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  1. #1
    by Fountains of Wayne bikeopera's Avatar
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    biking to and from airport

    Hi, does anyone have experience biking to and from airports for work/vacation travels?

    I'm wondering how to do this and check the folded (and not totally disassembled) bike in a secure standard-sized suitcase/box/thing without having to trail it ala BikeFriday's TravelTrailer method or risk checking the bike in a soft/convertible suitcase like Dahon's old Doubleplay.

    Is this possible?

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    Reserve a room in a hotel near your departure airport the night before your return to your home city. After you've assembled your bike at the arrival airport, ship the suitcase to the departure hotel. I've tried many methods, but unless your suitcase becomes a trailer, I've found the "departure hotel" method to work the best. Normally the suitcase I ship to the departure hotel contains business attire I need to wear at some point during the trip.

  3. #3
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I second Maunakea's idea. I'd just tell the hotel owner in advance that you'd like to leave a case there for X number of days. Some hotels also do an actual luggage storage service, e.g. if they're on the "backpacker" circuit.

    I generally do not recommend riding your bike to / from most airports, especially in the US. There's too much traffic, cars will not expect you, the infrastructure (e.g. bike-only paths) are not there.

    A handful of airports might be ok; e.g. Dublin airport has an area set aside for bike assembly and isn't that busy. From Heathrow or CDG, you can take the train for a few stops and get out.

    Of course, if you're riding to the airport with a 29" hardshell suitcase, there's no way to get the case there without pulling it somehow....

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    Most folded folders will just about meet baggage size requirements "bare" (that is, without a suitcase). How about using a durable bag (perhaps with a bit of padding)? Do the airlines usually accept liability for damage if you use one of these or does it need to be "conditionally accepted" as "improperly packed baggage".

    Perhaps the most fragile bike parts can be removed? After all, the frame is probably more durable than a hard suitcase anyway. Lets see if we can iron it out:
    -There are the spokes. Has anyone gotten a tacoed wheel, but no frame damage (I'm assuming that if there is frame damage then even a hard case wouldn't have prevented the wheel from geting tacoed). Maybe there is some kind of anti-taco wheel armor available?
    -There's the derailleur. I guess you can go through the trouble of removing it, but many folders have internal hubs.
    -There's the chainring and chain. I guess you could remove both of these, but it's probably easier just to take an extra chainring in your carryon and remove just the chain (add a masterlink).
    -And the brakes. Fortunately if you have two brakes and one gets damaged you can probably survive with one until you go home (or find a bike shop) and brakes are relatively cheap anyway.

    Is there anything else more fragile than the frame itself? Do you think the cranks are less durable than a hard case?

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    makeinu, I use a soft bag interisland here, since I roll the bag up and ride to and from airports with it ... and my kayak bag full of clothes, notebook PC, etc. ... on the Maunakea bike. I've never had a ISO 406 wheel taco.... they are too strong. Place the detached seatpost rack around the RD as a guard and secure it with removable cable ties or equivalent. Put a hacked 20 oz. pop bottle over each protrusion that could rend fabric (the OE DT bag will rip). TSA has had no problem stuffing parts back in the bag. The typical transit damage is chipped paint ... but there's a solution to that. <g>

  6. #6
    by Fountains of Wayne bikeopera's Avatar
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    Maunakea, thanks for that departure hotel idea and the details of protecting your bike in a bag.

    This description of a bike-fly-bike trip from Chicago to the SF Bay area really inspired me:

    http://www.geocities.com/rjmatter/profiles.html

    He checked his bag in Dahon's convertible backpack/bike bag, Doubleplay, with his clothing packed in several plastic bags suspended around the bike like packing material. I love the simplicty, but I'm not wild about the risk.

    makeinu, I do think the frame is at risk in a bag on big flights. If that bag is at the bottom of a pile or gets bonked by a corner of a fully loaded hard shell bouncing down a couple floors...

