bikearky

a weblog of my veggie powered cycling adventures

20 October 2007

20 October 2007

My full packed CELLO bike case, designed/made by Josh Lipton
Bike shipping - a review of the CELLO system

In planning my return from Canada to Australia I looked into the options available for what to do with my trusty Cannnondale. These ranged from selling in Canada and purchasing another in Australia on my return, through to keeping and shipping it. I quickly determined that purchasing another in Australia was not a viable option. Exploring the latter became something I invested a lot of time into, starting in November 2006.

My exploration of options required significant research given the differing airline policies, the bike equipment I had and other items I wanted to take with me. Air Canada had recently introduced a flat $50 fee for bike shipping, with the bike not counting as part of the checked baggage allowance: it would be a third allowable item. Whilst not the cheapest ticket price, when I weighed this up with the non-guarantees from other airlines I decided this was the best option.

Another issue emerged early on: I wanted to keep my trusty Yakima Big Tow cargo trailer. As other posts detail, this trailer has assisted me on some memorable trips. In looking for shipping options, I had explored a range of cases and noted that a trailer did not fit in them. It appeared I would need to sell the trailer. Having settled on this, I had determined that a Trico Iron case was a good, if expensive, option. I made numerous unsuccessful attempts (craigslist, MEC’s OutdoorGearSwap, Toronto bike network, etc) to acquire a pre-loved one.

In continuing to search for options I came across Josh Lipton’s ‘CELLO bike case/travel system for BOB trailers’. Shipping my bike and trailer became a viable option! I contacted Josh to enquire about as to whether this would work with my Yakima trailer. After some discussion, it was ascertained that it may, with significant modifications to the CELLO attachment system. Josh and came to a mutually beneficial agreement where I would ‘trade-in’ my yakima for a new Bob trailer and a CELLO.

Given my travels, within North America it not until May of 2007 that I received my CELLO and BOB Ibex.* I immediately had a good look at the CELLO system and set it up. My first experiences were that it does take some time to familiarise oneself with it. This attempt at set-up required a good 2-3 hours (I was in no rush). The included guide is very good and the video on the Wandertec website also helps.

Aside from minor revisions Josh has made to the design, including to the ‘parts bag’, set-up followed the guide exactly. For my Cannondale, given the headshock, the positioning of the front and rear mounts required a little adjustment to lower the height of the front end. The guide goes into detail about achieving this.

Once the frame is mounted on the trailer via the CELLO attachment system, the rest is pretty smooth sailing. Attaching the side panels, gear bag (with the handlebars inside), the front and trailer wheels, whilst not difficult, required some experimentation. Unfolding the side panels, attaching the cross bars and the flexible top cover is straight forward. The top cover attaches quite easily, and once you become familiar with the method it only requires a few minutes.

Overall, the process of putting this all together was quite smooth. Josh has done a very good job with his design. My reactions, after this first attempt at setting it up, were that I was happy with it. It appeared to be solid and is easy to maneuver. The test, of course, was how it would hold up to the actions of baggage handlers and over 20 hours in the air. Given my flight across Canada and having to transfer through US Customs in Vancouver (as the plane would re-fuel in Honolulu) on my way to Sydney, I had the opportunity to check.

I noted in Vancouver that one of the lugs on the CELLO top case had come loose. This was a result of my not securing one the tensioner cords tightly enough (not an issue with the design). Despite this, the case held together perfectly and I re-secured it. I am happy to sat that my bike arrived in Sydney without issue.

Some general comments: I really like the CELLO. It is very maneuverable, everything is secure and you can pick it up via the handles. It did get me some interesting looks, and a couple questions about my (non-existent) musical abilities! It did, however, lead to Customs officials in Australia fast-tracking my progress - a definite bonus!

I have used the CELLO as depicted in the video (side panels attached and folded for riding). I see no issue with this for riding to an airport/transit centre though would not use it as such this for any distance riding/touring. The option is, however, a very good one. That all the mounts and side panels fit within the parts bag is a gem. You can have this self-contained package shipped to an ‘end of journey’ point.

There are some improvements I would like to see. These include the design of how the parts bag attaches to the bike frame. I may modify my own as it did not attach my bike as easily as I would like. The other improvement I would like to see is with the rear attachment of the CELLO. A re-design that would have the same ease of removal as the mechanism front would be the biggest improvement I can foresee. That said, these are not huge issues. If, however, a new rear attachment was designed, I would endeavor to replace the existing one.

Purchasing a CELLO is a significant investment. I am very happy with it and find it a valuable tool. It certainly assists in trip planning. Would I recommend the CELLO to others - yes. If I was to start over again, I would consider an extrawheel trailer as an alternative. That said, it does not provide a shipping option as the CELLO does.

*I have not yet had the opportunity for a multi-day tour with the Ibex, so a full review will have to wait. I have already noted the benefits of the suspension: through using it fully loaded on shorter rides.

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