Packing our S&S Tandem - first steps
We have travelled a lot with both coupled and non-coupled singles
and tandems. A coupled tandem for us is the most stress free way
to take a tandem on a tour that involves air travel - both in
regard to new restrictions airlines are placing on size and weight
of luggage, and the ease of transport to and from most airports
(where riding to/from may just not be attractive). I've said many
times that it's the fact that we can get a packed up tandem in
a taxi or small car that is the biggest win for couplers, and
I'll stand by that.
For some folks disassembly and packing of the bike as intimidating.
This is my step by step guide for what we do. As I said,
we have carried non-coupled tandems on planes as well. We did
a fair amount of disassembly then too, so didn't actually consider
the S&S to be much more. If you've never flown with a tandem,
this may seem overwhelming, but after the first time, it gets
These instructions are detailed. They also are specific to our
bike. Your bike may be different.
Our coupled tandem has 26 inch wheels. When we chose our travel
tandem, we specifically chose 26 inch wheels, because the wheels
fit into the cases, with the tires inflated (most tires - the
26X2.0 that we use for gravel roads are the exception). And when
travelling in remote spots, wide 26 inch tires are easier to find
than wide 700C.
Co-Motion puts the front couplers in front of the captains seat
tubes. This means we have three scetions and the fork, once split.
Some other builders place the couplers behind the captain's seat
tube. This gives you two large sections, the fork and three tubes.
With the style we have, there is also the benefit that we can
undo the cable splitters, and the front set of couplers and split
the tandem easily into two sections (without touching the timing
chain) if we want to get the bike inside a small vehicle.
It also makes it easier to pack in that the front section can
be packed with the fork intact. That said, we do actually pull
our fork when packing, currently. Due to John's excessive height,
it's a tight fit to get the front section with fork and stem into
the case. It's relatively easy to pull/reinstall the fork with
a threadless headset. But if this makes you nervous, it just makes
it a little trickier getting the front section into the case..
We also do a little bit more disassembly than Co-Motion recommends
in their steps and than other travellers might. We've occasionally
had damage - usually just paint scratches, but we learn from our
In the end, some of our disassembly pays off in ease of getting
the parts into the case, so the extra time to take a part off
is made up when we actually put all the puzzle pieces into the
I'll also add that we tour when we travel, so we have racks,
fenders and lights. These add time for disassembly and reassembly.
Before you start the first time, you'll want to get a few things.
- A box of ziploc bags
- 4 large heavy duty padded envelopes from the post office
- wheel axle protectors from local shop
- fork and rear triangle spacers from local shop
- S&S frame tube padding (Co-Motion have a neoprene version
that stretches and wraps around awkward parts better)
- Anticompression pieces from S&S
- TSA netting (optional)
- Two cases
- (First time) A bright pen for labeling the frame tube padding
- we use a silver CD marker.
As I mentioned above, we do a bit more disassembly, primarily
- We pull the fork. Having the fork as a separate piece makes
it easier to fit the various pieces into the case.
- We also now remove all four cranks. The standard tips suggest
removing one crank, but cranks have sharp pointy things that
love to gouge paint. It also saves the step of removing pedals,
so it's really a wash time-wise. And it makes it easier to fit
the various pieces into the case.
- We put the frame and fork into one case, and wheels, rack
and parts into the other. Depending on your hub or cases, you
may need to put wheels in separate cases. With our original
silver hard cases, in order to fit both wheels in one case,
we would pull the end cap from the rear wheel. We have a Phil
Wood rear hub, which has a separate end cap to accommodate a
drum brake. We remove skewers and that cap, which makes it possible
to fit both wheels into a case together. With the new Co-motions
cases, there is enough flexibility in the case, that we can
get both wheels in without pulling that cap. We use a long rod
- the diameter of the quick release skewer, but long enough
to go through both wheels, so the wheels align nicely in the
case. We got this rod with a pair of Chris King Wheels, but
there are probably cheaper ways to get a rod!
Anyway, now we are ready to start. Well first, if the bike is
covered in mud and filth, take it outside and wash with soap and
water, and let dry. If Dan Morgan is around, let him do this :-)
Cleaning bikes is a passion of Dan's, although it ranks after
NOW we are ready to start. Shift into the smallest cog on the
back. Middle ring on front is fine.
We make two piles, one for things that go in the frame case,
the other for things that go in the wheel case. We also keep track
of tools we use. All tools you use must go with
you and the bike.
- We use Esge fenders with the quick release front mounts. These
are easy to pop off and then loosen the bolt at the fork crown.
Clean the dried mud from the inside of the fender - or give
it to Dan to wash thoroughly enough to eat from. Lay the fender
in the pile for the wheel case.
- Remove water bottle cages, wrap them up in a cloth or newspaper
and place them in the wheel box pile.
- Remove the stoker seatpost leaving saddle attached. Wrap the
saddle in one of those fancy helmet pink bags - or whatever
you have. Wipe the grease off the seatpost. Cut padding to length
and put on the post. Write "stoker seatpost" on the
padding. Place in pile for the frame case.
- Then remove the cranks leaving pedals on. Order is important,
since this keeps some resistance for loosening off bolts. Modern
cranks with self extracting bolts may make this step even easier.
We have old fashioned square taper cranks and use a tradition
bolt and crank puller. Pamela actually does this step. It's
easy! Put all the crank bolts and dustcaps into a ziploc or
keep with cranks - dustcaps can be used to keep bolts with cranks.
- captains right crank first
- then captain's left, taking the timing chain with it, which
we put into a ziploc bag.
- next stoker left crank and
- lastly the drive crank.
- Now, find the quick link and disconnect the chain. Put the
greasy messy chain (if Dan didn't clean it first) and the quick
links into a ziploc bag. Use rubber gloves - or have hand cleaner
Now gather whatever tools you used to remove cranks and put
them in the wheel box pile.
We have some US postal padded envelopes that we use for each
crank. This keeps all those sharp pointy paint scratching,
tire puncturing teeth away from paint and tires. Note that
we don't remove the pedals - they stay with the cranks. With
modern cranks where the spindle comes out with the cranks,
we would remove the pedal in that side. Place the now padded
cranks, and bags of chains in the wheel box pile.
- Next loosen off the couplers so they are still hand tight.
Keep the captains seatpost with stoker bars in to allow propping
the bike against a wall.
- Now unscrew the cable splitters. We have a split cable hanger
for the front brake, so we can free the front brake cable from
the frame. And here is where things may be frame dependent.
We have down tube bosses and use the doohickeys that mount there
for adjusting cable tension for barcons or STI. We remove those
which completely frees the handlebars from the frame. If you
have split cable guides you can remove the cable. If you have
the infernal threaded guides on a coupled bike, shame on any
framebuilder who puts these on a coupled bike. Now coil up all
those loose cables and secure them around brake levers and such.