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Flying with a road bike - some logistical questions

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Flying with a road bike - some logistical questions

Old 04-16-21, 09:21 AM
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msu2001la
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Flying with a road bike - some logistical questions

I've never flown with bikes before, but have been considering if it's possible to take one with me on a family trip to Northern CA this summer. Does anyone have experience with renting vehicles large enough to transport a single boxed up bike, plus 2 adults plus a kid in a car seat, and normal luggage? Most of the advice I'm finding is to fold the rear seats down, which won't be possible in this case. Assuming a larger vehicle is needed, does anyone have suggestions on how large?

Just scanning rental agency offerings, it looks like a full-sized SUV would be around $500 additional for a week long rental vs a standard vehicle. I'm also wondering if an Uber XL is sufficient to get to/from the airport on the home side? Seems like many of these are standard size SUV's with 3 rows, which may not leave enough room for the bike box with 3rd row installed. I can book a private black car/full size SUV or van, but it adds a lot of cost.

The extra costs seem like they would be prohibitively expensive, but maybe I'm missing something? Would it be better to just box up and ship my bike to the destination instead? I'd still need to get it to/from a shipping pick-up place, but if I can drive solo to that I could fold the seats down and probably make it work.

Any help or suggestions are appreciated.
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Old 04-16-21, 09:38 AM
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Probably cheaper to just get a seasucker or the chinese copy cat if the SUV is +$500. I would think having the LBS disassemble and reassemble the bike twice as well as shipping would also cost at least $300
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Old 04-16-21, 09:52 AM
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Old 04-16-21, 09:54 AM
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Have you considered roof storage? I'd buy a roof top cargo bag from Amazon, install it on the roof and put the bike in there. Aside from being a little less aerodynamic, the only thing you would lose is the view from your sunroof (if you have one)!

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Old 04-16-21, 10:04 AM
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Packing and shipping my bike to the hotel is my preference if I’m doing an event. Packing my Bike Friday for casual riding is my other go to since it packs into a suitcase, costs nothing to fly with, and is great for local town riding or a few hours on the local MUP. After airline fees, packing materials, and SUV renting you’re at least 1/3 of the way to a high quality folder.

You’re really only taking one bike on a family vacation? Maybe a nice time to take a bike break and try some other things for exercise and fun with the fam.
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Old 04-16-21, 10:05 AM
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I have flown twice with my bike in a B&W International Bike Box. (bike case). B&W Bik box



For the first i had transportation arranged as part of the cycling camp i was participating in, so that doesn't apply. the second time, we went to Maui, and i used the case again. we rented a small SUV, it was a Nissan rouge, then a ford escape. the case fit OK, but i think we had to put the seat down to get it in there (2 passengers only).
here are the additional costs associated with flying with a bike:
1) most airline will charge an additional $150 each way for the oversized cargo... Delta is free, which is why I target them is I can. (50 pound limit)
2) TSA is great at opening the bike case, but SUCKS at closing them properly. (this one is kind of hard to figure out).
3) you can rent a bike in a lot of places for $50 - $75 a day, so you need to do the math.

we are going to Maui again next month, and I am bringing my bike, and my wife is renting hers there. mine flies free, and her rental is about $300 total. the rental car is going to be about $3-400 more than a compact rental.
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Old 04-16-21, 10:11 AM
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Where in NorCal are you heading? the location will dictate the availability of bikes to rent or borrow. It will also mater what kind of riding you are planning/expecting to do. If you are near a urban center, the rental will be available, and you may even find a BF member that is willing to loan you a bike that meets your needs, (you may have noticed that a lot of us subscribe to the N+1 philosophy!). I have never had a bad experience with any one from this forum!
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Old 04-16-21, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by mgopack42 View Post
Where in NorCal are you heading? the location will dictate the availability of bikes to rent or borrow. It will also mater what kind of riding you are planning/expecting to do. If you are near a urban center, the rental will be available, and you may even find a BF member that is willing to loan you a bike that meets your needs, (you may have noticed that a lot of us subscribe to the N+1 philosophy!). I have never had a bad experience with any one from this forum!
+1 for renting is possible. was going to suggest this too. i am heading to miami from reno and will be renting. seems far easier but who knows.
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Old 04-16-21, 10:45 AM
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I use to rent bikes quite a bit traveling but got tired of the often lousy rental bikes and the high expense so I bought an inexpensive steel frame Bianchi bike on Ebay and had S&S couplers installed on the frame so I could break it in half and fit it in a wheeled case that was under the airlines oversized bag limits. I traveled for years with my bike this way but even that got a little old hauling the case through airport terminals, etc..

