Bike Travel and the TSA

Each time we travel with our folding or coupled bikes, I pack in anticipation of the TSA. What new rules and procedures are in place? Are they going to trash my pack? Packing the Modal, my travel bike, is a spatial puzzle. It goes in the case one way because of the wide rear dropouts that accommodate the custom sliders. After a dozen trips and Mark V’s master bike traveler tutelage, I’ve got it down to include a helmet and shoes.

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For all the traveling we do, never had the TSA unpack my bike to swab it and then attempt to repack it (or seen it happen). LIH is a small airport so the agent did this in public view and I kept an eye on what he was doing. After carefully working with the parts and gear, he was struggling to get it back together and I signaled the supervisor and first asked if I can assist him. The supervisor agreed, as long as I didn’t touch anything. A few attempts later and making little progress with my boarding time approaching, I called the supervisor over again. I asked politely if I could repack it with them watching and they could swab the case again and swab me. The supervisor agreed and in a few minutes of stress, I repacked the case and got it closed.

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A Quick Pack

That was the worst and quickest pack ever and won’t know until tonight how the bike survived. The TSA did not swab the case or me again. I told the supervisor I appreciated their assistance and proceeded to the security line. I later discovered I had bike grease all over me, including what looked like black war paint across my nose and face.

Advice from this trip is to not overpack the case or complicate it. When you’ve got a puzzle to pack, even a well-intentioned TSA agent just doing his job will not solve it. Anticipating case inspections, Mark V has created a pictogram for his case.

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What did work was toe-strapping the frame and big parts together, but I’d not use a net because that’ll just cause them to dig around more.

When I posted the TSA agent photo to our Facebook page, a reader wrote that the TSA dumped his backpack S&S case out and refused to let him repack it. His bike got trashed.

Have you had this happen to you? How have you faired traveling with your bike?

Update

The inside of the travel case looked like Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked it to Jens Voigt who ran over it with his bike. Then David Banner opened it, got angry, and turned into the Hulk while packing it, but there was NO DAMAGE!

That proves Pam’s method of packing is better. She just tosses everything into the case and closes the lid in about half the time.