I (Tyler Folsom) built two prototype soft suitcases. My wife (Fran Solomon) and I toured with them in Holland in June 2002. The as-built version differs from the initial design. I had initially planned on a telescoping aluminum frame, but instead used PVC tubing. This plastic is light weight, strong, and easy to work with. To go from expanded mode (for packing the bike) to small mode (for carrying the case on the bike), I just need to remove four tubes. The outer dimensions of the case are 28.5 x 21.5 x 10 inches (expanded mode) or 17 x 21.5 x 10 (small mode). The small mode is more than adequate to carry a duffel bag with your gear.

I made a pattern and had the fabric sewn by Commercial Fabric Mfg. Co, 2224 - First Ave. S, Seattle 98134, 206-682-1082. They charged $125 each and needed 3 to 4 weeks lead time.

The luggage rack is an integral part of the design. It stays attached to the bike when packed and straps to the suitcase frame so that the bike cannot move relative to the frame. The rack is built of steel on the lower part and aluminum angle brackets on the upper part. The rack is 10.25 inches wide. Fran's is 12" long; Tyler's is 11.25". Mine needs to be shorter so that my heels don't hit it. Both racks extend to about the back of the rear tire. The aluminum angle brackets form a U shape to hold the suitcase in position. D-rings on the fabric accommodate straps that attach the suitcase to the rack and bike. When the bike is folded, these straps attach the bike to the suitcase frame. The suitcase can be carried upright (Tyler's preference: 21.5" high and 17"long) or lower (Fran and people of normal height: 17" high and 21.5" long).

Suggestions for changes:

The suitcase closes in expanded mode with Velcro and three straps. These straps have two sided plastic release buckles. These should be replaced by something that stays more solidly shut, such as a belt buckle. Airline baggage handlers tend to grab the bag by the straps, which are not designed to be handles.

The handle is a piece of nylon webbing that girdles the bag. It needs to be more obvious (maybe a different color) and it needs to be more comfortable. It needs additional padding.

Fran's bag experienced heavy wear at the points where it contacts the rear sides of the luggage rack. The fabric should be reinforced here.

Photos are on http://photoworks.com/photoworks with customer number 20069814

Photo captions

Roll 1 (40170157) http://photoworks.com/photoworks/default.asp?P1=20069814&P2=40170157&P3=0

2, 3) Suitcases and luggage racks. The green one is in the small mode (for touring); the purple one is the expanded mode (to pack the bike).

4) Tyler's green Pocket Llama with luggage rack.

5) Detail of luggage rack

6) Suitcase attached to bike. Most people do not have such a tall seat.

7, 8) Bike and suitcase

9, 10) Frame and suitcase in expanded mode.

11) Tyler's bike with suitcase frame

12) Fran's New World Tourister with suitcase frame in upright mode.

13) Fran's bike with upright suitcase. Normal size people can use the upright mode.

14) Tyler's bike with suitcase.

15) Both bikes

16) Fran on the road

17, 18, 19, 20) Tyler on the road

21) Fran with suitcase in lower position. She prefers it this way.

22) Fran's bike folded for packing

Roll 2 (40170170) http://photoworks.com/photoworks/default.asp?P1=20069814&P2=40170170&P3=0

1) Fran's bike in the suitcase frame

2) Same. Note the crush protector.

3, 4) Starting to cover with the fabric.

5) Tyler's bike and suitcase in the small mode.

6) Suitcase uncovered.

7) Start of packing

8) Shows removable sections of tubing for the suitcase frame as it is converted from small to expanded mode.

9) Bike is placed in suitcase frame and back of luggage rack strapped to suitcase frame.

10) Additional suitcase frame tubes are added.

11) Suitcase frame in expanded mode with bike.

12, 13, 14) Bike packed in frame.

15) Starting to cover the frame.

16) Half covered

17, 18) Open suitcase

19) Closed by Velcro and one strap.

20) Closed with all three straps.

21) Fran's bike getting covered.

22) Open suitcase.