How Small is a Rinko Bike?

How Small is a Rinko Bike?

When we introduced the idea of Rinko bikes to our readers and customers, there were some questions whether they could fit within the airline luggage requirements, or whether they’d have to pay oversize luggage fees. I’ve flown with Rinko bikes many times, and never paid a surcharge because the bag was too big.
The Ostrich OS-500 Airplane Bag in the photo looks big, because it is – it’s designed for all kinds of bikes, not just the Alps/Hirose system of Rinko that I use. It is far bigger than the Rinko bike inside, so I usually tape the excess to wrap around the bag. (The photo doesn’t show tape, because when the airline employees saw how much I could tape the bag, they simply said: “Don’t bother, it’s OK.”)
I did have to pay once, when Delta decided that because it was a bicycle, it had to pay the surcharge, no matter the size. But how big is a Rinko bike really?
To find out, I measured two Rinko bikes. One is very small, the other rather large. Here are the measurements:

  • My Mule (above) is a 650B randonneur bike with a 60 cm frame (c-t), full fenders, racks and lights. Packed into its Rinko bag, it measures 79 x 83 x 23 cm. The airline dimension comes to 186 cm, or 73 inches.


  • BQ contributor Natsuko Hirose’s C. S. Hirose has a 47 cm frame and 26″ wheels. It measures 77 x 81 x 22 cm, for a total of 180 cm, or 71 inches.

On the face of it, both bikes are larger than the airline size limit of 158 cm (62 inches). Yet both have flown multiple times without paying a surcharge. The reason is simple: The package is shaped like a parallelogram. If you place it between two vertical walls, you’ll get the measurements I took. But when you take a tape measure and measure along the top, it’s actually quite a bit shorter. The bottom also is shorter. Riders of Ritchey’s Breakaway system have reported the same: In theory, the bike is a bit larger than the luggage requirement, but in practice, it usually is fine.
That leads to the second question: How secure is your bike in the OS-500 Rinko bag? That depends on your airline. We’ve had good experiences with Japanese airlines, but other airlines aren’t as careful with your luggage.
Generally for flying, there are two approaches: Either make it very clear that the bag contains a bike that is fragile, so baggage handlers are careful. I once flew (on the airline’s advice) with another bike in a clear plastic bag, and it arrived just fine. The alternative is to protect the bike so much that it will survive almost any abuse – with a sturdy hardshell case. The in-between solutions, like cardboard boxes, are the worst – they hide the bike so that it’s not clear how fragile the package’s content really is, yet they offer next to no protection from it getting crushed. The OS-500 bag has some padding, but it says in multiple languages that a bicycle is inside.
Maybe we’ll offer a small hardshell case for Rinko bikes in the future. It would be relatively easy to carry, perhaps even as a backpack – especially when compared to the bulky hardshell cases that are available currently. If you are arriving and leaving at different airports, you could even ship it from the start point to the end point of your trip… But that is a future project. For now, we offer numerous parts that make building a travel bike much easier.
Click here for more information on our Rinko products.

Update 08/2022: Since this post was written, most airlines have stopped charging for bicycles. Thus, Rinko bikes (and other bikes) cost the same as any other piece of luggage. Also, soft cases for bicycles have become common, as airline baggage handlers now seem to handle bikes with more care than in the past.

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Comments (23)

  • Bob C

    Rather than develop a hardshell bag for rinko bikes, I recommend, very passionately, that you check out Pika Packworks soft-shell bags. I’ve flown with my bikes in a Pika Packworks soft sided bag a great many times (all over the world) and never come close to a bit of damage. A lot of pros use Pika bags from what I understand.
    Because such things matter to me, I should note that Pika Packworks is small privately owned operation in Salt Lake City — the bags are handmade and of superior quality.
    The standard Pika bag is larger than you would need for a rinko-ed bike, but that’s where it gets interesting: if you were to reach out to Pika the fellow who owns it could design a special bag.
    The argument against hardshell cases vs a very well protected softshell is that baggage handlers tend to stack lots of things on top of hardshell cases and they ultimately get crushed. Softshell winds up getting different treatment.
    A Pika rinko bag would be amazing and super safe for the bike — sign me up for the first one!

    July 8, 2016 at 2:56 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We already offer the Ostrich OS-500 softshell bag, which is excellent. However, you do rely on the goodwill of the airline employees… If you don’t want to trust the airline people, then you need something with more protection. A smaller hardshell would have the advantage of being much stronger than the current ones – it’s the center of the box that gets crushed.

