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  1. #1
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    Flying with the Bike

    So far I have opted for simple trips leaving fro home to explore my immediately surroundings since I am new to this part of the country and the landscape here is amazing (Arizona). But I am thinking of more distant locations and how to get there. I have been daunted by the idea of handing over my bike to an airline baggage handler unless I put it in one of those bomb-proof hard shell bike cases which are quite expensive. And then I would have to find a place to store it while on location and would be obligated to return to that particular port of entry to retrieve mybike protection investment.

    Does a cardboard box work? Is it safe enough? Do the airlines charge extra for such large items? Should I wait until I can afford one of those frames with couplings?

    What has been your experiences?

    Vadopazzo

  2. #2
    Hooked on Touring
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    Coming down a pass in Nevada - on a perfectly straight road - with a tailwind.
    Yes - - I've been flying on my bike.

    Oh - - you mean putting it in a box and then checking it at the airport.
    Well, there's been a lot of discussion here and over at crazyguyonabike.

    My vote is to send it UPS - bike shop to bike shop - or bike shop to motel that will accept. It costs about the same as the extra bike fee, is guaranteed on-time, means less stuff to drag around, and is handled better - I believe.

    Best - J

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    A cardboard box is fine.

    I've flown:

    Calgary, AB, Canada to Sydney, NSW, Australia
    Melbourne, Australia to Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
    Hobart, Tasmania, Australia to Cairns, Queensland, Australia
    Sydney, NSW, Australia to Calgary, AB, Canada
    Calgary, AB,Canada to San Francisco, CA
    Abbotsford, BC, Canada to Calgary, AB, Canada
    Calgary, AB, Canada to Des Moines, Iowa
    Los Angeles, CA to Edmonton, AB, Canada

    All with my bicycle in cardboard boxes. My bicycle has been just fine every time. The worst one was Sydney back to Calgary. I flew with United Airlines and they will sell you an absolutely MASSIVE box. Initially that was appealing because I could just roll my bicycle right in without dismantling it, but it was unwieldy and when it got damp, the box started to disintigrate. A light (which I should have removed anyway) got broken on that one.


    And yes, airlines do charge extra for bicycles ... it depends on the airline but it will be anywhere from about $30 to $80. Check the baggage information on the airline's website.

    Also, some airlines will charge an additional $175 if you show up with more than two pieces of luggage (Air Canada, for example). So your bicycle in the box is one piece of luggage, and one pannier is two pieces of luggage, and the second pannier is three pieces of luggage ... so if you don't want to be charged the $175, I use a laundry bag and put both panniers into it, so that they become one piece. Seems silly to me because it is the same weight and size either way, but that's the way it goes.


    Just one extra note ... when the bicycles come off the plane at the other end, and you're standing there waiting for your luggage, your bicycle could show up anywhere. It might come out on the carrousel, it might be somewhere near an information desk. Some airports have a central oversized baggage area some distance away from where you collect your regular luggage. Or they could wait till all the rest of the luggage is out, and everyone else has gone home before they finally bring it out from the back. It's a treasure hunt!!

  4. #4
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    I have flown internationally with a bike in both a box and a bike case. On NWA, the bike is free as a piece of checked luggage for international flights (not domestic). I never had a problem with either. I just used an LBS box that I dumpster dove for... other time I used a TriCo Iron case.

  5. #5
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    do you need to call first, or make special arrangments prior to showing up at checkin? or do you just show up and ask for a bicycle box?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    And yes, airlines do charge extra for bicycles ... it depends on the airline but it will be anywhere from about $30 to $80. Check the baggage information on the airline's website.
    is that $30-$80 each way?

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    http://www.bikeaccess.net/BikeAccess/default.cfm is a very helpful website for checking out other cyclists' experiences with different airlines, as well as other forms of transport. Make sure you check the dates of the comments, because airlines change their policies and increase their fees often.

    UPS can be useful if you're flying USA-USA, but I doubt it's a plausible alternative for international travel.