There isn't a great solution to this so I usually now just hike or run when I am vacation. One thing I have found is that my biking legs are in great shape when I return home. The extended rests seem to do me a lot of good.
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Old 04-16-21, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Elvo View Post
Probably cheaper to just get a seasucker or the chinese copy cat if the SUV is +$500. I would think having the LBS disassemble and reassemble the bike twice as well as shipping would also cost at least $300
I'd still need to box up the bike for the plane ride (and therefore transport the box), so I'm not sure what this is really solving.
Pretty sure I can handle the disassemble/pack/assemble on my own and wouldn't need to pay an LBS to do it, but shipping is probably expensive regardless.

Originally Posted by eduskator View Post
Have you considered roof storage? I'd buy a roof top cargo bag from Amazon, install it on the roof and put the bike in there. Aside from being a little less aerodynamic, the only thing you would lose is the view from your sunroof (if you have one)!

Are you suggesting I fly this pod to California and install it on a rental car? I'm confused about this suggestion to purchase this as I doubt an airline would fly this, but now wondering if I can rent some kind of roof pod for a rental car upon arrival?

Originally Posted by billridesbikes View Post
Packing and shipping my bike to the hotel is my preference if I’m doing an event. Packing my Bike Friday for casual riding is my other go to since it packs into a suitcase, costs nothing to fly with, and is great for local town riding or a few hours on the local MUP. After airline fees, packing materials, and SUV renting you’re at least 1/3 of the way to a high quality folder.

You’re really only taking one bike on a family vacation? Maybe a nice time to take a bike break and try some other things for exercise and fun with the fam.
Yes, I'm only planning on bringing one bike. I'm probably not buying a new folding bike for this trip.

Shipping my bike to my final destination (a rental house) or some other facility like a UPS store or post office for local pick-up might be an option.

Originally Posted by mgopack42 View Post
Where in NorCal are you heading? the location will dictate the availability of bikes to rent or borrow. It will also mater what kind of riding you are planning/expecting to do. If you are near a urban center, the rental will be available, and you may even find a BF member that is willing to loan you a bike that meets your needs, (you may have noticed that a lot of us subscribe to the N+1 philosophy!). I have never had a bad experience with any one from this forum!
Tahoe. I hadn't considered the possibility of renting (or borrowing) a bike yet, but that is an option I'd consider if flying my own bike seems too difficult.

Originally Posted by spelger View Post
+1 for renting is possible. was going to suggest this too. i am heading to miami from reno and will be renting. seems far easier but who knows.
You're in Reno? Out of curiosity... what kind of bikes do you ride and what size are the frames?
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Old 04-16-21, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
I'd still need to box up the bike for the plane ride (and therefore transport the box), so I'm not sure what this is really solving.
Pretty sure I can handle the disassemble/pack/assemble on my own and wouldn't need to pay an LBS to do it, but shipping is probably expensive regardless.


Are you suggesting I fly this pod to California and install it on a rental car? I'm confused about this suggestion to purchase this as I doubt an airline would fly this, but now wondering if I can rent some kind of roof pod for a rental car upon arrival?
I was offering an option for transporting the bike when moving with your rental since you said you didn't have space inside. For the airplane, I am not sure. You could always leave it boxed, and unfold it once you'll get the rental vehicle. Perhaps the rental company offers roof rack.
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Old 04-16-21, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
You're in Reno? Out of curiosity... what kind of bikes do you ride and what size are the frames?