      July 8, 2016 at 11:31 pm
    • ORiordan

      I know of a hard shell case that has an anti crush bar in the centre. There are recesses in the case for the bar and you insert it before closing the case. It just means you can’t pack anything in the middle of the case where the bar goes.

      July 9, 2016 at 6:08 am
      • Benz

        S&S, the perennial traveling bike enabler, sells what they call a “travel case compression member”. This is essentially a strut that supports the middle part of those S&S cases (that are built to be exactly at the 62 linear-inch limit).

        July 10, 2016 at 10:13 pm
    • Rando Theo

      After reading several good reviews, I bought and used a Pika Packworks bag for my Icelandair flights to and from France for PBP 2015. My fenders got a bit dinged up and my wheels were a bit out of true, though certainly not destroyed. Fortunately, most of the dents and loss of true occurred on the flight home, so the bike still worked well for PBP.
      I would question the idea that the a softshell bag will get better treatment than a hardshell case: at Charles de Gaulle, my bike was the one at the bottom of a stack of hardshell cases. Perhaps this is related to the intentionally inconspicuous design of the Pika bags, which are supposed not to look like a bike. By contrast, another rider flew in from Russia with his bike wrapped in clear plastic. His bike was delivered to the baggage area separately from the others and in perfect condition. I don’t know if I’m trusting enough to try that…
      My main issue with the Pika bag is that it was relatively difficult to deal with the bag once I got to Paris – while smaller and lighter than a hardshell, the bag is 10.3 lbs (4.67 kgs) and my randonneuring bike is 24 lbs (10.9 kg). The thick pads prevent it from packing down to a very small size when empty, so it wasn’t really an option to unpack the bike and ride into the city.
      At one point on the trip, I carried it (empty) for several blocks while riding alongside Jan on our way to the train station, which was a rather miserable experience. The Ostrich OS-500 softshell bag is much smaller and lighter (5.75lbs or 2.6 kg), which would have been nice not only on that short ride in town, but also when I was carrying the packed bike up and down narrow flights of stairs and on the crowded Metro…
      A rinko-size Pika bag would be lighter and less bulky, but please write BICYCLE in many languages on mine. =)

      July 11, 2016 at 5:15 pm
      • Bob C

        Yes, dealing with the Pika case is a bit of a hassle, but certainly less of one than dealing with a hardshell. It’s all about finding the right trade-off between convenience and security, I suppose.
        What I typically do is fold the vertical foam sides down and use some compression straps to make the empty bag as small as possible when I carry it unloaded.. At my destination, I can always find a bike shop willing to hold it for a week or two for about $20 storage fee.
        Sorry to hear about the damage to your fenders. There is a looming problem for any soft-shell case that goes through the US. At a number of airports the TSA has introduced a giant metal “kicker” that slams into oversize bags to divert them to TSA inspection. It hits the bags with amazing force. The videos I’ve seen of it are scary if you send your bike in baggage — it hits the bag like a giant hammer and by itself argues that as more of these devices appear in baggage handling the soft-shell case could be problematic.

        July 12, 2016 at 6:47 am
  • Jeff

    Some Delta employees will charge S&S coupled bikes too, even though it meets their standard size measurements. I just try to avoid telling them it is a bike.

    July 8, 2016 at 3:24 pm
  • Svenski

    Jan, I would love you to give one of Rob English’s ( folding gravel bikes a *closer* (500+ km 😉 look in terms of bike handling as well as transportability. Curious what you think about this concept as I suspect his way of seeing the bicycle is quite close to yours…
    Thx & greetz, svenski.

    July 9, 2016 at 4:09 am
  • Dr J

    What is so special about the Rinko system? From what I see, it looks like it makes it easier and faster to disassemble and re-assemble the bike but it’s not necessary. Any bike could be easily disassembled this way by removing the fork, bars with stem, pedals, the rear wheel and sliding down the seatpost. In fact, if you choose the right components, you would not need more than 1-2 small hex wrenches to do it.
    I like Rinko system for pedals. The problem is with limited selection. It seems that only MKS makes pedals with Rinko and they do not offer pedal type I would like. Bummer.

    July 9, 2016 at 7:07 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Nothing special, which is why it’s so special that it allows converting your bike into such a small package in just 12-15 minutes.
      You remove the fork, too. No special parts required, just careful design (like slotted cable stops).

