Monday, January 18, 2016

I am an east coast American with plans to attend a wedding in Germany (Summer 2015). I am here to tell you that there is absolutely no way that I would visit Europe and not bring my wheels.

Sure I could rent a bike like I did when I visited Boca Raton but there's nothing like riding your own bike.  The Boca rental was a nice, carbon, Italian job but it wasn’t my ride.  I rode it for a day then we parted ways.  I decided then that I would always take my personal bike with me when I plan to ride.

Now if I’m going to take my bike with me then I’m going to need a case.  My natural instinct was to visit the local bike stores but the hard cases that are sold at the local chains have low prices and poor reviews.  There are some reasonably priced soft cases out there, but there is no way in hell that I’m going ship my bike in a soft case.  I don’t care what anyone says, there is no way that a soft case can protect as well as a hard case. That’s just common sense to me.

Sure you may save a few bucks if the airlines decide to charge your soft case as an additional piece of luggage but you still have to worry about a possible broken frame when you arrive at your destination.  I don’t travel that much so I can deal with the occasional baggage fee.  FYI I just want to let everyone know that British Airways does not charge an extra fee for bike cases (2015).  Your bike will be treated as one piece of luggage.  One of the other international airlines will charge you $300 each way.  Needless to say, I flew British Airways when I went to Germany.

Which hard bike case do I choose?

Back story time:

When I wanted a new bike I didn’t just go to the bike store, slap down a credit card and walk out with a pretty bike.  I wanted to build my new bike, starting with a nice frame.  I researched frames for weeks until I stumbled upon a Look 695 frame which was posted online in France.  I bought the frame and personally bought each and every component for the bike and then I went to the local bike store.  I went to the store with the frame, wheels and many boxes of parts and told them to get busy.  They called me to pick up when my masterpiece was complete.

Back to the present:

Now that I have the bike of my dreams, I need to protect it as well as possible when I fly.  My choices were narrow because I had already decided that I was going to use a hard case.  My choices came down to two similar cases. The choices were an “expensive case” or a case that’s twice as expensive as the ‘expensive case”.  Naturally I chose the lower priced BikeBoxAlan (BBA).

It’s a cool looking case that I saw being used by Chris Froome.  If it’s good enough for Froomey, then it’s good enough for me.  I have searched and I can’t find any negative posts about the case.

The next section is a timeline of my process of buying the case and actual use. 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Initially I asked BBA if their boxes were sold in the US.  They responded in two days and said that the box can only be ordered direct, online or by phone.  They also said that it could be delivered to me in the US in as little as 7 days.

That sounded great but their website’s homepage says that the case costs $741 shipped to the US but the when ordering the price in the cart was $356.67 British + $80 shipping which is $659.26 US total.

I was a little confused about the price so I emailed them again.  This time it took 5 days to get an email response. Instead of giving me an exact price, I was instructed to visit the website for prices.

After that poor customer service I still placed an order for $659.26 on 1/31/2015.  I only ordered from them because my choices were BBA, a box that costs twice as much, or no box.

After placing the order I received an email confirmation with an attached invoice.  Neither the invoice nor the email body mentioned a delivery estimate.  After four days with no information I was forced to email them again for a delivery estimate.

I received an immediate response stating that my box would be shipped on 2/26/2015.  Initially I was told that it would take 7 days.  Now after the order is placed I am told that I won’t ship for another 28 days.  I didn’t appreciate having my money floated for a month but again you know my choices.  Besides I’m not planning to fly any time soon so I’ll wait.

The box finally arrived and I picked it up at FedEx.

To my surprise I received a bill from FedEx $19.30.  I thought that I had already paid all shipping related fees.  I contacted BBA and they said that it was for import duties and taxes.  A heads up would have been nice.

I arrived in Frankfurt after a stop in London.  My case and bike arrived safely.  The U.S. TSA took a peek inside and left a note stating that they did.  The note wasn’t needed because the scratches on my black spokes told the story of their struggle with the BBA center pole.   

The baggage handlers at the Frankfurt airport had my case waiting on the belt when I arrived at baggage claims.  All eyes in the airport were on the guy with the big red case.  It was cool and embarrassing at the same time.

Even though my cousin underestimated the size of my bike box; he managed to masterfully wiggle it into his Volkswagen station wagon.

I had an awesome ride during my stay in Schnelldorf.  After a short stay I disassembled and packed up my bike.  The case arrived home safely.  The baggage handlers at BWI aren’t as fast as the Frankfurt guys.  I had to wait more than 30 minutes for my case and luggage.

The Bike Box Alan case isn’t perfect but it gets my full endorsement for appearance and bike safety.