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Top tips for taking your bike on a flight

TheEnglishmanTheEnglishman Posts: 587
edited October 2012 in Tour & expedition
I'm looking to take me bike to New York later this year. The shop I got it from said they are happy to provide the box it came packed in, so I guess that bit's ok. But does anyone with experience want to offer up some tips/thoughts on making the experience go as smooth as possible?

Posts

  • DubdemandDubdemand Posts: 37
    Very nice of them to keep the box it came in on the off chance you might want it one day :lol:

    To be honest I'd have a look at a decent quality, padded bike bag to make sure it's properly protected during your travels. Not done this myself but I would expect you will also need to contact the airline to make special arrangements/give them more of your hard earned!
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    The best advice (or at least the most pithy) that I've seen is 'imagine your bike is going to be thrown down a flight of stairs - and pack accordingly' you might also want to add 'and then a load of suitcases thrown on top.

    -see if you can buy, or scrounge some 'frame protectors' these are plastic gizmos that go between the fork and rear dropouts (assuming you are taking the wheels off);
    - consider removing anything that projects from the frame and could get damaged or bent - eg rear mech. You don't have to remove it completely just tuck it out of harms way and secure with a cable tie - ditto brake/gear levers.

    OK possibly overcautious, but it only takes a few minutes with a Allen key to put things back together.
  • ScrumpleScrumple Posts: 2,666
    talk to bike box alan!

    I'd hire a decent box, rather than cardboard. £30 odd quid well spent.
  • StrithStrith Posts: 541
    I would strongly recommend a bike box. The Alan one mentioned above is supposedly very good.

    I've been using a padded bike bag for a while now (6 flights so far) with no problems. However, I arrived in Taiwan a month ago and on this occasion I have an out of true wheel and a clicking bb. My wheel was easily trued, but I've spent a month cycling with the bb driving me crazy.

    Hiring a box for me has been impractical due to the length of time I've been away and they are quite expensive to buy, but I think its by for the safest option.

    I pretty much strip my bike down to nothing and cover it in a ton of bubble wrap. If you use a bag make sure you put spacers in the frame and fork. If You can get your cranks off easily I would do that too.

    That all may sound a bit much, but I have no faith in baggage handlers looking after my stuff.

    Good luck
  • Scrumple wrote:
    talk to bike box alan!


    Is the way to go

    http://bikeboxalan.co.uk/ - I had no idea they existed or even thought someone would hire such things.

    Many thanks chaps - I'll call them on Monday :D
  • dodgydodgy Posts: 2,890
    I've travelled often with my bike, always in a cardboard box, the very same boxes that manufacturers ship their bikes worldwide in. On arrival there has never been any problems, and that includes using the same technique when travelling with the RAF ;) Not even a rip or dent to the cardboard, but anyway, here are some tips:

    1. Use something to keep the dropouts from being squeezed together, I used bamboo cut to length with a skewer through the centre.
    2. There are 3 sizes of boxes. Small means the bike has to travel with wheels removed (but still in box) and bars etc. Medium means you can leave the rear wheel attached (my preference and is still airline friendly), large means the bike is essentially intact but as the box is larger it's also more flexible and probably not airline friendly.
    3. Get some webbing to construct a shoulder strap, loop it under the box
    4. Use fablon if you're travelling from/to somewhere wet so the underside of the box stays dry as you're dragging it.

    I personally think a cardboard box is easily up to the job of protecting an expensive bike.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    x-ray machines have a size limit. In smaller, regional airports, they use smaller machines. If you fly out of a big one and return through a smaller one, you may need to pack differently. I had to remove the front wheel on one return flight, and had to use a waterbottle between the forks as an improvised protector .
    Security may want to inspect any waterbottles that you pack on the bike. Make sure they are inspected before sealing.

    I often use pipe lagging foam and a heavy duty plastic bag. The bike generally gets thrown around less.
    Avoid Heathrow. Try and use the smallest airport possibe, they treat your bike much better.
  • cycladeliccycladelic Posts: 641
    I just flew back to Taiwan from England and instead of boxing the bike, I used a couple of rolls of clingfilm, supplimented with a few bits of cardboard and some brown packing tape. There's a picture of it here...

