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Thread: Bike on a plane

  1. #1
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    Bike on a plane

    I have no idea what is involved with getting your bike on a plane to do some trekking outside of your own country. Any help in pointing me in the right direction?

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Yep ... I've flown with my bicycle many times.

    1) Get a box ... I use a cardboard one from my LBS (the Madone box I used recently was the best one I've had), or you could use a hardshell case which you might purchase or rent from your LBS, or there are also bicycle bags.

    2) Put the bicycle in the box ... if you're not sure how to do this, check with your LBS, or I and others here could give you some tips.

    3) Go to the airport. Note that airports sometimes also have cardboard boxes so one option might be to ride to the airport and box your bicycle there, but you'd want to check if they have boxes available first because not all airports do.

    4) Go through the check-in line like usual. Your bicycle may be taken away to be weighed and measured and X-rayed, or you may be asked to take it somewhere for those purposes. You will also likely be charged for the bicycle so come prepared to pay. Then you'll be asked to leave your bicycle in a place that usually doesn't seem like the right place, but it is.

    5) When you arrive at your destination, your bicycle may come around on the caroussel (has happened to me a couple times), or it may show up in the oversized luggage area (that's more frequent), or it may just show up somewhere in the baggage area. If it doesn't appear on the caroussel or in the oversized baggage area, I'll just take a walk around and see if I can spot it somewhere.

    6) And off you go!

    Read the following article over regarding regulations for bicycles on airlines ... it's stuff you may need to know:
    http://www.ibike.org/encouragement/travel/bagregs.htm

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    Senior Member 72andsunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    You will also likely be charged for the bicycle so come prepared to pay.
    Come prepared to pay a lot. $50 to $80 (each way) for a domestic (US) flight is pretty standard. On a recent return trip from Italy, I was charged 150 Euro by Alitalia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    2) Put the bicycle in the box ... if you're not sure how to do this, check with your LBS, or I and others here could give you some tips.
    This step generally involves the following:
    1) rotating the handlebars to line them up with the frame;
    2) removing the pedals; and
    3) in some cases, removing the front wheel from the fork, depending on the box used.

    Cheers,
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    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    I`we seen some pages that show in detail, with photos. I think you should remember to let some pressure out of the tyres. I forgot but was lucky. Small plane, bikes and lugage stored behind a curtain in the back of the cabin.

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    Here's how I pack up bikes for customers to be shipped after they have been assembled.

    Switch the rear der to the lowest gear(closest to the wheel) Install plastic hub protectors onto rear hub.

    Take the front wheel off, take out the skewer, zip tie it to front wheel, insert plastic guards into hubs and insert plastic dropout protectors into fork dropouts.

    Insert cardboard between the front disc brake pads.

    Take off pedals.

    Wrap frame and fork with bubble wrap, wrap left crank arm in bubble wrap/cardboard.

    Take off handle bars(leave stem on fork), put stem cap back on. Zip tie the wrapped bar to the right side of the top tube.

    Take off seatpost and saddle and wrap in bubble wrap.

    Drop bike into box. Take the front wheel and drop into the left side of the box, next to the toptube and downtube, the left crank arm will go in between some of the spokes.

    Place wrapped saddle/seatpost into box where it won't damage bike.

    If bike is too tall for bike box you can take the air out of the rear tire and drop travel on fork(if you have travel adjust)

    Tape box, also tape bottom of box just to be sure. One trick is to stand above box with box between legs and use your legs to squeeze the sides of the box together before taping to minimize bulge.

  7. #7
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    Some airlines, or perhaps, some airport employees, are less fussy about removing the pedals. My pedals are quite narrow, so don't necessarily have to come off.

    At some airports, bicycles get packed in in large plastic bags. You still have to rotate the handlebars and remove the pedals. It doesn't seem as secure as a cardboard box, that my experience is that the critical factor is how carefully airport staff treats the packed bicycle. Whether packed in plastic or in a cardboard box, there is a chance that bicycle will be damaged, even slightly. I have flown with bicycle many times, and I estimate that there is damage 40 or 50% of the time.

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert_in_ca View Post
    Tape box, also tape bottom of box just to be sure. One trick is to stand above box with box between legs and use your legs to squeeze the sides of the box together before taping to minimize bulge.
    This brings up a feature I really liked about the Madone box ... it's more like packing a hardshell case. You lay the bicycle in, stack the wheels on top, and then place the lid on. I didn't have to squeeze the sides together or anything. And it stayed together and shut, untaped, on the trip to the airport. (I always do the final taping during/after the check-in process, just in case) I kept that box because I liked it so much!

