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Getting a bike to Paris from California for tour

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Getting a bike to Paris from California for tour

Old 09-25-17, 04:45 PM
  #1  
cccorlew
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Getting a bike to Paris from California for tour

My wife and I are riding from the English Channel to the Mediterranean with a tour group in 2018.

I absolutely must take my own bike. She’s prefer to take hers. They are both smallish road bikes. It turns out getting the bikes there is going to be the most complicated part of the operation.

I seek advice from the experienced. Here are a few of my many questions I hope someone would be willing to help with. Feel free to toss in things I didn’t even think to ask.

Ship or drag through the airline system? We’ll land in Paris, but ned to take a train to Caen. I worry about both the airlines and the train, as well as dragging it from one to the other.

Buy expensive plastic boxes we’ll only use once, or risk cardboard? If cardboard, but a fancy shipping box or use a bike store recycle?

Any advice on which airline is the least awful for bikes?

This two-week ride will be epic. It will challenge us. But I’m more worried about transporting bikes than I am about riding over mountains for two weeks.

Thanks in advance
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Old 09-26-17, 07:21 AM
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IMO, shipping or 'dragging' a bike box through the airport is six of one, half dozen of the other. Ship it, and you'd be anxious if the bike will be there, be there on time, or make it in one piece. Carry it with you, and it can be highly awkward, ingress/egress trains/subways, etc. For me, the comfort of knowing it's with me, and fingers crossed it made the flight with me, is worth the inconvenience.

I've taken my bike with me everywhere - even to Rarotonga - with a Thule Roundtrip Transition hard case. It's not cheap, but well worth it if you plan to do more bike trips. I highly recommend it as Thule has been thoughtful in securing the bike in the box - check out YouTube videos. IMHO, I'd forget soft cases.
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Old 09-26-17, 08:31 AM
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Odds are that your bike travelled half way around the world buy ship, truck and/or train in a cardboard box.


If you want something better, check out Crateworks. I have flown and shipped bikes in the plastic model numerous times without incident. And you sound like the sort of person who might feel more at ease if you have a shop professionally pack you bike.


Finally, check out British Airways. IIRC, it has a good bike policy.
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Old 09-26-17, 09:04 AM
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By leaving our bikes a couple days ahead at the Paris SNCF rail station, when our group arrived in Bern CH they were there at the Swiss citie's Rail station.
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Old 09-26-17, 03:27 PM
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Pack it and take with you. There are several sources about packing a bike, just do some searching.

My wife and I have flown with our bike several times. One of the things I learned early was to pack the bike so that the box can be stood on its short end. This allows the box to be placed on a cart and makes it a lot easier getting through doorways and navigating with your bike through airport.

It is also possible to assemble your bikes at the airport and ride to the train station. Bikes on most French trains are not a problem.

I had a lot of pictures of bike packing and airport navigation on the touring forum, but Photobucket managed to delete many users' pictures. Do a search in the Touring Forum for bike packing and shipping advice.

Getting the bikes back home might be more of a challenge.

Last edited by Doug64; 09-26-17 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 09-26-17, 03:47 PM
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Bikes can travel well on panes but they have to be packed properly. That means in such a way that nothing can move and abrade another part, an that the whole is well protected from moving within the box, or getting damaged if dropped or crushed.

The issue will be the "bicycle" fees which can be steep, so check the rules. I use my personal baggage (clothes, etc) as packing material, which protects the bike and eliminates one bag. Also check the rules regarding 1st class. Many airlines have much more generous baggage rules for 1st class, I've often found that the cost of an upgrade is less than the added baggage fees, I would have paid.

Also you can sometimes avoid the "bicycle fee" by using a self check kiosk and playing dumb, but this isn't assured.

I get around the problem entirely by removing the fork and wheels and packing the bike in two large duffels (similar to hockey bags). The frame goes in one, the wheels in the other, and the rest wherever it works out, along with the rest of the baggage. I line the entire bag with 1/2" EPS foam, and make sure the bag is so full that the content's can't shift in transit. I've never paid more than the 1 excess bag fee, though many international fights allow two, so it's a freebie.

