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Folding Bikes Discuss the unique features and issues of folding bikes. Also a great place to learn what folding bike will work best for your needs.

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Old 12-15-04, 08:57 PM   #1
supcom
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Folding Bike and Air Travel

I'm looking for peolpe's experience taking folding bikes on airlines as checked luggage on domestic routes (NOT international). I'd like to hear from people who, in the last year, have successfully or unsuccessfully checked their folding bike without an extra charge from the airline.

Additionally, what model bike did you have?
What size suitcase did you use?
What airline did you fly?

Most airlines now limit suitcases to 62 linear inches (length+width+height) and charge around $80 each way for anything over this limit (at least according to the airline web sites). There seem to be two common suitcases recommended for a 20-inch folder. The Samsonite Oyster 29-inch and the Samsonite F'Lite 31-inch.

The Oyster is just at the maximum published airline size but fitting a folder into this case is tricky and requires some disassemby. The F'Lite is a couple inches larger than the published specs but provides ample room for a bike.

I am considering buying a couple Dahon folders for my wife and me to take on vaction this year. I'd like to be able to use F'Lite suitcases for them, but do not wish to be surprised at the airline terminal. After all, if they are going to charge extra, we may as well take our full size bikes.

What has been your experiences?
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Old 12-15-04, 10:50 PM   #2
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I definitely prefer taking my folding bike than my Specialized. I would NEVER take my bike on United. They lost my bike luggage and their attitude was like "so the F what? It's not our problem". I nearly lost it. It took them two days to get it to me, then they lied over and over again on the day they were supposed to return the luggage, claiming it had been delivered when in fact, it hadn't. If I hadn't been on them, calling them and calling corporate all damn day until the luggage arrived with my doorman, I don't think I would have ever gotten it back. I only fly American. I won't even fly the United affiliates if they told me it was free! Beware of United. There's a reason why they're bankrupt. I will be laughing my ass off the day the creditors do repossess the 14 planes they tried to take on the runway a couple of weeks back. Ha!

Anyway, I took my Specialized on the plane. Do make sure you know what the dimensions are. It's LINEAR inches too, so you just need to make sure they're aware of the fact that it's linear inches. Otherwise, if they go by LxWxH, you will definitely get charged. I went to American with my bike the day before I was supposed to leave, got a tape measurer and had them measure out the dimensions. They also printed out the applicable regulations for the dimensions from the AA computers and gave me the printout. I was speaking to the supervisor, so I had her write her name out on the printout. Then when I travelled, I just presented the printout, which helped because a lot of the people never dealt with someone travelling with bike luggage. They were inclined to charge, but when I produced the printout and the name and number of the supervisor, they were able to confirm I was within the guidelines, so I didn't get charged.

I never have a problem with my folding bike. Never.

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Old 12-16-04, 09:36 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by koffee brown
I never have a problem with my folding bike. Never.

Koffee
Glad to hear. What do you pack it in that's <= 62"? Have you ever had TSA search the luggage containing your bike (and then try to pack it back in again)?
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Old 12-16-04, 05:18 PM   #4
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Oh... this is what I tell them.


If TSA is going to search my luggage, I will ABSOLUTELY need to be available to repack the bike, since there is a SPECIFIC order as to how the bike needs to be packed into the bike. So if you guys are going to take the bike out, I'll be standing right here (at this point, I point to where I'll be standing) with the book on how to fold and unfold the bike. So if you need any help, just let me know. And when you've cleared the bike for moving to the plane, and you're all through with the inspection, just let me know, because I'm not going to my gate until I get the thumbs up from you guys.


It always works. I absolutely refuse to leave for the gates until I am told by the TSA supervisors that the bike is back in the luggage and it is properly packed.

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Old 12-16-04, 06:51 PM   #5
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Sounds like a good approach to me. I read about someone who leaves a note in the case with a cell phone number to call for assistance repacking but I would not want to rely on someone calling. Better to be their to provide immediate assistance.
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Old 12-16-04, 11:17 PM   #6
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Oh yeah. I ALWAYS emphasize to them the importance of repacking it EXACTLY right. We know how to pack it and get everything that we can possibly get in one suitcase with the bike, so if they even leave one thing out or repack one thing out of place, the bike won't fit. I usually take a picture of the bike after I've packed it, and with the book, I take everything to the airport and tell them that I'm ready to assist. They don't want me to touch it after inspection, that's fine. But it's on them to make sure everything fits, and if they damage the bike because they're ramming it back in the luggage because they've packed it incorrectly, they will PAY. I've emphasized this to them over and over. Say it calmly enough, matter-of-factly enough, and seriously enough, and they'll listen. I didn't invest thousands of dollars in a folding bike that travels well so they can muck it up and ruin it because they're being hyper-hysterical and over-reactive about unperceived threats to air safety. Figure it out, or just be ready to fork over the money to replace it.

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Old 12-17-04, 07:03 AM   #7
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This site has some great pics on how to pack a Raleigh Twenty (near the bottom of the page), as well as some great pics of a much modified Raleigh Twenty.
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Old 12-21-04, 10:49 PM   #8
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Some experiences with a flying non-folder and a flying folder).

United July 2002: Boston-Denver RT. 1984 Raleigh flying in a soft Rome bike bag (bad idea): damage to bottom bracket and derailleur. Samsonite luggage: zipper destroyed, tools stolen. UAL response. We're going into bankruptcy. Make out this form with receipts for all tools etc. Then get in our creditors' line.