  9. #9
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    3) Go to the airport. Note that airports sometimes also have cardboard boxes so one option might be to ride to the airport and box your bicycle there, but you'd want to check if they have boxes available first because not all airports do.
    Even that's getting unreliable now. At both ends of my flights to the UK and back I was told beforehand that there would be a box at the airport (Brisbane and Gatwick respectively), only to be told there weren't any when I actually arrived. I ended up wrapping my bike in bubble-wrap in Brisbane (which actually worked, surprisingly) and scrounging a used box at Gatwick.

    What I would like to know is this. Has anyone actually ridden to an airport with a bicycle box in tow? I ask because I live in an area where public "transport" is even less reliable than the airport situation I described above. In fact, my train to the above mentioned flight was cancelled at half-way Beenleigh.
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    I've only used a box where they are available at the airport - supplied by KLM at London Heathrow. Otherwise I try and get away with just taking the pedals off and rotating the handlebars. Mostly, this is acceptable, but you need to check with the airline and not be bothered about the odd scratch.
    I have also tried:
    a) Wrapping the bike in a big sheet of polythene (not very successful)
    b) Getting one of those guys that shrink wrap luggage to shrink wrap the bike - this worked very well.
    In the UK, the Cyclists Touring Club do a bike sized poly bag for about $8 - this is what I will use next time.
    As #7 says, it always a bit of a lottery, but I believe the odds are slightly better if baggage handlers can see it is a bike and not just a very big box.

  11. #11
    Zoom zoom zoom zoom bonk znomit's Avatar
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    I had to lug my bianchi in a box around philly and frankfurt. It was a right pain!
    I've used one of these bags around NZ and a trip to fiji as well. Holds bike, racks, panniers and a bit of dive gear. Bag folds small and fits on carrier. In the bag the bike fits easily on luggage trolley.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Oh, one other tip. Make sure you have some money in the currency of ALL the countries your plane will touch down in. Some airports charge for the trolleys, some don't. Some charge in one part of the airport, but not in another. Also, some airports employ shuttle busses to get you from one terminal to the other, and sometimes those shuttle busses charge for the trip.

    For example, if you land in Toronto and go through customs, you will have to pick up your bicycle off the caroussel, and take it to the customs area. And Toronto charges for the trolleys in that area - $1. So far they are the only airport I've encountered that charges for trolleys there.

    And also ... Sydney charges for trolleys on the departures level - $4. But they don't charge on the arrivals level. The Sydney airport is also big enough that the international and domestic terminals are quite a distance apart. A shuttle bus, charging $5, will take you between the two.

    It's good to go prepared.

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    Ready to go anywhere Csson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badmother View Post
    I think you should remember to let some pressure out of the tyres.
    Not really necessary. The luggage areas are pressurized just like the cabin. I don't flatten the tires unless requested to. Turn the handlebar, remove pedals, lower saddle and hope the handlers treat it kindly - that's my routine..

    I've only flown in Europe and more than half of the time the bike has not carried extra charge. Maybe I'm lucky (by far the highest cost was last summer Podgorica - Stockholm with 50, the check-in staff had way too much time on their hands ).

  14. #14
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    Traveling on an airplane with a bicycle was a breeze, much easier than with a child or two, at least in 2002.

    We flew to Munich Germany for a weeklong bicycle trip along the danube from Passau to Vienna and then a week with my family in Germany. We packed all our stuff in the panniers, as they would be when we ride our bikes. Four panniers per bike and one handle bar bag. The four panniers went into a duffle bag, as that bag will make it one luggage item and the bag can be put in a pannier for the ride. Per person you only have two checked luggages on trans atlantic flights. One will be your bike and the other your duffle bag.

    We transported our bikes on the bike rack of the car to the airport. At the airport we purchased bike boxes, removed the pedals and turned the handle bar, and packed the bikes. So don't forget to bring the tools to do this and tape for the box. We found out that while the airport sells these boxes they don't provide you with tape. Here you see our bikes ready for the flight.


    At the Munich airport we assembled our bikes, packed them and rode to the train station which was a couple of kilometers away. We took the train to Passau where the actual bike ride would begin.


    The ride along the Danube is very pretty, fairly flat, and a asphalt path nearly exclusive for bicycle. Staying overnight is done in private homes, just be sure to go to the tourist information early that morning or the day before to reserve a room. They have a list of rooms that are availiable and you can book then during your ride but they do fill up, especially in the high season July & early August. Of course its much nicer if you don't ride during that time anyway.






    We rented a station wagon to transport our bicycles back to Germany from Vienna and during our remainder of the vacation. We flew out of Paris, where the we were required to let the air out of our bikes. Not sure why, maybe so that we don't hide anything in the tire? That's also where we purchased the bike boxes again. Obviously, you don't want to carry them on the bikes.

