2002 Erickson Custom Travel Tandem

Packing Overview


Details on how this tandem is packed into two check-able suitcases are outlined below. Images on this page are hyperlinked to larger pictures.

NOTE: My original method of packing was made obsolete when US Air Carriers reduced the maximum, individual checked bag weight limit from 75lbs to 50lbs. I have update the annotations next to the photos to indicate which components are now packed in the softcase to reduce the packed hard case's weight to 48lbs.

Click on Pictures to See Larger Images
Parker Plastics Model
Available from:
Atlas Case Co. & Caseman
This is a lightweight, durable case molded from high-density polyethylene equipped with integral, ball-bearing-mounted rubber wheels and a sturdy telescoping handle.
 Internal measurements are 25 3/4 x 25 3/4 x 10.
External measurements are 26 x 26 x 10 1/4**

**The molded-in skids provide good protection and reinforce the sides of the case, but they also add 1.25" of width to the case. However, according to published guidelines, the skids aren't included in the exterior measurements.

Retail is $398 ($376 w/o foam)

This case's shell and hardware is very similar to the hard cases sold by S&S Machine, I suspect Parker is the manufacturer of both. Parker only sells though two or three distributors and to re-sellers like S&S Machine. The main differences between the S&S cases and this case are the addition of molded-in reinforcing ribs, butterfly latches, the telescoping handle and method of portage. Also, the S&S case interiors are absolutely smooth whereas, in addition to the indentations from the molded-in reinforcing ribs, there is a large plastic panel and 14 pop-rivets that protrude into this case associated with the retractable pull handle. Also, the wheel placement at the corners of the S&S cases place the wheel housing hardware well out of the way of the useful storage space whereas, the four wheel housings line the bottom of this case where bicycle parts are likely to come to rest. None of these interference problems are a major source of concern as there are many ways to 'soften' their presence. You may be able to see that I have already coated each of the pop-rivets with dollops of hot-melt glue to eliminate any sharp edges that could come in contact with bicycle parts in the case. Moreover, I place a terry cloth bath towel in the case before packing the tandem which further protects it from a variety of hazards.

As for how it works, quite well actually. The butterfly latches are great as they are more robust than the lockable latches on the S&S cases can be secured for transport with zip-ties instead of keys. The case is very durable and holds up well to the rigors of travel. The ability to piggy-back the softcase on the hard case and wheel it around the airport and hotels like regular baggage is a real treat that has drawn lots of attention from folks using the standard S&S hard cases.


Steve Smilanik dropped us a note to advise that S&S is now offering an optional pull-flat, four-wheel case that is essentially a cross between the Parker case depicted above (bottom half of the case with skids, wheels, & pull handle) and their standard flat-top case. The approx. retail price is also $376 and weighs in at 18.3lbs. More information is available on their Website, about 1/2 way down the page at this link.



S&S Machine Backpack Case

Made from 1000 denier black Cordura and reinforced by four plastic perimeter panels that snap together to protect the 10" edge of the case.

Features four 13" x 26" exterior storage pockets and backpack straps that can be unhooked and tucked into the pockets when not in use.

The case with a bicycle inside measures 26" x 26" x 10" which meets the typical airline standard maximum size limit of 62" combined (length + width + thickness). When the bicycle is removed the case can be made as small as 26" tall x 10" wide x 3" thick. Weight 8 lb. Approximate retail price is $235.00.

Why On Earth Did I Sell Both My S&S Hardshell Cases?

An excellent question. My rationale / objective was to eliminate having two hardcases to haul around at our travel destinations. By using the combination of hardside and softside case, I'm able to store the softside in the hardside after the bike's unpacked. I opted to try the Parker case instead of keeping one of the S&S cases to take advantage of what seems to be a better pull-behind configuration. As a lateral pull-behind, I am able to piggy-back the softcase on top of the hardcase with one hand and carry a 3rd bag over my other shoulder. The S&S cases would have required Debbie to push one around + carry another bag and that didn't seem ideal for us.

