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Packing your bike for Air Travel

Old 03-11-19, 10:34 PM
  #26  
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This is the early stage of packing. We've shipped our bikes on 17 flights without significant damage. It takes about 2 hours to put 4 bikes back together, change clothes and load gear.


Portland


Paris

Last edited by Doug64; 03-14-19 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 03-12-19, 04:26 AM
  #27  
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Since you have a coupled bike that goes in a case, that's the way I'd recommend. That's certainly what I'd do if I had one. Otherwise given the history of issues with bikes on planes, I'd say ship it with FedEx or something.

One thing I never thought of that just occurred to me - I wonder if the box from one of these 70" TVs that people get these days would work as a bike box. Maybe thinking that there's a TV inside would get some of the airport d-bags to handle it a little better? Stick a giant FRAGILE sticker on it for good measure.
Originally Posted by chrisx View Post
Plastic and carboard are for the $40 8 speed charity shop used bike crowd that spend more on beer than bikes.
That totally makes sense, considering probably 90% of the people in the touring forum have $1,500+* bikes and 75% of the touring forum folks put their bikes in regular bike boxes...
*Obviously some generalizations here, and maybe it would be less than 90% since there are a good number riding Fuji or Windsors, but you get the point. This is one of the sillier things I've read on bike forums in a while.
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Old 03-14-19, 12:38 PM
  #28  
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S&S couplers are pretty cool and work well but they are expensive, heavy on the bike, and the TSA guys who inspect this stuff can cause a big problem if they don't get it all put back together right. I wouldn't shy away from a bike with these and would use them if I had them, but I don't see it as necessary. The last time I checked, the cost to add couplers to a frame being built was around $700-900 and it adds around a half pound to the bike. But they do work and they work well.

Hard cases give a false sense of security. The problem is that they can't handle these cases in their normal baggage flow which means it goes on a truck and is unloaded often times at a loading dock. I've seen hard cases completely smashed which is what happens when a truck backs over something or jams it between the truck and the dock. (I have a picture of skis in a hard case somewhere that had the tips bent at right angles - imagine the force to do that!). Anytime you pit *any* luggage against *any* of the baggage handling power equipment, the luggage loses every time. Any time you ask them to handle luggage in a nonstandard fashion, I think you are just asking for it.

There are any number of soft cases that work and work well. We've come to really appreciate our Orucase bags. They have a sheet of plastic in them on each side, you disassemble the wheels, fork, handlebars and put the bike in the case. The size of the case is within inches of the airline 62" linear spec. The case is light so presuming you don't stuff it too full of stuff, it comes in well under the airline weight allowance. We have yet to have a baggage agent even take a second glance at them and they go through the normal baggage handling equipment. They work great. We've not ever been charged a bike fee by an airline, they fit in airport buses, in coach bus baggage holds, in the the back seat of cars, they attach to our (beefy) wheelie carryon luggage. Most other solutions can't claim most of those attributes.

They are also easy for the TSA to open them, look inside and see everything and get them zipped back up. Not foolproof, but seems the average TSA baggage inspector can do it with out a problem.

I'm totally convinced, after more than a million miles in airline travel, that baggage agents and the airlines are a lot more worried about weight than they are about size. Weight = costs in terms of fuel and worker's comp injuries. Weight is easy to measure - there's a number on the scale that is fast and easy to obtain and the number is pretty much beyond reproach. Size is an argument, slow and fuzzy to figure out. It requires measuring and doing some math and it takes time. If the piece is not a rectangular shape, then it easily becomes an argument with the passenger because the spec is built for rectangular objects. So they just don't care as much because it's a hassle for them. If it's not grossly out of spec, they don't care. Approach the baggage agent pleasantly, like it's no big deal, if asked about the bag contents, reply "sports equipment" (mutual agreement on a don't ask don't tell policy) and away you go. No one will even blink as long as you're not standing there doing something stupid like wearing your bike helmet (don't laugh, I've seen it) or being obnoxious and impolite to the baggage agent.

