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Old 07-22-08, 04:50 AM   #1
Al Downie
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Packing bicycles for air travel

As airlines become more restrictive regarding baggage, and baggage handlers become more ruthless in their handling or fragile items, I'm thinking hard about how best to pack the bikes for a trip. I'm thinking:

Wheels off
Pedals off
Racks off
Bars off

And possibly...

Stem & Forks off? Might protect the forks from bending and make the bag more compact.
Disk calipers off the rear? Rather than risk them being bent on the frame.
Disk rotors off the wheels too?

Unfortunately I'm flying with British Airways - I didn't find out until after I'd booked that their mission is to prevent people from enjoying themselves at all costs. Seems typical of life in Britain these days, but I won't get started on that...
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Old 07-22-08, 09:01 AM   #2
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Hi Al,

I remove the pedals, turn the steering 90, remove the air of tyres, barrs off, light off and put the bike in transparent plastic bag. I take care that the bike is rolling and nobody has to carry the bike. Important is that your confirmation contains the size how big your bike can be.

That's it. I made the best experiences with this kind of packing - and I don't care about scrateches

Sometimes you are force to use a bike carton. Several times I received only parts of carton and the bike. I friend of mine didn't used the plastic and had dints in his frame.

I think British Airways forced me to use a bike box - but I can't remember it was 10 years ago.

Travelling with bikes is nowadays very convinient. 10 years ago it was really funny. 4 hours for Check-in, estimated costs of 1000 EUR (one way) that was a lot of negociation at the airport. Today you pay bike tarif (80-100 EUR) one way and that's it.

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Old 07-22-08, 09:08 AM   #3
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I have generally flown more than 30 times and generally used one of two methods:

-- Big box (most common); remove pedals, remove seat, turn/remove handle bars. Leave racks, wheels on. Sometimes they'll ask to deflate tires and sometimes I'll do this.
-- Small box (less common); remove pedals, seat, wheels, racks, rear derailer (tape to chainstay). Brace the fork/rear dropout (e.g. with old hub).

On one or two occasions I've also flown with a plastic bag or without any box at all.

If you have your bike in a box, you can assume it will be loaded onto a luggage cart and then have other luggage stacked on top of it. If it flies in a plastic bag, more likely they see it as a bike.

The boxes I've used, particularly the large ones frequently get ripped when they carry from the handle holes. If you slip anything else into the box, use tape/string to attach it to the frame. Also take care with lights or other things that easily pop off.

In those 30+ times flying, I've had an aluminum frame dinged twice and otherwise no damage or loss. Sometimes I wait a while before the bike finally comes. On one occasion it missed the connection in Frankfort and came on the next flight.
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Old 07-22-08, 09:20 AM   #4
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Thanks for that encouraging note Thomas - if only it were possible to do that with British Airways!

I did call their 'Customer Service' desk last week, specifically to ask for advice about how to package the bikes, given that we'll be flying to and returning from different airports. And our tour is over the Himalayas, so we won't be able to carry large, heavy bags/boxes. I described my plan to do exactly as you said - use plenty of bubble-wrap and a large, clear plastic bag, all of which could be discarded at the destination, but I was told flatly that this would NOT be accepted and "bicycles must be packaged in a recognised bicycle bag or box". So I offered to use bubble-wrap and a large cardboard box, the sort that new bicycles are shipped to the retailers in. All I got was a frosty "NO. Bicycles must be packaged in a recognised bicycle bag or box". So I asked for a definition of 'recognised bicycle bag or box', and she simply drew my attention to the three tiny cartoon diagrams on their website, which was in front of me at the time. I offered to use a coloured plastic bag instead of a clear one, and attach duct-tape handles to it so that it looked like one of the diagrams, but I got exactly the same response. So I asked to speak to the manager, who was confrontational from the outset and refused to offer any advice or suggestion, apart from what is written on the website. It all turned really nasty and I ended up shouting at her - "It's people like you who make living in the UK so CRAP!", which was probably a mistake since she knows my booking reference number. Anyway. We're going to have to buy cheapest possible bicycle bags and throw them in the bin at one airport in India, and then see what compromise we can arrange at the other on our way home (at least the trip will have finished by then).

Ironically, and to add insult to injury, one of the diagrams they cite as a 'recognised bicycle bag or box' is in fact an accurate representation of a 'real' box, but the real box exceeds BA's maximum permitted dimensions!

Wish I'd seen this before I booked with British Flippin' Airways
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Old 07-22-08, 06:21 PM   #5
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i've had good luck with the ground effects tardis bag. maybe british airways will accept that bag. folds up rather small (sized of an average shoe box) for easy carrying. you will have to remove:

stem (?)
rear derailleur
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Old 07-23-08, 12:05 AM   #6
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I flew from Denver to Sicily and back with a stopover in Dublin on British Airways last May, all I did was roll my bike up to the check-in counter, turn the handlebars sideways and take the pedals off. They gave me a plastic bag for the Denver-London leg, otherwise the bike went unboxed and unwrapped. I did the same thing 4 years ago when I toured Scotland. They might have different rules for different routes, though.

They seem to waive the size restrictions for sports equipment, nobody said anything about the size of the bike (and it very obviously was bigger than the limits).
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