Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Suitcase: The Unsung Hero of the Bike Friday



Taking a moment to get back to the roots of this site: builds and travel and this is about a little bit of both. 

As you know, I bought my 1998 Bike Friday New World Tourist in 2011. Since then I've ridden it in too many U.S. cities to count and have traveled with it to Spain, BrazilDominican Republic, UK, France, Germany, SingaporePortugal and Japan.

The Bike Friday New World Tourist gets all the glory in my posts, but the Samsonite suitcase is the unsung hero. 


Hear me out: I'm lucky if I can bike 150 miles on in a few days on one of these trips but the suitcase travels thousands of miles each time I get my passport stamped. The case is to the Bike Friday what Kevin Costner was to Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard. The eggshell to the omelet. The Kit-Kat wrapper to the Kit-Kat bar. The Pez Dispenser to the Pez.

Okay - bad example. 

My point is, No matter the trip, the weather, the terrain or even my budget I've kept on top of keeping a now 20-plus year New World Tourist running. It takes a lot of abuse and is made with parts that can be replaced in almost any bike shop in the world if the situation called for it.

But I neglected the hard shell Samsonite suitcase. I noticed it was protesting when I packed it for Chicago two years ago. It wasn't until last year the latch wouldn't catch at all, so I began taping it down. It got so bad I expected the "Hey-we-opened-it!" notes I usually find from the Transportation Safety Administration* to include a page from a suitcase catalog with suggested replacements circled. 

With months till my next trip and not thinking about it at all, I hit paydirt at a thift store not far from San Luis Obisbo.


It did not come with the tools. Those are mine. But check out that amazing 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS that is made in the USA. A steal at five dollars.

This case is too small to fit the Bike Friday. But it does share all of the components. A couple minutes of rummaging found the proper bits to detach the coveted left suitcase latch.


Set next to the one I removed from the original case I could see that it broke in two places...and the one from the 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS looked to be in pristine shape. I had it changed in less time than it took me to find the screwdriver bit.

I didn't stop there with the $5 case.


The Wall-E tendencies I picked up in 2014 forward are still with me today. I have a right latch, a center latch, a handle, and two wheels - ready for service if necessary. As of an hour ago they are in a box labeled "Bike Friday Suitcase Parts" on on a shelf. 

It will possibly never be opened again - my Samsonite case may not fail me ever again. But the moral of the story to you Bike Friday owners is: respect the case. And keep your eyes on tag sales for a 1991 Samsonite Oyster GLS or whatever other model matches your own. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

*Be nice to them. With or without this ridiculous, Trump-caused shutdown, they work hard. 

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