Packing A Bike

How to Pack Your Bike For Airplane Travel

 

There are a few different ways to travel on an airline with a mountain bike. Ultimately, it will come down to a personal choice made by you. The primary factors are cost versus ease of packing and moving around once at your destination. Risk of Damage to the bike is also a factor.

 

Option #1: Use a commercial hard plastic case designed specifically for bike flights on airlines.

 

Advantages: High protection against damage to bike; Moderate ease of getting case around in airports.

Disadvantages: Likely carries a heavy financial penalty for each way of a round trip flight which can add up to considerable cost, including separate fees for Oversized Luggage, Sporting Equipment, sometimes Overweight Luggage, and there is no chance of sneaking it past anyone at check in :).

Other disadvantages are transporting the hard case in taxis in your destination city is extremely difficult and even some vans will not be able to put it inside or tie it to the roof. Also requires storage space while in your destination country, and though light is quite cumbersome to move around. This is manageable if you are doing only one flight to one destination and staying in one hotel the entire time.

Check very carefully all the baggage regulations of your chosen airline ! If you plan carefully there are many options, and since using a case is still the best option overall (but with the significant issue of moving the case around on the roof of a taxi once at your destination) so if you can get the cost down it is the best way to go.

For example, some airlines may allow the bike to go as a regular piece of luggage, especially on international flights. Depending on their “overweight baggage” fees, you may be able to put all your stuff into one overweight bag and just pay one fee.  Here also is where Frequent Flyer status or airline credit cards may come into play and get you an extra bag.  Read their rules carefully and determine the very cheapest way you can get the bike via airplane, then you can decide if you are willing to pay that or if not go for option number 2 or 3.

 

 

 

Option #2: The cardboard bike box. In our opinion, the worst of the 3 options as it has the high finanical cost of a hard case but with the riskier protection model of the duffel bag method (Option #3)

 

 

Advantages: Offers good (not great) protection for the bike, when correctly packed and padded.

Disadvantages: Likely carries a heavy financial penalty for each way of a round trip flight which can add up to considerable cost, including separate fees for Oversized Luggage, Sporting Equipment, sometimes Overweight Luggage, and there is no chance of sneaking it past anyone at check in :).


As with all 3 options, you must pack the bike carefully and protect fragile components or there is a high risk of the bike being damaged in flight.

Other disadvantages are transporting the large bike box in taxis in your destination city is extremely difficult and even some vans will not be able to put it inside or tie it to the roof. Also requires storage space while in your destination country, and though light is quite cumbersome to move around. This is manageable if you are doing only one flight to one destination and staying in one hotel the entire time.
Check very carefully all the baggage regulations of your chosen airline. Sometimes you get lucky with a loophole or relaxed policy, but usually not.

 

Option #3: The duffel bag. The best option if budget is a concern, if budget is not a concern, then Option #1 is best. Option #1 may still be best – if your bike is carbon we do not recommend Option 3, nor if you don’t have confidence in your ability to follow the instructions correctly.

If you follow the steps, the Duffel Bag is a great option. We have used it successfully well over 40 times and in that time paid only the rarest of Bike or Overweight Fees, escaping 99% of them. We suffered only 2 damage bike arrivals, once to a derailleur hanger (we now remove them) and the other time to a bent brake disc but we never had that problem again either.

Advantages: No additional fees of any kind, which can add up quickly these days. High maneuverability both around airports as well as cities, the bags can easily fit into the smallest of taxis and hotel rooms.

Disadvantages: Higher risk of damage to bike or components if not packed correctly.