  8. #8
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    Does a cardboard box work? Is it safe enough?
    Before I got a Bike Friday (folding bike which packs into a regular suitcase), I flew many times with my bike in a cardboard box. One time the airline stole my boxed bike, but I never had any damage, no matter how awful the box looked like when I was re-united with my bike. Once when my bike put in a large plastic bag an airline gave me, one wheel was destroyed.

    is that $30-$80 each way?
    Yes

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by axolotl
    UPS can be useful if you're flying USA-USA, but I doubt it's a plausible alternative for international travel.
    I tried to ship my bike from Toronto to Portland by UPS once. I created a form for customs containing the information the customer rep at UPS said to put on it. The next day I got a call from UPS saying that they couldn't ship my bike, because US customs would never let it through, so they returned it to me. I ended up driving it to Buffalo and sticking it on Amtrak.

    (Normally I just put my bike in a cardboard bike box and take it with me on the plane, but in this case there were four of us, and the last leg was on a small plane, so all of our bikes wouldn't fit. I've never had a problem with my bike in a cardboard box on a plane.)

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmhaan
    do you need to call first, or make special arrangments prior to showing up at checkin? or do you just show up and ask for a bicycle box?

    Call first!!! Definitely!!

    Actually, first I read the website of all the airlines I might be using, then I call and talk to someone, then I show up.

    Not all airlines have bicycle boxes. I know that West Jet does not, and I don't think Air Canada does either, at least, not at all airports. United does for $15/box. Virgin Blue in Australia does for free (they were the best airline I've ever flown with!!). So you definitely want to check before you show up in case they decide to refuse to take your bicycle.

    If the airline doesn't have boxes, you can usually pick one up from a bicycle shop in the area. I've used several different "brands" of bicycle shop boxes, but I've found that the Norco boxes are about the best ... durable, and a good size. They aren't too big that it is difficult to haul the bicycle around in the box, and they aren't too small that you're struggling to get the bicycle in the box. Oh, and the Norco boxes fit in the backseat of a taxi!

  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by super-douper
    is that $30-$80 each way?
    Yep!

  12. #12
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Typical US airline bike transport fees are $80 each way. however,, this assumes that your bike is one of your two allowed checked bags and weighs less than 50 lbs. If you have two bags plus the bike, you will pay and additional $80 for 'excess baggage'. Additionally, if the box containing the bike and anything else you shove in with it weighs more than 50 lbs, you will pay an additional $80, even if you have no other checked bags. All these charges are each way.

    Check the airline's web site for specifics. There are some differences.

  13. #13
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    Like I said - I'm a convert to shipping my bike. I think last time I paid my bike shop $20 to pack and it cost $29 to ship - - roughly $50. Now, I wish there was a cheaper way since I'm so poor and such a cheapskate - but it costs money to get your bike there. Sure, Bikecentennial offers members no-cost shipping if you use North Slobovian Airlines on the 30th of February. But free shipping is rare and usually inconvenient. Plus, I need the baggage limit for my gear.

    I just think it's sooooo much nicer to avoid all the hassles of schlepping my bike box thru an airport, having to reopen it for inspection (and then there's the risk of a full search with so much metal), then somehow getting my bike out of the airport upon arrival. When I ship my bike ahead - I just go to a bike shop where my trip starts and - voila - the bike is ready to go.

    I haven't shipped overseas, but I have to Canada. Having a bike shop pack it - sending it business-to-business - and having a thorough customs label will alleviate most, if not all, problems.

    The cost is about the same, but simplicity is on the side of shipping.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    The cost is about the same, but simplicity is on the side of shipping.

    The reason I have never shipped my bicycle is because of all the perceived hassles with that method. I'm afraid I don't see the "simplicity" at all.

    Here are the difficulties I see with shipping my bicycle:

    --- Where do I send it to? Someone's home? A bicycle shop? If a bicycle shop, how do you find places that are willing to take your bicycle?

    When I flew to Europe with my bicycle, I was picked up at Heathrow (London) and taken to a home across the country. Then the next day I cycled from there to Paris (with the use of boat and train too). I suppose I might have been able to send it to the home where I stayed, but I didn't know those people very well, and I'm not sure how well they would have appreciated the delivery of such a large package.

    When I flew to Abbotsford, I was met by a cousin at the airport and dropped off at the place I was staying. Then I was on my own, and would have had to find my way around on my own. And again, I'm not sure how well-received the delivery of a large package would have been.

