Flight'n'Bike

How to take along a bicycle when travelling by plane


We're often asked "How do you manage to take your bikes with you?" when we make a flight. So it might be a good idea to dwell on that subject and give some piece of advice.

To point out possible troubles let me first tell a short story I experienced a few years ago:

There was this flight from Frankfurt to Alberquerque, I'd booked due to the starting point of my bicycle trip to Salt Lake City. The travel preparations went well according to my meticulous designed plans. I put the bike into a box and rented a big car to get the 300 kilometers (190 miles) to Frankfurt. The evening before departure I picked up the car and went to sleep with the good feeling to have everything done ...

The surprise came next morning when I tried to put the bikebox into the car. Despite I had measured the whole thing, it didn't fit. Well, it would have, the rear door was big enough, weren't there these bulges of the cartwheels. What now? The first drops of sweat decorated my forehead. Fortunately the car had rails on its roof. So I heaved the box on the roof and fastened it with several strings. Slightly nervous I fetched my remaining stuff and started towards Frankfurt.

Everything went fine till I exceeded the speed of 110 km/h (70 miles/hour). Suddenly a loud bang scared the wits out of me. I slammed on the brake and jumped out of the car. The box was still on the roof but because of the airstream its front was heavily deformed. I fixed it more or less with the strings and carefully drove on, at a maximum speed of 100 km/h. There was still time to catch the plane, but now the time table was kind of getting tight.

The weather changed from sunny to foggy. Very foggy and moist! Strange noises came from above so I stopped at the next rest area with a queasy feeling in my stomach. The box, made of cardbord began to macerate! "Sh.." There was nothing I could have done. After fixing the strings I carefully continued the drive. It was a nightmare, my eyes glued on the rearview mirror, hoping not to see the bike flying behind me. I stopped at every rest area and fumbled with the strings trying to tighten the wet box.

Fortune favors fools, some time the sun was shining again and I reached Frankfurt airport, the shapeless cardboad thing still on the roof. It might have been a new kind of sport at the olympic games, "airport running with baggage". A little bit difficult to hold everything together, but my time was not bad. Actually I caught the plane on the last minute. A friendly man at the customs control helped me to fix the box with miles of small tape.

To cut it short, me and my bike met again in the US. Instead of lightheartedly starting my tour, the next trouble arose with a damaged wheel rim. Well, this is another story ...

As you see, a lot of unpleasant incidents can occur, one disaster might lead to the next. Below I give some hints about what to consider when travelling with the biycle as a piece of baggage.

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Tips

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Example

This is a detailed list of how we prepared and made our recent flight from Hanover (Germany) to Denver CO and back from Las Vegas NV to Hanover:

Days before departure

  1. get two boxes from our local bike store
  2. remove handle bar and attach it to the bike
  3. remove pedals and attach them to the bike
  4. remove rearview mirror and attach it to the bike
  5. deflate tires
  6. attach the tool kit to the bike
  7. attach lock to the bike
  8. attach bottles to the bike
  9. attach tire inflators to the bike
  10. put the bikes into the boxes
  11. make a rehearsal how to attach the boxes to the roof of our car

Day of departure

  1. wrap the boxes in foil and attach them to the roof of our car
  2. drive to the airport
  3. unload baggage and boxes (and my companion as guard) at the airport
  4. park the car in the parking area
  5. check in the four pieces of baggage (two times two)

Time of arrival

  1. hope everything has arrived
  2. reassemble the bikes, inflate the tires
  3. attach the bike-bags
  4. leave the boxes at the airport (no fee for disposal)

Make the trip

  1. ... and have a lot of fun ... :-)

    A. on the bike                     D. on the bike

Days before departure

  1. confirm the return flight and get two new boxes from the airport (Carrying a box)

    We do this always a few days before departure, you never know if there are any boxes available.

  2. buy adhesive tape and strings for disassembling the bikes and putting the boxes together
  3. prepare for departure, relax and spend the last cash

Day of departure

  1. pedal well timed to the airport
  2. remove handle bar and attach it to the bike
  3. remove pedals and attach them to the bike
  4. remove rearview mirror and attach it to the bike
  5. deflate tires
  6. attach the tool kit to the bike
  7. attach lock to the bike
  8. attach bottles to the bike
  9. attach tire inflators to the bike
  10. put the bikes into the boxes
  11. check in all our stuff (two times two pieces)

Time of arrival

  1. Think about how to get accustomed again to the normal course of life ...

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