    I wonder if anyone has made a hardshell suitcase that can be converted into some one or more things that can be strapped onto the bike and that may be even useful...eh just thinking aloud here...

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    Quote Originally Posted by maunakea
    makeinu, I use a soft bag interisland here, since I roll the bag up and ride to and from airports with it ... and my kayak bag full of clothes, notebook PC, etc. ... on the Maunakea bike. I've never had a ISO 406 wheel taco.... they are too strong. Place the detached seatpost rack around the RD as a guard and secure it with removable cable ties or equivalent. Put a hacked 20 oz. pop bottle over each protrusion that could rend fabric (the OE DT bag will rip). TSA has had no problem stuffing parts back in the bag. The typical transit damage is chipped paint ... but there's a solution to that. <g>
    What about the chainring? That seems to be a common part to get damaged when flying with a soft bag. Any ideas on how to protect it? Also, can you recommend a bag?

    Quote Originally Posted by bikeopera
    makeinu, I do think the frame is at risk in a bag on big flights. If that bag is at the bottom of a pile or gets bonked by a corner of a fully loaded hard shell bouncing down a couple floors...
    I don't care about paint chipping. So what can really happen to the frame? It can get bent or crushed. If it gets hit hard enough to be bent or crushed don't you think a hard shell suitcase would be bent crushed along with it? Or maybe not (I'm just speculating). Hopefully those with more experience can comment.

  8. #8
    by Fountains of Wayne bikeopera's Avatar
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    Well, at least in a hardshell you can put these PVC supports in place

    http://tinyurl.com/qzjwr

    How about a Bucky-ball clamshell-like cage that snaps into shape around the bike before you check it in your soft bag and collapses into a handful of sticks when you're ready to ride? Yeah, I'll work on that one...

  9. #9
    J3L 2404 gbcb's Avatar
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    Hey, bikeopera -- I'd say it depends on the airport more than anything else. I was surprised to discover, for instance, that there's a bike path that goes straight out to the airport in Calgary. Unfortunately, my dad showed up at the airport and I wasn't able to try the ride in when I visited.

    Many airports offer temporary storage for bags, so you don't even have to deal with a hotel. Beyond that, I've flown with my Dahon in a soft bag several times (in Asia and North America) and so far have not run into any serious damage issues. Occasionally the bag comes out looking a bit tired, but that's about it. I should note that I ride a single speed, and bent derailleurs might be an issue to be concerned about on a geared bike.

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    Re: chain ring. I forgot to add that I use an old, now chain-stained and chain-ring perforated, cheap (not brand name) closed cell foam sleeping pad that wraps each fold of the folded Maunakea bike like cake wrapping jelly in a jellyroll. I have a duct-tape "hemmed" cut-out in the pad for the steerer tube. The steerer tube end gets a hacked PET bottle. The pad provides a buffer between each fold of the bike and around the entire bike. Without the pad, the chainring would perforate the bag and the ramp gorillas would do even more damage. The sleeping pad rolls up for transport ... and yes, I have slept on the pad, with it wrapped in a leaf bag. Ahh, leaf bags ... the cyclotourist's second best friend.

    When the OE DT bag disintegrates, I will switch to a NB bike bag. The NB bag is an amazingly good value when on promo for <$30. I keep a bike in the Japan Alps outdoors in a "waterproofed" NB bike bag. Putting a pregnant bag in mega-size leaf and landscaping bags and duct taping the L and R leaf bag junction makes the NB bag waterproof. The digression leads me to my suggestion of always including a couple of leaf bags in your bike bag in case you and/or the bagged bike need to stay out of the rain with no shelter nearby.

    Re: airport storage. In-terminal storage service is a thing of the past in the US. It is still common outside the US, esp. Asia.

