Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Gear Talk => Topic started by: tonupgilly on September 16, 2010, 05:03:22 pm

 
Title: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: tonupgilly on September 16, 2010, 05:03:22 pm
I'm in a dilemma.   >:(

I've been looking for a touring bike for some time, suitable for riding a trail such as the great divide or riding roads.  My problem is transport.  Living in the UK means transporting to the USA by air.  I thought I had found the ideal when I read about the S & S couplers, as used by Thorn and some other manufacturers.  However, I have been given the impression that even with the couplers, it is difficult to reduce the size of the bike sufficiently to fit inside the case recommended for the job, unless you are a bike mechanic with all the tools to hand.  I understand that Thorn (whose bike I am most interested in) produce a rucksack that will take the dismantled bike, allowing you to carry it with a handle for ease of transporting by air (as baggage).  The rucksack than apparently folds to normal ruck sack size and can either be worn or carried in panniers.  My question is - does anyone have experience of the S & S system, with any bike, but more specifically with the Thorn Nomad.  The couplers are a £400 extra, so I need to work out whether or not I can justify buying them.  Any comments would be appreciated.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: danacf on September 16, 2010, 09:12:19 pm
I purchased a road touring bike with S&S couplers 4 years ago and haven’t regretted it a bit.  It’s not cheap, but it is a great system. I've flown my bike 3 times and have saved approximately $500 in fees and the bike has arrived with absolutely no damage.  I have the hard case and it protects the bicycle superbly.   In my opinion, the convenience of travelling through airports and riding hotel shuttles and taxis with a regular size suitcase is just as important as the money saved in excess baggage fees. Some complain about the breakdown and setup time. I usually do spend a few hours breaking it down; cleaning, lubing and inspecting everything. Assembly takes about a 30-40 minutes and I only need 4 tools, the coupler wrench and 4, 5 and 6 mm allen wrenches.  In order to get it in the case you do need to break it down quite a bit.  I take off the seat, crank, right pedal, front v-brakes, handlebars, front derailleur, rear derailleur, water bottles and rear rack.  It sounds like a lot, but it’s about 20 allen nuts, and with the cable splitters you are not undoing any of the cables and are therefore not affecting any of the brake or STI shifting adjustments.  It’s just a matter of unscrewing the bolts and then re-attaching them.  I also take off the front tire.  The lid shuts much better with it off.  TSA has opened the case 3 times but has not rearranged anything.  I put the parts in zip loc bags so everything is visible and keeps them from shifting. 
Getting couplers basically boils down to several considerations: 
How expensive is your bike and how much are you willing to spend to protect it?
How particular are you about packing it and whether you want to spend the time breaking it down and reassembling it.  I’ve literally seen people take off the wheels and a few parts, stuff them into a large case and then sit on the case while attaching the straps.  I could never do that.
How many times are you going to travel with it?
Whether you’re better off buying a bigger box and paying the fees.   I usually do supported tours and some of the riders just send their bike via Fed Ex to the first hotel, but that’s about $100 each way for domestic shipping.  I believe having a smaller case would cut that fee considerably.
If you’re particular about your bike, have some mechanical skills, patience and some extra money to spend on a great system, S&S is the way to go.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: Pat Lamb on September 16, 2010, 10:30:48 pm
I've got a different bike with S&S couplers, and while I've enjoyed it immensely, I'm not sure I'd buy it again.  Mine's more a play bike than one intended for long tours, and it's a bit difficult to pack a large (~60 cm) bike -- mostly because I insisted on getting the bars up where I can reach them, which means packing the fork and bars in the case gets difficult, and partly because of the breakdown that's necessary.  I have to take off the cranks, seatpost (with saddle attached), front caliper, fork, stem, and bars, deflate both wheels, and the TSA inspectors don't mess up the careful packing if I take the front tire off the rim.  If I had it to do over, I'd go with 26" wheels and small slicks.

I can pack or unpack in about 40-60 minutes each way.  When I was going to a town for 2 weeks, it was easy to justify.  Now that the job has changed, most of my trips are 2-3 days.  It's a bit of a hassle to assemble, then pack, for just one or two rides.

(Take a couple pairs of cheap rubber gloves to wear when unpacking or packing.  They'll save a lot of dirt and grease cleaning.)

Now to your questions, there's not necessarily a lot of mechanical ability needed; the stem adjustment is the only critical thing, if you can figure when to stop tightening the other bolts.  The big S&S wrench and 5 allen wrenches, plus a pump, are the only tools I need.

