Once upon a time, there were two teachers who lived in Alaska and they really liked summer adventures…which being teachers….were possible. About 1973 they went on their first tours in Alaska on Gitane and Cilo 10 speed bikes with sew-up tires, rear racks with yellow panniers taking the train to Fairbanks and biking to Valdez and taking the ferry to Whittier, the train to Portage and then biking home. That was so much fun the next summer they went to Nova Scotia and then various bike trips each summer. In 1985 they crossed the pond and biked in Ireland where it rained for 19 of twenty-one days, but all had a great time. They boxed the bikes in boxes from the local bike shop, paid for the bikes to fly and bought tickets to Shannon Airport. On arrival, they assembled the bikes in the airport, loaded the panniers and wondered what to do with the boxes and how they would get boxes to get the bikes home. This was in ancient history when airport security wasn’t quite what it is today so they wrote their names on the boxes and found a stairway with some stuff stored under it in a quiet corner of Shannon airport and added a note on the boxes that they would be back in three weeks so please don’t throw these out. This trip had a happy ending after three weeks…the boxes were right where they left them so they paid again for the bikes to fly and all returned to Alaska in good form.
Several more years elapsed with these bikes traveling in similar form until 1998 when one summer day in Anchorage these two teachers saw two smallish bikes with suitcase trailers parked outside REI. This was quite a revolutionary idea to the two teachers…..So they waited near the bikes for the owners to return and then quizzed them on this interesting setup. Well, these folks told us of their adventures, flying bikes for free, and trailing their gear in the bike suitcases. They also gave us a preprinted postcard with all the Bike Friday contact info one could ever need.
In a very short time, the teachers became the proud owners of two New World Tourists In the next few summers tours were made to Denmark and then Austria, the Erie Canal, Austria again, Italy, Switzerland and then another bicycle invention was born…the mountain bike. Well, much as we loved the Bike Friday New World Tourists we looked at the full-size mountain bikes as a ticket to travel in the mountains, on dirt roads and the “wilderness” without carrying a backpack on the back and also saving an achy knee joint. So now we were back to the dilemma of paying to fly our bikes to places these new mountain bikes would take us. We still loved the New World Tourist Bike Fridays for the paved roads and bike trails beginning to sprout around the city of Anchorage. We did, however, beat the airlines at their own game….we built boxes which met the length, width total allowance for size to fly the bike for free, but they had to be disassembled into many parts (see picture) and not advertised as bicycles in those boxes labeled Mountain Research Equipment – they did fly free.