    When I flew to Australia, and around Australia, I just put my bicycle together there in the airport and rode from there. I had no idea where I would be staying that night, or what shops or anything might be available in the cities I had landed in. In fact, in Cairns, we landed at about 11 pm, so we put the bicycles together and then slept the rest of the night in the airport before cycling off into the city in the morning.

    When I flew to San Francisco, I was picked up and dropped off at my hostel. Then I was on my own. I knew no one who actually lived in San Francisco, and was not familiar with any of the shops there. If my bicycle wasn't with me, I would have had to go on a hunt for it on my own, probably involving the expense of taxis.

    When I flew to Des Moines, I rented a car, and I was also met at the airport. I could have probably shipped my bicycle that time. But that's one out of a whole bunch.


    --- How do you locate your bicycle in the city where you've landed?

    If you've sent it to a shop, you've then got to find that shop, and hope your bicycle is there. In order to do that, you've got to hope for a good public transportation system that is quick and easy to figure out, or for an inexpensive taxi service that will take you there. I've only ever encountered an inexpensive taxi service in Eugene, Or. The rest have been pretty pricey - more than making up for the cost of shipping the bicycle on the plane.


    --- What about shipping it back home?

    Then you've got to find a shop that will give you a box, and a UPS service in the city you're flying out of. Let me tell you right now, if you're flying out of Los Angeles, you'll want a whole extra day for those tasks. If you're not familiar with that city, it isn't easy to find stuff there! I would imagine it would be the same with pretty much any big city. I'm thinking over the area I was in Sydney, Australia, and there might have been a UPS service somewhere around (although I can't think of any off hand) but I can definitely say that there weren't any bicycle shops, or I would have been in them.

    But suppose you've successfully managed to find both a bicycle shop that will give you a box, and the UPS outlet, and you've packaged and sent your bicycle. Now you've got to get yourself to the airport. I'm thinking about Melbourne here, for example, and I know where the bicycle shop is, I'm pretty sure I could have found a UPS outlet ... but the airport is about 30 miles north! I would have had to take another taxi up there ... more expense and hassle.


    I'm not trying to be critical here, I'm just wondering how on earth you do it in such a way that you can call it "simple".

  15. #15
    Senior Member bitingduck's Avatar
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    Flying with a bike isn't so bad, but you do get stuck with the fee now these days. It used to be you could say "climbing equipment" or something like that and not pay the bike fee, but those days seem over.

    I've flown with it in an Iron Case, the Tri-All3 case, and a cardboard box.

    Iron Case can sometimes be a pain and squish your wheels out of true, but it's got wheels.

    The Tri-All3 case is very secure, but it's big $$$ to buy (I borrowed it). I also had problems with shipping it (the Tri-All3), when a fedex store guy insisted on measuring from the bottom of the wheels rather than the box, and charged extra for it being oversized as a result.

    Carboard box is free outside your LBS, and easier to pack than an iron case. I've used one the last couple times and it was fine-- not banged up at all. They usually have hand-holds for carrying, and you often don't have to take the rear wheel off. I always put a threaded rod with nuts on inside and out on the fork (and rear dropouts if I remove the rear wheel) just for extra safety.

    Be careful shipping to Canada. UPS will stick you for a large amount of money on the receiving end as a "customs broker" fee on top of any customs fee. Canada Post charges $5 plus any customs fees. Air shippers (e.g. fedex) I think usually include it in the shipping cost, but they're $$$.

    The best we ever did was put two frames in an iron case, and all the wheels in a separate box. It was "no, it's sports equipment" at check-in after the person already started looking up the cost for "bikes" (the "These aren't the bikes you're looking for" jedi mind trick) on the way out, and camping equipment on the return trip (them:"you don't have any fuel in there for your stove do you?" , us:"nope", them:"ok"). The guy in the line next to us had to pay to get his bike on the plane.

    Edit: I almost forgot that various cycling organizations often include vouchers for flying with your bike for free when you join. The membership fee is usually less than the one-way cost of bringing it on the plane. League of American Bicyclists used to have vouchers (probably still do), but I don't remember what airline. USA Cycling (USCF/NORBA/USPRO) has vouchers for United.
    Last edited by bitingduck; 11-17-05 at 01:36 AM.