If you want to try this, you really want a sealed cartridge bearing headset, so dropping and reinstalling the fork is a snap, (all parts go in a ziplok bag, as do the pedals and other take offs.
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Old 09-26-17, 04:59 PM
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Take them with you on the plane.

Quality "soft" cases work very well and have the advantage of being able to break down flat once you reach your destination. They are easy to drag through airports, are very maneuverable, and only require removal of your handlebars, pedals, and wheels.

Since you're carrying two bikes you might want to consider a dual bike hard case. You will save on airlines bike fees (if they charge you - some ticket agents don't) but will sometimes have to pay an excess weight feed depending on the weight of your bikes. You will do more bike disassembly/assembly though.
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Old 09-26-17, 05:09 PM
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One thing to consider when packing for a tour is whether it starts and ends in the same place, and how you'll store or move bike cases between arrival and departure.

If you can't store a bike case, it argues for something disposable, or at least able to roll up small enough for the operator's luggage van (if there is one). If using a disposable, line up where you'll get something for the return well in advance.
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Old 09-26-17, 05:59 PM
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I understand wanting to ride your own bikes.

But really, the big tour companies have much better rentals than they used to - like with Di2 and everything. Think of all the worrying you won't have to do and the hassles you won't have to endure.

Even my 6'6 buddy was able to get a pretty nice bike to ride up Alpe d'Huez.
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Old 09-26-17, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
I understand wanting to ride your own bikes.

But really, the big tour companies have much better rentals than they used to - like with Di2 and everything. Think of all the worrying you won't have to do and the hassles you won't have to endure.

Even my 6'6 buddy was able to get a pretty nice bike to ride up Alpe d'Huez.
If you can rent a good bike you might seriously consider taking your saddle, pedals, seat bag and water bottles.

I can recommend this for domestic shipping. Very satisfactory and they ship international. Here is the international link in their website.
https://www.shipbikes.com/international-shipping/

Will you be departing from the same place you start? Who will keep the boxes while you ride and will they be there at the end? Will you have to drag them from the end of tour back to Paris for a flight? If the bikes don't have couplers, you will need an oversize box,( $$$) both ways.

There are no definite answers. We have gone overseas with our tandem in two checkable boxes. On one trip a flight cancellation in London caused us several hundred extra dollars as we had to get a limo to get into London from Heathrow, a hotel, then a limo with room for boxes out to Gatwick. We could have dragged the boxes to the train station after four hours of sleep and took the train to Gatwick and saved a hundred quid or so. But I'm getting old.

My point is that no matter how you go, you'll probably wish you had taken another route.
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Old 09-27-17, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Monoborracho View Post
If you can rent a good bike you might seriously consider taking your saddle, pedals, seat bag and water bottles.
^^^^^
This. Everything else can be easily adjusted to fit.

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Old 09-27-17, 06:45 PM
  #12  
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I can relate to your situation - I had exactly the same questions when I signed up to participate in a London2Paris ride (very enjoyably completed earlier this month).

Bottom-line: Looking back I stressed over the issue a little unnecessarily. I got a good price on renting a hard plastic bike box (which took all my cycling gear), and in the end everything was very smooth. Air Canada charged me about Cdn$50 each way (I upgraded to a 'Premium Economy' seat that was on sale, that gave me an extra bag).

