Thursday 31 August 2017

B&W Brompton box test

So, you are flying with your Brompton - and wondering just how to transport it?

If you are taking your Brompton on holiday with you by plane - then you want it to be happy and functional when you arrive, otherwise you may as well have just opted for a local hire bike - but you probably want your own trusted steed and to show it off to the world (or just test it's capabilities).

There are a few options, when it comes to Brompton transportation:
Soft bag from B&W
Brompton cardboard box - available from any good Brompton dealer
Polaris bike pod

We should have reviewed the Foldon box earlier. Is saying we were too busy a good enough excuse? (not really, but that's the only one we could think of)

We gave the new B&W Foldon box and the B&W Brompton Box a real life flight test

We took one of each on a short holiday to test them out out.

The journey went like this:
Home to airport
Check in box / bike
Collect box / bike
Store the boxes at the airport (left luggage)
Ride (including back to the airport)
Then repeat the process in reverse

Up first - the B&W Brompton bike box

B&W Brompton box at London Heathrow Terminal 5 drop-off zone
B&W box dropped off at Heathrow T5
The tried and trusted B&W Brompton box (or small folding bike) is tough like a camera case and has dimensions of a x b x c and weighs in at xxkg. It's a tried and tested box and been around for a few years.

B&W Brompton box in the back of an Audi TT
The B&W box in the back of a TT
The box has two roller wheels, a pull out handle and foam padding on the inside (which came unglued after the first journey abroad, but still functions)

To get the bike into the box, the saddle had to be right down (the Brompton had a standard height seat post - for an extended one the saddle may have had to be removed) and the MKS removable pedals removed. It was a bit of a struggle to get the bike in the box - bit it fitted OK in the end and the fact it was snug meant that it wouldn't rattle around and get damaged.

We also packed some clothes to act as padding!

Brompton B&W box at LHR Terminal 5 luggage drop off
Brompton B&W box on airport luggage drop-off belt

 The B& W Brompton bike box has two catches at the top which can be locked (we lost the key and don't lock it anyway so security can take a look inside if they want to) and a velcro wrap around strap which holds it securely closed.

B&W Brompton folding bike box arriving on the luggage carousel
B&W Brompton box luggage arriving

It was transported to the airport in a suitably small car - and fit in the back with out having to put the back seat down.

It was checked in with normal luggage and weighed in at just under 20kg and sent down to the luggage department (with fingers crossed that it would make it to the other end of the flight)

We waited with bated breath at the other end (not actually knowing if the box would appear on the luggage carousel or at the oversize luggage counter!) - it appeared with all the other luggage with a loud clunk as the converyor belt spat it out.
Left luggage locker at Stockholm Arlanda Airport Terminal 2
Left luggage locker - the box didn't fit!

So - next, to find somewhere to leave the box and unfold the bike (hoping it arrived safe and sound!)

Finding a left luggage locker was relatively easy, but I made the mistake of taking the bike out before seeing if the box would fit.

Oh no! The box was too deep for the locker. So I had to wheel to the other end of the airport to the left luggage counter (bike in one hand and box in other, getting plenty of strange looks) where the box was safely deposited (at a cheaper per day price as it happened!)

The bike arrived safe and sound and was well behaved for 5 days of cycling!

However - on the return trip the Brompton suffered from a broken titanium front mudguard stay and a broken roller wheel.

Next up - the B&W Foldon folding folding bike box

B&W Foldon folding bike box - folded
B&W Foldon folding bike box - folded
The Foldon box was introduced by B&W in 2017 and folds up by using tough plastic which means it takes less space when being stored. It has slightly larger dimensions of 67cm long x 34cm wide x 70cm high when unfolded and resting on the wheels, but just a 67cm long x 34cm wide x 22cm high when folded for storage and weighs in at 6.1kg when empty.

First - the box has to be assembled:

B&W Foldon folding bike box - with Brompton inside
B&W Foldon folding bike box - with Brompton inside
It comes nicely folded with a strap holding it folded - remember to take this with you. The box is like Zebedee - it likes to spring open!

As you can see from the picture, it has 4 roller wheels - these don't come off (or at least we don't think they do - let's see if they survive baggage handlers!)

The picture also shows the folded Foldon box next to a Brompton for size comparison.

So first the box top and bottom come off and there are hard plastic inserts (to make the walls), which are held together with aluminium and plastic strips.

The plastic wall (now one piece sits in the base and the Brompton is lowered into position.

As you can see from the picture, it has plenty of space around the bike - so we padded it out with bubble wrap.

When the box arrived - there appeared to be no exterior damage.

B&W Foldon folding bike box arrives on luggage belt
B&W Foldon folding bike box arrives on luggage belt
Once unpacked - easily done by releasing the two straps which keep the top and bottom attached firmly to the sides (these have holes so that you can attach TSA compatible padlocks if you want to stop other people opening it - though you could always cut the straps if you really wanted to get in)

The baggage tag had to be attached to these straps - the only doubt we had was that if the strap came undone, the tag would be lost - though this hasn't happened yet.

Conclusion - B&W Brompton box v. B&W Foldon box

First - they both do the job, and both Bromptons ended up at their destination in the condition we hoped for!

Travellers Top Tip: We were told (on a subsequent trip) by BA staff (several) and by a camera crew we bumped into at the oversize luggage conveyor belt that bikes / boxes are treated better on oversize luggage than when checked in as normal items.

B&W Foldon folding bike box
B&W Foldon folding bike box ready to go
Given the choice - the Foldon box has the following advantages, meaning this is the one we would choose (however - this is based on less journeys - so we need to update this over time):
It is lighter and folds up to a smaller size for storage.

The Foldon box has more space inside - so is easier to get the Brompton inside, and the pedals didn't have to be removed - though we did have to pack this out with bubble wrap to shop it shifting around too much which we think could lead to bike damage.

Compared to the B&W Brompton box, the Foldon is easier to roll around the airport - as it has 4 wheels and a strap for pulling rather than the pair of wheels and telescopic handle on the box.

When storing at the other end, the ability of the Foldon to be "smaller" could save money!

No comments: