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  1. #1
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    Flying with a Bike in NA

    Hi all,

    I will be flying cross-country with my road bike. I would like to know if anyone who has done this has advice on:

    1. How best to package it (box/wrapped/case - and where to get one/what type)
    2. Costs associated with this (bag fees, damage liability)
    3. If it is preferable to use UPS or Fedex instead of taking it as luggage (and typical price range)
    4. Any other advice you can offer.

    Thanks,

    -ld

    Note: The search function on the forum was not working for me. I apologize if this question has been asked/answered already.

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    Elmira>Taiwan>Elmira flatlander_48's Avatar
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    Although I was traveling overseas, this is precisely why I have a travel bike...
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    Southwest doesn't charge you extra assuming you have a case (or box) and it fits in their requirements:

    http://www.southwest.com/html/custom...ggage-pol.html (Click on Sports Equipment)

    I have never done it though I have thought about it before, that said free is better than $100 that United charges for example:

    http://www.united.com/web/en-US/cont...ge/sports.aspx

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    Thanks for the advice

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by little_dawn View Post
    Hi all,

    I will be flying cross-country with my road bike. I would like to know if anyone who has done this has advice on:

    1. How best to package it (box/wrapped/case - and where to get one/what type)
    2. Costs associated with this (bag fees, damage liability)
    3. If it is preferable to use UPS or Fedex instead of taking it as luggage (and typical price range)
    4. Any other advice you can offer.

    Thanks,

    -ld

    Note: The search function on the forum was not working for me. I apologize if this question has been asked/answered already.
    You would find lots of answers about this in the Touring forum, however ...

    1. You can get cardboard boxes (usually for free) from your local LBS, and they can also help you pack the bicycle if you're unsure what to do. If you've got a place to store the box at your destination, you might opt to rent a hard-shell case from the LBS, and again, they can help you with the packing.

    2. Costs vary but in North America, you're going to pay. Look up the airlines you're thinking of travelling with and see what they charge, as well as the rules and regs surrounding bringing your bicycle.

    There is no chance (unless something has changed with the rules and regs very recently) that your bicycle is going to fly free within NA. It simply will not fit in the 62 inch box size limit they all seem to have (unless you're bringing a folding bike, of course). Southwest or West Jet are probably your best bets, but even they charge something.

    At this moment in time, Southwest charges $50 each way ...

    http://www.southwest.com/html/custom...ab_list_tab_12


    If you were flying overseas, you might be able to find an airline that will allow a bicycle to fly for free, but they are getting rarer.


    (And this is from a decade of flying all over the world with my bicycle. )

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    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    If it's a bike and exceeds the basic luggage size, it's $50 on SouthWest, Jet Blue, and Virgin (last I checked a couple of months ago). We use Aerus soft cases to fly with our CF bikes. ~35 lb with bike and all riding accouterments. Last 4 flights on Jet Blue they only charged me once. They saw the weight, input it and printed the tag, and when they went to put it on they asked, what is this? I said a bike. They were too hurried/lazy to go back and charge me for it. Another bonus is it often comes out on the normal carousel rather than at the end in a separate oversize area.

    Here's an older review of the Aerus case. It now comes with frame pads so you don't need to use pipe insulation. http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2011/02/h...h-my-bike.html

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    If shipping by Fed Ex or UPS, also check insurance costs.
    If you're going to do this a lot, consider a bike with couplers or a folding bike. I know Surly makes a 26" LHT with couplers just for this purpose.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Its all math.. a travel Agent can do the research for you, if you don't have the time..

    transcontinental tourists often ship their bike to the coast, then Join it by flying themselves out, later.

    choice : write do not assemble on the box , & DIY when you get there ,
    or pay shop to have it ready to ride .. upon arrival.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-21-13 at 12:57 PM.

