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Packing a bike for flying

Old 12-11-08, 12:37 AM
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Newspaperguy
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Packing a bike for flying

I'm planning a warm-weather bike trip in February and that means flying with my bike. Getting there won't be a problem as I can easily box the bike and fly with it. But getting it back could be a little problematic. Where do I leave a bike box for two weeks or how do I pack a bike in a tough plastic bag for a flight without it being damaged by baggage handlers?

As it looks now (and things are subject to change, of course,) I'd be flying in and out of Varadero, Cuba, an airport 30 kilometres from anywhere.
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Old 12-11-08, 12:57 AM
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Is there a bicycle shop somewhere near the airport? If so, I'd toss the box and pick another one up at the shop ... or leave the box at the shop with a big note on it.

If you're flying Air Canada, they do not sell boxes ... but if you're flying United, they do. So that might be another option.

Do you know anyone there? If so, I'd check with them to see if you can store your box there.

Will you be staying in the same hotel for the first night and the last night while you're there? If so, I'd check with them to see if you can store your box there ... or maybe don't check, and just hide it around back and hope that it will still be there when you get back (sometimes that works. )

Can you fold your cardboard box? With some this is possible, with others it is very difficult. If you can fold it, you might be able to take it with you, at least as far as the nearest town ... and then hide it, or store it somewhere.
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Old 12-11-08, 01:08 AM
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Are you biking right out of the airport?

I am flying into Varadero next Monday with my bike, but am taking a cab to a local casa particular (licensed home stay) in Matanzas that will store the box while I tour for two weeks. My accomodation is only about 10 or 15 km from the airport. I pretty much have to stay there prior to on my return home date anyway because the flight is so early in the morning.

What are your touring plans?

Dave
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Old 12-11-08, 08:27 AM
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On a trip to Vietnam over Thanksgiving, I stayed in the same hotel for first night and last night. I asked them to keep the box.

I used a large style airline box which has the advantage that wheels stay on - leaving some more stability of racks and hubs keeping things strong. Unfortunate part is a large opaque box gets all the other luggage put on it. In the US, the TSA opened and reopened the box. In Vietnam, customs couldn't fit it through the scanner so called me back to reopen the box.

After six flights (three coming and three going), following was condition of the box. That shiny spot on top of the stem is where it seems to have scraped across a hard surface for a while. There was a similar hard scrape on the collar that holds the seat tube in place. My experience with using large plastic bags has sometimes been better than with boxes since they are less likely to pile a cart full of luggage on top of the box.
bikebox.jpg

Last edited by mev; 12-11-08 at 08:35 AM.
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Old 12-11-08, 08:41 AM
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I had a similar problem to solve and decided to buy a Ground Effect Tardis bike bag. It cost me $86 delivered.

http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/produc...il-TAR-BAG.htm

I wanted a bag that could contain my bike, but be light enough to either carry on the bike or post. It's also easy to get into a car. The bag is Cordura, but doesn't have any padding, so it's advisable to add that using your clothes and touring gear and a couple of pieces of cardboard and some cross braces created form rolled up card board and tape.

So what do you do with the bag when you get to an Airport

1) Take a cab to your hotel, the packed bike fits in most cars' and leave the bag at the hotel if you are coming back there.

2) Unpack the bike at the airport and put the bag in left luggage or post it to yourself using General Delivery (Poste Restante) at a Post Office close to your deprature point.
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Old 12-11-08, 11:51 AM
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I use a bag, and it works well, with some additions and a lot of work (it's not the easiest of options).
I strip the bike down pretty well to the frame - handlebars and stem off, one crank off and turned parallel to the other (so it's not sticking out), pedals, wheels (or sometimes just one, depending how thorough I'm being), mudguards and racks off, finally, deraillieur off, and seat and seat stem off. I then wrap the frame in pipe lagging - all the tubes, and then zip tie all the components to the frame. I zip tie the mudguards to the wheels, and then fit spacers in the front and rear forks (I use old Quick release wheel axles), and use the quick releases from the wheels on these axles.
I put the bikes in the bags, then put some sheets of cardboard over them.
You can get an idea of what I'm on about here:




It takes about an hour to pack up, and about half an hour to unpack and put the bike back together.
I usually dump the cardboard at the airport, then put all the pipe lagging in the bike bag, and put the bike bag in a locker (I always check online to see if it has any left luggage, even emailing the customer services if need be. If you can't find one at the airport, try the nearest station. If you can;t find one at the station (a lot are being removed because of security), try a local bike shop or your first night's hotel.

Hope that's a help.
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Old 12-11-08, 08:34 PM
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bike flight

I have always used a heavy duty plastic sheet. Before wrapping I do all the usual things, pedals, handlebars turned, frontwheel off and attached to frame and use pipe lagging for the journey out but not on return.....oh yes, next trip will double up with bubblewrap......have had my bike damaged once, but at least am willing to run the risk because I just ditch the plastic at the airport and buy another one on returning........as they say, whatever floats your boat
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Old 12-12-08, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by soltour View Post
I have always used a heavy duty plastic sheet. Before wrapping I do all the usual things, pedals, handlebars turned, frontwheel off and attached to frame and use pipe lagging for the journey out but not on return.....oh yes, next trip will double up with bubblewrap......have had my bike damaged once, but at least am willing to run the risk because I just ditch the plastic at the airport and buy another one on returning........as they say, whatever floats your boat
+1.
I've used boxes, taken the bike apart and put it back together, dragged boxes through airports, and then I had an epiphany! I don't have to do that. Now I take or ride my assembled bike to the airport, buy 2 plastic bags (one for the return flight), turn the bars, take off the pedals and lower the air in the tires and roll the bike into the bag. I also chock the front wheel so it won't turn.

When I get the bike back at my destination, I roll it out, set it up (only takes a minute) and ride away with the bag in the recycling bin. I've never had such stress free travel, and I've never had anything but scratches done to the bike.
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Old 12-13-08, 05:51 PM
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Hey Stokell. Which airlines have you used? I just flew to Cuba with Skyservice and they insisted on a box.
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Old 12-14-08, 12:45 PM
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I usually use Air Transat, but Skyservice fly Transat too.

Check their baggage regs. Scroll down to the table.
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Old 12-18-08, 06:36 PM
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I just got my Tardis bike bag. First thing that impressed me was the light weight and small package size about the size of a large phone book and only a couple of pounds. I'll easily be able to carry it under the flap of my Nelson LF saddlebag

The bag is just as advertised and has plenty or room for my bike and all of my stuff. I'll check the Tardis bag and put items like phone, docs, computer etc in my handlebar bag and carry that on. I added some strategic cardboard, wrapped the oily and greasy bits in plastic bags and used my gear as extra padding. I put lots of cardboard around the chainring, but it still feels a bit exposed, so I'm going to install some self-extracting crank bolts to make removing it for shipping easy. I just threw most stuff in there and tightened the compression straps and it makes a sturdy 40lb package
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Last edited by nun; 12-18-08 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 12-19-08, 07:11 AM
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This was the single thing that caused me most stress on a recent tour in India. I'd booked flights with British Airways who *insisted* that the bike had to be transported in a 'recognised bike bag or box', but nobody could provide a list of the bags/boxes they 'recognise'. I explained that our tour would start and finish in a different place, and offered to turn up with either a heavy-duty polythene bag or a cardboard bicycle box, both of which could be discarded upon arrival, but the people I spoke to almost seemed to take delight in telling me that I would NOT be allowed to travel. So in the end we had to buy the cheapest possible nylon zipper-bags and, upon arrival, post them to a hotel at our destination town.

It's a real pain. Not only do you have to deal with power-crazy "customer-service" staff, you have to transfer the care of the machine you've lovingly prepared and tuned for the last two months to underpaid baggage handlers who couldn't give a monkeys about your bicycle and will happily stow it under 400kg of other luggage. When we got to India and collected the bags, one of them looked like it had been dragged underneath the baggage truck - the 'heavy-duty' nylon was worn right through at two of the corners and completely torn around the chainring, and despite there being a sturdy bash-ring around the chainring, both the bashring and the chainring were bent. For this reason, I'll always pack a chainring removal tool in future.
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Old 12-21-08, 03:31 PM
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From what I am told, you will not find any boxes in Cuba, so make sure you store it when you're there. From the airport, depending on which way you're going, take a cab into Varadero or Matanzas and stay at a Casa particular. Stay there one night and ask them to store your box for the duration of your trip and book the final night(s) at the same CP.

Bring lots of tape in case you have to patch up the box including a few sheets of cardboard to fix any gaping holes.

We're heading to Varadero in 10 days and the bikes have been packed into their boxes with care, with visions of azure waters dancing in their heads...

Have a great trip!

Brent
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