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Airline Bicycle Transport

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WS Üyesi WS Üyesi kullanıcısının resmi
Airline Bicycle Transport

My wife and I plan and execute several self-guided international bicycle adventures every year. Like many other bicycle touring folks, we prefer to bring our own bicycles whenever possible. Our experiences would indicate that is that it is getting easier in general to travel with your bicycle and we are encouraged by the evolving bicycle policies of airlines like British Air where they now consider our bicycles as a piece of general luggage, so long as we keep the total package (bike and bag) below 51 pounds. We have actually developed a fairly robust system for packaging our bicycles for airline travel and have experienced only minor "bumps and bruises" to our full-sized touring bikes thus far.

Hope to hear from others regarding some experiences, tips etc. related to preparing your bicycles for airline travel

Cheers, Peter

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Wow! that's one well packed

Wow! that's one well packed bike. Much better than I've ever done. I just try to get away with only removing the front wheel and racks.

In Canada we get reasonable deals with Air Canada $75, WestJet $50 and Sunwing $30 for a bike in a box. I believe Air Transat is similar to Sunwing.

...Michelle

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Wow! that's one well packed

Wow! that's one well packed bike. Much better than I've ever done. I just try to get away with only removing the front wheel and racks.

In Canada we get reasonable deals with Air Canada $75, WestJet $50 and Sunwing $30 for a bike in a box. I believe Air Transat is similar to Sunwing.

...Michelle

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Bike Bag or Box?

I use a B & W Bike Sack and need to break my bicycles down to this level so that they will fit. The bag dimensions are 47 inches long, 33 inches high and 9 inches wide. Some airlines are starting to reject (as luggage) bikes packed only in a cardboard box. And now that I have got my "system" refined a bit, it really does not take me long to pack each bike. My finished "package" looks pretty much like a normal piece of luggage once I am done, and is actually not too bad for the baggage handlers to handle. The plywood and reinforced PVC pipe base keeps the bike very rigid during transport once I secure all the components together with zip ties. I also surround the bike (inside the bag) with an inflatable backpacking style sleeping mat and have another plywood piece fastened to the bag base to protect the outside of the bag bottom from wear and tear. Cost for all materials including the bag was under $100.

Alaska Airlines and British Air have taken my "package" as luggage and therefore at no additional cost so long as I keep the total weight below 50 pounds. Leaving for a cycle tour in Sweden tonight!

Cheers, Peter

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re: Airline Bicycle Transport

as another member said, "wow! that's a great packing job!" (ever work as an engineer?)
The use of the plywood is inspiring. If I am allowed one suggestion -- have you considered a piece of PVC 135mm long between the rear dropouts? (I assume your r-wheel axel is 135mm.) If that were held in by the skewer it would stiffen up the rear triangle.

Obviously this works, so it ain't busted. This is simply a suggestion.

best of luck, Gerhardt

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Bicycle Transport System

No, not a trained engineer but I love to invent and improvise.

I use the PVC between the front and rear dropouts on my wife's bicycle but could not do that with mine because my frame is a bit longer and the bag has a fixed length. I have revised my system multiple times now and will likely do so again. Just got back from a bicycle touring trip to Sweden and the bikes made it without trouble, but the PVC cracked on my front mount. Need to redesign the front mount to relieve stress on the PVC joint. Sure is nice having our own touring bicycles! We have just never been really happy with the "touring" bicycles we have rented.

Cheers, Peter

WS Üyesi Piotras kullanıcısının resmi
reject bikes packed only in a cardboard box

"...airlines are starting to reject (as luggage) bikes packed only in a cardboard box"

Which airlines?

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Airlines Bicycle Packing Policies

Here is one link to review. http://www.seattle-cycling-tours.com/airlinefeesforbicycles.html Note they say that "most airlines prefer that your bike box is not cardboard".

If you review the airline policies on bicycle transport (I have reviewed many) they will typically tell you what type of containers they require. This is the BA policy and note they do not include boxes, only bags and cases:

Bikes
We will accept non-motorised bicycles up to 190cm (75in) in length, provided they are packed in a recognised bicycle bag.

Please ensure that you:

pack the bike in a protective case or bag
remove the pedals or fix them inwards
fix the handlebars sideways
deflate the tyres to reduce the risk of damage

I think the main issue with cardboard boxes is that they are difficult to handle without some type of grips and they are also difficult for the security inspectors to open and close when inspecting the contents. That having been said, I have known of many people who have used cardboard boxes with no issues in the past. So maybe you will get lucky, but for the cost of a good quality bike bag, is it worth the risk?

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KLM, Delta, Air France and bike boxes

Our experience during several flights:
These three aircompanies charges ONE way € 125,00 per bike (!)
Required: bikes packed in the special cardboard boxes.

Available at Amsterdam airport, Buenos Aires (as example) cost: € 20,00 per box.
These boxes weight some 4 kg, so keep an eye at your bike's weight. Max. total 23 kg.
Yes, these boxes do have handgrips and are special made for bikes if you do not disassemble them.
Just the pedals removed and the bar switched.
Of course we ever had some damage, but damage can occur with any kind of luggage.
The companies easily paid for it.

At the flights back we always took the time to find local bike shops to collect, cut and tape a good box per bike.
Majority of airports provide no bike boxes...
A matter of preparation, information before you go there.
Indeed, ..our bike boxes were opened and checked upon by the US customs.
We found a decent letter inside with this message and they really taped the entire boxes again in a good way.
So, we are positive about cardboard bike boxes.
It saves a lot of time to take the bikes apart.