If you're going to use this bike for multiple tours or trips, it becomes much easier to justify the price.  For one trip, I'd suggest you ship it ahead to a local bike shop at the start of your trip, and have them assemble and tune everything.


Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: tonupgilly on September 17, 2010, 06:15:11 am
Thanks for your information.

It is heartening to hear that the bike can actually be fitted into the recommended size case.  I was given the impression that it would be a major feat, and whilst (as a 20+ year member of a racing club) I can manage basic bike mechanics, i.e. removing pedals, tyres, seat etc, I didn't want to start doing a major disassembly and rebuild when on my own ( I'm retired and female) in somewhere foreign.

I visited the manufacturer yesterday and saw the couplers, but just need to make a decision now.  I have no-one here to bounce ideas off - so any recommendations, advice etc will be most gratefully received.

Regards,

Gill
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: Pat Lamb on September 17, 2010, 09:32:07 am
I don't really know what your plans are for the Thorn you're considering.  You might want to also consider a Bike Friday for travel touring.  Turning the suitcase that carries the bike into a trailer for touring is, IMHO, a seriously cool idea -- just pack everything else into a duffle for travel, and you're ready to go.

As I inferred in my prior post, my S&S bike packs reasonably easily into its hard case, but if I wanted to start touring on arrival, I don't know what I'd do with the case, or where I'd have packed racks and panniers to get them there.  I suspect I'd either have to pay through the nose for 2-3 airline bags, or ship something ahead; and if you're going to ship something, why not the bike too?

I'd really like someone who tours (unsupported) with an S&S bike to chime in here, as I'm getting curious!
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: pptouring on September 17, 2010, 11:32:07 am
My wife and I have S&S couplers installed on our NorWester Tours. We've done two trips to Europe over the last 18 months and have no complaints with them, just make sure you have the spanner wrench with you. We are also able to fit just about everything for the bikes into our bike suitcases, minus our Tubus rear racks and handlebar bags.

Everything means: front racks, F&R panniers, 3 bottles each, extra tubes & tires, tools, bottle cages, frame pumps, light systems, and misc. bike parts. We do take another bag for our cloths, handlebar bags, and rear racks.   

You can read about our trips from the link below in my signature block.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: tonupgilly on September 17, 2010, 12:18:19 pm
I don't really know what your plans are for the Thorn you're considering. 
I'm completely new to touring (though not new to cycling), but decided a few months ago that I would ultimately like to ride the Great Divide and bought a mountain bike recommended to me (I knew nothing about mountain bikes then).  It turns out I cannot load this bike in any way, or take a trailer.  Since retiring, I have done plenty of trail riding on this bike, loving it, but realise I also want to tour both on road and trails. So I have decided to get myself a decent tourer that will do on or off road.  I will be doing plenty of European tours where transport is not an issue, but I also plan to visit the USA for lots of tours in the future, starting, I hope, next year with an educational tour.  The question for me is Couplers or no couplers? At a £400 price tag plus £299 for the recommended case (although I'm sure I could purchase one for less elsewhere), I have to know that the couplers are suitable and will be worthwhile.  The more opinions and information I can get, the easier my decision will be.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: valygrl on September 17, 2010, 01:11:46 pm
You might want to check with some airlines, the 2 times I traveled internationally the bike flew free. 

In the US, Southwest Airlines and Frontier charge $50 per one-way trip (not per flight if you have to change planes)  - so if you can use one of those it doesn't really add that much to the cost.  Some other airlines are almost 3x that, so shop around.

Also, think about what you are going to do with the bike box during your trip.  With a real bike case you have to ship it to your destination and/or have it stored, with a regular bike you can just get a new cardboard box for free at a bike shop at the end of the trip.  (edit - I just read more closely, I didn't know about the rucksack)

I would think pretty hard about how many trips you are going to do, and do the math, before going the coupled route.

Also - what mountain bike did you get?  There are options out there for racks, even for full suspension bikes, and I thought you could put a BOB trailer on anything.   Are you really sure you can't make it work?
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: staehpj1 on September 17, 2010, 01:32:44 pm
In the US, Southwest Airlines and Frontier charge $50 per one-way trip (not per flight if you have to change planes)  - so if you can use one of those it doesn't really add that much to the cost.
I would add that they don't charge for two checked bags (the bike counts as one though) so the $50 includes the other bag that most other airlines would charge you for making SW (Frontier too?) an even better deal.