My 2c if you take your bike:
~ watch some you-tube video's, they are very helpful;
~ use lots of foam/plastic air-hole wrap (I fastened with green masking tape) to protect bike from chaffing; wrap chain; etc
~ I did not have to face challenge of moving around with regular baggage + bike box. I was picked up at Heathrow Airport and then able to leave the bike box at my sister's until I came home. When I did travel with the bike it was out of the box and I managed well (but there were very few stairs to navigate). On the train in UK was no problem for me, but there can be restrictions on certain trains (especially rush hour).
~ Working out what you are doing (eg storage) with the box when it is empty is important consideration if using a rigid box - they will be lighter but not necessarily much smaller when empty.
~ example of my fretting: I wasted a lot of time worrying whether to take off rear derailleur when shipping. In the end I left it on going out and (with confidence increasing in my ability to work on the bike) took it off for the return. Bike fine in both cases!
~ I did get a plastic gizmo (free from store where I bought the bike) for each of front/rear where wheel axles would usually go. Not sure that was essential, but gave me peace of mind.
~ No CO2 canisters on the plane - buy there / leave there
~ Take off pedals first (before removing wheel);
~ lower tire pressure (but not completely)
~ take with you whatever tools you need to disassemble/reassemble bike
~ make sure you have marked the saddle height before you take out the seat post
~ if you like rechargeable electronic gizmos (garmin, cell phone etc), take appropriate conversion plug for countries you are visiting. I also took a power bank with me to keep ensure nothing stopped working on a long day in the saddle (again not sure it was necessary, but gave me peace of mind)

My 2c if renting:
~ as others have said, take your saddle / pedals etc
~ make sure you know your key measurements (saddle height, saddle to handle bar - both length and drop/rise; etc)

Whatever you do - remember to enjoy the ride when you get there.

Last edited by FamilyMan007; 09-27-17 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 09-27-17, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by FamilyMan007 View Post
~ lower tire pressure (but not completely)
There's no need to lower your tire pressure. The cargo portion of aircraft is pressurized the same as the cabin.
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Old 09-27-17, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by cycloaptrgangr View Post
There's no need to lower your tire pressure. The cargo portion of aircraft is pressurized the same as the cabin.
And it wouldn't matter if it weren't. Dropping ambient pressure to zero is the same as adding 15psi to the tire, well within the margin of error.
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Old 09-27-17, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by cycloaptrgangr View Post
There's no need to lower your tire pressure. The cargo portion of aircraft is pressurized the same as the cabin.
I understand your point.

However, my understanding is that if you do not partially lower the air-pressure, less informed airline check-in / ground crew may get discombobulated at no reduction in air pressure. My suggestion enables one to avoid the risk of an airport hassle, while retaining air in the tires to protect the rims.

Each to their own - one pays your money and takes your choice.
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Old 09-27-17, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by cycloaptrgangr View Post
There's no need to lower your tire pressure. The cargo portion of aircraft is pressurized the same as the cabin.
Airlines used to have a rule about doing that - I'm not sure if it was because they didn't understand the laws of pressure, or if it was for some legitimate reason.

It struck me though, that every once in a while, a bike tire just explodes for no apparent reason while it's just sitting there... happened once in a bike club meeting I was at (sew-up high pressure, LOUD!)... and maybe the concern would be that the pilot would hear it and think a bomb went off in the cargo hold. I know some pilots, I should ask if they could hear such a thing.
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Old 09-27-17, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by FamilyMan007 View Post
However, my understanding is that if you do not partially lower the air-pressure, less informed airline check-in / ground crew may get discombobulated at no reduction in air pressure. My suggestion enables one to avoid the risk of an airport hassle, while retaining air in the tires to protect the rims.
I've never had check-in or ground crew folks open my bags. If for some very strange reason they did, I doubt they would be able to determine whether the pressure had been reduced or not. I also don't let air out of my forks, shocks, or seatpost.

Many love notes from the TSA though after they've opened the cases up.
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Old 09-27-17, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
Airlines used to have a rule about doing that .....
Still do at Air Canada - see link https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/plan/baggage/special-items.html - namely:
Packing instructions
The bicycle must be placed - with handlebars fixed sideways and pedals removed - in a rigid and/or hard shell container specifically designed for shipping or in a bicycle suitcase (in the case of collapsible bicycles). Tires must be partially deflated. {Air Canada emphasis**
If packaged differently, the bicycle may be refused for carriage. We’re not liable if and to the extent that any damage results from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage.