We're big fans of the Orucase Airport Ninja and use it routinely on Delta/KLM which might have, arguably, the worst bike policy of any airline at $150 each way ($300 RT). We have yet to be charged. Given I have elite flyer status, it even doesn't cost us a bag fee if we keep it below their limits (50 lbs international, 70 lbs domestic US for elite status). After we had done it a few times, we can completely assemble/disassemble and pack/unpack our two bikes in about 45 minutes total for the two - figure about 20 minutes per bike.
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Old 03-14-19, 04:02 PM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by chrisx
Plastic and carboard are for the $40 8 speed charity shop used bike crowd that spend more on beer than bikes.
This has not been the case in my experience, and from the many other touring cyclist that I know. They pack their bikes properly in cardboard boxes regardless of the bike's cost.

This is my wife's custom built touring bike (with couplers) which costed a 100 times more than your "charity shop "example. It has been shipped on at least 17 flights coupled in cardboard boxes without any damage. We don't usually end a tour near the same airport that we started the tour from. Using a hard case is not an option for us. Uncoupling does save some money when we ship our bikes by UPS or FedX, but we still use a cardboard box.


My wife's bike is in the smaller box not because it is uncoupled, but because it is a 47 cm frame. In hindsight, I don't think we'd have opted for the couplers.

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Old 03-14-19, 05:32 PM
  #30  
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A friend of mine got a really heavy duty cardboard bike box that had been used by the manufacturer to ship a higher end bike, he uses that cardboard box when he leaves his hard case at home. But he uses bikeflights, not airlines with that box.

Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
...
My wife's bike is in the smaller box not because it is uncoupled, but because it is a 47 cm frame. In hindsight, I don't think we'd have opted for the couplers.
By using the couplers so that I can pack my bag small enough to fit in the trunk of the taxi (Prius), I am quite happy I got the couplers.

But if my bike was traveling in a group with another bike that was in a full size bike box, then the other bike in the big box would dictate the type of transport to and from airports, etc. In that scenario, my couplers would add a lot less value. I assume your bike in the big box did not have couplers?
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Old 03-14-19, 09:40 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
A friend of mine got a really heavy duty cardboard bike box that had been used by the manufacturer to ship a higher end bike, he uses that cardboard box when he leaves his hard case at home. But he uses bikeflights, not airlines with that box.

By using the couplers so that I can pack my bag small enough to fit in the trunk of the taxi (Prius), I am quite happy I got the couplers.

But if my bike was traveling in a group with another bike that was in a full size bike box, then the other bike in the big box would dictate the type of transport to and from airports, etc. In that scenario, my couplers would add a lot less value. I assume your bike in the big box did not have couplers?
I can see where couplers would be handy in the situation you described here and especially useful in the trip you described in your previous post. Your 3rd paragraph above describes our situation. My bike does not have couplers which reduces the value of my wife's bike's couplers.

On our tour last summer the biggest challenge was getting 4 boxed bikes and 4 people to the airport 120 miles away. The only solution I could come up with that fit our time frame was to rent a crew cab pickup

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Old 03-15-19, 09:59 AM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
...
On our tour last summer the biggest challenge was getting 4 boxed bikes and 4 people to the airport 120 miles away. The only solution I could come up with that fit our time frame was to rent a crew cab pickup
I hope it was not raining. Your cardboard boxes might have zero structural integrity by the end of the trip if it was.

My last flight (not a bike trip) the long walk to the economy parking lot to get to my truck in the rain made me pretty happy that my checked luggage was a duffel with waterproof fabric and shoulder straps. Seams were not sealed, but the rain was not that hard, very little got in through the seams.
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Old 03-15-19, 11:09 AM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
We don't usually end a tour near the same airport that we started the tour from. Using a hard case is not an option for us. Uncoupling does save some money when we ship our bikes by UPS or FedX, but we still use a cardboard box.
It's really not a big deal to ship something from a hotel or shipper location (UPS, FedEx etc...) to another end point such as a hotel. I've done it a number of times. A case, especially a small one or one like ours that compress nicely, is not an issue to do this. And it would beat the airline charges for us by a long ways ($300 per bike RT on Delta/KLM). Pretty much any shipper has it as traceable so you're not going to lose it and if you did, it's insured. At that point, you could do the cardboard box fallback.

Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
By using the couplers so that I can pack my bag small enough to fit in the trunk of the taxi (Prius), I am quite happy I got the couplers.
Using our cases, it would be easy to get 4 bikes in the back of an SUV. For that matter, getting a cab of any size in any airport has never been an issue for me. That includes destinations in Asia, Europe and the US. But having couplers is nice for sure but taxis are not the reason since they are an easy work around.
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Old 03-15-19, 01:53 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I hope it was not raining. Your cardboard boxes might have zero structural integrity by the end of the trip if it was.

