The Ritchey Break-Away is the perfect traveling companion – other than your significant other and friends of course. It comes with its own suitcase that is amazingly compact and many people are surprised that a full-sized bike fits inside. In the photo above, we can see that Nadiah is clearly doing a happy dance and Maya is giggling in glee at how easy it was to bring our bikes to the train station.
Packing the Ritchey Break-Away
There are many ways that the Ritchey Break-Away bike can be packed into its suitcase. Ritchey provide their own video tutorial on how to do this, but I’ve discovered through personal experience that packing everything S&S style resulted in a more compact package if you are using standard wheels (Ritchey has a nifty set of wheels where the cassette assembly can be easily removed for travel).
In this guide, I’ll walk through the process of packing the Ritchey Break-Away bike using the S&S style of packing where the wheels and frame parts alternate.
For reference, the Ritchey Break-Away suitcase measures at 8.5 inches deep, 26.5 inches tall, and 31 inches wide (21.6cm x 67.3cm x 78.7cm).
The bike will first need to be disassembled before the actual packing procedure. After doing this process several times, I have finalized my process to the following disassembly steps.
Remove pedals. After removing the pedals, place them in a bag so that it’s organized and easy to find and pack.
Chain positioning. Ensure that the front derailleur is positioned at the smallest chainring, and the rear derailleur is positioned at the smallest cog. This helps to completely ease the chain tension.
Unfasten cable splitters. Unfasten all three cable splitters: the rear brake cable splitter along the top tube, and the front and rear derailleur cable splitters along the down tube. If you have a wireless drivetrain setup such as the SRAM eTap, then you only have a single cable splitter to worry about.
Disassemble front brake. Remove the front brake from the fork, or unfasten the front brake cable, depending on your brake type.
If you are using a Road Break-Away frame, it is recommended to detach the front brake from the fork. Wrap the front brake calipers with bubble wrap or something protective.
If you are using a Cross Break-Away frame, it is recommended to disconnect the front brake cable from the front brake caliper. You can use the velcro straps that come with the Ritchey suitcase to secure your cantilever or mini v-brakes from moving. Read our review of the Rtichey Cross Break-Away.
Remove the handlebar from the stem. Unscrew the stem faceplate and carefully remove the handlebar from the stem. Once the handlebar is removed, fasten the faceplate of the stem back so it doesn’t get lost. It is also recommended to wrap the stem with bubble wrap or some other protective sleeve.
Remove the front and rear wheels, and remove the quick skewers from the wheels.
Remove seatpost. Loosen the two seatpost bolts, and carefully remove the seatpost from the frame.
Unfasten the downtube coupler, which will then completely split the rear and front frame triangles – this is the essence of Ritchey Break-Away design philosophy!
Now that the bike has been fully disassembled, wrap all the frame sections with the protective velcro sleeves that came with the Ritchey suitcase, or use your protective wrapping material of choice.
Packing the Ritchey Break-Away Step by Step
Start with the open Ritchey Break-Away suitcase with the reinforced bottom facing away. Note the position of the wheels which is the strongest part of the suitcase. Place the front triangle first, with the head tube parallel to the top of the bag. For the down tube, I triple wrapped it with bubble wrap, some foam insulation and finally the velcro sleeve for extra protection.
Turn the fork backwards to save space, and note how the stem has been protected so it doesn’t scratch anything. The mini floor pump also goes in at this stage. Make sure all of the internal straps are out!
Place the seatpost with attached saddle next to top tube of the frame. My seatpost has been protected with a foam insulation sleeve that I got from a hardware store.
The rear wheel goes in next, with the cassette facing downwards and making contact with the metal plate of the suitcase. You will need to deflate the tires as necessary to make the wheel fit snugly against the walls of the bag. Place the protective pad that comes with the Ritchey suitcase on top of the wheel’s axle. Adjust the tilt of the wheel to make room along the reinforced side of the bag. You’ll need this room for the rear triangle.
Insert the rear triangle next, with the derailleur side tucked in the corner of the strongest and most reinforced part of the suitcase. The position of the crankset will be in the 3/9 o’clock position, with the non-drive side crank arm facing outwards and parallel to the bottom of the suitcase. The chainring side faces inwards, wrapped in Ritchey’s chainring sleeve, and the chain has also been carefully wrapped so that it is snug against the chainstay. I’ve added more bubble wrap layers for additional protection.
Now it’s time to Insert the handlebars, which can either go on the left or right side of the suitcase. You will need to pull the shifters to make sure it carefully fits into the bag. The bottom of the dropbars will fit snugly under the rear wheel. Add protective bubble wrap where necessary.
This is the step where all the other stuff goes in. My shoes and toolbag are placed between the dropouts of the rear triangle, which is the strongest part of the suitcase. My helmet fits in the space by the wheel along the top of the suitcase, and everything else goes into whatever empty space I can find. Pedals will go in one of the pockets built into the suitcase. Water bottles go into the in-between spaces.
Place the padded divider next, and then the front wheel on top. Deflate the front wheel tires just enough so that it also fits snugly against the walls of the suitcase.
Tightly strap everything in! I usually lay a dry bag flat against the hub of the front wheel to protect it a bit more, and i can use the dry bag for other stuff later.
Now that everything is in, you are pretty much done and just need to zip it all up and connect all of the external straps. The suitcase will naturally bulge outwards a bit, so this is nothing to be alarmed about.
And that’s all there is to it!
Ready for The Journey Ahead
The weight of a suitcase with bike inside vary between 16kg to 22kg (35lbs to 50lbs), depending on what other stuff the suitcase gets filled up with. Other than our bikes and base tools, the rest of the weight is usually taken up by clothes. Overall, this meets the international airline weight limit and we have never had any issues. Obviously, it is preferable to keep the suitcase as light as possible so that it is easier to maneuver around transit points with it. Our primary strategy is to always pack light!
For transit areas where you need a taxi cab, we managed to save a lot oN cab fare since we are able to fit up to three Ritchey Break-Away suitcases into the back of an estate taxi cab!
When checking in these bags, we always declare them as bicycles since airlines require you to do so for insurance purposes. While a lot of people try to avoid this to escape extra fees, we have found that most airlines we have taken will not charge extra provided they are within our check-in weight allocation. The only times we have had to pay sports equipment fees were when we flew with budget carriers.
Drop off is always at the counter where you check in regardless of whether you do check in beforehand online, and often wheeled to the oversized luggage area afterwards. This will largely depend on the airport’s policy. However, do remember that considering the Ritchey cases masquerade as normal bags, sometimes they will re-appear at your destination at the normal luggage carousel. It’s best to check which so as to avoid any confusion or delays.
Admittedly the Ritchey cases aren’t the easiest to move around since they only have two wheels and you will be supporting some of the weight. This obviously means it is in our best interest to pack light for more than one reason. The next step is to figure out a DIY option of increasing their portability. If this is possible, we will document this too!
Overall, the Ritchey BA system has been a godsend for wanderlusting travellers around the world, not just the Folding Tales gang. We’re not the first ones to use these, as they’ve been in the market for years. We’re still amazed by how little people know about the genius of breakaway frames like these. If you’re similarly travel inclined, give these clever babies a chance. I promise, you won’t regret it!
Firm believer of the N+1 bike axiom. Always in search of the next awesome route.