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  1. #1
    nun
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    How to fly and handle bike bags on tour

    There's been a number of threads recently on bike bags and flying with your bike and I think I have some ideas.

    1) Carry a large 4 or 6 mil thick clear plastic bag with you. These are often called contractor or demo bags This does double duty as an emergency tarp and can be used to put the bag in if necessary on trains and buses. A strap attached to the bike will let you carry it easily. In an emergency you can use it to put the bike on a plane too.

    2) If you feel safer with a proper bike bag I'd go with a soft bag or as light a hard case as you can find as the baggage weight limits keep coming down. On international flights it seems to be 23kg and many hard cases weigh over half that allowance themselves. Soft bags range from 2kgs up to 8kg. You can also use a bike box that you discard when you arrive, but they can be cumbersome and then you have to get another one on the way back

    3) Now that you've decided on your bike bag what do you do when you get to your destination? Well there are some options.

    a) If you stay in a hotel on the first night they'll probably keep it safe for you until you get back. If you are leaving form another airport you can post it to your final hotel.

    b) Most airports have left luggage so you can just stash the bag there if you'll be leaving from the same airport. However, this can get expensive. at London Heathrow it'ss about $10 a day.

    c) Finally here's the best option. Use General Delivery or Poste Restante in Europe. Simply mail the bag to yourself at a post office on your route. They will hold it for you for between 2 and 4 weeks. If you have a longer trip planned just do this multiple times to post offices along your route.

    As an example I plan to go to the UK this spring and I'll pack my bike and most of my gear in a soft bag keeping it under 23kg and it will go on as one item of luggage, the allowance is 2 items. My handle bar bag will be my hand luggage.

    There is a post office at Heathrow so I'll post the bike bag to myself at that post office addressed like this

    "my real name"
    Poste Restante
    Post Office
    Terminal Two
    Heathrow Airport(London)
    Hounslow
    Middlesex
    TW6 1EX

    They will hold the bag for 2 weeks and it will cost $20. If I was going on a longer trip, say a month, I'd post the bag to myself at a post office half way along my route, collect it and immediately post it back to Heathrow. Total cost $40. The cost of left luggage for a month would be $160.

    The large plastic bag will be used if I have to use a train of to protect the inside of a car etc.
    Last edited by nun; 11-30-08 at 01:51 PM.

  2. #2
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    A bag is not always the answer for air travel. You need to check your airlines for their specific requirements. Usairways for example, requires that the bicycle be packed in t carton or a hard case. They do not allow soft cases.

    And looks like Usairways just raised their fee for bicycles by $20 since I went to Italy a year ago.
    "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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  3. #3
    nun
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    A good point, you should always check with your airline.

    FYI the link you posted does not rule out soft cases for bike thats are partially dismantled as long as you sign a waiver. I won't be flying US Airways anytime soon.

    Within the US I never fly with my bike, I find it more fun to use the train or just rent a car one way. At least major international carriers treat the cyclist better.

  4. #4
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nun View Post
    A good point, you should always check with your airline.

    FYI the link you posted does not rule out soft cases for bike thats are partially dismantled as long as you sign a waiver. I won't be flying US Airways anytime soon.

    Within the US I never fly with my bike, I find it more fun to use the train or just rent a car one way. At least major international carriers treat the cyclist better.

    Sorry I should have read further but I am pretty sure there are airlines that require boxes only. If I remember ther is one that actually requires their box.

    And your right I would not fly with the bike if I could avoid it. Pre shipping is always the best way if you can do it.



    It's funny they ask you to sign a waiver when no matter how the bike is packed, they won't assume any responsibility anyway (depending on who you are lucky or unlucky enough to contact after a problem).

    I would really not mind paying the $100 each way if I could be pretty much guaranteed that my bike was going to be handled with kid gloves.
    Last edited by spinnaker; 11-30-08 at 06:44 PM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    It's funny they ask you to sign a waiver when no matter how the bike is packed, they won't assume any responsibility anyway (depending on who you are lucky or unlucky enough to contact after a problem).
    Yeah they actually put big stickers on everything we took on the TA including the bike box saying they weren't responsible for damages. We called the stickers "Kick Me" signs for the message they seemed to give the baggage handlers. Still everything arrived intact for the TA.

    A case or bag doesn't make all that much sense to me. I don't foresee too many trips that I will fly to and from the same location while touring and while I use general delivery on tour I really don't want to be bothered with shipping a case and especially not multiple times.

    The issue of how to take the panniers and gear is another one. I just packed them in cardboard boxes. Not a perfect answer, but it worked out OK. The baggage check clerks frowned at us and put "Kick Me" stickers on them, but everything got there intact.

    I really prefer to fly with my bike if at all possible. It is so nice to just ride out of the airport. I try hard to fly at the beginning of the trip and get picked up or use ground transportation at the end, but obviously that doesn't always work.

    Take all this with a grain of salt though since I have only traveled via air with my bike a few times. Also It seems the airlines have apparently been getting worse and worse with their baggage policies since I last flew with my bike.

  6. #6
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    I would just add to make sure you leave lots of time to pack your bike up. At least 2 hours to get it disassembled and into a box. It might take less if it's small (easier to fit in) and you're good at it but we always seem to have some unexpected glitch. And spring on a taxi to the airport if no one in your family can drive you. It's a big stress reliever.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by avatarworf View Post
    I would just add to make sure you leave lots of time to pack your bike up. At least 2 hours to get it disassembled and into a box. It might take less if it's small (easier to fit in) and you're good at it but we always seem to have some unexpected glitch. And spring on a taxi to the airport if no one in your family can drive you. It's a big stress reliever.
    Definitely. I can typically pack a bike much faster, but if you count on it that is when something will go wrong. Starting out from home I prefer to pack the bike(s) the day before at my leisure. I have always had someone drop me off at the airport plenty far in advance so there is no rush and minimal stress.