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page ... 91112&v=12

    It arrived okay, with no damge.

    I like this idea as handlers can see it's a bike. And you can buy clingfilm anywhere - more or less. I got mine from Tesco - 99p a roll.
    It's an uphill climb to the bottom
  • jalapenojalapeno Posts: 1,009
    few thoughts here http://www.paintedroads.com/blog/?p=262

    I've used everything from carpet from an Indian bazaar, to foam underlay to a bunch of sliced up rubble sacks and scavenged cardboard.. anything can find really.

    Painted Roads.. colourful cycling adventures
    http://www.paintedroads.com
  • daviegbdaviegb Posts: 126
    I've got a carbon framed road bike, so chose to go for a hard-box - bought one from http://bikeboxalan.co.uk/

    They cost about £420, but you can also hire them. It's fully guaranteed & I've used it on 8 trips so far with no issues. I would recommend them without hesitation......no, I don't work for them!

    Previously had an aluminium framed Giant, that I took to Vegas in a soft bag - it survived the trip out, but the handle bars were bent beyond repair on the return journey.

    Check with your airline whether they charge extra to take bikes - Easyjet charge, but have also delivered my bike in excellent condition every trip, so consider it money well spent.

    Have a great trip!
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    Strith wrote:
    I would strongly recommend a bike box. The Alan one mentioned above is supposedly very good.

    I've been using a padded bike bag for a while now (6 flights so far) with no problems. However, I arrived in Taiwan a month ago and on this occasion I have an out of true wheel and a clicking bb. My wheel was easily trued, but I've spent a month cycling with the bb driving me crazy.

    I'm surprised that the BB got screwed. I was going to say 'take the cranks off' but then I thought maybe that's over the top - but perhaps not.

    Bike boxes (ie the non cardboard ones) are great but they have their downsides: expensive, bulky etc: great if you're going on a single centre biking holiday and have a hire car, but possibly less useful for a touring cyclist.
  • woolwichwoolwich Posts: 298
    A few extra tips;

    Leave a little additional time when checking in. The airport may require you to drop the bag/box/case at a specific "Bulky Baggage drop" which may be a bit of a walk from the usual check in.

    Be careful with gas cannisters for puncture repair. They still x-ray bulky baggage and may wish to view the cannister. Not a huge issue, just a bit of hassle. I've made this mistake. Also some chain lube is marked as a flammable liquid and they frown on it but can be flexible.

    Finally as someone previous stated, check the terms and conditions of the airline. If you are lucky you can ram almost all your clothing and general tat around the bike. This not only provides protection but providing it doesnt weigh over the airlines recommended weight limits, they should not charge you anything extra, it simply travels as your one piece of allowed checked baggage. So shop around, as it can be cheaper to get an expensive flight with no hidden extra's rather than a budget flight with add ons.
    Mud to Mudguards. The Art of framebuilding.
    http://locksidebikes.co.uk/
  • StrithStrith Posts: 541
    andymiller wrote:
    I'm surprised that the BB got screwed. I was going to say 'take the cranks off' but then I thought maybe that's over the top - but perhaps not.

    Bike boxes (ie the non cardboard ones) are great but they have their downsides: expensive, bulky etc: great if you're going on a single centre biking holiday and have a hire car, but possibly less useful for a touring cyclist.

    Actually I should add that on this occasion I was traveling with my race bike which is BB30, which aren't exactly know for their robustness. I imagine a conventional BB would be fine.

    In future i'll be doing the following:

    Race bike >> Bike box
    Tourer/CX bike >> Clingfilm method, provided the airline will allow, otherwise bike bag.

