Pedaling Moab, Utah's Slickrock Trail. Following Lance's tracks up the 21 switchbacks of l'Alpe d'Huez in the French Alps. Getting up close and personal with Vermont's fantastic fall foliage. It's all possible when you fly with your bike, something that's easier than many people realize. To help, we've put together this guide:
Boxing Your Bike
While some airlines take bicycles with only minor adjustments, such as turning the bars and removing the pedals, we recommend having the bicycle boxed, which protects it in transit. We box bikes in the same cardboard shipping boxes they come from the factory in. This requires some disassembly meaning you'll want to travel with tools to reassemble your bike, or have it done by a shop when you arrive. If you'd like us to box your bike, give us a call so we can save a box for you.
We're also happy to provide cardboard boxes should you want to box your own bike. Just be sure to tape the box (bottom and top) to reinforce all the seams. And wrap your bicycle carefully to protect it (pipe insulation works nicely).
Frequent fliers should consider purchasing a "bike case," a special container designed for airline travel (photo, below). These hard and soft cases make packing and unpacking easier because they require less bike disassembly. Plus, they feature handy details, such as handles, straps and wheels for that long haul to the terminal.
They're also an investment, costing several hundred dollars, yet this expense pays for itself many times over if you fly a lot because it saves you the trouble of getting boxes for each trip plus you save time packing.
General packing tips:
(read your bike case instructions)
- Remove the pedals, seat/seatpost
- Remove road bike's front brake
- Release mountain-bike front brake cable
- Remove handlebars (or bars/stem)
- Remove the front wheel and quick release
- Bag or box all removed small items
- Ensure parts & frame can't hit each other
- Do NOT lock the case; inspectors need access
- When packing a cardboard box, tie the parts to the bike so inspectors won't disturb them
- If you're using a cardboard box, pack tape to seal the box on the return leg
- Carry cycling shoes, shorts and jersey in case/box; you'll be able to ride if other bags are lost
- There's no need to deflate tires; elevation will not cause problems
- Bring a quality frame pump for tire repairs if your mini-pump won't reach optimum pressure
- Sleeping bags or soft clothing makes great padding and frees up room in other baggage
Fees To Fly
Even though you've carefully boxed your bike and made it easy to handle, and even though airlines take surfboards, skis, golf clubs and other exercise equipment for free, they generally charge an "oversize" fee to take bicycles. This is usually around $80 each way when flying in the states. For international flights you might not get charged. The only way to know for sure what the charges are is to check with the airlines before you travel or ask your agent when you're making reservations.
Also check to see how taking the bike along effects other bags you plan to carry. There may be a limit to the overall number of items you may check.
The good news is that there are ways around these fees if you're willing to join a cycling organization.
League of American Bicyclists and USA Cycling offer fly-for-free programs to members. The former requires that reservations be made through Adventure Travel, and as long as you identify yourself as a League member and are okay with flying America West or Frontier Airlines, you’re in.
USA Cycling has teamed up with United Airlines to offer airline travel benefits to its license holders. Two one-way bike travel vouchers are available per calendar year to each member in addition to a 10% discount on published fare reservations made thirty days in advance.
Another thing to consider in planning your trips is that you'll need a place to store your bike case or box when you arrive at your destination. And, you'll need to take it with you if you're traveling around and staying in different places on vacation. If you're relying on a rental car, for example, it has to be large enough to accept your bike case along with any people and gear.
Traveling with your bike adds joy and variety to trips. There's the opportunity to cycle storied trails and roads, make new friends and even burn off some of those vacation calories. We hope these tips help you take your bike along. Give us a call or stop by if you have any questions.