Aerlingus July 2004
: Boston-Dublin RT 2003 Dahon Vitesse folder flying in a Dahon One-Shot bag undamaged (bike cocooned in a 70 x 200 x 3.5 cm Tempurpedic "Travel Set" overlay mattress). http://www.foamorder.com/tempur-pedic_3.html Entire tool set (LBS in Ireland are few and far between) in separate Samsonite luggage stolen. Again no receipts-so no recovery ;-(

Lessons learned
: (1) Tempurpedic viscoelastic material is not only good for your back but protects folders against gorillas. (2) Photograph luggage packed with tools (with front page of NYT) on day of departure (if possible) to provide proof of pre-existence of tools. Have all sales receipts, etc. (3) Don't pack a Park PW-3 15 mm and 9/16 inch exquisite pedal wrench. I've lost three. Maybe it looks like a Kalashnikov to the untutored, klepto security inspectors ;-)


Last edited by Leo C. Driscoll; 12-21-04 at 11:54 PM.
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Old 12-22-04, 01:52 PM   #9
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Something is really up with those inspectors. Seriously, I had those Box Tops that I'd saved for the nephew's schools that I put in a baggie. When I arrived to my destination, the ziplock bag was opened and all the box tops were gone. I couldn't prove I'd had the box tops, so they just laughed me off the phone. My lesson- carry on anything of value, and photograph your luggage to prove content before you give it to the security folks for their snooping pleasure.

Damn kleptos.

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Old 12-23-04, 08:12 AM   #10
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Koffee, how do you find the time to do all your excellent bike forum stuff & advise the President too?
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Old 12-23-04, 09:06 AM   #11
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I don't know.... it's tough, but I find that the President is very easily swayed by strong women. So I just flex some arm, show some leg, and I'm good to go!



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Old 12-23-04, 10:42 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo C. Driscoll
Some experiences with a flying non-folder and a flying folder).

United July 2002: Boston-Denver RT. 1984 Raleigh flying in a soft Rome bike bag (bad idea): damage to bottom bracket and derailleur. Samsonite luggage: zipper destroyed, tools stolen. UAL response. We're going into bankruptcy. Make out this form with receipts for all tools etc. Then get in our creditors' line.

Aerlingus July 2004
: Boston-Dublin RT 2003 Dahon Vitesse folder flying in a Dahon One-Shot bag undamaged (bike cocooned in a 70 x 200 x 3.5 cm Tempurpedic "Travel Set" overlay mattress). http://www.foamorder.com/tempur-pedic_3.html Entire tool set (LBS in Ireland are few and far between) in separate Samsonite luggage stolen. Again no receipts-so no recovery ;-(

Lessons learned
: (1) Tempurpedic viscoelastic material is not only good for your back but protects folders against gorillas. (2) Photograph luggage packed with tools (with front page of NYT) on day of departure (if possible) to provide proof of pre-existence of tools. Have all sales receipts, etc. (3) Don't pack a Park PW-3 15 mm and 9/16 inch exquisite pedal wrench. I've lost three. Maybe it looks like a Kalashnikov to the untutored, klepto security inspectors ;-)

I can't believe this happens all the time. I guess these baggage handlers are either low paid or the airlines just don't care because their ALL in bankruptcy. It just goes to show you why people hate flying. Goodness.
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Old 12-23-04, 10:22 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by koffee brown
I don't know.... it's tough, but I find that the President is very easily swayed by strong women. So I just flex some arm, show some leg, and I'm good to go!



Koffee
Would you mind kicking his butt for me when you get time?
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Old 12-24-04, 10:41 AM   #14
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Would you mind kicking his butt for me when you get time?

Certainly. But stand by when the Secret Service subdue me. I'll need someone to bail me out of jail!

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Old 12-28-04, 11:30 AM   #15
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I've had my Bike Friday New World Tourist nearly 5 years. I've flown with it 11 times without any problems. No airline has ever attempted to charge me. The hard plastic suitcase is made by Carlton in England, and its dimensions add up to 61". By "domestic", I'm guessing you meant "domestic US". 3 of my 11 flights have been domestic US flights, on 3 different airlines: United, US Air, & Southwest. I flew with it to from the US to Mexico on American, and from the US to Canada on Air Canada. Charges normally apply for bikes on flights from the US to both Mexico & Canada. I've also flown with it to Asia, Africa, & Europe from the US, as well as 2 non-US domestic flights.

I've noticed that TSA inspectors can be located in different parts of the airport, sometimes in the main terminal, but sometimes completely removed from public areas. Hence, the strategy described above in #4 is not always possible. When the inspectors have been visible to me, I've noticed that they open up the suitcase, swab some stuff inside, verify with their testing equipment that the swab didn't find any suspicious residues, then they close up the suitcase. My bike parts have not been unpacked, and nothing has been stolen from the suitcase.

Years ago with a non-folding bike shipped in a box on the one and only charter flight I ever took, the charter airline "lost" (i.e. stole) my bike. My sleeping bag was inside the box with the bike and was also stolen. It is not a good idea to begin a bike camping trip with no bike and no sleeping bag.
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Old 12-28-04, 12:39 PM   #16
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If #4 wasn't an option, I would tell the baggage handlers (after I got my ticket) that I don't plan on going through security until I receive notification that the bike has cleared security and it's safely on it's way to the plane. O'Hare has the option of viewing TSA, but other airports do not. So when I am returning to O'Hare, I have to put my foot down and tell them I'm not moving. One time, I waited so long at Air France that they were calling me on the speaker after the entire flight already was seated. But I did get the confirmation, so I did board after the second time I got called.

Just hold to your guns. Don't let people rush you when it comes to your bike.

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