Stuff Saturday: Ibis Tranny

Enough people have been asking me about my travel setups lately that I decided to use a “Stuff Saturday” to let you all in on some of my secrets. It also gives me a chance to show you a bike that I am pretty fond of.

For the past five years, my life has revolved around traveling and riding my bike in as many new places as possible. Railing singletrack on dirt I have never seen before, meeting the locals, and having my post ride beers in new scenery. One of the bummers that comes with all this travel are baggage fees for my bike and gear. There are very few things I hate more than shelling out my hard earned money to put my bike on an airplane. Sure, there are things you can do to avoid the extra fee. Break the bike down into two smaller boxes, wheels in one and frame in the other. If you have a BMX bike, it can actually fit inside a large golf bag. You could even try the old line that it is “trade show equipment”, but the days of that working are pretty much long gone. I wanted a solution that would put everything in one neat package and still fly under the radar. So I went and got myself some travel bikes that fit into luggage that isn’t considered oversize. This comes in extra handy when you pick one of the few remaining airlines that don’t charge for checked bags, or when international fees are $100 for a bike (each way!).

My mountain bike travel weapon of choice is the Ibis Tranny. I have been beating on this thing for well over a year and a half, and it has become a reliable travel companion. The coolest thing about this ride is that it can be run as either single speed or a geared. (It can be both and it’s called a Tranny. Get it?) As a single speed, the frame moves where the chainstay meets the bottom bracket to tension the chain. Wanna run gears? Just slap some shifty bits on there and slam the rear triangle all the way on. Either iteration leaves you with a fast handling singletrack assassin  Here is what my current geared setup looks like:

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Now I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of riding a carbon plastic mountain bike. I didn’t know how it would hold up to the rigors of the airline baggage handling or my notoriously hard on equipment riding style. But since the last carbon hardtail I rode was a Kestrel in 1998, I figured I would give it a try. Boy, how technology has changed. Not only does it still have it’s headtube attached, it comes out of the baggage claim undamaged time and time again.

Now some of you (probably most) will scoff at the fact that this bike has 26 inch wheels. Since I will ride anything with 2 wheels and handlebars, this doesn’t bother me much. But just in case you haven’t stopped reading this, let me break down some advantages of the smaller wheel for travel.

First, the wheels pack into the case a lot easier. No need to deflate the tires and there is a bit more space left over to fill the case with gear. Since this is consistently a sub 24 pound build, you can squeeze a lot of gear in there before you hit the 50lb weight limit. Second, it’s way easier to find a tube in out-of-the-way places if you have 26″ wheels and your rims drilled out for shrader valves. Lastly, have you been on a 26er lately after riding 29er for a while? Those little wheels accelerate like a goddamn rocket ship.

Plus, if you drop the seat and shorten the stem, this thing actually likes to jump and pump a bit. As I experienced in my latest trip to Bend, OR a few weeks ago.

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I took a few pictures of the packing process so you can see how a full-on mountain bike can squeeze into a piece of luggage that isn’t considered oversize. It looks like a lot of stuff, but the whole process only takes about 20 minutes or 2-3 beers. Depending on how you measure your time. My preferred setup is a singlespeed with Avid mechanical brakes on it. That takes less than 10 minutes to pack.

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All that disassembly only took two tools and a good whack of the crank spindle from the bottom of my shoe (in absence of a mallet). Unfortunately, the crank arms have to come off in order for the frame to come apart. I could probably eliminate the little plastic crank tool if I used a different brand of crank. But I’m partial to Shimano cranks, so I will manage.

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Just like that, it all fits into the bag. I go the extra mile and remove one of the disc rotors and the chain to prevent any unnecessary scratches. I wrap the frame and fork stanchions with clothes and then stuff as much gear in the empty space as possible for added support.

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Bam! Packed and ready to leave on a jet plane.

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I don’t just use the soft case because it is the cheapest option. It also folds up pretty small and allows me to roll right out of any airport without having to worry about where to store it. I just lash it to my handlebars and go.

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Me and this Tranny go places. We had some good times in Vermont.IMG_1306

…and some good times in northern Idaho

459067_10150841855871525_355694065_oThe two of us got lucky in Ireland

293914_10150261014736525_47453_nWe even ripped around the inside of a 12th century castle and found one of the best campsites I’ve ever had.

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I am a little biased since I have had so many good times on this bike. But I do have a few nitpicks. The chain tensioning mechanism needs a little more maintenance than a regular singlespeed, but nothing more than an eccentric BB. Trail dust will get up in there and eventually take over the carbon prep and cause a little creak. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. The two bolts that hold the pieces of the frame together are unique to this frame. I am constantly paranoid that I will lose these bits and not be able to just go to a hardware store and get a replacement. Lastly, the clearance in the rear is a little tight if you want to run a higher volume tire. A little extra cushion in the rear is always nice.

I would tell anyone looking for a travel MTB to put this one towards the top of their list. This bike rocks my face off and I can’t wait to see where we go next.

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About dirty biker

I am a fan of singletrack, singlespeeds, single malt, and single women. Tempe, Arizona, USA

14 thoughts on “Stuff Saturday: Ibis Tranny

  1. Impressively small package. Not convinced about the soft case given how I see baggage handlers throw things around, but I see why you’ve gone this route. Love my Ibis Mojo SL and could see adding a Tranny to the quiver – they’d be quite the pair.

    As always, enjoyed the read.

  2. A friend has a Rocky Mountain full suspension bike. He took off the rear triangle and packed it in a wheeled duffel bag. Worked like a charm!

  3. This is insane! It’s like an Airnimal but without the mad little wheels and hard case you have to leave at a friendly bike shop. Chapeaux young man.

  4. So glad to see someone else enjoying the best hardtail ever made. Angry Singlespeeder has two Trannys. I need to start traveling more with mine! What kind of soft case do you have for it?

    -ASS

  5. yo ASS!
    what up player! I use the S&S backpack case
    http://www.sandsmachine.com/ac_back.htm
    I already had an S&S coupled bike before I got the Tranny but it fits quite nicely.
    @Jesse I hear ya about the baggage handlers, I am just really careful about packing everything in there tight so it doesn’t move at all and it seems to be working so far. If i don’t have a direct flight, I will use some packing tape and go the extra mile to secure everything

  6. Nice piece! I love my tranny, while echoing your niggles with the bolt set-up. mine started off as a singlespeed in canada and has been to New Zealand, UK and France with me, currently residing in Belgium having transformed to 2×10 via 1×9, 2×9 and 3×9 (basically because I got another SS but also because I’m getting old and this bike rips with gears)

  7. I’m a biker but def no mechanic. I took a bike apart once years ago. It’s still sitting in a fucking box.

    How the hell do I put it back together ????

    In my defense I am a retired computer tech. I can take apart and rebuild a ‘puter in 10 seconds. Tho it sucks when you rebuild a laptop and have screws left over.

    And I’m thinking….”Oh shit. I hope these weren’t important.”

    Either way, interesting read db.

  8. I personally witnessed DB whip this machine together up on Cave Mountain and rolling forth and shredding. Nay, Schralping. It was that cool.

  9. Pretty impressive. You do some pretty cool shit DB. I’ll have to live vicariously through your adventures given the wife and kids. When I had the chance to do this sort of shit unfortunately I missed the bus. Had the “drunk” part down fucking pat, but not the “cyclist.”

  10. Nice. It might be cheap insurance to just tape a spare set if trany bolts to the inside of your seat post.

  11. Swap out the boinger fork for rigid crabon, remove the rear disc rotor and swap it for a bolt on fixed cog, and I’d be all over that bike.