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Can You Pack a Bike the Japanese Way Without Losing Your Mind?

By Adam Marsal

Ever heard of Rinko? It’s all about packing a bike into an airline bag the Japanese way. It requires but two Allen keys and time to practice. After repeating the procedure a couple of times, you’ll pack your bike in fewer than 15 minutes, the fans of Rinko style say.

Like many brilliant ideas, Rinko started in Japan. After World War II, track cyclists competing in Keirin developed this packing technique to travel to races by train with their bicycles disassembled in a unique manner. Japan had an excellent network of railroads with fast and punctual service, yet bikes were not allowed on the trains. The only way was to squeeze the bike into standard luggage, which was not possible unless you literally took it to pieces.

After tourists discovered trains as a great means of transport to get near their bike destinations, they found an even more sophisticated method of dismantling the bike so, in the end, they could neatly fit it into a regular bag. This is why they named it “Rinko” as, in Japanese, the word means travelling on a train with your bike to reach the cycling destination. The nylon bag itself was called “Rinko-bukhuro” then.

Unlike the European or US experience where people got used to riding folding bikes if circumstances required them to transform into a portable item, the Japanese invented a technique they applied on regular bikes with rigid frames.

If you search around the web, you might find several manuals showing how to pack a bike into “Rinko” in slightly different ways. No matter which one you choose, the result will resemble two separated wheels with a frame, fork and handlebars stuffed in between them. From another point of view, the packed bike could also look like a folded wheelchair.


The intention of this article is not to demonstrate how to make your bike Rinko-like in 26 simple steps. Unless you need to travel across Japan by train or want to save money on a plane by pretending you travel with a golf set instead of a bike, don’t try it at home. Going through the online manuals is as infuriating as following a manual instructing you to assemble a BESTA wall-mounted unit from IKEA and might make you go nuts.

For those who did not get discouraged by our apparent pessimism, we actually have some good news, too. People who nailed the Rinko procedure promise that you can learn to dismantle the bike in under 15 minutes. On the other hand, the process includes taking down the handlebars, headset, fork, mudguards, wheels, and pedals and even unhooking the brake and derailleur cables.

There is also a quite big risk of scratching the frame by loose parts such as the wheel quick release and others or soiling the handlebars with chain grease. It’s also recommended not to do it close to a drain as you might lose tiny bits.

Don’t take us wrong, the idea of Rinko is great but the executive part of it makes the process too complicated to become common in other parts of the world but Japan. Mastering the Rinko style of packing a bike teaches you so many lessons about bike mechanics that you will never need to visit a bike service again.