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Old 09-27-17, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by cycloaptrgangr View Post
I've never had check-in or ground crew folks open my bags....
My experience was different - at Toronto airport apparently they could not 'scan' items as big as a bike box so they made me open it up for security examination before they accepted the bag as luggage (and they asked about tire pressures, but did not check them)!!

I guess there are many variables when it comes to flights overseas with a bike

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Old 09-28-17, 07:14 AM
  #20  
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For any and all interested in this general topic, be sure to familiarize yourself with 'rinko' style bicycles, a design+method of breaking a fairly normal bike down into a compact package.

Most of Dahon's 20" models will go into standard airline 62" luggage without undue assembly.

Then there's the Brompton Mafia who cycle tour the world, carrying their bikes onto commercial airliners and putting them in the overhead luggage compartments.
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Old 09-28-17, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by FamilyMan007 View Post
My experience was different - at Toronto airport apparently they could not 'scan' items as big as a bike box so they made me open it up for security examination before they accepted the bag as luggage (and they asked about tire pressures, but did not check them)!!

I guess there are many variables when it comes to flights overseas with a bike

Yeah. In Philadelphia, where I live, they didn't seem to have the large scanners the last time I flew with a bike, which was in 2013, so they opened the boxes for the flight to Venice. Venice, on the other hand, did have large scanners. For the flight back home they sent our bikes through while we stood there. One security lady literally gave us a signifying we were good to go.


When I travel for domestic tours I ship my bike. Flying with it is a PITA and expensive. For a little more than what some airlines charge for a bike, I can have the bike professionally packed, ship it and have it assembled at the destination. Inside the box also go my racks, stove and empty fuel bottle. (Those last two can be confiscated if discovered in your checked airline baggage.)
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Old 09-28-17, 02:15 PM
  #22  
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I bought this SciCon Aerotech Hardcase Bike Carrier recently and will be using it to ship a very expensive bike soon to Dubai for some cycling in the arabian desert..
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Old 09-28-17, 08:10 PM
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I’d either rent a box (a number of LBS’s will do this) or buy one. You can also buy specific bike shipping cardboard box and foam sets. Then just, if possible, use the same hotel for the day you arrive as the day you leave and make arrangements to leave the bike boxes there. Alternatively, I’ve done the same with bike shops close ot the airport. A few bucks usually solves the problem. Most hotels are pretty good about this sort of thing especially if you call and talk with them.

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Old 09-28-17, 08:26 PM
  #24  
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I've flown to/from France twice with my bike, Norway once, using cardboard boxes. One custom box, one ShipByBikes box. I ride a 'bent, so it's a big honking box.

I strongly endorse ShipByBikes boxes. Way darn easier.

Lufthansa rocks. Norway and back, no extra charge - just a bag. Thats right, big honkin bike box counted as a bag. Note this is not their official policy.

Air France was $150 outbound, 150 Euro back, and they lost my bike for two days on the return.

Slogging a bike box through Paris public transit was hell. Hire a uber or something. Once on regional trains though, it should be fine. If you can leave the bike box in Paris, the rail system will be friendlier to a bike.

No matter what you do, there is risk. A friend had Air France lose his bike for PBP... a couple years of training and prep out the window. He enjoyed France nonetheless.
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Old 09-29-17, 01:43 PM
  #25  
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Bikes: 1981 Ron Cooper, 1974 Cinelli Super Corsa, 2000 Gary Fisher Sugar 1, 1986 Miyata 710, 1983 Nishiki Cresta

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I've flown across the pond with my bike a few times, usually with a cut down shipping box from the bike shop but last time was with a bike hardcase. I wouldn't do the hardcase again. They're too heavy, bulky and difficult to get through the airport and into a european rentacar. Also, you will definitely be charged the (often hefty) bike surcharge ($200 to $300 R/T on most carriers these days). I recommend disassembling the bike Rinko style and going with a a bike bag with ample padding. As was noted above, this can often get you through check in without getting charged the bike surcharge if you take the fork off and make the package compact.

I'm puzzled by the "no charge" Lufthansa claim in the post above. Two years ago they charged me 100 euros returning from Italy.
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