Also, think about what you are going to do with the bike box during your trip.  With a real bike case you have to ship it to your destination and/or have it stored, with a regular bike you can just get a new cardboard box for free at a bike shop at the end of the trip.
+1 The fact that I would have to deal with a case on either end would be enough to negate the benefit of couplers.  Since I generally never start and finish my tour in the same city I would have to either ship or carry the case for the whole tour.  For me that would be unacceptable unless the rucksack is very light in which case I would be worried about damage to the bike.

Note that I am not saying that the couplers aren't great for some riders, just that you should consider the points mentioned before deciding.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: tonupgilly on September 17, 2010, 04:04:13 pm
Also - what mountain bike did you get?  There are options out there for racks, even for full suspension bikes, and I thought you could put a BOB trailer on anything.   Are you really sure you can't make it work?


I'm afraid the mountain bike I've got won't work.   See  " Topic: What trailer??? "  in Gear Talk.  It's a Fuel Ex 8.  I love it to bits and have great pleasure riding trails with it -but it's not to be.

I take all your points on board.  At the moment I think I'm inclined not to get couplers.  I really don't want to be lumbered with finding a temporary home for the hard case, or having to lug the soft case with me.  I think I'm going to have enough to think about as it is.  It is a lot of money for what could turn out to be a small saving.  
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: CyclesafeSr on September 19, 2010, 07:24:05 pm
I have S&S couplers on my 62 cm 700c Americano and they allow me to use a 28x28x6 and a 26x26x10 cardboard box (available from UPS stores) to pack the bike, racks, panniers and gear for a multimonth tour - each staying within the 50 lb and 62 linear inch limits.  I rarely use the case that came with the bike - which incidentally only works because it bulges beyond the 62 linear inch limit.

One needs to be realistic about how many times one will really need to break down the bike.  If it's to get the bike in the trunk of a car, that's likely a greater benefit than packing it up for the occassional plane ride.  Bear in mind that if the airline check-in person discovers that you're packing a bike he/she may charge you anyway.  So don't check in your luggage wearing spandex.

If you simulate the cost / benefit of the couplers you might find that you're better off without them.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: pptouring on September 19, 2010, 08:14:46 pm
Bear in mind that if the airline check-in person discovers that you're packing a bike he/she may charge you anyway. 

Airline Person: "Sir/Maam, what do you have in the box?"
Traveling Person: "Oh... just some bike parts!" or "Oh... just my camping gear!" ;-)

Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: Pat Lamb on September 19, 2010, 09:09:35 pm
Bear in mind that if the airline check-in person discovers that you're packing a bike he/she may charge you anyway. 

Airline Person: "Sir/Maam, what do you have in the box?"
Traveling Person: "Oh... just some bike parts!" or "Oh... just my camping gear!" ;-)



All the airline baggage policies I've read have specific exemptions for S&S coupled bikes or Bike Fridays, as long as they're packed in a 62" case.

Having said that, "Bike parts" is accurate and deflects the person behind the counter.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: whittierider on September 19, 2010, 10:44:24 pm
Quote
"Oh... just some bike parts!" or "Oh... just my camping gear!" ;-)
"Exercise equipment."
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: CyclesafeSr on September 20, 2010, 01:05:48 am
Bear in mind that if the airline check-in person discovers that you're packing a bike he/she may charge you anyway. 

Airline Person: "Sir/Maam, what do you have in the box?"
Traveling Person: "Oh... just some bike parts!" or "Oh... just my camping gear!" ;-)



All the airline baggage policies I've read have specific exemptions for S&S coupled bikes or Bike Fridays, as long as they're packed in a 62" case.

Having said that, "Bike parts" is accurate and deflects the person behind the counter.


Could I trouble you for a link to an airline policy that exempts S&S coupled bikes packed within 62 linear inches from treatment as a chargeable "special baggage item"?  Also, I think "bike parts" would deflect no one.  It would prompt the direct question of whether it is a bicycle.  "Camping gear" is better because then you'll have a conversation about whether you've packed fuel or bear spray.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: tonupgilly on September 20, 2010, 08:27:34 am
Just to let you all know - I have made my decision.  I am ordering a Thorn today - without couplers.  Having taken into consideration everyones' points and experiences, I can't justify the cost of the S & S couplers, and in my case "money" wins out against "practicality" in an equation - I wouldn't recoup it in savings.

Many thanks to you all for your comments.

Kind regards
Tonupgilly  :)
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: Pat Lamb on September 20, 2010, 12:08:10 pm
All the airline baggage policies I've read have specific exemptions for S&S coupled bikes or Bike Fridays, as long as they're packed in a 62" case.