I have only one ride, an aluminum Trek 1.2 about 2007 or 8. size is 52cm. 8 speed triple 50/30 with 12/28 cassette. favorite route is up Geiger grade. not as long as mt rose highway (route from reno to tahoe) but probably steeper and surely safer even if narrower.

there are a handful of shops here in reno/sparks but not sure if any rent. likely can rent somewhere around the lake though.
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Old 04-17-21, 02:00 AM
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I used to travel a lot for work, long trips (1-2 weeks) 5-6 times a year...from Europe back to the States. I use an EVOC travel bag with a frame inside. Removed the wheels (and demounted the discs to prevent damage to them), pulled the seat post, and removed the handlebars. Padded everything really well, and never suffered so much as a scratch on the bike. I usually rented a minivan, marginally more expensive than a full-size car, but with 2-3 other grown men on the same work trip, it made sense. It might be a better option than an SUV, and probably gets better gas mileage.
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Old 04-17-21, 03:47 AM
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You could go this route.. Ritchey Breakaway. Airline will check it to your destination.
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Old 04-17-21, 07:51 AM
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If you can’t get a mini-van, sticking a bike in a car or SUV, in any state of pack, takes up a lot of space. I’d think the next best options to a minivan would be to either direct ship to your hotel in CA (e.g. via BikeFlights) or to check the bike with you on the plane and bring a portable rack like the aforementioned SeaSucker (or RockBros) and assemble the bike and stick it on the roof before you leave the car rental place.

A lot of this depends on airline rules for bikes/sports equipment. Some charge (or used to charge) extra for bikes in boxes as oversize luggage, some charged extra for bikes even in regulation bags, and some only the excess baggage fee when appropriate, so it was a bit of a minefield, especially internationally or with connecting carriers. I haven’t done it in almost twenty years, but I know Delta reduced their domestic fees to simply excess baggage rates late in ‘19, for example.

The best way to go if packing to fly with is two regulation bags, one for the frame and a wheel bag. It takes more work to pack—but could be a cinch depending on bike spec— and you might be able to use the kid’s baggage allowance for one piece and only pay for one extra. Delta was $40 last I flew with the family domestically.

Soft-side bags afford more flexibility when it comes to stuffing them in the vehicle, because they can mush flat, so consider things like that when choosing cases. Check out Ruster Sports Hen House bags, which are on closeout right now and very well priced. BikeFlights boxes pack flat, too, and are great if the airline oversize fee doesn’t apply; saves on some packing work.

Anyway, it’s not the most convenient or easy thing to do, especially for a family with a young kid, so be sure to factor ease-of-travel in your assessments, because you don’t want to make the travel miserable just to save a couple hundred bucks.. IMO.
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Old 04-17-21, 05:24 PM
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Delta will charge for extra bags, but they DO NOT CHARGE EXTRA for the bike. Nor do United, or American, last time I cared to look pre-COVID. I reverified the Delta info with my sister-in-law who works for them at the corporate HQ in ATL.
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Old 04-17-21, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Badger6 View Post
Delta will charge for extra bags, but they DO NOT CHARGE EXTRA for the bike. Nor do United, or American, last time I cared to look pre-COVID. I reverified the Delta info with my sister-in-law who works for them at the corporate HQ in ATL.
Right, as I said, Delta went that route in ‘19.
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Old 04-17-21, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Badger6 View Post
Delta will charge for extra bags, but they DO NOT CHARGE EXTRA for the bike. Nor do United, or American, last time I cared to look pre-COVID. I reverified the Delta info with my sister-in-law who works for them at the corporate HQ in ATL.
Just to be clear, you can fly Delta (or United, or American) and if your only piece of check luggage is a bike, in a box, then they don't charge extra, or any oversize rates, for that bike?

I'm interested to know for sure, because I get a free check luggage item with my United Credit Card.
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Old 04-18-21, 12:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
Just to be clear, you can fly Delta (or United, or American) and if your only piece of check luggage is a bike, in a box, then they don't charge extra, or any oversize rates, for that bike?

I'm interested to know for sure, because I get a free check luggage item with my United Credit Card.
It’s not so simple, and if you want to know for sure, you need to contact the airlines with your itinerary and travel times, both of which are factors in addition to bicycle pack size.

