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  1. #1
    480 dkgatsby's Avatar
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    Flying cross-country with your bike

    I'll be flying cross-country at the end of this month via Southwest Airlines, and I was thinking of packing my 54 cm fixed gear up and bringing it along. I'll get a bike box and I have a basic idea of how to pack it (remove the front wheel, pedals, stem, handlebars, seatpost and seat), but I was wondering if anyone here at any experience bringing their bike on a plane as checked baggage. Thanks.

    Southwest allows for two checked bags at no extra cost as long as they are under 50 lbs (my bike with all the packing materials won't weigh more than 25-28 lbs), so weight is not an issue.

  2. #2
    Veteran Bastard Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    I once partially broke down a bmx bike, wrapped certain parts of it in bubble wrap and put it in a huge military duffel bag and had no trouble checking it. It got lost temporarily in Chicago but once it and I were in the same place, everything was fine. A properly-packed box with a lot of packing material surrounding the frame/parts would most likely be a better way to go. Have you ever seen the way they toss stuff around as they're loading the plane?

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    mediocre member djeucalyptus's Avatar
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    unless you happen to be really lucky (which doesn't happen much with the airlines), you're gonna get stuck with a $50 oversized charge each way for bringing a bike box.

    if you're still set on bringing it, pack it really well and line the two biggest sides with extra layers of cardboard. I've seen cardboard bike boxes show up severely pierced through the side (as if other luggage or boxes went right into the side of the box).
    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    This is the internet dude. You're free to be an asshat.

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    Yes, in addition to the 50 lb limit, there is a size limit of 62" for length + height + width. Won't meet that with a bike that has regular (26 or 27") wheels and a solid one-piece frame. So expect the $50 oversize charge to apply.
    When you pack it, place an old hub or some kind of spacer in the fork dropouts to protect against the fork getting bent. Do the same with the rear dropouts if you remove the back wheel.

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    Veteran Bastard Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    If it's going to cost that much to fly with it and you're going to pack it in a box anyway, it would be cheaper (and safer) to ship it via UPS to the place you're going and then ship it back home when you return. You can snag a bike box from your LBS and ship a complete bike for under 40 bucks if you pack it yourself.

  6. #6
    Ride for Life wearyourtruth's Avatar
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    yeah it's a b!tch and there's not much of a chance of getting past the $50 each way without a folding bike due to the 62" rule.

    tips:
    -don't forget to pack any tools you will need to reassemble your bike when you get there. i just packaged them in a small box in the bike box
    -use something to brace the fork/track ends (as mentioned above)
    -reinforce anywhere that can poke out; track ends, fork ends, bb axles (if you take the cranks off) chainrings, etc.
    -wrap everything inside. wrap the frame, wrap the fork, wrap all the parts sitting inside. you're bike's gonna get tossed around a bit, and possibly have everyone else's luggage fall/thrown on top of it

    this is what i'm going to shoot for when i fly to minneapolis in a few months, it will hopefully get me around the $50. everything not bike related crammed into something that can be a carry-on. 2 boxes. one has the frame, fork removed, cranks removed, headset/stem removed, seat/seatpost removed, all packaged and in the box. the other has the wheels and tools (in their own box). i'm hoping both of those will make it under the size limit *crosses fingers*
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  7. #7
    Ride for Life wearyourtruth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrodzilla View Post
    If it's going to cost that much to fly with it and you're going to pack it in a box anyway, it would be cheaper (and safer) to ship it via UPS to the place you're going and then ship it back home when you return. You can snag a bike box from your LBS and ship a complete bike for under 40 bucks if you pack it yourself.
    actually my experience with shipping a bike in the past year or so has been that at BEST it comes out to the same price. it's not unusual to have to pay $70-100+ to ship a bike, and that's one-way.
    before posting, a "noob" should always ask themselves "could this have been answered by first visiting Sheldon Brown

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  8. #8
    Veteran Bastard Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    I just shipped a complete bike...partially broken down and packed in a bike box...to a friend of mine in Minneapolis and it cost $39.00 via UPS.

    Last edited by Scrodzilla; 06-08-09 at 08:57 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member xxguitarist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wearyourtruth View Post
    actually my experience with shipping a bike in the past year or so has been that at BEST it comes out to the same price. it's not unusual to have to pay $70-100+ to ship a bike, and that's one-way.
    You're getting ripped off. Shop around.

  10. #10
    * adriano's Avatar
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    how bad do you want it? consider couplers.

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    If your bike is worth more than a couple hundred bucks, get a hard case... or bring a beater, you never know with airline baggage handlers.
    Quote Originally Posted by Santaria View Post
    because physics has more street cred than tarckstars.

