A Cardboard Box Conundrum
The world felt like a grim place; winter had been long and cold, snow was thick on the ground, food was tasteless, the wolves would often kill the livestock just to survive the winter, daylight never seemed to make an appearance and a constant greyness in the sky over the past few months made people’s skin turn a translucent white. All this plus, a Queen who ruled with an iron grip. I needed to escape.
Gathering my belongings I packed, it took what felt like a life time, fighting with cardboard, foam, bubble wrap and packing tape, grease smear over my hands and skin scraped from my knuckles. All I wanted was to escape the endless winter…
Okay, so some of the above story doesn’t quite ring true. I may have slightly exaggerated some aspects- the British winters are not that bad, wolves no longer exist in the UK, the Queen isn’t ruling with an iron grip and the food -though not up to Italian standards- isn’t so bad either.
At times, living in the north of the UK where the winter can feel endless, when every ride you venture on becomes a slog against the wet and cold weather where you dream of warmer destinations, you do start to feel a bit sorry for yourself and over dramatize things. But with today’s low-cost airlines and the possibility of cheap accommodation in places like Majorca, escaping the “grim north” becomes an alluring option (but only of course if you can scam the time of work).
Warm miles in the legs is something that every cyclist dreams of when out on a wet and windy day, there’s only so much toughening-up or character-building that you can talk yourself in to.
A quick search on the net, a splash of cash and I’d booked a flight for a trip to Majorca, all was in place. The only problem being that my trusty Scicon AeroComfort bike bag was currently in a different country…
I count myself among the lucky few able to split their time between the north of England and France. I’ll blame it on stupidity but while I was in the UK preparing for my cycling trip to Majorca, my Scicon bag was several hundred miles and a large expanse of water south away from where I was. Not too worry too much, I’d just have to do travel with my bike like I used to, with a cardboard box that was sourced from my local bike shop and a the added protection of some pipe lagging around the tubes.
I’ve only had the Scicon bag for a few months, and in that short time I’d been lucky enough to visit a few cool locations with it and been amazed at how easy it is to pack. Reverting back to the cardboard box and foam piping surly wasn’t going to be that much of a chore? Wrong.
With a Aerocomfort- its almost too simple: remove the wheels, deflate the tyres, whip out the skewers, place the frame in the cage, clip and zip it all in to place and ‘voila’! You’re ready to go. It take minutes, in-fact there seems to be an online unofficial competition via twitter with people laying down the gauntlet of how quickly this can all be done, I’m pretty sure it’s down to about four minutes!
The cardboard box was a whole different story, this was where it was about to feel like the dark ages again. I’ve travelled a ton in the past this way and had never thought too much of it. Now after using the Scicon it was to be like using a lightweight race bike and then jumping back on a steel town bike. The contrast screams in your face, once you’ve been spoiled by the ease of the Aerocomfort its hard to go back.
First up were the bloody knuckles that wrap against the chain ring when loosening the pedals, we’ve all been there- a little too much prissy on the spanner and boom your knuckles have a little less skin on them.
Then comes the faff of wrapping everything in pipe lagging, removing the bars- all of this so as to make sure it’ll fit in the box, whipping off the rear mechanism and covering your hand in grease.
The next step is the most complicated; it’s the rubix cube-like precision of trying to fit it all into the box so that A: it’s safe and secure and B: it’s not going to bang or hit anything else resulting in damage.
It’s a process that I’ve done dozens of times but it never seems to get any easier. Taping it up you get the odd bulge here and there, especially if you throw cycling shoes and a bit of kit in the mix too. All in all, it took just shy of 45 minutes from fully assembled bike to boxed and ready to go- at least 7 times longer than with the Aerocomfort.
The airport was the next reminder at how pampered you feel with an Aerocomfort bike bag, instead of slinking through the airport due to the inbuilt wheels on the Scicon bag I lugged and slid the box around the check-in area. I could’ve quite easily handed over the £3 for a trolly, but being stubborn and a little cheesed off that the airport wanted to change me for the use of a trolly, I went for the brute force option.
It’s not the most ideal option, especially when it’s a long walk from the car park (as with every airprt).
At the other end it’s the same, just in reverse.
The cardboard box had taken a battering, holes in the side didn’t bode well for what was to be revealed inside, lucky I can report no damage had been done. But once in the hotel room with the bike eventually built and pipe lagging and loose ends of packing tape scattered around the room I looked at my bike and thought that to myself that I would have been kitted up and probably out on the road by now if I’d travelled with my Scicon bag.
I looked back on a recent short visit to Chicago where I had only stayed 2 days before I had to dashed off to San Francisco. It was my last trip I’d made with a bike in a cardboard box. For the two days in Chicago I was there for work, but had a little down time of my own. I now know that I would have gotten out on the bike if I’d travelled with the Aerocomfort, 5 minutes of unpacking the bike wouldn’t have eaten into my day’s schedule. I could have seen the city for a short while by bike. But with the bike in cardboard and pipe lagging I had decided that all the fuss of unpacking and repacking was not worth the time of effort.
Sure there are a few arguments for the cardboard box: it’s a few kilo’s lighter than a proper dedicated bike bag (but only just); many bikes get shipped around the globe every day in them and you can pack it flat once at your destination or even discard it. The Scicon bag, does however, I’ll add pack down small enough to stuff under a hotel bed or in the wardrobe.
The question from this article would be is a Scicon bike bag a necessity or a luxury? From this trip I’ve proved to myself that it was a luxury. Not having to mess about with the whole long-winded process of packing and unpacking, the ease of use at the airport, knowing that the bike would be safe and sound at the other end. Also, from my recent State-side trip I’ve learned that it would have been so easy to have seen the city by bike, a chance I’d missed out on due to the restraints of the cardboard box.
Yes, it is a luxury item in some instances, but do you cherish the time you get to spend on your bike? Do you cherish your bike and the large sum of money that you’ve put into it? I know I can say yes to both these questions, so the bike bag for me is now not just a luxury item but a necessity.
It’s now part of my traveling arsenal, I’ve seen the light and with that dragged myself form the Dark Ages.