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How to Flight Case Your Bike
By Sarah Demerly, Tom Demerly and Henry Heartline

1. Start with your bike, tools and flight case in a large enough area to work. Make sure you have tape, scissors, zip ties, bike packing material and the necessary tools. You can obtain bike packing material from us for free- new bikes come packed in it. It is a good idea to use only the tools you will take with you for the disassembly and packing, since they are the tools you are also using at your destination to pack your bike for your return trip. This is a good chance to fine tune your packing list of tools. Shift you bike into its largest gear with the chain on the small cog I the back and the big chainring in the front. This positions the derailleur correctly for removal and covers the sharp teeth of the large chainring with the chain so the teeth can’t damage any items inside the case. If your hand slips while removing the pedals, you are less likely to stab your hand on the chainring teeth.

2. Remove your pedals first. This step is difficult to do if your wheels are off the bike since the bike must be stable while you apply pressure to the pedal wrench. If the bike is fully assembled when you do this, it is easier to apply necessary force to loosen the pedals. Most pedals have a hex wrench (Allen wrench) orifice in their axle to facilitate removal and installation without a bulky, heavy pedal wrench. I learned from discovery Channel team mechanic Vince Gee that most people tighten their pedals far too tight with large torque wrenches, especially on carbon cranks. My Time RXS pedals do not have conventional wrench flats on them for a full sized pedal wrench. Leaving the pedal wrench at home saves weight and means you will not over-torque your pedals or potentially damage your cranks. Remember that your left crank arm is reverse thread- righty loosy, lefty tighty. You can apply extra leverage to your Allen key pedal wrench with your foot if you position the crank arm correctly. A little practice makes this technique easy. If you have Speedplay pedals (they do not attach with an Allen/hex type wrench through the crank arm) then you can carry a smaller version of the conventional pedal wrench. Leave your full size pedal wrench at home!
3. Mark your seat post position with tape. It is an even better idea to lightly scribe a mark into the post using the seat clamp as an index mark. Tape can fall off or move. A small scribe etched into the side of your post will not damage even the lightest carbon fiber seatposts but gives you a reliable reference point for your saddle height. Before your trip enter your saddle height into your cell phone, planner or commit it to memory. Carry a small fabric tape measure to measure it beforehand and to verify it at your destination.
4. Pad your frame with bike material from the bike shop or foam pipe insulation from a home improvement store. Use electrical zip ties to secure the foam padding.
5. Once you removed the pedals your bike is still easy to lean against a wall, furniture or a balcony to work on. Before you remove your wheels remove the front plate of your handlebar stem and detach your handlebar assembly. All your brake adjustments and gear adjustments are held in place precisely by the cables- they will not be affected. If your bike builder knew what he was doing he likely left you enough cable to be able to remove your bars and turn them to the side of the frame for flight casing. Place more foam padding between the bars and your frame and fix your bars to your frame over the foam padding using zip ties hooked together to make them longer. Snug this up so your handlebars are secure and don’t move against your frame. Components getting loose inside the case are the major source of flight case damage. Be sure to re-install the front plate of your handlebar stem onto the stem.
6. Now remove your seat from the frame by loosening your binder bolt. Pad your seatpost and saddle for packing inside the flight case.

7. Remove your rear derailleur from the derailleur hanger and let it hang with cable attached- this will not alter your derailleur adjustment. This is the most vulnerable area to damage from impact or someone stepping on the side of your flight case. If you shift your bike into the smallest cog before you begin disassembly (step 1) you can simply detach the derailleur by unthreading the fixing bolt and let the derailleur dangle. This prevents the derailleur from becoming a lever under a baggage handler’s boot to bend your frame derailleur hanger.

8. Now remove your front wheel and skewer. You can carefully rest your bike on the fork dropouts- but be gentle in setting it down. Some bikes have delicate fork drop-outs. Never drop the bike onto the empty wheel dropouts. Set your front wheel aside.