  16. #16
    Velo Tourist
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    Summary rule of thumb:
    US Domestic flights = $80/each way to take bike in box as luggage
    International flights = no charge to take the bike as luggage

    Bike boxes (cardboard) purchased from the airline; range $8 - $20 per box. Always check AirFrance first (usually the least expensive also). They always have boxes; check in advance with other airlines or you may be at the airport trying to get home and NO box! These boxes are fine for packing your bike; but, make sure components have some protection also by using bubble wrap if you have it.

    http://www.dulcinea.crazyguyonabike.com

    Bruce Northcutt

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    Quote Originally Posted by vadopazzo
    So far I have opted for simple trips leaving fro home to explore my immediately surroundings since I am new to this part of the country and the landscape here is amazing (Arizona). But I am thinking of more distant locations and how to get there. I have been daunted by the idea of handing over my bike to an airline baggage handler unless I put it in one of those bomb-proof hard shell bike cases which are quite expensive. And then I would have to find a place to store it while on location and would be obligated to return to that particular port of entry to retrieve mybike protection investment.

    Does a cardboard box work? Is it safe enough? Do the airlines charge extra for such large items? Should I wait until I can afford one of those frames with couplings?

    What has been your experiences?

    Vadopazzo
    It depends on the airline. British Airways took my fully assembled (front & rear racks) tourer after I took the pedals off and turned the handlebars sideways for free, Denver - London and back. The bike was unharmed after both trips. Delta wanted $80 each way for Denver - Portland ME, so I bought a shipping box from Colorado Cyclist and shipped the bike FedEx ground for $45, insured.

    Colorado Cyclist sells corrugated plastic shipping boxes for about $100 (they may have gone up) with foam padding inside, they're not as good as the IronCase or Trico boxes, but they're good for the person who ships a bike once a year or so. I had to untape my handlebars and turn the brake levers sideways to get them to fit inside.

  18. #18
    Hooked on Touring
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    Machka -

    The key is to send your bike business to business. Unfortunately - UPS, FedEx and others give business rates that are far cheaper than individual rates. So it's cheaper to have the bike shop box and ship, Plus that's less you have to do. Also, if you fil out a customs tag, business to business shipping seems easier to clear thru customs.
    Fair? No. But that's the way things are.

    Also - those "UPS Stores" are like Mailboxes Etc. - subcontractors and VERY expensive.

    Here's all I do at the start of my trip.
    1. Find a bike shop online where I'll be starting my trip and call them to let them know.
    2. Take my bike to my local bike shop and give them the address and phone number of the destination.
    3. When I get to my destination, I take a bus to the bike shop and my bike is waiting for me.

    Here's what I do at the end of my trip.
    1. Take my bike to a bike shop at in a town with public transportation to the airport.
    2. Have them box and ship to my home.
    (If international, have them box and ship to my bike shop.)
    3. Take the bus to the airport and hop on a plane.

    Sounds pretty easy to me. Compared to - - -
    Hey - I've been there - dragging bike box & gear to the check-in counter or from the baggage claim area - trying to bike into or out of an airport with zillions of cars flying by - trying to find a place to disassemble my bike.

    If you can get free shipping - then maybe it's worth it. But if you are going to have to pay an oversize equipment charge - then why not just ship the bicycle??

    Best - J

    PS - Shipping gets pricey to Australia and Europe. But if you are going on a long tour and have a two-item limit, then you may have to ship something.
    Last edited by jamawani; 11-17-05 at 10:39 AM.

  19. #19
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    Sounds pretty easy to me.
    I have to agree with Machka on this. It does not sound particularly easy to me. Moreover, there are an awful lot of assumptions made:

    -The assumption you CAN travel inexpensively AND conveniently between bike shop, lodging, & airport. You make it sound like this is a trivial matter. Outside of a small handful of cities, public transportation in the US is horrible. Cheap public transportation to/from airports often simply doesn't exist.
    -The assumption that the bike shop at your destination is willing to accept your bike.
    -The assumption the bike shop will be open when you want to get your bike or drop it off.
    -The assumption that the cyclist wants to spend a night in a hotel/motel near the bike shop or airport on their first and last nights.
    -The assumption that the cyclist doesn't want or need their bike in the days prior to departing on a tour, on the last day of a tour, or on the first days back home following a tour.
    -The assumption the cyclist wouldn't prefer to simply pedal away from the airport on arrival. Yeah, some airports are awful to bike to/from, but just as many I've flown to are easy.
    -The assumption that finding a place to assemble or disassemble a bike is a problem. It has never been a problem for me in the dozens of times I've done it.
    -The assumption the cyclist is flying domestically in the US, or between 2 countries where something like UPS is even a possibility.
    -The assumption the bike will arrive in a timely manner.
    -The assumption for US-Canada travel that the bike will get thru customs in a timely and cheap manner.

    With all the shipping expenses, packing expenses (if the bike shop does it), ground transportation expenses due to the lack of a bike, and especially, the lost time inherent in this method because of all of the running around to and from bike shops, it sounds like very false economy to me in most cases. I will grant there there are some circumstances where the UPS method can be useful and that it's a possibility to be aware of, but rarely would it have made sense for me. I was on one trip in Utah where my friend used UPS when flying home, but it was that rare set of circumstances where it made sense. (I didn't do it for 2 reasons: My bike was flying for free, and I was flying to a 3rd city before flying home and wanted my bike immediately.)
    --------------------------
    As far as a 2 item limit for some flights is concerned, that has a simple solution: Just get a lightweight nylon duffle bag for panniers, camping gear, whatever. Then simply roll up the empty duffle bag and stick it at the bottom of your panniers.

  20. #20
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    Hey Axo -
    Chill out on the assumption stuff and live and let live. Machka had some questions in her posting that I tried to answer. If you want to take your bike as luggage - fine. I've done both and find that shipping is easier and the cost IS about the same.

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    Jeez Jama, I think you're the one who needs to chill out. Machka made some valid points that you didn't address. I don't think it hurts anyone to be aware of some of the things to be considered before making a decision on shipping a bike. If you want to respond to queries or make a useful point, please go right ahead. Otherwise, don't bother.

  22. #22
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    How hard is it?????

    Let's see - I go to Yahoo Yellow Pages - input, for example, Astoria, OR - and then hit bicycle. I get a list of bike shops with addresses and phone numbers. One minute - tops. Likewise for Yorktown, VA.

    Although public transportation IS awful in the U.S. - I can't think of a single airport that has nothing. If you are flying in with your bike as luggage you have to ride from the airport to your starting point maybe 50 miles away. Why not take a bus to an outlying town that's only 25 miles from the start? So you check out public transportation (again on the web) and select a twon that's close to your starting point. Let's say 10 miinutes.

    Whether you take your bike as luggage or ship it - there is always the issue of having to overnight in the place you fly into/out of. In my case, I usually get a motel/hostel in the small town on the bus route rather than in the city where the airport is located. It is usually prudent to schedule a night near your starting point and ending point - in case of delayed flights, running behind schedule, etc.

    How do I locate the shop - again, Yahoo Yellow Pages - map. Plus I don't send my bike to some huge city. I send it to a small town that's easy to get around. I don't carry a computer with me, but there are plenty of hostels/libraries/internet cafes that have computer access. From journals over at crazyguyonabike - it seems that most cyclists need an internet fix almost daily. The info is easy to come by.

    As for assumptions, I always call the bike shop and ask. I've never been told, no. Also, that gives them a "heads up" to expect my bike. Sometimes I have been charged for reassembly - others times not - especially if I buy a few last minute things at their shop. Many times I have been given a complimentary water bottle for the tour. It's just a nice connection at the start of my trip.

    As for not having your bike. This is a valid point. If you are doing a 1-week tour that is one thing - but I go for long tours. UPS offers guaranteed delivery in 3-4 days to most places in North America. So I do without my bike for that long. Also, I have two bikes - most cyclists who post here have even more - so I still can pedal around town - but I'm also doing a lot to get ready to be gone for 3 months.

    This option is probably not good for remote, foreign locations. But again, most cyclists who use this site tour in the US, Canada, Europe, or ANZ. UPS offers guaranteed delivery dates for business-to-business deliveries. I had a bike NOT arrive as luggage forcing me to overnight PLUS find a way back to the airport the next day. My guess is that the odds of getting your bike there are much better with shipping than with airline baggage.