    Regards
  • priorypriory Posts: 743
    'imagine your bike is going to be thrown down a flight of stairs'

    5 years ago East midlands airport I watched half a dozen bikes in bags/boxes chucked onto the moving band wobbling precariously. One simply came out of the hold and hit the concrete from about 12 feet .
    Raleigh Eclipse, , Dahon Jetstream XP, Raleigh Banana, Dawes super galaxy, Raleigh Clubman

    http://s189.photobucket.com/albums/z122 ... =slideshow
  • I've taken my bike in a bike bag on several flights. I made some early mistakes: not using separators for the forks (which then got bent), and also not removing the rear derailleur (which was sheared off). After that, I thought I had it sorted, and sure enough the next few flights passed without mishap. But then a few weeks ago I removed the bike from the bag only to discover that the big ring was bent so badly that my chain kept coming off. Fortunately, I was able to switch to the small ring and cycle to the nearest bike shop, which was able to bend the big ring back into shape. I'm not quite sure how I could have protected the chain ring, and I am worried in case this happens again, and there isn't be a bike shop nearby: it might spoil the trip, to put it mildly. So I'm thinking of buying a bike box instead, which I gather is very unlikely to allow my bike to be damaged. But I suspect there isn't much room in them for extras like cycling clothes, tools, etc. (whereas there is plenty in a bike bag). Can anyone share their experience?
  • cycladelic wrote:
    I just flew back to Taiwan from England and instead of boxing the bike, I used a couple of rolls of clingfilm, supplimented with a few bits of cardboard and some brown packing tape. There's a picture of it here...

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page ... 91112&v=12

    It arrived okay, with no damge.

    I like this idea as handlers can see it's a bike. And you can buy clingfilm anywhere - more or less. I got mine from Tesco - 99p a roll.

    Yep, I flown numerous times short and long haul, and never bothered with bike bags. Usually pretty similar to your link, protective wrapping round the frame and removed pedals and bar ends, that's about all. Once on a return trip via the States had to get cardboard bike box as airline instanced, despite it being no problem on the return flight or in the bike policies for carrying bikes. Never had any damage touch wood.
  • BarbesBarbes Posts: 72
    Have you thought about hiring a bike instead? NYC is experiencing a road biking boom just now and last year I noticed at least one bike shop offering rentals (can't recall the name but it was just over GW Bridge in New Jersey (Fort Lee)).
  • I am thinking of keeping my best a bike here (Taiwan) and having a cheapish one at a friend's in the UK. It cost me US$200 to transport it this year - 100 each way - and for that money, I can get something half decent that would do for short tours in the UK.
    It's an uphill climb to the bottom
  • It depends on the airline: some (e.g. SAA, Kenyan) don't charge for transporting bikes. But where they do charge, hiring a bike can be a sensible option.
  • I flew with KLM - Air France. They only allow one piece of free baggage... the second piece you have to pay a flat fee of 100 euros or US dollars. Obviously my bike counted as a second piece of baggage.
    It's an uphill climb to the bottom
  • d70ar9d70ar9 Posts: 139
    I use a CTC clear plastic bag, it costs around £7 and has been perfect on the last 3 tours i've done. The theory is that as the baggage handlers can see the bike is a bike and not some anonymous box they treat it with more respect. Another huge advantage is that if you are cycling out a flying back the bag can easily be carried with you, it also doubles up as a groundsheet if you a camping. I was dubious at first but have had nothing but good experiences using a clear plastic bag found here: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/ctc-plastic-bike-bag/ (it goes in and out of stock regularly - so keep checking)
    'All that is solid melts into air' Marx and Engels
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    d70ar9 wrote:
    I use a CTC clear plastic bag,
    I used this too, saw the baggage handlers handling the bikes as if they were bikes, and with care, rather than chucking them around. Saw them stood on their wheels on the trolley at the aircraft. I removed the pedals and turned the bars. I used a large zip tie to gather up excess plastic, and duck tape to seal.

    I also put all four of our panniers in one cheap large holdall. This reduced the baggage charges (Easyjet). The holdall and plastic bike bags folded up small enough to not pose any problem on tour.

    I declined the invitation of one check-in person to deflate the tyres (it simply isn't necessary and could make the wheels more vulnerable).
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