  11. #11
    J3L 2404 gbcb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maunakea
    Re: chain ring. I forgot to add that I use an old, now chain-stained and chain-ring perforated, cheap (not brand name) closed cell foam sleeping pad that wraps each fold of the folded Maunakea bike like cake wrapping jelly in a jellyroll. I have a duct-tape "hemmed" cut-out in the pad for the steerer tube. The steerer tube end gets a hacked PET bottle. The pad provides a buffer between each fold of the bike and around the entire bike. Without the pad, the chainring would perforate the bag and the ramp gorillas would do even more damage. The sleeping pad rolls up for transport ... and yes, I have slept on the pad, with it wrapped in a leaf bag.

    When the OE DT bag disintegrates, I will switch to a NB bike bag. The NB bag is an amazingly good value when on promo for <$30. I keep a bike in the Japan Alps outdoors in a "waterproofed" NB bike bag. Putting a pregnant bag in mega-size leaf and landscaping bags and duct taping the L and R leaf bag junction makes the NB bag waterproof. The digression leads me to my suggestion of always including a couple of leaf bags in your bike bag in case you and/or the bagged bike need to stay out of the rain with no shelter nearby.

    Re: airport storage. In-terminal storage service is a thing of the past in the US. It is still common outside the US, esp. Asia.
    Of course -- didn't think about in-airport storage being phased out, but I suppose it was inevitable . Thanks for the tip on the NB bag. I'll check that out for sure.


    Edit: Can't seem to find the NB bag online -- could you please provide a link?
    Last edited by gbcb; 04-13-07 at 05:04 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by maunakea
    When the OE DT bag disintegrates, I will switch to a NB bike bag. The NB bag is an amazingly good value when on promo for <$30. I keep a bike in the Japan Alps outdoors in a "waterproofed" NB bike bag. Putting a pregnant bag in mega-size leaf and landscaping bags and duct taping the L and R leaf bag junction makes the NB bag waterproof. The digression leads me to my suggestion of always including a couple of leaf bags in your bike bag in case you and/or the bagged bike need to stay out of the rain with no shelter nearby.
    What is "NB" and do you know of any brands of extra large leaf bags that are big enough for folders?

  13. #13
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    NB = Nashbar

    leaf bags. Costco, Sam's Club, buy the largest "leaf and garden" or "landscaping" bags, usually ~45 gallon. The 33 gal. size is not large enough to swallow a NB bike bag.

  14. #14
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    Just a heads-up. The nashbar bag is on sale for $19.99 and today is the last day for Nashbar's free shipping sale.

  15. #15
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    In regard to the original question:

    George Farnsworth's "Travel with bicycles" website is a great, great resource:

    http://www.bikeaccess.net/bikeaccess/

  16. #16
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Just a heads-up. The nashbar bag is on sale for $19.99 and today is the last day for Nashbar's free shipping sale.
    Thanks for the heads up. Needed a bag for a Pitt-DC trip in a few weeks.

    -G

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand
    Thanks for the heads up. Needed a bag for a Pitt-DC trip in a few weeks.

    -G
    You better check your credit card statement. Those snakes at nashbar gave me a receipt that correctly computed the total with free shipping, but they charged a different amount to my credit card (about $5 more than the receipt says).

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    makeinu, NB is supposed to call the customer with any significant change in shipping. Each time they have done this, I write an email to custserv@nashbar.com, describe the problem, paste in the original email confirmation showing shipping charge, recite the shipping charge in the packing list, and request a refund, and each time I have received a refund, most recently for $44.80.

    Not only NB, but Amazon and most big online merchants, will surcharge shipping if it exceeds a threshold over "quoted amount".

    Don't bother calling NB customer service, you will just get the party line. Email is the only thing that works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by maunakea
    makeinu, NB is supposed to call the customer with any significant change in shipping. Each time they have done this, I write an email to custserv@nashbar.com, describe the problem, paste in the original email confirmation showing shipping charge, recite the shipping charge in the packing list, and request a refund, and each time I have received a refund, most recently for $44.80.

    Not only NB, but Amazon and most big online merchants, will surcharge shipping if it exceeds a threshold over "quoted amount".

