Travelling with a bike – the great Canadian hockey bag method

Since some of you were curious about how a bicycle fits into a hockey bag, and you missed the magic moment, here it is:

1. Get a hockey bag, a light goalie bag ideally. Its gotta fit a bike and it shouldn’t weight more than a few pounds empty. Add some padding that will cover the bottom completely – maybe some die-cut foam. Remember that inflatable padding will expand a lot in the unpressurized luggage compartment.

Hockey bag 6

2. Remove wheels, remove pedals, remove the seat/seatpost. Remove RD but keep it attached to the frame via the chain. Remove the rear hanger if possible. Put spacers in between the brake pads if you want. If you have a thru-axle rear, put it in. If you don’t have that, put in a proper frame spacer to keep the dropouts from getting squished together. If you don’t have that, make a simple 135mm spacer out of a piece of plastic pipe or even reinforced cardboard… whatever. Put in it and secure it with the QR. I happen to have some FSA lock-on grips that are about 140mm so I take one off the bar and use that.

Hockey bag 2

3. Unbolt the front brake, putting the brake adaptor and bolts back on (in the correct orientation to make reassembly easier). Remove the top cap, stem/handlebar/spacers, and pull the fork out. Put the spacers back on the steertube, put the top cap back on, and set the fork aside. If the fork has a thru axle, put it in. You don’t need to deflate your suspension as is it unaffected by depressurization.

Hockey bag 3

4. Keeping all the headset parts together (compression ring, race cap, and bearings if they are loose), wrap a rag through the headtube and zip tie it in. This adds a little extra padding to a point on the frame that always seems to take impacts (you can see previous frame damage in my pics). If you don’t think you need it, just zip tie the headset components in.

Hockey bag 5

5. Try to compress the rear suspension to make is as compact as possible. Generally removing one bolt from the shock suffices. Alternatively, you could air down the shock but I’m not sure if leaving it compressed for a while is a good idea. If you can remove the entire rear triangle easily, that would probably help things a lot. Getting a bicycle into a hockey bag is like getting all those clowns into one little car.

Hockey bag 4

6. Moment of truth. Put the frame into the bag – headtube first seems to be easiest. If it fits, great. If not, head back to Canadian Tire for a bigger bag. Your handlebar will be kinda hanging on like some awkward broken appendage – just be careful to not kink cables/hoses. Leave it just a little to the side.

7. Get a double or queen sheet – fitted and light colored preferrably. Wrap the corners under the frame a kinda drape it over top. Try to get the sheet between the handlebar assembly and the frame. Basically the sheet just keeps sharp edges from scratching against sensitive surfaces. The fork goes it at this point. Usually my seat/seatpost too. Wrap your stanchions with something.

Hockey bag 7

8. Double the sheet over that stuff and put the wheels in with tires fully deflated.. I go rear wheel first, cassette down. Try to nest the cassette into a good spot since it can be pretty abrasive. Then the front wheel goes in, rotor down, and the rotors get interlocked.

9. Its pretty much all in so fill up the odd spaces in the corners with your helmet, a lock, shoes, jerseys, etc… Try to use them as additional padding, if possible. Don’t put loose small items in because if the bag rips, you can lose them.

10. Put all the little items, including all the tools you’ll need to reassemble your bike into your pack and put your pack on top with the hydration bladder drained. This is your top pad. Think about little things like how you’re going to cut the ends of a zip ties when you reinstall them.

11. The second moment of truth – zip it up. Don’t break the cheap Chinese zipper. Inspect the bag in general and shore up places where damage is likely to occur.

Hockey bag 8

That’s it. If you stay under their weight limits, most carriers won’t ask what’s in there and won’t charge oversize baggage fees. Its a bit of a gamble but generally you come out ahead. And think about how you’re going to schlep this thing if you have to walk a ways.


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