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Bags Versus Boxes

It seems to me that when you add up the total effort involved with using a cardboard box it makes more sense to buy a good transport bag that you can store and easily use again. You do need to construct some type of support system for the bicycle (some much more expensive bags come with internal supports) but if you do it right, your bicycle will be fairly well protected. It is simply not that much effort to disassemble and pack my bicycle for safe shipment, and the re-assembly process gives me a chance to verify all my connections and adjustments are correct before starting out on my journey. I really think it is a good idea to understand how your bicycle components fit together if you plan to do some serious touring.

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transport bag

Your picture above is an amazing piece of homework. Our compliments! Genius. However, our trips in other countries always end up in another airport. Storing a box or taking your construction with us on the bike is no option.

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Bubble wrap

We always used to run about trying to get official bicycle boxes which inevitably resulted in extra weight and waste. On our last flight from Budapest to the UK, we took all the pointy bits off, turned handlebars etc. and wrapped them in bubble wrap (like a bike bag) with handles made of triple strength masking tape. It worked a treat. Cheaper - we got a heap of bubble wrap from behind the back of a hardware store and they were happy to give it to us. Much lighter, probably better protected, with the advantage of the baggage handlers being able to connect the fact that they were handling bikes, not just a big anonymous box. We had double checked with the airline that it was OK and nobody blinked an eyelid. Kicking myself we didn't get a picture...Not sure why!

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Bubble wrap

Indeed a good idea. If you ever make a picture, we would like to see the result. It's worth to try this.

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Many Possible Approaches

Oh I think there are many possible approaches to packing your bicycles for airline travel, including bubble wrap! The system I have developed cost less than $100 to construct (including a nice travel bag), is very durable and reusable. And thus far the airlines have taken it as normal baggage if under the weight limit (usually 50 pounds). That can save some big money.

As far as storage of the packing bags goes, when we are leaving from the same airport we have found that hotels and B&Bs are happy to store our bags if we agree to stay at their place again before we leave. If we are leaving from a different airport, we simply ship our bags & suitcases to our final destination hotel upon arrival and once the bikes are reassembled. Then the bags and our suitcases are waiting for us when we are ready to leave. We typically try to do circle route tours to save the cost of shipping our bags and suitcases, but the shipping costs are usually not that bad anyway since the weight is fairly low.

Thanks for all the participation in this subject!

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Agree on that...

But we usually do multi month trans trips ie. Perth to Brisbane, Kirkenes to Budapest. The next one will be Toronto to Vancouver, then Vietnam North to the south, then Dushanbe to Pakistan. Not really cost effective or convenient to send packaging or bags onwards. It would be nice if Airlines had a standard policy though. Boxes vs bags vs other options. We were very nervous rocking up at the airport with bubble wrapped bikes even though we'd checked. I can assure you I had their email printed out as a hard copy and ready to roll if needed.

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I See Your Point

Yes, I see your point for some of those big-time adventures like you take. What would really be nice is if the airlines (airports?) all had some type of bicycle packing materials available, or perhaps a standard protection enclosure that they provided for bicycles. British Air actually has a pretty easy bicycle policy but I would be reluctant to turn my bicycle over to baggage handlers if it was only enclosed in an approved "bag" without some additional protection. Maybe some entrepreneur will come up with a simple bicycle transport bag with protection that could be sold or even perhaps rented at airports for a nominal cost. I have often thought that there might be a market for bicycle rentals at airports, much like cars are rented. But just being able to "rent" a good packing system and a place to do your disassembly and reassembly would be much better for us that prefer to use our own bicycles for adventures. Might have to grind on that thought for a while!

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Vancouver?

Sharyn, let me know when you plan to be in Vancouver as we live pretty close and cycle up in B.C. quite often. I could suggest some great routes out of Vancouver and you are certainly welcome to visit and stay at our place if you want to explore the Seattle area as well.

Cheers, Peter

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Sea Tac Airport - It's a Start!

Check out this link to my local airport's efforts to help bicycle travelers. A step in the right direction!

https://www.portseattle.org/Sea-Tac/Parking-and-Transportation/Ground-Transportation/Pages/Bicycle-...

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Lufthansa

I will fly Lufthansa next week to Budapest and the airline assures me they will take my bike as is - no box at all. Anyone try this??!

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Never paid extra

I've been touring for around 25 years now and have never paid for my Bike on a plane. I usually run around to bike shops for a bike box and stuff every thing into it using clothes as packaging. When I get to the airport I arrive with a smile and start telling the booking staff stories of traveling around their wonderful country and where I'm hoping to go to from here when they ask for money for the bike then it's pleading poverty and really take my time, I did this in Kazakhstan where they wanted $150 for my bike and $200 for my friends, they eventually called their boss who after much chatting about Kazakhstan waved my fee and reduced my friends to $25, score. Much the same was done in Azerbaijan where we was even upgraded to 1st class. In LA the chap behind the desk gave me a bike box and even helped me pack up the bike as he was a tourer as well. It's also better to look at airlines bike policy and not just go for the cheaper flight, an extra $20 for the flight for a bike friendly airline than the cheapest. I also book with the airline themselves rather than an agent and in the notes explain that I have a bike, this gives me amo for the checkin desk.

 

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I recently flew United from

I recently flew United from Austin TX to Barcelona and I had an oversized box. Paid extra for that but everything arrived intact and the box in good shape (though I did reinforce heavy silver duct-tape). Since I had a carbon frame I thought a box was a good idea. If I had a less valuable bike I would have tried just checking mostly intact and without a box or bag. 

Have a great trip!

Nealio 

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Since you traveling with your

Since you traveling with your wife together I would like to share our idea about bike packaging. Just wrap up both frames, forks and other stuff separately from wheels. Exactly: all four wheels in first bag and framesets in other. Also you may add some touring equipment that don't fit to your cabin luggage.
In this case your wife can carry wheels bag and you - frames. Such luggage will be more compact.
I did it couple of times.. Unfortunately don't have pics right now.