There’s nothing better than having your own bike with you to ride when you travel, and one way to do so is to bring it with you on the plane. However, flying with a bike is not simple. Read on for some tips about how to travel with your bike.
Box or Case
Before you take your bike on the plane, you will have to pack it in a cardboard box or hard or soft case. The are pros and cons to all three options.
Cardboard boxes are easy to obtain and are typically free from a local bike shop plus they often give you extra space for your cycling or other gear. But they don’t hold up as well to repeated use and will have to be frequently replaced. You also may need to call your local shop well ahead of your trip so that they can save you a box when they next get a new bike shipped to them.
Soft cases are often lightweight and easy to handle but can be expensive, and depending on their design, they may not offer as much protection as a well packed cardboard box or hard case.
Hard cases are typically the most expensive and heaviest option, but they offer the most protection for your bike en route.
To maximize the chances of your bike arriving at your destination undamaged, it’s important to pack your bike well, no matter what kind of case you use. First you’ll have to disassemble your bike, then pad all of its pieces well with foam. You must not only protect the contents inside from damaging each other, but you must also protect against external forces that may be applied as the airlines handle your bike box or case.
Searching the internet for detailed instructions on how to disassemble and pack your bike will yield lots of suggestions. One such excellent resource comes from Adventure Cycling: https://www.adventurecycling.org/resources/how-to-department/routes-maps-logistics/boxing-your-bicycle/.
Flying with your bike usually will cost you – most airlines charge for transporting your bike. Fees vary hugely by airline and may also be different depending on whether your flight is international or domestic. Contact your airline in advance to find out exactly how much it will cost you so you are not surprised with a large expense upon check-in.
Weight and Size Limits
Airlines often have strict limits on baggage size and weight, and these restrictions also vary by airline. Overweight and/or oversized bike luggage may trigger additional fees above and beyond the airline’s standard bike transport fee. Again, it’s best to contact your airline in advance to obtain a list of potential fees. Then carefully weigh and measure your packed bike before you go to the airport.
In many countries, security and/or customs personnel will insist on opening your case and box and inspecting its contents as part of the normal screening process. Do not lock your case so that security can access it.
Check the prohibited substances list before you load up your bike box or case with all the bike-related gear that you’d typically take with you when travelling by cart. Items like CO2 cartridges and chain lube are often banned. If you attempt to fly with these items, they will likely be confiscated during security inspections.
Airlines typically make you sign a waiver saying they are not responsible for damage to your bike while they are transporting it; yet incidences of such damage are common. You may want to purchase third party insurance for your bike to cover possible damage.
Other Bike Transport Options
Depending on your destination, you may be able to ship your bike there and back for less than it costs to take it on the plane. Yes, you still have to pack your bike when you ship it, but you save the hassle of dragging your bike box or case to and from the airport on either end because you can ship it directly to your destination and have it waiting for you upon arrival.