9. With your rear derailleur removed (step 7) it will be easy to remove your rear wheel. Open the quick release skewer and unthread it. Remove the wheel from the rear dropout. To avoid touching a messy chain use packing material to lift the chain off the cogs to free the rear wheel. The first time you do this it will take a little wiggling, but you’ll get the hang of it after a couple tries. It is simpler than it looks.

10. With your saddle, handlebars, derailleur and wheels removed open your flight case and place your frame inside with one layer of foam beneath it, two outside the case for the wheels. Be sure the bike is centered in the flight case. Some flight cases use a series of straps to hold the bike in the center of the case.
11. Install the fork protector and rear dropout protector you got for free from your bike shop. Add extra frame padding and secure with zip ties. Inspect the frame to be certain exposed areas are well padded and protected from scratches.
12. Remove your wheel quick release skewers to make your wheels narrower so they can fit in the case. Simply unthread the cap opposite the lever. Be sure you don’t loose your little “tornado” springs. Remember: The bottom of the little tornado points to the center of the wheel.
13. Place a remaining layer of foam over the frame and set the wheels, overlapping each other, on the foam. Be certain the cogset (gears) are facing away from your bike. If your tires are at full pressure, let about 1/3rd of the air out.
14. Be certain to place your small items such as helmet and pedals (although it is better to put your pedals in your other checked baggage) inside the case and then double check the case’s contents. Be sure you remembered to put your saddle, both wheels and quick release skewers inside the case. Wrap your skewers in foam padding or bubble wrap so they can’t damage your frame. Pull all the closures for your flight case into position and begin to secure the case. Never lock your case as it must be available for security inspections. Never leave an unlocked case out of sight for even a moment in an airport. Contraband could be placed inside of it by smugglers or saboteurs.
15. Close your case and affix a baggage tag with your name, address and cell phone number.
Reassembly at your destination.

Reassembly steps at your destination:

1. Open your flight case and check the contents. Inspect your frame tubes, wheels and rear derailleur hanger. Get your tools out and give yourself room to work and a place to lean your bike as you reassemble it.
2. Use your side cutters to remove the zip ties and foam padding from the rear triangle. Leave the padding on the main frame during assembly to protect the bike in case it is knocked over or your drop a tool on it. Save the padding and as many zip ties as you can. If you clip the zip ties close to their closure on the entry side you can reuse them.
3. Remove the bike from the case and set it upright being certain it will not be blown or knocked over. You may find it easier to lean it against something.
4. Carefully reinstall your rear derailleur. Be sure to rotate and lift the rear derailleur upward to the proper mounting position after the threads have engaged. Take care to thread the derailleur fixing bolt into the delicate rear derailleur hanger. Beware of cross threading. The bolt is steel and the derailleur hanger is aluminum.
5. Re-install the quick release skewers. Remember that the tornado springs’ small end face toward the center of the wheel.

6. Place the chain on the smallest cog. Guide the rear wheel into the rear dropout and slide it into position. If the derailleur or chain becomes jammed gently remove the wheel and begin again. Observe what you are doing and work slowly and carefully.
7. Install your front wheel and tighten your quick release skewers.

8. Rotate your handlebars back into position on your handlebar stem. Attach your fixing bolts and torque to manufacturer’s specifications. It is good idea to include a small torque wrench such as the one sold by Syntace in your race tool kit.
9. After your wheels and your handlebars are in place it is safe to remove the rest of your frame padding. Be sure to store this in your flight case for your return trip.
10. Slide your seatpost to the index mark that indicates your proper saddle height and tighten the seatpost binder bolt to the required torque.
11. Use your allen wrench to install your pedals and tighten. Remember: Your left pedal is reverse thread.
12. Double check all your bolts and be sure your brakes and wheels are centered. After checking your bolts and quick release skewers put your helmet on and take your bike for a short test ride in a parking lot. It is also a good idea to take the bike to the event technical support area where mechanics can inspect your work and double check your bike. Some races require an inspection sticker. Be sure to store your flight case out of the way in your room and don’t let greasy or dirty bicycle components come in contact with hotel carpets or linens.



© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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