having to haul a trailer, but I know others love trailers. To each their own :) Feb 21, 2023 at 2:35
  • For me, it would have been far more than a couple of times a year. And five hundred to a thousand kilometers between flights, with 37 kilograms of clothing, food, laptop, etc. in the trailer instead of on my back. So, the type and purpose of travel makes a difference. Another option I considered is b-w-international.com/en/bike/cases/b-w-foldon.box-s
    – WGroleau
    Feb 21, 2023 at 2:42
  • My brompton tours are roughly the same distance, and I carry maybe 20 kg of gear, not including food/water. But I mount the 50L aluminum-framed trekking pack directly on the rear rack of the brompton; I don't ride with weight on my back. Personally, I like to keep things minimal so I don't like trailers. But I know many tourists who love them Feb 21, 2023 at 2:48

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