  9. #9
    Elmira>Taiwan>Elmira flatlander_48's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
    If it's a bike and exceeds the basic luggage size, it's $50 on SouthWest, Jet Blue, and Virgin (last I checked a couple of months ago). We use Aerus soft cases to fly with our CF bikes. ~35 lb with bike and all riding accouterments. Last 4 flights on Jet Blue they only charged me once. They saw the weight, input it and printed the tag, and when they went to put it on they asked, what is this? I said a bike. They were too hurried/lazy to go back and charge me for it. Another bonus is it often comes out on the normal carousel rather than at the end in a separate oversize area.

    Here's an older review of the Aerus case. It now comes with frame pads so you don't need to use pipe insulation. http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2011/02/h...h-my-bike.html
    Bad move. Reply "sports equipment" or "exercise equipment". Both of which are actually true and avoid bike changes.
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  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    Bad move. Reply "sports equipment" or "exercise equipment". Both of which are actually true and avoid bike changes.
    Sorry, but that's wrong.

    You may have been able to get away with that in the past, but not anymore, and not for a few years now.

    It comes down to the size of the bicycle box. The bicycle box for the average adult diamond frame bicycle will not fit in their 62" overall measurement. It just won't happen. So therefore the bicycle box is oversized.

    You can claim it is a bicycle ... and most often they won't even ask what it is, they'll just say, "That's a bicycle" ... and pay $50.
    Or you can claim it is something else entirely ... and pay the oversized, and maybe even the overweight fee.

    In most cases, the oversized fee is more than what you'd pay for a bicycle.


    Take Southwest, for example ... according to their baggage policy below, if the box is more than 62", which it will be, and you claim it is not a bicycle, you'll be charged $75. However, if you confirm for them that there is a bicycle in the box, you'll be charged $50. Hmmm ... if it were me, I think I'd be claiming that there's a bicycle in the box!

    http://www.southwest.com/html/custom...GGAGE-POLICIES

  11. #11
    Elmira>Taiwan>Elmira flatlander_48's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Sorry, but that's wrong.

    You may have been able to get away with that in the past, but not anymore, and not for a few years now.

    It comes down to the size of the bicycle box. The bicycle box for the average adult diamond frame bicycle will not fit in their 62" overall measurement. It just won't happen. So therefore the bicycle box is oversized.

    You can claim it is a bicycle ... and most often they won't even ask what it is, they'll just say, "That's a bicycle" ... and pay $50.
    Or you can claim it is something else entirely ... and pay the oversized, and maybe even the overweight fee.

    In most cases, the oversized fee is more than what you'd pay for a bicycle.


    Take Southwest, for example ... according to their baggage policy below, if the box is more than 62", which it will be, and you claim it is not a bicycle, you'll be charged $75. However, if you confirm for them that there is a bicycle in the box, you'll be charged $50. Hmmm ... if it were me, I think I'd be claiming that there's a bicycle in the box!

    http://www.southwest.com/html/custom...GGAGE-POLICIES
    No, not my experience. Also, note that I have a travel bike. The Ritchey case is slightly over the united inches limit. However, since 2005 no one has ever asked to measure it. It has been weighed many times and charged as overweight or excess by the total number of bags. On the few times I have been asked what it is, what I said is how I responded. So far, as late as last summer (the last time I flew with my bike), I have not been challenged. And, Southwest doesn't fly to where I live, so I have not flown them in 20 years at least.
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  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    No, not my experience. Also, note that I have a travel bike. The Ritchey case is slightly over the united inches limit. However, since 2005 no one has ever asked to measure it. It has been weighed many times and charged as overweight or excess by the total number of bags. On the few times I have been asked what it is, what I said is how I responded. So far, as late as last summer (the last time I flew with my bike), I have not been challenged. And, Southwest doesn't fly to where I live, so I have not flown them in 20 years at least.
    What do you mean by "travel bike" ... do you mean a folder? If so, then it doesn't apply to this situation because it will fit into the size limit or very close to it.