My last flight (not a bike trip) the long walk to the economy parking lot to get to my truck in the rain made me pretty happy that my checked luggage was a duffel with waterproof fabric and shoulder straps. Seams were not sealed, but the rain was not that hard, very little got in through the seams.
I had 4 plastic mattress covers (free) used by the manufacturer for shipping, and a roll of duct tape ready in case we needed it. It was a beautiful day We have mostly started our tours from the airports, or ride from the airport to the train station. However, airports like Frankfort, Schiphol, and Paris-CDG; have train transport from the airport.

I could have used my own truck which has a canopy, but I did not want to leave it at the airport or long-term parking for 2 months. On most return flights at the end of our tours we ride from the airport to the train station, take the train to a nearby town, and then ride the 35 miles home. It is a nice way to wind down from a long tour. We have also ridden home from the airport.

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Old 03-19-19, 12:10 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Everybody has different priorities. I am retired, so I do not mind the extra time to set up the bike and at the end of a trip re-pack it. And since I built up most of my bikes from the frame, I am very comfortable doing the mechanical work. If you are limited to a week or two for vacation, I can see where you would rather get going immediately. The next trip I am planning, I anticipate being there for five weeks, thus no rush.

Since I have one bike with S&S couplers that is a very capable touring bike, I saw no reason to get couplers added when I bought my Lynskey as I really felt that a second bike with S&S couplers was excessive. Friends of mine have had great luck shipping bikes by BikeFlights.com, thus if I flew somewhere domestically and wanted to use my Lynskey, I would likely use BikeFlights instead of taking the bike on the plane. But International travel, you pretty much have to take the bike on the plane so that it goes through customs with you. Thus, if I want to take my Lynskey somewhere domestically, I will use BikeFlights. Foreign travel, I will limit that to a coupled bike or a folding bike so that it goes into an S&S case.

I find that the S&S couplings and having a case that fits in the trunk of a taxi has great non-monetary benefits, a full size bike box would be a lot more troublesome to get to the airport and return from the airport later. Most of the taxis in my community are Prius cars and the S&S case fits fine in a Prius.

And my next trip, logistics are even more complicated as it will be almost impossible to get from the airport in my community to my destination. So my next trip is:

1. Take taxi from home to near downtown.
2. Take a bus over 100 miles to a bus transfer station.
3. Take a smaller bus to an airport. But my flight would be very early morning next day, so ...
4. Take a motel shuttle bus to nearby motel.
5. Next morning (really early) take a motel shuttle bus back to airport. Check bags and fly to next airport.
6. Pick up my luggage, go through customs. Check my bags again for next flight, which of course means one more round of security personnel looking at my bike.
7. Arrive at final airport. Take a bus to a city center.
8. Somehow move my luggage about two city blocks to where I am spending that night, there is where I will assemble my bike.

This would be a hassle if I had to take a full size bike box instead of an S&S backpack case.

Photo has my luggage from my last trip like this. And second photo is me on my bike later.

I hope you have a great tri
Carless. We have similar goals in that my trip to Adelaide will be almost entirely sans car. My goal will be to have my bike ready to go at the airport and pedal in part to my b and b if necessary. I will be there for one month. The benefit of putting my bike into a suitcase would be: hopefully, TSA won't. this time. shred my cardboard bike box. I can't visualize myself being at the airport assembling my bike since I arrive in the evening. I Am too fussy to want to have to assemble it under pressure and have it done right. Adelaide does have a tram option very near the airport. I thought I might put two panniers in one large disposable suitcase, and have to not carry more than my combined panniers, a carry-on, and my bike.
Thanks, Australia will be my last continent to visit, outside of the Antarctic.
As to domestic flights. I'll do the bike flights idea. But, then I mostly travel by Amtrak. With their baggage car situation that is almost luggage free other than my panniers.
All this is pretty dependent upon knowing how Qantas treats its cyclist passengers. ? Can't be as bad as BA.
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Old 03-19-19, 12:24 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
I had 4 plastic mattress covers (free) used by the manufacturer for shipping, and a roll of duct tape ready in case we needed it. It was a beautiful day We have mostly started our tours from the airports, or ride from the airport to the train station. However, airports like Frankfort, Schiphol, and Paris-CDG; have train transport from the airport.

