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Travelling with a bike: hard case or soft case? By plane or ground shipment?

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Travelling with a bike: hard case or soft case? By plane or ground shipment?

Old 01-23-07, 12:33 AM
  #1  
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Travelling with a bike: hard case or soft case? By plane or ground shipment?

I'm going to be taking a bike with me from Canada to the US. I usually put my bike in a large plastic bag when I fly with it, with the reasoning that baggage handlers will see what it is and handle it carefully. So far, it's worked. The only damage I've had is a scratch.

For my upcoming trip, I'll probably be taking my bike on a bus across the border to the US airport and flying from there. I'll need to get off the bus at the border crossing, carry all my baggage inside (including a large suitcase) to talk to the customs official, and carry it back out to the bus. A plastic bag or a cardboard box isn't an option for this trip.

It may be time for me to get a bike case. What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of these options:

Hard case

Pros:
  • It offers the best protection.
  • If the case has wheels, it's easier than the other options to move.
Cons:
  • It's too expensive, especially if it has to be ordered and shipped from somewhere else.
  • Storing it at the other end may be a problem.

Soft case, padded

Pros:
  • It's less expensive than a hard case.
  • It can be stored more easily between trips.
Cons:
  • It offers less protection for the bike.
  • It's still difficult to carry around with just a shoulder strap.

Soft case, unpadded (made for train travel)

It has the above pros and cons. But it's a little less expensive, it's lighter, and clothing can be packed around it for padding.

Can anyone add to the above, especially from personal experience?

Right now, I'm leaning towards one of the soft-case options. I'm also considering shipping the bike in advance. Does anyone have any suggestions on the safest and most economical way to ship a bike from western Canada to the eastern half of the US?

Thanks.
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Old 01-23-07, 08:55 PM
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I took a bus from Eugene, OR over the border to Vancouver, BC .... with my bicycle in a cardboard box. It wasn't nearly as bad as you seem to think it would be.
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Old 01-24-07, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I took a bus from Eugene, OR over the border to Vancouver, BC .... with my bicycle in a cardboard box. It wasn't nearly as bad as you seem to think it would be.
Thanks. Did you have to carry your baggage including your bike off the bus and through Customs? That part is my concern, especially as I'll also have 2 suitcases with me (I'm going for a while). Bike boxes aren't very maneuverable.
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Old 01-24-07, 05:18 PM
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I just had a thought. If you separate the wheels and disassemble remove the fork and bars, you could probably fit the whole thing in a large suitcase minus the wheels.
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Old 01-24-07, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by writespeak
Thanks. Did you have to carry your baggage including your bike off the bus and through Customs? That part is my concern, especially as I'll also have 2 suitcases with me (I'm going for a while). Bike boxes aren't very maneuverable.
I just had to carry my carry-on stuff through customs.

It was 2 am. They stopped the bus ... woke us all up, told us all to get out with all our carry-on stuff, and lined us up in the office. While we were standing in line holding our stuff, they unloaded the bus on the sidewalk outside the office and pawed through everything. Then they loaded most of the stuff back onto the bus, except for my bicycle. Then we started going through the customs line.

I was one of the first ones in line, and since my helmet was part of my carry-on, and very obviously hanging from the Carradice bag in my arms, the security guy asked me if that was my bicycle outside. I said yes. Then he asked where I had purchased the bicycle. I told him I had purchased it in Canada. He asked me to show him a receipt or some proof of purchase. I didn't have any (NOTE: If you are travelling with your bicycle, bring a proof of purchase) so I told him it was a Marinoni - a Canadian bicycle brand. He asked me a whole bunch of other questions about where I lived, what I did for work, what I was doing in the US with my bicycle etc. etc. ... and then let me go.

I didn't touch any of my luggage at all, except my carry-on.

I've taken my bicycle through LOTS of airports, train stations, bus depots etc. over the past few years ... and mostly in a cardboard box. The trick is to get ahold of a cart the second you get off the plane, train, or bus. And if none are available (as happened to me in Vancouver), then you ask the security guys ...... and try to look really pathetic and helpless. Otherwise you just drag the box.
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Old 01-28-07, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I just had to carry my carry-on stuff through customs.

It was 2 am. They stopped the bus ... woke us all up, told us all to get out with all our carry-on stuff, and lined us up in the office. While we were standing in line holding our stuff, they unloaded the bus on the sidewalk outside the office and pawed through everything. Then they loaded most of the stuff back onto the bus, except for my bicycle. Then we started going through the customs line.

I was one of the first ones in line, and since my helmet was part of my carry-on, and very obviously hanging from the Carradice bag in my arms, the security guy asked me if that was my bicycle outside. I said yes. Then he asked where I had purchased the bicycle. I told him I had purchased it in Canada. He asked me to show him a receipt or some proof of purchase. I didn't have any (NOTE: If you are travelling with your bicycle, bring a proof of purchase) so I told him it was a Marinoni - a Canadian bicycle brand. He asked me a whole bunch of other questions about where I lived, what I did for work, what I was doing in the US with my bicycle etc. etc. ... and then let me go.

I didn't touch any of my luggage at all, except my carry-on.

I've taken my bicycle through LOTS of airports, train stations, bus depots etc. over the past few years ... and mostly in a cardboard box. The trick is to get ahold of a cart the second you get off the plane, train, or bus. And if none are available (as happened to me in Vancouver), then you ask the security guys ...... and try to look really pathetic and helpless. Otherwise you just drag the box.
Thanks for the detailed description. That helps a lot.
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Old 07-01-08, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
(NOTE: If you are traveling with your bicycle, bring a proof of purchase)
Thanks for the great tip. Tonight I've been reading all about packing a bike for airline travel, debates over which case is better, how to deal with the airlines, etc. But this is a good piece of advice I hadn't seen mentioned anywhere else.
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Old 07-01-08, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by writespeak View Post
I usually put my bike in a large plastic bag when I fly with it, with the reasoning that baggage handlers will see what it is and handle it carefully.


Baggage handlers being careful. That's a good one.
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Old 07-01-08, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by hrt4me View Post
Thanks for the great tip. Tonight I've been reading all about packing a bike for airline travel, debates over which case is better, how to deal with the airlines, etc. But this is a good piece of advice I hadn't seen mentioned anywhere else.
I've never needed to provide proof of purchase, but you never know when you'll be asked. Being prepared is good.

Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I took a bus from Eugene, OR over the border to Vancouver, BC .... with my bicycle in a cardboard box.
That's what I ended up doing for the trip I started this thread about. Fortunately, I was able to leave my bike on the bus when we went through Customs although we had to haul all the rest of our baggage off the bus and through Customs.
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Old 07-01-08, 10:14 PM
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I'd consider ground shipment, although the couple days it takes for it to arrive somewhere may be too many. Far less hassle (and a lot cheaper than the $300 each way that airlines charge.)
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Old 07-02-08, 08:54 PM
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I'm going to Copenhagen, Denmark, for at least 3 months, so waiting a few days for shipping might be the best bet for me.
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