In the summer of '92, I reluctantly agreed to be a chaperon on a Mediterranean cruise and was disappointed that I wouldn't have a chance to ride my bike for two weeks. I would be doing a one day, 140 mile ride with 8000 + feet of climbing from Roseville, CA to South Lake Tahoe within less than two weeks after I got home from the cruise. I was concerned about the loss of conditioning I would experience being off my bike, not to mention the simple fact that I would be missing my daily rides that I look forward to so much. I began to think how great it would be to have a bicycle with me on the ship. If I had a bike, I could maintain my training routine while traveling and at the same time see the countryside.
I called my travel agent and had him check with the cruise line regarding bringing a bicycle aboard. He learned that there wouldn't be a problem with the bike but they do limit the size of the luggage that they will accept. The largest case they would allow is 62" combined length + width + thickness which is the same maximum standard used by airlines. I began looking at the folding travel bikes that were on the market and found either small wheel bikes or full size bikes that were heavy and not very suitable for high mileage riding. I decided that I wasn't interested in a small wheeled bike because I didn't want to stand out like a tourist and I definitely didn't want a 35+ pound bike to ride 50 - 100 miles per day. I decided that if I couldn't find the type bike I wanted commercially then possibly there was another solution. What I really wanted to do was to take my own Bianchi road bike with me.
I took some quick measurements and determined that I could fit my wheels in a case as small as 26"x26" and that would leave me with a case that was 10" deep to be within the legal 62" combined L+W+T measurement. To fit the frame in the 26x26" case, I would need a connector to be able to separate the frame into smaller pieces. I did some research looking for a commercial connector available to bicycle frame builders for such a purpose but found nothing. Since I own an industrial machine shop, I decided to make my own coupling to do the job. I proceeded to design and build the first BTCs which I installed on my Bianchi road bike by cutting the bike in half and silver brazing the coupling in place. I test rode it for about one week and 200 miles over rough roads and it worked perfectly. I packed the bike in a 26x26x10" duffel bag surrounded with clothes and then I was off to the airport bound for Spain.
When I boarded our Princess Cruises' ship the "Star Princess" in Barcelona, my bike was in the cabin with the rest of my luggage. I assembled it and went for a ride that very afternoon. I rode 50 - 90 miles per day over the two week period which also included rides in Italy and Greece. I had managed to turn what started out to be an chaperoning obligation/vacation with limited appeal into the most exciting vacation of my life. I think I had more fun than anyone on the whole ship. Having a bicycle on a ship is a great way to tour many countries in a short period of time. We were usually in port during the day and traveled to the next port at night. Each morning, unless we were at sea, I would wake up in a different port and have a new adventure before me (at sea 3 days out of 12).
My most memorable rides were:
After my Mediterranean adventure, I felt there must be other cyclists like myself that would enjoy traveling with a full size high performance bicycle. To make BTCs commercially available, the first coupling design was refined over the following year with several design changes and prototypes until the current configuration was achieved.
Steve Smilanick, cyclist and manufacturer of BTCs. Roseville, CA firstname.lastname@example.org
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