    Tips:
    • Call the departing airports to verify that they have bike boxes and that your planes are big enough to carry them.
    • Bring packing tape and tools to remove handle bar and pedals.
    • Pack stuff in panniers as you would carry them on the bike and place panniers into one duffle bag.
    • Bike racks actually help protect your bikes in the boxes.
    • Make sure you have lights, spoke reflectors and bell on your bike, they might be required in Europe.
    • The Bikeline bicycling guides are great. Go here and select the "multi language cycling guides" for english versions of their books that include detailed maps and more.
    • Stay at private homes. These people are very nice, will give you a confortable room at reasonable price and it includes breakfast.

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    Great photos and story, cbike! I take my Bike Friday to Europe. It's quite a nice bike to ride, and it packs into a suitcase, so there's no big-box hassle and no extra charge.

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    What do you do with your hard case or box once you arrive? Where do you store it?

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    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris L View Post
    Has anyone actually ridden to an airport with a bicycle box in tow?
    Hi,

    I always start and finish at the airport, but I can not answer your question because I don't use boxes.

    I flew more than 30 times with the bike. I just remove the pedals, turn the steering and put the bike under a plastic cover. The advantage that the bike is rollable and the bike is stored on top of suitcase and not under the suitcase. I assemble the bike directly next the belt so if it is finished I can load my panniers (and it is possible to cycle from international to domestic terminal if necessary).

    Regards
    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

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    Senior Member velo2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris L View Post
    What I would like to know is this. Has anyone actually ridden to an airport with a bicycle box in tow?
    I did last summer in Anchorage. I stopped at REI and the bike shop folks gave me a cardboard box for free. I flattened it, then folded it accordion style into a plank like shape. I strapped that lengthwise across my rear panniers. It stuck out both sides a couple feet, so I had to be careful not to hit anything (or anyone), but I made it to the airport ok. At the airport, I unfolded it and it returned to its normal shape and held up just fine. Here's a pic on the way to the airport:http://www.colovelo.com/wp-gallery2.php?g2_itemId=3561 and after packing my bike: http://www.colovelo.com/wp-gallery2.php?g2_itemId=3564

    If you have a backpack, it might even be easier to carry a box folded like this on your back. I've carried a snowboard on my back while on my bike and it wasn't a problem. Less danger of hitting something than with the method I used in Anchorage.

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    Senior Member Deanster04's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayne_cobb View Post
    I have no idea what is involved with getting your bike on a plane to do some trekking outside of your own country. Any help in pointing me in the right direction?
    One way that would save money would be to get a bike with SS couplers and a standard sized suit case. Another bike would be a Tom Ritchey Breakaway design. Either way the packing and unpacking is very easy. Go to Ritcheylogic and view the Breakaway and/or S&S Couplers (google). You can see pics of how its done. 10 to 12 trips would pay for the new frame and bag.

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    The price for a bike in a box has just went up. I am in Florida now and flew down here with my bike from Cleveland last Sunday. Delta is now charging $150 each way. OUCH!!!

    Paul B

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    Senior Member GeorgeBaby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul B View Post
    Delta is now charging $150 each way. OUCH!!!
    Ouch, indeed. My Bike Friday is looking more and more brilliant.

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    Maybe Ive just been lucky but I never really worried about a bike box. If need be cardboard is not that hard to come by, even at airports. Once I had some friendly airline staff insist that I wrap my bike in newspaper. So I did. Try to fly with foreign carriers as much as possible they don't usually gouge you like the Americans do.

  23. #23
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul B View Post
    The price for a bike in a box has just went up. I am in Florida now and flew down here with my bike from Cleveland last Sunday. Delta is now charging $150 each way. OUCH!!!

    Paul B
    It has long been cheaper and easier to ship your bike ahead when traveling domestically.

    Airlines are under a lot of financial pressure and need to make up every penny they can but the $150 price tag tells me they just don't want to ship them at all.
    "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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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neronet View Post
    What do you do with your hard case or box once you arrive? Where do you store it?
    I've used a hard case twice, and when I did, I made sure I had friends or family at my destination where I could store it. Same with the Madone cardboard box.

    The run-of-the-mill cardboard boxes usually get left behind in the airport or wherever.

  25. #25
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris L View Post

    What I would like to know is this. Has anyone actually ridden to an airport with a bicycle box in tow? I ask because I live in an area where public "transport" is even less reliable than the airport situation I described above. In fact, my train to the above mentioned flight was cancelled at half-way Beenleigh.
    The folder peopel do. After arriving you use the trailer / suitcase for your lugage and ride off.

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