For example, the United site says:“If the bicycles are packed in a container that’s less than 100 pounds (45.3 kilograms) and less than 62 total linear inches (158 centimeters) (length + width + height), they’ll be subject to a flat service charge of $150 each way for travel between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A service charge of $200 each way applies for all other travel. Service charges for first, second and extra checked bags may apply.

If the bicycles are packed in a container that’s less than 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and 62 total linear inches (158 centimeters), they won’t be subject to service charges.

Service charges for first or second checked bags may apply.

Note: We won’t accept bicycles during certain periods when oversized, overweight and extra bags aren’t allowed.
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Old 04-18-21, 01:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
Just to be clear, you can fly Delta (or United, or American) and if your only piece of check luggage is a bike, in a box, then they don't charge extra, or any oversize rates, for that bike?

I'm interested to know for sure, because I get a free check luggage item with my United Credit Card.
Yes, but it must meet these requirements: "If the bicycles are packed in a container that’s less than 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and 62 total linear inches (158 centimeters), they won’t be subject to service charges." https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly...equipment.html

My EVOC case does not meet their requirements (linear size), but in my experience with Delta, once they waived the bicycle fees, they stopped being so nitpick on that, and the case has lots of handles and wheels, and it's 25# packs with bike, a few tools, and some kit. Orucase also makes a slick bag that packs pretty small, BUT, requires a decent amount of disassembly to fit everything in (like, RD hanger and fork removed) just like the Rüster bag.

Also for anyone flying with a bike, if you haven't done it, TSA will open your bike bag/case and they will rummage through it to look for whatever it is they think they are protecting us from. It's part of the overall security theater.

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Old 04-18-21, 03:43 AM
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Old 04-18-21, 10:37 AM
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Tsa

I have, on occasion, needed to fly with my musical instrument. TSA will allow you to be present when they check your bag. Some have even allowed me to close the case back up myself. Some tips for reducing the chances of getting your bike checked are don’t pack tools or lube in with the bike. Really just the bike itself and wheels with no skewers. The less unaccountable shapes the better. I play trombone and all I pack is the bell and slide. Out of big cities with lots of music venues, they just xray, they don't even check because they know what it is and there is nothing else that looks suspicious.
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Old 04-18-21, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
TSA will allow you to be present when they check your bag.

How does that work? All of the times I checked my bike case I dropped it off at the check in area at the airport. It then was sent down the conveyor belt with the other checked bags. There was no TSA anywhere near where I had to release the case.
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Old 04-18-21, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
TSA will allow you to be present when they check your bag.
Please tell me how...because other than at Reagan National (where they do it right by the check in counter), I have no idea where they do it...but I damn sure always have a note that they checked my bag for my safety, and once when I stupidly left a CO2 inflator in my bag, they also informed me that they took it for my safety. Oddly, here in Europe, they have these contraptions called x-ray machines, and they make you stand by while they x-ray it, and then tell you you're good to go or not.
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Old 04-19-21, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
The best way to go if packing to fly with is two regulation bags, one for the frame and a wheel bag. It takes more work to pack—but could be a cinch depending on bike spec— and you might be able to use the kid’s baggage allowance for one piece and only pay for one extra. Delta was $40 last I flew with the family domestically.

Soft-side bags afford more flexibility when it comes to stuffing them in the vehicle, because they can mush flat, so consider things like that when choosing cases. Check out Ruster Sports Hen House bags, which are on closeout right now and very well priced.
This is a good suggestion. Two smaller bags/boxes (one for frame and one for wheels) seems like it would be easier to fit into a vehicle than one larger bag/box with the entire bike+wheels in it.
I'm not that worried about avoiding overage charges from the airline, assuming it's $150 or less.

The soft-sided option that I could unpack and stuff into a vehicle is intriguing, but considering the amount of assembly/disassembly and packing involved, I'm not sure doing all that in the parking lot of an airport (with family waiting) is really an option for me, plus I'd also have to buy and fly with a seasucker type of bike rack.
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