      July 9, 2016 at 1:32 pm
      • Bob C

        OK, a stupid question because maybe this is obvious to everyone but I’m missing it.
        In pictures of rinko-ed bikes that you have posted, I’m puzzled by what happens with the headset bearings. I looks like you leave the threaded race installed on the top (although not on the Hirose bike) to contain the top bearing, but I can’t make out what’s happening with the bottom. It looks like the race is exposed, but I don’t see the bearings on the steerer tube.
        Also, isn’t grease an issue when dealing with the headset bearings? You’ve made a point about how clean this process can be, but not if dealing with the bearings. Are these cartridge headsets? I must be dense, because I have yet to see a discussion of this detail.

        July 12, 2016 at 6:30 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          We use cartridge bearing headsets to avoid the hassle of protecting exposed bearings from contamination and hands from grease.

          July 12, 2016 at 8:59 am
  • Alan Gerber

    Hi Jan!
    Your blog, and others like it, are inspiring me to try to take a bike tour of Japan in the fall.
    I am thinking about perhaps doing a section of Tokyo-Fukuoka in October:
    I would very much appreciate any pointers you can give me with regards to research or how to connect with locals while cycling through.

    July 9, 2016 at 8:19 am
  • Alan Gerber

    Note also that EVA Air supposedly will carry a bicycle free of charge:

    July 9, 2016 at 8:20 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I highly recommend ANA (All Nippon Airlines) for their excellent service, and they take bikes for free, too.

      July 9, 2016 at 1:33 pm
    • Benz

      Interestingly, I just flew to Singapore from San Francisco via EVA Air (economy, so only basic allowance). I transported a bicycle frame extensively padded with pipe insulation for a buddy who lives in Singapore (eBay purchase), and was not charged anything extra. There was a bit of interest when checking in, but it was more curiosity/amusement about what the ugly packed item was, than inspection to determine any applicable charges.
      No affiliation plug: Leg room on EVA Air was better than most domestic airlines.

      July 10, 2016 at 10:22 pm
  • Keith Hearn

    If the airline asks what’s in the bag, don’t say it’s a bike, say it’s “bike parts”. It’s perfectly true, and they won’t charge you extra just because it’s a bike.

    July 9, 2016 at 11:17 am
    • Bill

      “Mobility device”

      July 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm
  • Ray Varella

    I’m curious about how well the “cat” headset wrench works?
    I’ve always used two wrenches in opposing directions to properly adjust headsets.
    I might have misgivings about getting my headset properly set up with a single tool.
    How has that worked in practice?
    Would a cartridge bearing headset be a better option?
    I have a second question regarding pedals.
    There used to be some pedals on the market that closely resemble MKS touring pedals but they are set up to mount an SPD binding.
    Something like that in a quick release pedal would address most needs which are not currently covered in the MKS Rinko lineup.
    I don’t see a way to add an attachment, you may be interested in seeing them.

    July 10, 2016 at 9:06 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Good headset have an “anti-rotation” washer that allow you to tighten the locknut without turning the top headset cup. So you use the “cat” washer (or your hands) to tighten the cup, then you install the “anti-rotation” washer (which fits into a groove or a flat on the steerer tube), then you tighten the locknut. There is no need to tighten the locknut like a wrestler – that tends to turn the “anti-rotation” washer and defeats its purpose.
      MKS is introducing SPD-compatible pedals. They should be available soon, with the great bearings and overall quality of the top-of-the-line MKS pedals (the only ones Compass sells).

      July 10, 2016 at 11:30 pm
  • Tom Howard

    Thanks for this very informative post. I have often wondered whether the airlines charged you extra during your numerous flights, so I’m glad that you addressed this issue so thoroughly. As it turns out, one of my bikes has slotted brazeons, and it could be easily modified for rinko transport. .

    July 12, 2016 at 5:13 pm
  • Phil Tomlinson

    I think the idea of a hard shell bike case sounds great. You mention the idea of it being carried as a back pack. However, back packs can be uncomfortable on a bike at the best of times, and if it has a hard shell, I suspect this would be even more the case. However, a hard case designed to mount on a rear pannier might work. Maybe you’d have two panniers, one for luggage, and one for the bike. Then you could ride to the airport, dismantle the bike into one pannier and check them both onto your flight. Then at the other end, reassemble the bike and away you go on your tour. Maybe the two panniers could clip together to make one case large enough to take a bike, if size was an issue.

    July 14, 2016 at 7:00 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I am sorry that I wasn’t more clear- the idea was to carry the hardshell as a backpack with the bike inside, for example, on the way to the airport. I wouldn’t want to carry a hardshell on my bike. Even a Rinko bike still is too big to fit inside a pannier… So the hardshell would be a lot bigger than a pannier.

      July 14, 2016 at 3:01 pm

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