    I've shipped my bike to the Yukon post 9-11 with no problems. Again, business-to-business with a clear customs release form. Seems like customs officials are far more willing to speed up the wheels of commerce than of private travel regarding heightened security.

    You mentioned costs. Even if BOTH bike shops charge for boxing and reassembly plus shipping charges - it is less than $75. $20+$30+$20 for example. Many times it is significantly less. I checked a number of airline sites and they are upping charges for bikes. I hadn't checked in a while and when Machka said $80 - I was surprised. It had been $50 - but that is for 1st-level oversize - usually max 60 inches. Bikes are considered 2nd-level oversize - thus the higher charge.

    Shipping home is far easier. I just roll into a bike shop in a town (with bus/train service or a hostel shuttle) at the end of my tour and ask if they will box-ship my bike. Again. I've never been told - no. I usually stay overnight and catch the morning shuttle to the airport with plenty of time to make my flight.

    I've done it both ways and shipping is easier for me. It's not that hard for me (maybe not other people) to find addresses and phone numbers of bike shops and to find towns near the start and finish of my tours that have low-cost accommodations and connections to the nearby airport. What happens is that I end up starting and ending my trips far more relaxed than I used to be. I ALWAYS have gotten my bike and ALWAYS in good condition. And the cost is about the same as the airline extra fee. It really is not that hard. I (maybe not other people) would never go back to airline baggage unless I had to.

    Getting your bike to the place where you are starting your trip has always been a little tricky. And the price seems to always be going up. Airlines are bankrupt and seeking ways to cut costs. Checked baggage is a money-loser for them so I fear that they will continue to add restrictions and increase costs. It could be that shipping is the only option in the near future.

    Now then - I've done both airline baggage and shipping many times and can compare personal experiences. For those so opposed to shipping or who say it is just too complicated - Have you done both???

    Best - J

  23. #23
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    UPS taco'd the rear wheel on my mountain bike, which was packed by a bike shop. Luckily this was not on a tour.

    Another time I had a bike packed at a shop at the end of a tour and shipped home UPS, that was fine.

    All the (4 or 5?) other times I have packed it myself in a cardboard box, checked it as luggage, and it came through fine. I always acquired the box and did the packing at either home or a hostel, and then got a shuttle to the airport, either a private bus shuttle or the hostel's shuttle service. The shuttle cost a few $, but not enough to bother me. I haven't disassembled/packed in the airport (yet) but I have unpacked/assembled there, and that's fine too.

    You want to leave plenty of extra time if you are bringing the bike on the plane -- not only for the obvious reasons, but also, you and the agent will be much more relaxed at checkin time, and that really helps if you have to deal with something unexpected.

    What you pay and the checked luggage limits are completely dependant on the airline. You have to do specific homework for the actual flight you are going to take - helps to talk to a real person instead of booking flights on line.

    My upcoming trip is to Australia, and the shipping to there is prohibitively expensive, so I'll be taking the bike on the plane.

    Either way, it's a pain and expensive, and most of all it's scary before you do it the first time. But any of these ways work, I don't think there's a "best" way for all situations.

    Funny, i was so stressed about this on my first trip, but now... it's just part of the bike-tour experience, meaning you have to learn to deal with the unexpected, figure stuff out on the fly, roll with the punches, and still keep a smile on your face.

    Luckily, a few weeks on the bike will really help!

    Cheers mates!
    Anna
    ...

  24. #24
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    jamawani, your method appears to involve a lot of pre-planning, which I rarely put into my trips. I do plan to a certain extent, but not in that much detail.

    I tend to agree with axolotl's summary of assumptions.

    -The assumption you CAN travel inexpensively AND conveniently between bike shop, lodging, & airport. You make it sound like this is a trivial matter. Outside of a small handful of cities, public transportation in the US is horrible. Cheap public transportation to/from airports often simply doesn't exist.