    Don't bother calling NB customer service, you will just get the party line. Email is the only thing that works.
    I'll try that, but first I'm going to call my credit card company and simply tell them that I did not authorize a charge for that amount. I've heard that other people have had problems with Nashbar doing the free shipping bait and switch, so hopefully they'll get a little heat from their credit card processor.

  20. #20
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    You better check your credit card statement. Those snakes at nashbar gave me a receipt that correctly computed the total with free shipping, but they charged a different amount to my credit card (about $5 more than the receipt says).
    Same thing happened to me.

    -G

  21. #21
    by Fountains of Wayne bikeopera's Avatar
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    Bikes on a Plane!!

    Well, thanks again for all the detailed advice. We're getting ready for our trip to Seattle in a few days (to visit my husband's brother at the cancer center), and since we're visiting and not bike-touring (the bikes are for transportation and day trips), we've abandoned the idea of biking to/from the airports. This will be our first trip with our new folders: 2007 Downtube VIIIH.

    maunakea, we're following your lead and using the soft OE DT bag. We're using 1) a bungee cord to hold the fold, 2) bubble wrap, foam tubing, and little plastic bags of clothes to protect parts between folds, and 3) cardboard 360 to keep sharp parts from poking through the fabric. The result looks a little like a Dahon Airporter but without the wheels and shrunken to about 75%. We really like your idea of using the sleep pad and will probably use it when we eventually evolve into bike campers and own a couple.

    I'm still a little uneasy about the risk of checking the bike in a soft bag, but I want to try it more than I want to ever after rent bikes whenever I'm away from home. After our trip, I'll report back the outcome.

    Meanwhile, if anyone else has advice, any $.02 appreciated. We have a few more days before our flight.
    (I should add that we had tried the Samsonite Oyster but couldn't fit it all in to close the lid, we couldn't get our hands on a Samsonite F'lite, and we considered the o.m.g. ginormous Dahon Airporter but can't see fitting two plus us and our luggage in a taxi or in-law's sedan.)

    Wish us luck!
    Last edited by bikeopera; 07-28-07 at 09:56 PM.

  22. #22
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    bonne chance, bikeopera. We look forward to your report. At least you won't have a sleeping bag that smells like Tri-Flow at the end of this trip.

    Normally, you'd have a very high chance of sunny WX around the Sound, but this summer's it's been more unpredictable than normal. Pack your rain gear.

  23. #23
    by Fountains of Wayne bikeopera's Avatar
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    Thanks for the good wishes! We'll be back with some virtual omiyage from the Emerald City!

  24. #24
    my nice bike is at home kraftwerk's Avatar
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    I have ridden to Basel-Mulhouse Airport,in France From Weil Germany just accross the boarder. There is a bike path all the way there. I have ridden from JFK to Manhattan... No bike path, quite an adventure. Another thing to think about is that a lot of major Aiports have Post offices, it would be possible , say to mail an empty box to your departure hotel if the trip is long enopugh and the mail reliable and the Hotel cooperative. The other thing to do is use cardboard leave it at the airport for someone to re-use/ re-cycle. and get a new box from a bike shop on the way home. carring the box to the airport could prove diffificult. you may have to cab it to the departure airport in order to ride away from the arrival airport.


    Mr. Allen says: "Normally I find traveling stressful and tiring. I don't much like driving in unfamiliar cities
    and often get lost. Getting lost in heavy traffic is particularly bad as it feels like each missed turn is a potentially catastrophic mistake. Instead I arrived full of energy and good cheer and about a half hour earlier than I usually would have."
    Last edited by kraftwerk; 07-31-07 at 10:45 AM.

  25. #25
    Raleigh20 PugFixie, Merc LittlePixel's Avatar
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    Check you are allowed to ride your bike on the roads in and around the airports you need to depart/arrive at before travelling. I've read of people encountering problems [ie heat off police/security] trying to ride on airport roads (esp US airports) on the way out and onto normal roads. Some say take a bus or train out of the airport and ride once onto normal legal bike roads as there is ambiguity as to whether airport roads are bikable.

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