Bike Case Review- The Armored Hen House
As I write this, I am sitting on a plane from Doha to Frankfurt, hoping that my bike and suitcases full of wine made it on board. (Update: Bikes did not make it and were lost for three days with no evidence of tracking. Thankfully reappeared!!) Our flight from Perth was delayed therefore we had a missed connection. Lots of effort went into my purchase of a bicycle travel case, and I ended up purchasing the Ruster Sports Armored Hen House. When shopping for bikes cases, there are basically two categories: the kind where you do not have to take very many things off of your bike (maybe just the seat and pedals), and the kind where you take the bike apart a bit more (or in its entirety). The first option means the case is huge and potentially cumbersome. The second option means one needs to get comfortable assembling and disassembling the bike.
I chose the Armored Hen House because I decided that I needed to be comfortable messing around with my bike, understanding how it works and how it gets put together. The AHH is two cases- one for the frame, which is completely disassembled, and one for the wheels. Both parts are light enough that I had no trouble navigating the airport with the frame case, wheel case, roller suitcase, giant backpack, and overloaded shoulder tote bag. The AHH wheel case can be strapped to the frame case, but I found it was easier to put on top of the rolling suitcase.
For anyone who is nervous or reluctant to take their bike apart— just do it. It is slightly intimidating at first, but there are tons of YouTubes and the AHH directions are pretty good too. Take your time and be patient with yourself. Take pictures of everything before you take it apart so you know what it is supposed to look like. Amazing how you think you know exactly what goes where on a derailleur until it it hanging off the bike and you are staring at it with an Allen key in your hand. When you take your front fork and stem apart, use a zip tie to make sure you keep all the little spacers in order and together.
The other reasons I chose the AHH were because neither piece is big enough to count as oversize or overweight luggage. However, the airline still wanted to know if it was a bike or not. I flew Qatar Airways primarily because they do not charge extra for bikes regardless. Breaking the bike down into the two cases also means it fits in the trunk of my Honda Civic.
Unless you are bringing your bike somewhere super remote, there is probably a local bike shop that would be happy to help you with reassembly if needed.
The Hills and The Flats
I reached some personal milestones on my road bike this trip. The area I stayed in was on top of a ridge overlooking the Swan Valley, which means that bike riding was either A) short steep hills on top of the ridge, B) very windy, mostly flat with some small rollers or C) both of the above with a monster long climb to get in between the two locations. The big hill is a road called Campersic Drive, and the main part of the hill is 1.7 miles long. You can check out the Strava segments (A, C, D, E) here. I would drive up and down this road a few times per day, and always think “There is no way I can do this on a bike, the car can barely make it and has to keep changing gears.” I have a confidence problem on some hills because on my first hill ride ever I had a bit of a disaster and it still messes with my head some. Anyway, I had been meeting up with a couple of different local bike shop rides, and met an older gentleman who told me about how he did a bike trip to Italy last spring and rode the Stelvio Pass. Everyone in Italy knows about this epic ride. This guy told me that when he was training for Stelvio he did ten repeats of Campersic Hill, and the guy he rode with did fifteen. It was at this point that I decided to stop being so scared and just go do it. My new friend FD and I met up at 630 one morning that week, did a few miles warm up, and then tackled the hill. It honestly was not that bad. So I did it again a couple times more that week, and then decided to try it three times in a row. That was hard but of course now I wish I had done more.
The other road that I thought I would never be able to conquer is called “Roller Coaster Road,” aka Lancewood Drive. This road has giant rolling hills that are all very very steep- I am talking some 20% grades. But, again, what is the worst that could happen? Well, on that road it is actually probably getting chased by an emu or the herd of aggressive wild goats that live out there, but you can’t worry about that and your actual ride now, can you?! So on my second to last day I got out my bike and tackled Roller Coaster Road.
You guys. It. Was. AWESOME. I hit a top speed of 43.5 mph, even with me braking some. I crushed the climbs even though they were hard. I felt like I was flying and I managed not to eat any bugs while doing it. I only did it once that morning but then felt like a wimp so went back after a winery lunch and did it again. So that counts as a whole workout, right?
When I was not character building out on the hills, I would do a loop in the valley and end up somewhere for breakfast. Love bikes and love breakfast so perfect plan, really. Although I did not have a training plan at all during this trip, I think that I developed some skills and some fitness on the bike. We will see if I can hold on to it for the rest of the winter.