    Using the public transportation systems can also be challenging and may require a knowledge of how they work ahead of time. Let's take Winnipeg, where I lived for 13 years as an example. To get from the airport to the nearest bicycle shop would have taken you no less than 3 busses. You would be on bus #1 for about 5 blocks. You would have to know that's where you had to get off, or you would end up all the way downtown. Then you would have been on the second bus to one of the main malls where it would have dropped you. That would be the easy part. There are about 20 busses that leave from that mall, 4 of which would take you by the nearest bicycle shop. Although all 4 of those say they are "Express" busses, 3 of them would stop near that shop, but 1 would not. These are all little tidbits of information which you'd have to be familiar with if you didn't want to end up clear on the other end of town.

    I have used public transportation systems in other countries but it isn't something I want to deal with the moment I get off a plane, especially if it means I have to try to locate a bicycle shop before it closes so I can get my bicycle.

    Take France for example. I figured out the metro system within Paris pretty easily, but never did figure out the bus system outside of Paris ... mainly because I didn't speak the language then, and some of the charts and schedules were a complete mystery to me. It was difficult enough to get where I needed to go WITH my bicycle. I can hardly imagine the hassle that would have been involved in trying to find my bicycle, and then figure out how to get where I needed to go.

    If someone is going to use the UPS method, my recommendation would be to look up the public transportation systems in the destination city, if they are available online, and attempt to plan out a route.


    -The assumption that the bike shop at your destination is willing to accept your bike.
    -The assumption the bike shop will be open when you want to get your bike or drop it off.


    Some bicycle shops I've encountered along the way are very small, and have staff who are very rude. I doubt that all bicycle shops would accept bicycles. This might not be so much of an issue in a warmer climate, but here in the Canadian, if you have any sort of bicycle related issue between the months of September and April, good luck finding a shop! They've all been converted to skate and ski shops. I've tried to bring my bicycle in for a tune up during those times, and have been told to take my bicycle away because they aren't ready for it yet. If you're planning a fall trip up here, you'd have a reduced chance of having a place accept your bicycle.
    Also, there's the time thing. I usually end up arriving places latish in the afternoon ... well, chances are, the shop could be closed or on the verge of closing. You'd have to book your flights to fit with shop hours.


    -The assumption that the cyclist wants to spend a night in a hotel/motel near the bike shop or airport on their first and last nights.

    For me ... I would rather not spend my night at hotel/motel at all if I can help it. That's where arriving at the airport WITH the bicycle can be great ... if you arrive late, you can just spend the night in the airport. If you arrive early, you're on the road! And you can camp somewhere that night.

    When I arrived in Sydney, I put my bicycle together and started riding. I had no idea at all where I was going to spend the night!! That's how it was when I landed in Launceston and Cairns too.


    -The assumption that the cyclist doesn't want or need their bike in the days prior to departing on a tour, on the last day of a tour, or on the first days back home following a tour.

    Even though many of my tours are fairly long, I end up packing in the events right from Day 1 to the very last day. I've almost missed flights as it is, rushing to make it to the city in time. Also, because my tours often surround randonneuring events, the sooner I can get ahold of my bicycle when I arrive, so I can do test rides on it, the better.


    -The assumption the cyclist wouldn't prefer to simply pedal away from the airport on arrival. Yeah, some airports are awful to bike to/from, but just as many I've flown to are easy.
    -The assumption that finding a place to assemble or disassemble a bike is a problem. It has never been a problem for me in the dozens of times I've done it.


    I am one of the ones who prefers to pedal away from the airport. And it has been very easy to find my way around all the airports, and surrounding areas, I've pedalled away from! There haven't been streams of traffic ... once you've put your bicycle together, the stream of traffic associated with your flight is gone. You've got the option of waiting till things die down a bit and all is pretty quiet. Also the traffic signs etc. coming out of most airports are pretty clear and informative.

    Also, assembling and disassembling the bicycle in an airport is quick and easy ... I've never had trouble finding a quiet place to do it ... even in the Los Angeles airport, which was by far the busiest one I've been to. The personnel at airports can also be very accommodating - checking on how you're doing, getting you to the front of the line, and providing you with tools and equipment.

