"f.a.a. regulations stipulate that passengers may travel with two items of luggage. one bag that fits the dimensions stated at the check-in desk and one personal item such as a purse or laptop bag."
filled with a fear that sod's law has particular application to aircraft baggage, i opted to travel light on my recent expedition to portland and subsequently the north american handmade bicycle show in sacramento, california. thus, my carry-on luggage consisted of a rapha backpack containing my macbook air, a couple of ipods and various cables to ensure a continuance of power across the atlantic, and a rapha race bag. this latter item of luggage is sorely misrepresented by its common apellation; despite my lack of any proclivity for racing bicycles of any kind, it swallowed a serious amount of apparel that was only loosely connected to velocipedinal sporting activity.
at the risk of boring you all to death, here's the deal: one pair of outlier trousers; one pair of fixed shorts; merino long-sleeve jersey; rapha cross jersey; bib three-quarter shorts; long-sleeve polo shirt; one pair pyjamas; one wabi woolens long-sleeve sport jersey; one paul smith city riding jacket; one giro aeon helmet; one winter cap; two pairs of cycling gloves; three pairs of boxer shorts; three pairs of socks; one pair of crank brothers eggbeater pedals; one pair dromarti sportivo leather cycle shoes and two long sleeve baselayers. add to this the existence of four t-shirts and an ardbeg cycle jersey as visiting presents and i think you'll agree this is a not inconsiderable quantity of items to stow in the overhead rack.
if that were not enough, a large, outboard zipped pocket played host to a mini-pump, a crank bros multi-tool medicinal products to stave off the thought of a headache, copies of all travel documents and a toothbrush and toothpaste.
and an inner tube.
in order to ensure that all the foregoing remains safe and sound throughout the vicissitudes of international air travel, the bag is constructed from some serious cordura fabric with two carry handles conjoined by a poppered leather grip and augmented by a padded shoulder strap anchored via a couple of industrial strength clipped hooks. each clip holds onto a neat little outer pocket. a double tagged zip closes everything safely inside. should there be any confusion as to who is responsible for providing said race holdall, the outer pocket features the trademark, rapha embossed white leather strip. this contributes nothing to the item's integrity, but it's a distinctive touch on an otherwise all-black bag.
however, sod's law is not one to lie down and roll over in the face of an unannounced body-swerve, something that came to light at klm (royal dutch airlines) check-in for the early morning flight to amsterdam. though i can remember reading nothing at all regarding a weight limit on klm's website, it appears that one exists, one that was enforced by the attendant at glasgow; twelve kilos maximum (my two bags reached fourteen) so the race bag had to be checked in and throw itself on the mercies of a series of baggage handlers, something that had not been borne in mind at the time of packing.
my journey to portland consisted of three distinct flights: glasgow to amsterdam, delta airlines to seattle and alaska air to portland. the question was now whether passeneger and bag would be reunited at pdx, and in what condition the race bag would be in when collected from the carousel? i found this out one flight early on having to collect my bag at seattle, just after clearing immigration, upon which it was eagerly grabbed by a nearby baggage handler and popped on a conveyor. both of us arrived safely at portland international airport, both in better condition than expected.
the weather in portland had much in common with those rainy days in scotland minus the gale force winds, but a few degrees colder. not entirely unnaturally, i was careful to keep my possessions guarded from the elements, so i cannot vouch for the bag's weatherproofing. however, i did manage to spill most of the contents of a bottle of water at one point, the result remaining external and water-resistant.
the internal pockets for a pair of riding shoes are a neat touch, particularly in the light of two substantial, velcro'd straps to keep them safely in place during transit. though a bona-fide roadie wouldn't dare suffer even so much as a speck of dust on their shoes, this feature has the added bonus of keeping any extraneous matter away from clean race-kit. i would not, however, place any pedals into their designed receptacle without enclosing them in a suitable plastic bag or suchlike. pedals need grease; cycle jerseys don't.
federal aviation authority regulations are interpreted less feverishly across the atlantic. the two items per passenger never varies, but there seems to be no notion of ever checking the weights of those, nor whether either will fit in the overhead compartment. some fellow travellers struggled to slide even the smaller bag under the seat in front. the rapha race bag is described as fitting all airline restrictions for carry-on luggage, so i checked. most airports have suitably positioned constructs that allow the enterprising traveller to check the validity of their baggage dimensions. i fear i became something of an irritant or spectacle by trying every one i found. it seems no-one else ever bothers, and judging by the variety of carry-on luggage seen during a round trip of around 10,000 miles, i think i may have figured out why: the majority of roller bags would have little or no chance of getting anywhere near the dimensions stipulated.
bag and owner are now back in cold, rainy islay. the return trip saw no weight restrictions being enforced, least of all from klm at schipol. despite its colourful travel arrangements on both passes across the atlantic, the race bag still looks brand new, ready and waiting for its next set of baggage restrictions. quite frankly, it was a ruddy marvel. never did i suspect i could fit so much stuff into so compact and bijou an item of luggage, nor am i used to inhabiting a sense of style while travelling. if you have travel plans of your own that may, or may not, involve riding your bicycle, this might just be the only bag you need. if not, rapha have a whole range of similarly liveried pieces that will seamlessly take up the slack.
just make sure it lives this side of 14kg.
posted tuesday 6 march 2012...........................................................................................................................................................................................................