If you are flying abroad with your bike, follow these 10 tips to ensure a stress free trip.
Check the airline’s policy
Assume nothing when flying with a bike. Costs, policies and allowances vary massively from one airline to the next. Even if your bike is included as part of your regular luggage, there are likely to be dimension restrictions and you will often have to call in advance to book it on. Take plenty of time to read through the small print and, if in doubt, e-mail and keep the response.
Take print outs to check-in
Even if you are 100% sure you have followed the airline’s policy to the letter, print out the policy, highlight relevant paragraphs and also have hard copies of any receipts proving that you have booked your bike on the flight. It can also be handy to have the dimensions of your bike box written down. Also, give yourself plenty of time at check-in in case of any dispute and because there is often a bit of a walk to oversized luggage.
Don’t overpack the box
Many airlines only allow your bike and box to weigh 23kg so, given that a hard box is likely to weigh upwards of 12kg and your bike 7kg plus, it doesn’t leave a lot spare. Even if your airline is more generous, allowing up to 32kg, some don’t allow additional kit in the box. Again, check and get written confirmation of what you are entitled to.
Is your bike insured?
Many standard travel insurance policies don’t cover or will only offer a minimal pay-out if your bike gets damaged in transit. Check your policy and, for peace of mind, look into the options available for specialist companies.
Hard case is best
Although bulkier, heavier and more expensive, there is no doubt that a hard case offers the best protection for your bike. They are designed to cope with rough handling and are crush resistant. If you don’t fly with your bike regularly enough to justify buying one there are a number of companies who rent them out.
Add some padding and bracing
You can never be too careful and, even in a hard case, some extra protection is a good idea. Cut lengths of foam pipe-lagging to fit your frame and mark which tube they go on eg. chainstay non-driveside. Put plastic spacers in your forks and drop-outs. If you haven’t got any, ask at your local bike shop.
Remove the rear mech
Probably the most vulnerable component is your rear mech and, even if it does fit into your box comfortably while still attached to the frame, it is worth removing, covering in bubble wrap and securing between the chain-stays. Worst case, once you bolt it back on, you will have to spend 5 minutes indexing your gears.
Wheels and tyres
Partially deflate your tyres but leave enough air in to provide some protection for your rims and, if running tubeless, to prevent the tyre unseating and sealant leaking out. Squeezable with your thumb is plenty soft enough. If your bike has disc brakes, some boxes will require you to remove the rotors and you should put some plastic spacers in the brake calipers. Some boxes use your quick release skewers to secure the wheels and have the end-nuts on the outside. As these can work their way loose, if you have got expensive bling lightweight titanium skewers, use some old standard ones in transit.
Essentials in hand luggage
Unfortunately luggage, including your bike, can go missing. Hopefully if this did happen it would just be a 24-hour delay and you could hire a bike until yours arrived. In your hand luggage carry your cycling shoes, with pedals stashed inside, and one set of cycling clothing.
Check out our further tips on flying to an event here.