    Take the Virgin Blue people at the Melbourne airport for example. We arrived there about 4 hours early and asked for bicycle boxes. They gave them to us for free. We headed off to a quiet corner and started dismantling the bicycles. They came over and asked us if we needed tools or tape for the boxes. We needed tape, and so they went and got that for us. They asked us if we needed help. We didn't, we knew what we were doing. They asked us if our flight was leaving soon and if we needed it held so that we could make it on time. We were early, so that was OK. When we finished packing everything, they took us to the front of the line and checked our stuff through, ahead of a whole bunch of other people standing in line, so that we wouldn't have to cart our stuff around the airport. It was great!


    -The assumption the cyclist is flying domestically in the US, or between 2 countries where something like UPS is even a possibility.

    Yes ... I'm not sure UPS is available where I live. I'm sure it must be, but I'm not sure how often they deliver stuff. I couldn't find an address for them in the yellow pages. Also, although I fly between major centers, those are rarely my destination. For example, when I flew to Heathrow in 2003, the last thing I wanted to do was to go into London, and that was not my destination anyway, so I couldn't have sent my bicycle to a shop in London. I needed to get to St. Quentin, France (a small town outside of Paris) the very next day ... and I needed to use my bicycle to get there. If I'd opted to use UPS, I actually don't know where I would have sent the bicycle. I'm not sure if St. Quentin or any of the other smaller spots I stopped briefly along the way would have UPS outlets. And by the time I got to Paris, it was quite late (they lit the Eiffel tour when I cycled past! ) so I couldn't have picked up my bicycle there if I had managed to ship it to a shop there.

    If I were to use the UPS method, there would have to be a whole lot of extra planning involved.


    -The assumption the bike will arrive in a timely manner.
    -The assumption for US-Canada travel that the bike will get thru customs in a timely and cheap manner.


    And both of those are HUGE issues! I know that sometimes a bicycle can get lost with an airline as well, or that going through customs can be a bit of a pain, but usually your bicycle is right there with you. Having ordered stuff from the US, and having worked for a company ordering stuff from the US, I know that sometimes stuff can get held up in customs for weeks ... depending on the mood of the customs officials.

    Now most people I know who opt for the UPS method, send their bicycles at least a week in advance so that they have time to clear customs. But I'm just not sure how comfortable I would feel with that.

    And a few comments to jamawani:
    If you are flying in with your bike as luggage you have to ride from the airport to your starting point maybe 50 miles away.

    My starting point IS the airport. That's when the tour begins for me.


    Whether you take your bike as luggage or ship it - there is always the issue of having to overnight in the place you fly into/out of. In my case, I usually get a motel/hostel in the small town on the bus route rather than in the city where the airport is located. It is usually prudent to schedule a night near your starting point and ending point - in case of delayed flights, running behind schedule, etc.

    I rarely schedule a place to stay near my starting or ending places. If it comes down to it, I can sleep right there in the airport. That's happened more than once.




    So ... in some cases, and for some people, I can see that the UPS method would work ... from what I can see, you'd have to make yourself pretty familiar with your destination, and itinerary first. You couldn't be the type of person who just wings it. And if you've got lots of time and money to play with so you can sit in a hotel waiting for your bicycle to clear customs, if necessary, then UPS could be the way to go.

    But if you're the type of person who wants to start the tour right there on the doorstep of the airport, who doesn't want to make too many detailed plans, and who wants to end the tour at the doorstep of the airport (all of which I prefer), then bringing it with you as luggage is the way to go.

    I think it also depends a lot on where you're going, whether you speak the language or not, and what sort of information is available about the place you're going.

  25. #25
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl

    My upcoming trip is to Australia, and the shipping to there is prohibitively expensive, so I'll be taking the bike on the plane.

    Either way, it's a pain and expensive, and most of all it's scary before you do it the first time. But any of these ways work, I don't think there's a "best" way for all situations.

    Where are you going there, and how long will you be there?

    Also a tip ... when you arrive at the airport in Australia (Sydney?), make sure your top tube is sparkling clean. When I arrived and was going through customs, I was standing in line, with everyone else from the flight, with my bicycle in a cardboard box, and my other bag of luggage. They pulled me out of the line and ask me to open the top of the cardboard box. Looking down on my very clean top tube, they pronounced my bicycle fit for entry into the country and off I went ... leaving all the other passengers still standing in line.

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