Dismantling and packing your bike
Everybody has his own way of packing his bike and there are a lot of discussions regarding whether it is better to fully box your bike or just partly protect it so that the people carrying it take better care of it.
As far as we are concerned, we believe this actually works quite well in smaller airports and with some companies but generally, and especially in bigger airports, we prefer to box it entirely. Besides, more and more companies require that you box your bikes so better be prepared.
Therefore, before each flight we dismantle and fully box our bikes. That may be a bit excessive but they are our babies after all :o)
This is how we do it, hope it helps:
1. We clean the bikes entirely: frame, chain, derailleur, chain rings, tires etc.
2. Remove the seat
3. Remove the chain and pack it in between two pieces of cardboard. We then tape it below the rear rack.
4. Remove the pedals and the derailleur. We pack them together with the seats’ clips/fasteners in a small cardboard box that we tape on the top of the frame so that the box is no higher than the rear rack.
5. Put both front and rear brakes on
6. Remove the steering, protect it with cardboard and tape it to the side of the frame.
a. We also have to put a plastic tube instead of the stem because the stem and the steering are firmly attached (when we remove the stem, the fork is no longer attached to the frame, this is not the case with all bikes)
b. Be careful to position the steering so as not to damage the frame if pressure is applied on the box.
7. Remove the beam with the chain set (removing the front beam allows easier packing and a smaller box)
a. We protect the beam and the chain set entirely with cardboard and then tape them below the frame under the lower rack.
1. We protect the bike before putting it in a box by wrapping it with 2 or 3 layers of plastic cling film (the one used to protect food). It keeps all parts together and further protects the frame.
2. We put the bike into 2 boxes (1,5 to be precise) slide into each other
a. Tape both boxes in all three directions
b. A bit of string around the boxes
c. Wrap everything with plastic wrapping film. The film protects the box from holes, rain and prevents the tape from going
3. Make two handles on both sides of the box
Items needed per bike:
1. 1,5 bike boxes
2. 150 m of tape
3. 100 m of cling film
4. 20 m of string
Packing the panniers
We try and get as much as authorized as hand luggage. Usually the maximum allowance is 1 bag of 10 to 12 kg, and a computer bag, seldom the allowance is 2 bags of 10 kg like on Air Canada.
We used to pack our panniers two by two in large and strong plastic bags that we taped heavily. But more recently, we started putting them in 2 or 3 cardboard boxes. You have to select very strong boxes, tape them well and wrap them with cling film.
Before flying to New Zealand or Australia don’t forget to clean everything thoroughly:
tent, shoes, panniers, and bike. New Zealand has problem with contaminated rivers with algae.
Also don’t forget to remove:
- From your checked luggage:
Matches and lighter. Clean your fuel bottle very thoroughly with soap and take it with you in the plane or it may be taken from you.
- From your hand luggage:
Matches, lighter, knives, and all bottles bigger than 100ml. It sounds obvious but it is so easy to forget when you have so many little pockets.
At the end we have, depending on the airlines conditions :
With us: 2 panniers and a small backpack
Checked-in: 3 big boxes, a box where we put the bikes parts and two bikes. About 100 kg of luggage …
With us: 2 panniers each
Checked-in: 2 big boxes and 2 bikes.
Carrying a bike on a plane (May 2010, rules change often)
The rules for oversize / overweight luggage and sport equipment are different from one company to the other so you have to check each company’s website before buying your ticket. Beware that rules may change depending on the destination. For example on Air Canada, for a Canada - Europe flight, you are entitled to 1 luggage (it’s up to 2 for a flight to South America) weighing no more than 23 kg and with a total dimension (l+w+h) of no more than 158 cm. Overweight is limited to items under 32kg and oversize to items measuring less than 292cm, over that you have to go cargo.
North and South American flights have the advantages of working with number of pieces rather than weight. So if you have more than the allowance, try to first increase the size or weight (within the limit) of your luggage as the charge for oversize and overweight is less than the charge for an extra luggage.
In Asia and Europe, most companies work with weight, and excess weight can cost you an arm and a leg. Thai Airways charged up to 23 euros/kg! We managed to bargain down the extra weight we had but still, it was very expensive. So try and find low cost airlines like Tiger Airways who only charge around 20 euros for a bike and 8 euros for a 20kg luggage.
Air Astana (Kazakhstan) only charged us a small fee for our bikes but Uzbekistan Airways charged us by the kilo. But some friends managed to get a great discount with another person at the counter so it also depends on your luck in these countries.
Most companies also charge you an excess fee for sport equipments, for example Air Canada charges 50$.
When the prices are very high, like on Thai, we usually call the company in advance and ask for a discount. And we always bargain when we get to the airport.