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Road bike air-travel cases

Old 05-25-20, 06:17 PM
  #1  
pstake
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Road bike air-travel cases

My wife and I are planning a cycling vacation and we've never flown with bikes before. We plan to bring our road bikes. Air travel and luggage handling can be stressful enough so I'm hoping to learn from others' real-world experiences before we purchase. We are fine with paying oversize baggage fees for minimal disassembly.

There are single bike options and cases for two bikes. What do you recommend? What features/options do you recommend?
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Old 05-25-20, 09:16 PM
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I don't have experience but eventually when flight to EU will be reasonably possible, I want to transport a bike, I bought here secondhand, one way. From looking around at options, it all starts with how expensive your bicycles are and so how much protection they need. Also a factor is if you might reuse the case (can invest in it more) or if, like in my situation, it is one time, one way trip.

Very likely you will need hard shell case but which one depends how deep are your pockets. Since you are asking here, I guess they have their limit, otherwise like with everything, money, if you have it, make life so much easier. The best cases have attachments with quick release built in.

Regardless of what case, both wheels and handlebars need to come off (depending on case, possibly just turned ninety degrees?), not even speaking of pedals. Handlebars taped to frame if detached, no need to touch cabling (but on some fancy bikes, cables can be a problem). Also, unless you are sure about your case, RD should be unscrewed from the hanger and taped to frame, no need to adjust anything when you put it back on. I think it is too risky to leave it on.
I haven't seen anything for two bikes, very likely each will need their own case. I recommend checking out secondhand sales in your area.

In my situation, I am looking at a hard shell case like this one (can be had secondhand for $100) but since I am not sure I can get it and it is one way trip, I am also thinking of cutting two pieces of quarter inch plywood, putting spacers between them and fixing my bike in it, and then to make it look more professional, I bought a bike soft carry bag for some $40 CAD into which it will all hide. The soft carry bag is advertised for air travel too, but that strikes me as too ambitious, risky.


Last edited by vane171; 05-25-20 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 05-25-20, 09:44 PM
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For a one-time use, just get a box from your local bike shop. I've done that quite a bit and never had a problem. There's lots of info online how to pack the bike.

I have a Pika soft case and it works well. The wheels, in padded pockets, protect the frame which is also well padded - I just pad everything with foam pipe insulation fixed with blue masking tape. So far so good.

I've used hard shell cases and they're a PITA to transport and stow when you get to your destination. The Pika is easier, and much lighter, to deal with.
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Old 05-25-20, 11:55 PM
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Bike store boxes have worked for us. No problem finding boxes last year in Paris but we did visit about 5 bike stores. Only one wanted to charge us.

Boxes also allow for a point to point trip vs a circle tour.

Some maybe all airlines have made shipping bikes much cheaper. You should check out their current policies. Lufthansa, out of NYC had a roll on program. We used that one time to and back from Europe.

Learn how to pack the bike. And know the size boxes that fit your bike. It will be helpful when you are searching for one at your final city.

have a great trip.
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Old 05-26-20, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
For a one-time use, just get a box from your local bike shop.
I didn't mention that the bike is not coming back, it stays. In normal times, I am at least half a year in EU, rest in Canada. I'd have to pay airline to bring the case back. Plus the charges would ball up if I stayed several months or even half a year before coming back. I've see rentals but makes no sense in my case. Don't think its like uHaul when you rent a truck and drop it off at destination.

If I get the hardshell box, I'd have to sell it off at destination.

Last edited by vane171; 05-26-20 at 09:16 PM.
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Old 05-26-20, 10:37 PM
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First thing to do is check with the airline that you are travelling with to find out about weight and size limits (they usually have something like that on their website), along with any special instruction or handling notes (e.g. whether you need to call them up in advance to inform them that you're travelling with a bike). Depending on how the flights are arranged, you may also need to check at the destination end, don't want to have no problems going there but run into complications coming back home.

Then probably look up customer feedback, internet research, word-of-mouth, etc on how notorious that airline is (or not) with bikes. That'll tell you if it's safe to use a box or soft case (or if you wanna risk it), or if you should get a hard case, or even another airline.
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Old 05-26-20, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by vane171 View Post
I didn't mention that the bike is not coming back, it stays. In normal times, I am at least half a year in EU, rest in Canada. I'd have to pay airline to bring the case back. Plus the charges would ball up if I stayed several months or even half a year before coming back. I've see rentals but makes no sense in my case. Don't think its like uHaul when you rent a truck and drop it off at destination.

If I get the hardshell box, I'd have to sell it off at destination.
cardboard bike box for sure then. Plenty of pipe insulation for padding of the tubes, and wrap the shifters and RD in some sort of padded wrapping. Make sure nothing moves around in the box very much - fix the wheels against well-padded frame parts so they don't bump around. Every bike in the world is shipped that way and very, very, (very, very?) few are damaged.
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Old 05-26-20, 11:46 PM
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Cardboard box, yes, something to think about. Few weeks back when I was investigating this issue, I found a web page where all the options shipping a bike were shown, with product pics and a short review of it, and it ended with cardboard box. I found promptly that it was not available in the shopping channels or from the maker.

While one could go to one of those places where they sell paper boxes for when people move house, I think some picture big boxes might fit the bill, but functionally it would probably not come even close to a paper box made for the purpose.

I found the webpage, feast with your eyes, think of your valet I am sure the stated price of some $2k on that cardboard box is some mistake
https://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear...-travel-cases/

I should pop into Fedex office near here to ask about shipping bike.

Last edited by vane171; 05-26-20 at 11:49 PM.
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Old 05-27-20, 05:42 AM
  #9  
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Your options are cardboard box, soft shell case or hard shell case. They all have their pluses and minuses.

I had a trip planned pre-pandemic and decided on the Post Carry Transfer Case. The reason I chose this case was based on reviews. This case and the Pika received the greatest testimonials on other bike boards. Another reason I chose this case was I had to think about my destination and transfer within that country. My trip was to Japan and I would have had to take the Shinkansen and they have very strict rules about bicycles and luggage size for transport. For this reason I chose a case that brought the bike to it's smallest dimensions. I am well versed in bicycle assembly and disassembly, so that is not an issue but it is something you need to think about.

This trip I was going to bring my Trek Domane because I was going to ride long distances but if I were just riding in a city, I would go another route. I own a Brompton and a hard shell travel case. This is very close to airline legal, so you can get away with it and it offers the greatest protection. There is no assembly needed at your destination. Just unfold and ride. This was one of my easiest trips with a bicycle.

I have also done the cardboard box route and it worked fine getting there. I assembled the bike at the airport and rode away. Coming back it was difficult to find a box because I came back in a hurry. There is minimal disassembly and as mentioned every bike in the world comes in a box from the manufacturer.

Another trip was to Paris and I used a minimal bike bag. It worked but it was nerve racking. I was able to just carry my bike onto a train then subway from the airport and to my hotel. Paris subways are small and full of tourists with luggage so you have to plan around this. It worked but I would never do it again.

Last I did use a giant clear plastic bag once. Disassembled the bike to bike box dimensions and taped it together. This was good because baggage handlers saw it was a bike and didn't throw it around. It came back unscathed.

If I was traveling in the United States, I would use Bike Flights. For the record I have shipped a bike with them and it was easy. Pack the bike in a box, print a shipping label, drop it off at a UPS store. Pick it up at your destination or have it sent to the hotel. This way you don't have to deal with bikes at the airport.

Have a safe trip.
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