Looking back, it’s hard to imagine life without my Ritchey Break-Away. As a manager in a high-tech firm, I’ve dragged it literally around the world and to 3 continents in the 3+ years I’ve owned it. It’s made my hectic business travel schedule tolerable —heck, even enjoyable – and I’ve ridden in places I never even knew existed. I’ll never forget some of the experiences I’ve had on my Ritchey: exploring narrow mountain roads on Japan’s Kyushu Island, riding a century through the former East Germany, watching the sun set from atop Mount Hamilton, CA, blasting through traffic in Tokyo and Los Angeles, even placing 3rd in an early-season road race in Oregon. It’s logged well over 125,000 airline miles and who knows how many road miles, and after 3 years and lots of abuse I’m still using the original case (though I am going to get the frame repainted this winter- the baggage handlers have not been kind!). I’ve gotten plenty of curious stares from the clerks at the baggage counter, but never once have I had to pay extra to check the luggage.

I must admit that I was skeptical when I first ordered the Break-Away. I didn’t really believe that a “travel bike” could be as much fun as the higher end race bikes I was used to riding. I was wrong. It’s a joy to ride and climbs as well as it descends. It’s plenty stiff- I’ve raced and sprinted on it. But it’s also comfortable enough to ride all day.

Building the bike up is really easy. Packing and unpacking it took a little getting used to, but after a trip or two I had the whole process dialed in and found that the effort to pack, unpack, and drag the suitcase around was more than offset by the riding opportunities I gained. Here are some hints I’ve learned along the way:

  1. When packing the bike, I never leave the Shimano shifter levers in their detensioned state (I just shift “up” a couple clicks after decoupling the shifter cables). I found this makes the cables less susceptible to getting damaged inside the shifters when in transit.
  2. I always wrap the frame tubes in protective foam. Get some of the stuff plumbers use to insulate pipes and cut it to fit. The bike stays looking new a bit longer this way.
  3. I place a large sheet of cardboard (with two holes in it for the hubs) between the wheels. This keeps the wheels/spokes from scraping each other.
  4. I purchased a large duffle on wheels as a companion to the Ritchey suitcase. I put the handlebars, cycling clothes, helmets, and business clothes in the duffle, and the rest of the bike in the suitcase. I have found the wheels stay true when the suitcase is less heavily loaded.
  5. I covered the corners and bottom of the travel case with “Shoe Goo”- it is tough as nails yet flexible. I also frequently inspect the case for places that show wear due to rubbing from the baggage handling equipment and apply “Shoe Goo” liberally to those places. “Aqua Seal” also works well. This will dramatically increase the lifetime of your travel case.
  6. I always carry two extra shifter and brake cables and a spare coupling in the travel case. I’ve never needed the coupling but the cables have some in handy.
  7. Always carry a (hand) tire pump. Some airports make you deflate your tires, others may confiscate your compressed air cartridges.
  8. Always lube your chain before you leave your house: my “White Lightning” chain lube has been confiscated a couple times.
  9. I installed larger washers under the handle of my travel case in order to prevent the handles from pulling off. (I had a very early version of the case and I bet you already fixed this.)