Having said that, "Bike parts" is accurate and deflects the person behind the counter.


Could I trouble you for a link to an airline policy that exempts S&S coupled bikes packed within 62 linear inches from treatment as a chargeable "special baggage item"?  Also, I think "bike parts" would deflect no one.  It would prompt the direct question of whether it is a bicycle.  "Camping gear" is better because then you'll have a conversation about whether you've packed fuel or bear spray.


American's policy, for example, is at http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/baggage/baggageAllowance.jsp?anchorEvent=false&from=Nav#SportsEquipment (you may have to do some cut and paste on the location).  Note the Exception: If bicycle and container are less than 62 dimensional inches and under 50 lbs., the bike is charged the applicable baggage charge for the 1st checked bag.

I don't really think you're lying when you say "bike parts."  If they object, open the case up and show the ticket agent or baggage handler, and ask them, "Does this look like a bike?"  It's not a bicycle, obviously, and it fits within a standard size piece of luggage (see http://sandsmachine.com/regs.htm for details).  I've never had to pay the bicycle surcharge.

Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: CyclesafeSr on September 20, 2010, 02:33:53 pm
Thank you for the link.  But United and Delta seem to have no such exception.

Anyway, I've not been charged either, but I've once been asked what's in the bag.  I think I replied clothes and stuff, which didn't encourage a follow up.  I' ve also not been charged when I've checked in a full sized bike box.  What happens at the counter stays at the counter and a pleasant demeanor goes a long way to getting what you want.

I agree that "bike parts" isn't lying.  But perhaps trying to argue that "bike parts" isn't actually a disassembled bicycle is disingenuous.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: Tourista829 on September 20, 2010, 08:23:22 pm
Tonupgilly, good for you! My girlfriend has a Thorn Audax MK3 and loves it. We loved dealing with Andy Blance and crew. He and Fiona have Thorn Nomads with the Rohloff 14 speed internal hub. They romp around South America with them. Great expedition bike. We considered S&S couplers from SJS but it was a mixed bag. The bike would have to be stripped, the couplers put on and the bike repainted. I think their stock paint job, from Taiwan holds up better. However a moot point, since you already purchased the bike. We do not have couplers, but try to find airlines that are a little cheaper and box the bikes. Then we don't have to break them down and reassemble the bikes and take off the racks etc. To each his own.
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: tonupgilly on September 21, 2010, 07:40:29 pm
Thanks Tourista.  I phoned up and ordered it yesterday, without the couplers.  Can't wait for it to arrive.  Might be able to get some mini-tours in before the bad weather sets in.  I live on the English Channel, so France is only a one and a half hour boat ride away - and it's easy to take a bike.  Its nice to hear that someone else has and loves a Thorn.  I agree,  they are very helpful at SJS - and their 100 day money back guarantee is a good persuader.

Happy pedalling

Tonupgilly
Title: Re: Has anyone had experience of a Thorn Nomad with S & S couplers??
Post by: Tourista829 on September 21, 2010, 09:41:00 pm
Lucky you, living close to the English Channel. You have an outstanding bike. Andy Blance knows how to design a bike and they take their Nomads where only 4 legged animals tread. (goats and llamas) One thought, SJS has a very good package, when it comes to lighting. Living in the UK, may I make a suggestion. Before SJS builds your Thorn Nomad, if you haven't already done this, please consider. (This was the one thing my girlfriend regretted not doing when she purchased her Audax MK3) They offer the Schmidt Naben Dyno Hub and the Schmidt Edel Lux (80 lumens) front light. If you are going to consider a dyno hub, choose it before they build your front wheel. You will save money, E80. The Schmidt Edel Lux front light is amazing for a dyno hub light. Robenne, put a Schmidt on his Comotion and likes it. (I believe he used a BM lights) He also uses a Busch Muller E-Werke for running his gps, phone, and other accessories off the Dyno hub. I like the BM rear lights because, some of them have a stand light feature. (Maybe he would give you a small discount on the hub upgrade) I would also see if they would give you a break on the price of a saddle, if you want to upgrade. Go as low as you can go in gearing. They offered Dottye a 22 tooth "granny gear" on the front crank giving her a 625% gearing. Although we don't need it in Florida, it works well in the Rockies. Speaking of Florida, if you ever come to Florida, in the winter, you can stay with us and ride to Key West. Let us know how you like your new bike and say hello to Robin, Andy, and Lisa.