Monday, June 9, 2008

Packing A Brompton M3L Into An Airline-Approved Suitcase.

10/19/08 Update. According to poster snod911 below, a brommie with a rear rack WON'T fit in this case. Mine doesn't have one, but perhaps you can remove it before you travel if you do. Thanks, snod911.

8/2/08 Update. It worked! I just came back from a trip to Alaska and had no problems taking the Brommie in this suitcase. Upon check-in, the case weighed 42 lbs. The airline person didn’t measure its dimensions. They did tag me with a $25 2nd bag fee (jerks). On the return trip, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) looked at it because they left one of their pamphlets in the case. No problems! I wrapped it crosswise with a luggage strap, but the case may not have needed it. BTW, I flew Northwest airlines.

As I mentioned earlier, I bought the Brompton M3L because I wanted to be able to quickly pack it in a suitcase and take it with me on my various business trips. After researching the various options on suitcases, I think I’ve found THE one: the Delsey Axiom Suiter 29”. It is a hard-sided suitcase. Even though many recommended the Samsonite F’lite, it was too small. The largest F’lite is 31” but even that was too small.

As you can see from my pix, the M3L fits nice and tight in there. Not loose at all. This should be an advantage as a bike that is loose in a case could tend to be more easily damaged in transit. Maybe I’ll pad it further with some clothes or foam to make it more snug. I plan to get a luggage strap to wrap around the case just to be sure it won’t break apart if some baggage handler launches it like a shot put.

I was a little disappointed that I had to remove the saddle in order for it to fit, but I guess that’s the compromise with going with an airline-sanctioned suitcase. I will have to pack a wrench to remove and attach the saddle. This is certainly better than the type of disassembly some folder riders have to do with their bikes, though. The Brompton weighs about 25 lbs and the case is about 10 lbs I should still be under the 50 lb limit.

The Delsey Axiom is widely available in most independent luggage stores in my area. I was able to take my Brompton and drop it in both the Delsey and the Samsonite to do a comparison test. Most online places sell the Delsey for around $200 but I was able to find it for a little over $100 at a luggage shop in New York (w/free shipping). Local shops wanted around $250 for this Delsey.

I have a big trip coming up in July to Alaska. It’ll be the maiden voyage for this case and Brompton. I’ll report back to see how it goes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Like a Road Dampener: Review of Thudbuster LT 3G

8/21/08 Update. At the suggestion of one of the Cane Creek guys, I switched to the softer elastometer combo (Blue-Brown). The result? It does give you a softer ride, but I still think you’d get the same result from a good sprung saddle. I expected the kind of ride you get from a full suspension MTB, but this does not approximate that.

MSRP: $139
Price paid: $120

I had heard good things about the Thudbuster LT 3G so it got me intrigued and I purchased one. Some reviewers said that it was like giving your bike a rear suspension spring. Others said that it was a great on MTB trails as well as urban jungles. My review is less than enthusiastic. I installed the Thudbuster LT 3G on my primary commuting bike, the Schwinn GSD. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

First, it is important to make sure that your seatpost diameter is the same as the ones that Cane Creek (the manufacturer) sells. My first try was by going by the specs from Schwinn. These turned out to be wrong. Your diameter is usually engraved on your seatpost. That is the right size. Cane Creek also gives you shims in case you have a non-standard seatpost.

Installation is straightforward as you just remove the seatpost and put in the new one. It is a good idea to pre-install your saddle on the Thudbuster LT 3G before you put it in. I switched the QR clamp on my post to a bolt-on one to deter theft. (This is always a good idea in urban areas as saddles are thief magnets.)

The Thudbuster LT 3G comes with these cylindrical elastometers that are keyed to your weight. You must pair them up to give you the support you need. My weight is 170 lbs so I went with the blue/blue elastometer combo. Different colored pairs are keyed to different rider weights.

The ride after the Thudbuster LT 3G was a little underwhelming. I expected a springy type experience like a suspension MTB, but I didn’t get it. For example, coming from the sloped end of a driveway to the street curb is a significant bump. The Thudbuster LT 3G doesn’t really soften the bump. You still feel it. I still raise my rear when I leave my driveway. No different than before. If you go through a lot of those road veins/cuts/mini undulations that are not that high and in succession, the Thudbuster LT 3G will “dampen” the ride, but that’s about it.

I considered going to the softer elastometers, but Cane Creek warns against doing this. I guess they fear that a big bump will shred them esp. if your weight overstresses them. You could have an accident and Cane Creek would, theoretically, be liable.

All in all, I would recommend that you save your money and get a spring saddle. It gives the same effect at a reduced price.