I could have used my own truck which has a canopy, but I did not want to leave it at the airport or long-term parking for 2 months. On most return flights at the end of our tours we ride from the airport to the train station, take the train to a nearby town, and then ride the 35 miles home. It is a nice way to wind down from a long tour. We have also ridden home from the airport.
. 👌 Great idea. four mattresses how could that fail. Better than my sleeping bag that did not. I might have to ride about 8 Km to my b and b from where the tram line ends. Most would take a taxi, I guess. Why wait when I can be there.
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Old 10-29-21, 02:03 PM
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Now that this two and a half year thread has been resurrected, I should point out that all of the discussion in posts 1 through 36 were during the era when Delta and American still charged exorbitant oversize fees for bikes. But now those two airlines change for a bike as a regular piece of non-oversize luggage. There however is still an upper limit for size, check before you buy your ticket.

Someone commented that United also dropped their oversize fee for bikes recently, but I have not checked on that since I have not flown United since the prior millennium.
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Old 10-30-21, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Now that this two and a half year thread has been resurrected,
Seems we have another Zombie Thread ressurecter in our midst.
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Old 11-01-21, 09:21 AM
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Well, it was almost halloween, afterall. Zombies are to be expected.
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Old 11-01-21, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
Well, it was almost halloween, afterall. Zombies are to be expected.
The post the brought this back to life is gone. Checked the posterís short history. All his posts were in zombie threads. Sounded like he was shilling.
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Old 11-01-21, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
The post the brought this back to life is gone. Checked the posterís short history. All his posts were in zombie threads. Sounded like he was shilling.
Now it looks like I was the one that resurrected it. Great. Well, I see no reason to erase mine.
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Old 11-01-21, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Now it looks like I was the one that resurrected it. Great. Well, I see no reason to erase mine.
I hate it when that happens.
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Old 11-01-21, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Now it looks like I was the one that resurrected it. Great. Well, I see no reason to erase mine.
I know. At first I thought I had imagined things. Many of his posts in the threads he bumped mentioned specific products. From the wording, it appeared like he was trying to post links but didnít have enough posts to be able to do so.
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Old 11-01-21, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I know. At first I thought I had imagined things. Many of his posts in the threads he bumped mentioned specific products. From the wording, it appeared like he was trying to post links but didnít have enough posts to be able to do so.
I was not even thinking about what he or she was saying, I just wanted to point out to anyone that looked at this thread for the first time that the world has changed as far as oversize fees go.
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Old 03-18-22, 11:24 AM
  #45  
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I've transported my bike by plane many times. However, I wouldn't say I like folding it every time, removing all the fasteners from the frame.
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Old 03-20-22, 06:24 PM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
After doing it a few times, I'm solidly on board with the plastic bag and nothing else method, at least on airlines that accept that.
Where do you buy these? I have looked and can't find them. Maybe I am using the wrong keywords. Thanks!
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Old 03-21-22, 10:53 AM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
Where do you buy these? I have looked and can't find them. Maybe I am using the wrong keywords. Thanks!
Some airlines will provide them. If they don't, I just use mattress moving bags, IIRC a queen is more than large enough. You can get them at U-Haul stores, or often times Wal-Mart will have something similar.
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Old 03-21-22, 11:35 AM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Some airlines will provide them. If they don't, I just use mattress moving bags, IIRC a queen is more than large enough. You can get them at U-Haul stores, or often times Wal-Mart will have something similar.
Thanks! The mattress bag is a great idea.
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Old 03-21-22, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Some airlines will provide them. If they don't, I just use mattress moving bags, IIRC a queen is more than large enough. You can get them at U-Haul stores, or often times Wal-Mart will have something similar.
You disappeared some time ago. Welcome back.
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Old 03-21-22, 01:28 PM
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jefnvk
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
You disappeared some time ago. Welcome back.
Thanks, yeah for the last bit I've pretty much only showed up when summoned with quotes!

Like most folks, the last two years overhauled my life quite a bit, and when most of my cycling was done on trails after work that I was no longer near due to perpetual work from home, and the motivation was cycling trips that became much harder due to travel restrictions, unfortunately my cycling tapered off. Trying to take my fitness a bit more serious this summer though, so hopefully I be back in the swing of things as soon as the dirt roads by me start drying out
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