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    Senior Member Sangetsu's Avatar
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    I fly internationally/locally with my bike all the time, and I always get dinged with an oversize bag fee. If I tell them there is a bicycle in the case, then there is even more of a fee. When they ask what's in the box, I say "camera equipment", and that's good enough. No extra "bicycle" charge. Just make sure you get a carrying bag/case which doesn't have an image of a bicycle imprinted/embossed on it.

  13. #13
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    x2 on the hard case. There is no way I was gonna let baggage handlers throw around my bike in a cardboard box. It was a Cannondale F3000sl though so it was worth the extra cash to keep it safe

  14. #14
    Ride for Life wearyourtruth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xxguitarist View Post
    You're getting ripped off. Shop around.
    i did shop around. i went to UPS, FedEx, and the Post Office. am i missing something? maybe it's just because i was shipping a larger bike (58cm). or maybe some employees are just nicer than others?
    before posting, a "noob" should always ask themselves "could this have been answered by first visiting Sheldon Brown

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  15. #15
    Senior Member xxguitarist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wearyourtruth View Post
    i did shop around. i went to UPS, FedEx, and the Post Office. am i missing something? maybe it's just because i was shipping a larger bike (58cm). or maybe some employees are just nicer than others?
    Odd.
    Size shouldn't matter, as long as it was in a standard cycle box. Ask next time if you're within a few inches of being one class lower in the OS category. A complete bike should ship across most of the US for $40.

  16. #16
    on Baby Charlie Concept~ muckymucky's Avatar
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    what about tire pressure? what tire pressure to keep at?

  17. #17
    Spin Meister icyclist's Avatar
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    For me to ship my bike on way, from New York to Los Angeles last March, via Fed Ex Ground:

    $68

    I trust Fed Ex - I don't trust the airlines. Or as I like to say, there are two kinds of luggage, carry-on and lost. I was more than happy to pay the extra $18. The bike was delivered, in perfect condition, to my door.

    Shipping by Fed Ex Ground takes about three days to ship a bike that way across country.
    This post is a natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and are in no way to be considered flaws or defects.

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  18. #18
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    has anyone done bikes on a plane recently? within the last year they've hiked up all the charges substantially (around the same time they started charging for more than 1 checked bag). iirc it's a hundo each way for something the size of a bike box. it's not standard oversize.

  19. #19
    BFSSFG old timer riderx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LupinIII View Post
    has anyone done bikes on a plane recently? within the last year they've hiked up all the charges substantially (around the same time they started charging for more than 1 checked bag). iirc it's a hundo each way for something the size of a bike box. it's not standard oversize.
    I have. Southwest and Virgin America are the best going right now ($50 each way last time I flew). Always double check when booking and print out the info in case you have a problem.


    Quote Originally Posted by wearyourtruth View Post
    i did shop around. i went to UPS, FedEx, and the Post Office. am i missing something? maybe it's just because i was shipping a larger bike (58cm). or maybe some employees are just nicer than others?
    Oversized, just like the airlines. Best bet is to sign up for a free FedEx account and pre-fill out the shipping size and info, then print and drop off. If your bike is on the edge of being oversized, the people at the counter will quickly measure it and sometimes it won't go in your favor.

    The other advantage over shipping is you can insure your bike for full value, something you can't do on the plane. That said, with the increase in shipping rates the last few years, if I'm flying with Southwest or Virgin I'll pay $50 and take the bike with me. Saves some hassles over shipping.

    I've done both options (taking on the plane and shipping) many times and luckily have not had a problem with either method. I been using a Crateworks XLC box since 2000 and make sure to pack it good.
    Single Speed Outlaw
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  20. #20
    Senior Member
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    ^^that's pretty nice to hear. United is terrible with baggage rates, it's ridiculous

  21. #21
    Veteran Bastard Scrodzilla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icyclist View Post
    For me to ship my bike on way, from New York to Los Angeles last March, via Fed Ex Ground:

    $68
    UPS is much cheaper. Just sayin'.

  22. #22
    480 dkgatsby's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great feedback guys. I still haven't decided whether or not I wanna dish out the cash to do this as I'll only be gone for 10 days or so. It might not be worth it... but, then again, I can barely be away from my bike for more than a few days. Decisions, decisions...

  23. #23
    BFSSFG old timer riderx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrodzilla View Post
    UPS is much cheaper. Just sayin'.
    Funny, the last few years I've found FedEx Ground to be much cheaper than UPS when shipping a bike. Best bet is to box it up, take weights and measurements and then punch it into the online calculators to find the best deal.
    Single Speed Outlaw
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