    We're talking about normal, full-sized diamond-frame bicycles which don't come anywhere near fitting into the size limit, and if the bicycle is at all large (i.e. built for a tall person), when boxed it will come dangerously close to going over the 80" size limit where they could say, "No sorry, we're not taking that".

    The check-in people do have measuring tape behind their counters.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    What do you mean by "travel bike" ... do you mean a folder? If so, then it doesn't apply to this situation because it will fit into the size limit or very close to it.

    We're talking about normal, full-sized diamond-frame bicycles which don't come anywhere near fitting into the size limit, and if the bicycle is at all large (i.e. built for a tall person), when boxed it will come dangerously close to going over the 80" size limit where they could say, "No sorry, we're not taking that".

    The check-in people do have measuring tape behind their counters.
    He has a Breakaway by Ritchey. It's like a S&S coupler bike.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by linus View Post
    He has a Breakaway by Ritchey. It's like a S&S coupler bike.
    Ah yes ... and again, that's a different story from a normal diamond-frame.

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    After a decade of flying with full-sized, non-coupled, non-folder, diamond-frame bicycles ... Rowan and I have decided that we want to go the folder route when we travel. It's getting harder and harder to fly with a full-sized, non-coupled, non-folder, diamond-frame bicycle.

    It used to be that the size of the bicycle box was no big deal. Used to be that the weight limit was quite generous. Used to be that only domestic flights charged for bicycles, and even then they didn't charge much. Used to be that you could buy bicycle boxes in airports. But things have changed.

  16. #16
    Elmira>Taiwan>Elmira flatlander_48's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Ah yes ... and again, that's a different story from a normal diamond-frame.
    Not exactly. From the Ritchey site:

    Case size: 8.5" W x 26.5"H x 31"L w/ wheels
    Ritchey does not guarantee Airlines will not charge

    That figures out to 66 united inches. It's also considered oversized. Also, I've never seen anyone use a tape measure at an airport. They have a tubular frame that you drop your bag into. If it goes in, it's legal. If it doesn't, it isn't. However, I've never seen airline personnel use it.

    Beyond airlines, ground transportation can also be a problem. In the US, we expect vans or mid-size or larger taxis. There's a lot of places around the world where that just isn't the case. A Toyota Corolla would be a fairly big car and you see a lot of Toyota Yaris'. Problem is, neither or those do very well with bike boxes; plastic, cardboard or otherwise.
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    Also, I've never seen anyone use a tape measure at an airport. They have a tubular frame that you drop your bag into. If it goes in, it's legal. If it doesn't, it isn't. However, I've never seen airline personnel use it.
    I've had them bring out the tape measure to check the size of the box ... especially right after the 62" rule was set in place.

    And Rowan bought a reusable bicycle box (coroplast) for one of our trips to North America. It was a nice size and he was able to pack his bicycle in there along with some other luggage. However, when we got to the airport and the tape measure came out, it turned out that this bicycle box had been designed before the size restrictions were tightened. It came in at about 82", and there was some to-ing and fro-ing about whether to allow it on or not.

    When we set off on our recent Round-the-World trip, it would have been nice to use that box, but because we knew we'd be doing a lot of flights with different airlines in different countries, we decided not to push our luck.



    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    Beyond airlines, ground transportation can also be a problem. In the US, we expect vans or mid-size or larger taxis. There's a lot of places around the world where that just isn't the case. A Toyota Corolla would be a fairly big car and you see a lot of Toyota Yaris'. Problem is, neither or those do very well with bike boxes; plastic, cardboard or otherwise.
    Yes ... and it can be a problem with trains too. For example, getting in and out of Heathrow is quite an adventure.