As for acquisition cost, buying both cases new would be much more expensive than buying any combination of the original S&S cases. However, I lucked out and found a slightly used, very reasonably priced softside case here in the Atlanta area. Therefore, in combination with the new hardside case, my acquistion cost was nearly the same as what I was able to sell my almost new S&S hardshell cases for.

Bottom Line: I'm very happy with the new cases. The performed flawlessly and have proven to be very easy to move around. Absolutely no regrets.

Some Thoughts On Packing A Travel Tandem 

Unless you purchased one of Santana's travel tandems with the over-sized case and foam inserts, you'll have to come up with your own technique for packing your travel tandem. Based on our first experiences traveling with our tandem I would recommend that you practice packing and unpacking your tandem at least one or two times when you're not in a hurry or pressed for time so that you can be sure you've got it figured out. There are a lot of variations between different brands, models and sizes of travel tandems so what works for one tandem may not always work for another.

You'll also want to close the cases and then put them through your own little torture test: stand them up on their ends, turn them over a few times and bounce them on the ground a little bit to simulate what will happen to your tandem inside the cases when you and the baggage handlers lug them in and out of cars, onto conveyor belts, luggage carts and airplanes. When you open it back up you'll hopefully find it didn't shift around too much. If it does, that's what your cycling clothes or packing materials will help to prevent. Keep in mind, your tandem is more likely to sustain damage from things moving around in the case during handling than from being bent by a crushing blow that deforms the shell of an S&S hard case. Speaking of crushing blows, that's another reason to make sure you are very careful about how you place frame tubes crossing over other frame tubes or your fork steerer as most of the dents I've seen in travel tandems occurred when a case was compressed and a tube was pressed against another tube leaving a dent in the least thick of the two tubes.

You'll also want to figure out how to pack your tandem with any accessories that you'll want to take along (e.g., rear rack, mud-guards). I perfected my system under the premise that I'd be using a seat-post mounted rear rack. However, when I realized I needed to take along a full-size rear rack that could handle panniers I found that I had to completely re-think how to pack the tandem to make room.

Once you have figured it out consider packing the tandem one more time and photo-documenting your "system" as you unpack it, one layer at a time. Keep the photos in your case so you can refer to them whenever you pack or unpack your tandem. The photos that are on our Web site (http://home.att.net/~mark.livingood/Ericksonpack.html) were created for that purpose and a color copy of the packing sequence and notes are in a clear protector sheet taped to the lid of our hard case. It's nice not having to think about how everything fit together since just a minor mistake can throw everything off and leave you scratching your head as to how you got it all in the case the last time.

Other fine points:

1. Consider putting old hubs or sections of 1/4" Schedule 40 PVC in your front & rear drop-outs (held in place by your skewers) to protect your fork and rear triangle. You can also check with your local bike shop to see if they have any plastic drop-out spacers left over after assembling new bikes. By all means, make sure you put something in between the drop-outs.

2. Make sure all the components, tools, etc... are padded and/or wrapped in something that will keep them from moving around and/or rubbing up against and marring other components in the case.

3. Consider taking along a lightweight white drop cloth (plastic-backed paper ones are cheap and pack flat) and some rags. The drop cloth could come in handy if you have to assemble or disassemble your tandem on a carpeted floor, both for protecting the floor and to make it easier to see what you're doing if the carpet is dark. The rags will come in handy when you re-pack your tandem. There is nothing worse than trying to pack a dirty tandem or a wet one if it rains.

4. How far can you go to ensure everything stays put? I lay two packing straps criss-crossed on the bottom of my hard case and then put two terry cloth bath towels on top of them forming a case liner, if you will. All the components go into the case on top of the terry cloth bath towels. Once everything is in the case the towels get folded over the the tandem & compression members and then I cinch up the packing straps to hold the whole thing together. The entire tandem -- less the front and back wheels -- ends up being one neat little package that you can lift out of the case in which nothing moves around. The wheels go in a soft case with the [trunk] pack, tool box, panniers, and cycling clothes, etc.

This may seem a little over the top, but it gives me piece of mind.

Copyright © 1998 - 2003 by Mark Phillip Livingood. All rights reserved.

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