  8. #8
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by avatarworf View Post
    I would just add to make sure you leave lots of time to pack your bike up. At least 2 hours to get it disassembled and into a box. It might take less if it's small (easier to fit in) and you're good at it but we always seem to have some unexpected glitch. And spring on a taxi to the airport if no one in your family can drive you. It's a big stress reliever.
    Good advice, the taxi is a good idea too, but with many bike boxes/cases it's difficult to fit them in the trunk, so this is where a soft bag has an advantage. I'd like to use a bike box and discard it on arrival, but I see some issues with that; getting the box to the airport, it creates waste, and getting a new box for the return, I've heard horror stories of airlines not having boxes at the terminal and I want to be self sufficient. I've ended up with the Ground Effect Tardis bag as it's tough, light and will fit in a car easily. It doesn't have much padding, but that's where my clothes and camping equipment come in. They'll do double duty as padding around the bike. It packs down to the size of a large (think NY city) phone book so it's easy to post or leave at a hotel for safe keeping. Also if I have to carry it on the bike it's easily done.

  9. #9
    Senior Member gregstandt's Avatar
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    I use a 'backback bag' from REI. It's designed to carry a backpack inside but four panniers, sleeping bag, etc. (everything you carry on the bike) fit fine and then when you unpack it, it stuffs into it's own attached bag and weighs about one pound and you carry it with you.
    http://www.rei.com/product/718349
    BTW I just read a post that US Air is also charging $100 for bikes INSIDE a suitcase (Bike Friday).
    Relax, it's a bike ride.

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    A discarded cardboard box, such as what Pete suggested, weights about a pound less, costs about 100% less and takes up 100% less room than a backback bag.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    A discarded cardboard box, such as what Pete suggested, weights about a pound less, costs about 100% less and takes up 100% less room than a backback bag.
    Actually, it would be infinitely cheaper and take up infinitely less space. Infinitely less convenient though if you are doing any travelling after you get off the plane.

  12. #12
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    A discarded cardboard box, such as what Pete suggested, weights about a pound less, costs about 100% less and takes up 100% less room than a backback bag.
    Getting the box to the airport is the issue for me and I've heard horror stories of airlines not having boxes at the terminal. With the Tardis I have all the options. I can carry it on the bike to pack at the airport, or I can pack my bike and all my gear, apart from my handle bar bag, into the Tardis and take a cab or public transportation. It would be a real hassle to do that with a bike box. The I check the Tardis as luggage and have my bar bag as carry on.

    When I get where I'm going it's true that the disposable box is easier, but then I have the hassle of getting another one on the way back. The Tardis can be carried on the bike to a hotel or friends house where I can leave it or it can be easily posted ahead. I wouldn't carry it for the entire tour, although it would be possible.

    After my weekend's bike packing and padding exercise I'm convinced that it will be ample protection for the bike. Indeed I think a 6 mil poly bag would work well too.

  13. #13
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    When I travel. I'll stay at a hotel that will agree to store my box and offers a shuttle. I arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon the day before my flight out. Expensive but a lot less stress than other options (other than the bike bag option offered by nun).

    Arriving the day before gives me plenty of time to pack up the bike and get a new box if needed, like in my last trip to Italy.

    Getting to the airport I just load the bike on the shuttle with no worries.


    I really like the plastic bag option offered by nun. You could carry the bag with you then just roll right up to the airport and pack your bag.

    My question is for people that use a similar option is, what do you do about a shower before the flight? I'm not sure I would want to spend a 10 hour flight sitting next to someone that just rode 60 miles to the airport. Baby wipes can only go so far.
    "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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    I use a heavy guage polythene bag plus some split foam tubes (plumbing pipe insulation) and find it Ok. I wouldnt like to go through a major airport like that but the small provincial airports used by budget airlines are pretty good about bikes.
    I roll up the foam and plastic bag and stash it on my rack. If I can leave it at a hotel near the airport that is ideal. Sometimes I cant or I fly out from a different airport so I end up ghauling bthe roll with me. Its not heavy but it is a drag to carry. Poste Restante sounds like a good idea.
    I try not to leave big milleage for the last day, you never know what can happen. I might spend the day exploring the city or do a small local loop.
    On the last day in Santander I found the Cantabrian museum of the sea which had the most awesome fishtank in the world.

  15. #15
    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregstandt View Post
    I use a 'backback bag' from REI. It's designed to carry a backpack inside but four panniers, sleeping bag, etc. (everything you carry on the bike) fit fine and then when you unpack it, it stuffs into it's own attached bag and weighs about one pound and you carry it with you.
    http://www.rei.com/product/718349
    BTW I just read a post that US Air is also charging $100 for bikes INSIDE a suitcase (Bike Friday).
    This does seem nice for keeping your panniers in

    My plan though was to use compression straps to bundle my panniers together into one neat package. I wonder if the airlines would complain....I would think that if it was within the size limitations there would be no problem, it would simply be treated as a single bag.

  16. #16
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    packing bike for flight

    I pack my cycle in a heavy gauge polythene sheet after doing all the necessaries like handlebars, pedals and front wheel attached to frame. I only had one problem with this on a Poland trip where the wheel got badly damaged...took me five days to get it fixed. The beauty about plastic sheet is that I can ditch it at the airport and get another sheet at the returning airport...also for panniers I use one of the flight bags that condense into a small enough size like a sleep mat..but it opens wide enough to take four panniers.......this works for me so I will continue with it...............

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