  18. #18
    Elmira>Taiwan>Elmira flatlander_48's Avatar
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    I have a CrateWorks plastic box that I used for the solid framed road bike I used to have. Traveling with that a couple of times was what led me to the BreakAway. It is 88 united inches. Anything you have to carry with 2 hands isn't worth the trouble.
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    I have a CrateWorks plastic box that I used for the solid framed road bike I used to have. Traveling with that a couple of times was what led me to the BreakAway. It is 88 united inches. Anything you have to carry with 2 hands isn't worth the trouble.
    Maybe that was the one Rowan got. Whatever it was, it was just over the "we might not let you take this on the plane at all" limit, and we were really fortunate to be able to make it all the way to Canada and back with it on that trip.


    And after spending 8+ months travelling around the world with two full-sized touring bicycles, using all sorts of different methods of transportation (airplanes, trains, ferries, vans, etc. and of course the bicycles themselves) ... and after all the other travelling we've done as well ... we've decided we'd rather not travel with full-sized bicycles anymore. We've got our eyes on a pair of folding bicycles.

    Hopefully next time we go to North America we'll be able to get them.

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    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    Bad move. Reply "sports equipment" or "exercise equipment". Both of which are actually true and avoid bike changes.
    A prevarication I prefer not to employ. Plus, since it's oversize, they could then apply the oversize charge, which is significantly more than the bike fee.

    One thing I didn't mention in my first post, it's way way easier to deal with the bike in the soft case getting on and off shuttle buses, getting into taxis or rental cars and otherwise maneuvering it. My 130 lb wife has no problem carrying and handling hers in these situations.
    Last edited by Looigi; 05-22-13 at 09:02 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    Not exactly. From the Ritchey site:

    Case size: 8.5" W x 26.5"H x 31"L w/ wheels
    Ritchey does not guarantee Airlines will not charge

    That figures out to 66 united inches. It's also considered oversized. Also, I've never seen anyone use a tape measure at an airport. They have a tubular frame that you drop your bag into. If it goes in, it's legal. If it doesn't, it isn't. However, I've never seen airline personnel use it.

    Beyond airlines, ground transportation can also be a problem. In the US, we expect vans or mid-size or larger taxis. There's a lot of places around the world where that just isn't the case. A Toyota Corolla would be a fairly big car and you see a lot of Toyota Yaris'. Problem is, neither or those do very well with bike boxes; plastic, cardboard or otherwise.
    It may be technically oversized but in reality it is so close that nobody ever checks and even if they check, they let it slide - in my 32 one-way trips with soft-sided Ritchey case I was never charged once.

    As for "tubular frame", I think you may be thinking of carry-on size limits. Since the limit for checked baggage is sum of linear dimensions, obviously the tubular "one size fits all" approach will not work well. For example, an object with dimensions 31" x 31" x 0" (flat square) or 62"x0"x0" (a spear) satisfies linear sum requirement, but a cube 21"x 21" x21" does not. But tubular "fit in here" approach will not work properly for all these objects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    ...was what led me to the BreakAway. It is 88 united inches.
    Breakaway case is 64 to 66 inches, depending a bit on how you measure. Definitely not 88.

  23. #23
    Elmira>Taiwan>Elmira flatlander_48's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OGS_SD View Post
    Breakaway case is 64 to 66 inches, depending a bit on how you measure. Definitely not 88.
    Post Number 16. 88 is a typo...
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    Powerful-Ugly Creature Greyryder's Avatar
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    And, this is why BMX companies started making "golf" bags. Pity something similar can't be done for full size bikes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Burton
    When some wild eyed eight foot tall maniac grabs you by the throat and taps the back of your favorite head head against the barroom wall, and he looks crooked in the eye, and he ask you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."

  25. #25
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flatlander_48 View Post
    Bad move. Reply "sports equipment" or "exercise equipment". Both of which are actually true and avoid bike changes.
    Urban legend. But it does not matter. With all of the security today, you want to be perfectly honest of what your shipping. If not, you just might have an appointment with a man and a rubber glove.

    If traveling inside the US, unless I was hopping from airport to airport, I would not fly with my bike. Either too much hassle, too expensive or both together.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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