Having a Breakdown (of the S&S Coupler Kind)

Co-Motion Tandem

Felkerino and I made one airplane trip on a non-coupled tandem bike, and found it to be a big pain in the patootie. Because of that, we made sure our Co-Motion tandem had S&S Coupling (couplers) to facilitate the transport of our bike through airports.

The couplers (visible in the photo above) allow our bike frame to come apart into three pieces.

While we traveled oversees with our previous Co-Motion Speedster, this is our (okay, Felkerino’s) first time packing the Java so it took some time to break that baby down yesterday and see how it would fit in the cases.

A look at all three cases, post-pre-packing
A look at all three cases, post pre-packing

Technically, our tandem could (I guess?) fit into two S&S coupler cases. However, we have a burly bike and do not like all that metal crammed into two cases. In addition to the two S&S cases, we use a large Samsonite suitcase which we purchased for one of our Bike Friday’s.

What we like about these cases is that they are the largest suitcases that are considered regular sizing for the airlines (at least for the moment). As long as we do not exceed the 50-pound weight limit per bag and can each check two items as part of our flight, we do not incur any additional fees for the bike.

In the Samsonite, we place the head tube and fork.

Co-Motion Packed

In the first coupler case, we place the middle section of the bike and then the front wheel.

Co-Motion Packed

The second S&S coupler case holds the rear part of the bike as well as the rear wheel.

Things were going fairly smoothly until the rear piece. Because our Java was built with slightly longer chain stays than our Speedster, it does not fit as tidily into the case as we would like.

Note the one end protruding above the case.
Note the one end protruding above the case.

The rear piece fit okay, but the rear wheel that goes on top of it had to be positioned “just so” in order for the case to close without any concern about bending or grinding. We made it work, though.

Co-Motion Packed-a closer look
This is exactly how this piece must be packed for the wheel to fit over it

After inserting the bare essentials into the cases, we fill out the space with fenders, water bottles, tools, our Carradice Camper, the Acorn front bag we will use, and other necessary items.

Co-Motion Packed
Samsonite case
Co-Motion Packed
S&S Coupler Case, middle section plus front wheel
Co-Motion Packed
S&S coupler case, rear section, rear wheel

We are not using any panniers for this trip. Rather, we will use an Acorn Mini Rando front bag (packed in the Samsonite and slightly larger than the Sackville you see in the first photo), and a Carradice Camper (see below).

Carradice Camper

It took over two hours of nonstop work for the bike to come apart and fit into the three cases, but now that we know how each piece must be placed we hope that the next time we pack it will take a little less time.

I thought you would like seeing our tandem breakdown of the S&S coupler kind, and please fire away with any questions.


  1. Nicely done. We manage to get our Speedster into 2 S&S cases. The bike breaks down easy, but what we find time consuming is getting all the bottle cages/fenders/rack back on the bike. Have a great tour!!


      1. 6’1″ and 5’7″. Our old BF tandem Q has a nice folding rack. The Speedster has a Racktime (Tubus) rack that has to be disassembled to fit. I also pull the disk rotors. We use a portable stand also which also doubles as the stoker.


      2. Thanks for getting back. It’s interesting to learn how others pack their bikes. I think we could fit our tandem into two cases, but it would require us to do more disassembly and intricate jostling.


  2. Wow, that’s impressive. What is it like to re-assemble at the destination? Sounds like it’s almost rebuilding the bike all over again? Do you use a stand?


    1. We do use a stand– a portable Nashbar stand. It does not seem as hard to assemble (I say that as an observer) because you don’t have to do the fabric protection of the parts or the puzzle of fitting all the parts into the cases. However, it still takes a while to rebuild. I’ll try to remember to take some pics of the reassembly.


  3. The suspense! The post’s title had me worried something broke during the breakdown. Phew. I want an S&S coupled triple-into-tandem someday (in my dreams) for with the kids! I’ve seen a picture of a Rodriguez that does that.


  4. Sigh… I am happy people like you are able to do these long distnace trips, but seeing the pics and hearing the description of the process makes me want to just buy a brompton.


    1. Ha! We also have Bike Friday singles that are much easier to pack. We prefer touring together on tandem though it does mean packing up an 8-foot long bicycle.


  5. Cool! We’re going to pull the trigger on a coupled Speedster this fall to replace our old Burley. We’ve never flown with the Burley, but I can imagine the amount of heartburn trying to wrestle an 8 foot bike through an airport would cause.

    Have a good trip.


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