Flying your bike to another country

I currently find myself over 5,000 miles away from London in Guatemala. (I’d forgotten what it was like to be warm and walk around in a t-shirt – very nice!). In the run up to the trip I strongly considered bringing my bike over here with me. Eventually, I decided that it would be easier to rent bikes along the way. From what I’ve read in the trusty guidebook, I’ve let myself in for lots of squeaky and half working bikes – all part of the experience!

None the less, I wanted to blog about the different options if you want to fly your bike to another country.

First option: The mighty folding bike

I’d never considered this option until a reader emailed me and told me it’s what he does when visiting Japan. An idea so great I couldn’t believe it hadn’t crossed my feeble mind. Safe, easy to stow and reliable. Although there are specific soft and hard shell bags for folding bikes, it’s probably just as easy to fit it in a standard bag.

Second option: Simple bike bag

On my trip to Germany I discovered the limitations of the simple bike bag. On the surface it seems like a great option because it can be packed away in to one of the panniers and it is cheap. However, it provides minimal protection of the bike. You’ll need to provide additional padding yourself.

Third option: More advanced bike bag

When I took my cheap bike to Germany I wasn’t too worried about it getting damaged. However, if I was taking a £1000 or £2000 bike across the world then I would be understandably more nervous. That’s when something a little more special is needed. Two examples spring to mind. The cost effective option is the DHB Elsted Wheeled Bike Bag. The rather more extravagant option is the Scicon Aero Comfort 2.0 TSA. I’ll be reviewing the later shortly on London Cyclist.

However, there’s one thing I can never understand with the more advanced bike bags. What on earth do you do when you get there? I mean you can’t really pack it down and store it in a pannier. I even put the question to the representative of Scicon who got in touch with me. She didn’t know! Which brings me to the forth option…

Forth option: Guided tour

I’m not sure if this is just me but I’m not a big fan of the guided option. This is where all the hotels are pre-booked and a van follows you with all your baggage. That sounds great and means you can just get on with enjoying the pedalling, but it kind of removes what I believe is right at the heart of a bicycle tour. Discovery, spontaneity and having everything you need carried on the back of the bike. Surely that is the romance of it?

If you’ve got any advice on the topic then I welcome and read all comments.

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9 Responses to Flying your bike to another country

  1. Thierry 21/02/2012 at 4:27 pm #

    This one from Thule is very nice and very secure and protect really the bike :

    http://vimeo.com/11475380

  2. Chris Bolton 22/02/2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Unlikely as it may sound I had a great experience with easyjet who took great care of my mountain bike on a flight to Inverness for a very reasonable cost of £19.00. I packed it in a standard bike cardboard box which I tore down and recycled at my destination.

  3. LucyBP 23/02/2012 at 3:58 pm #

    You’ve missed off what I always thought of as the most common option — bog standard cardboard bike box (the ones that bikes get shipped in). Pick one up at the LBS, pack the bike in it with polystyrene or else with clothes, etc. Toss the box at the other end of your flight and then find a new one in whatever city you’ll be flying out of. It’s best to call the LBS and ask if they have any, but they normally do.

    Otherwise, you’re right, there’s no way to transport the bike bag/box once you’re on your bike! Those advanced bike bags are more for people like racers or triathletes — people who are going to stay in one place once they’ve left the UK, not people who are going to tour around.

  4. Ian Taplin 24/02/2012 at 11:51 am #

    Andreas

    Yes its a big problem.

    Nowadays I take the train to Europe or if I fly plan a circuit of the country i am touring and return to the same hotel where the bike box is stored.

    Best wishes

    Ian

  5. Loving the Bike 24/02/2012 at 2:18 pm #

    So what brings you to Guatemala? Looking forward to reading about your cycling adventures over there. I’ve flown many places with my bike including a trip to Belize last summer. I used a bike case that time, but every time prior to that I simply packed my road bike in a bike box. It’s always very nerve racking, and lately becoming more and more expensive.
    My advice is if you’re taking a trip of three weeks or less, then just rent a bike over there when you can. If it’s a longer get away, then definitely look at bringing your bike with you.

    Have a great time in Guatemala, Andreas.

    Darryl

  6. Greek Geeza 26/02/2012 at 10:54 am #

    I’m typing this comment as I sit in the luxury of the lounge on a ferry from Harwich to the hook of Hollad. My bike is in the hold! Takes a little longer, but I know my bike is safely looked after!

  7. Graham 04/03/2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Slightly off topic, but anyone have any ideas on how I could get to use a bike in Amsterdam from 11pm till about 6am-ish, as I have a 12 hour stop over there, and as you know, the best way to see city is by bike. Its just really awkward hours, so hiring would difficult I assume. Please, any good ideas??

  8. Chris 10/03/2012 at 12:30 am #

    I’ve used a robust bike bag a few times without problems, with some clothes as padding. One trick I’ve used in the past is to fly out, unpack the bike then mail the bag (my one folds in to a 2-3kg parcel) to myself to collect at a post office at the end point of the tour.

  9. Cycling Alpe D'Huez 19/03/2012 at 11:17 am #

    A variation on your fourth option (guided tour) would be to have a fixed location bike holiday. That way you can take your bike in it’s bag, settle in to your holiday accommodation (no changing hotels and packing / unpacking every night) and get out and discover the area as you like. However you need to choose a destination that offers a good range of options when it come to the bike routes, so you dont get bored being in one place. Not as spontanious as the do it yourself tour, but I think the trade off is worth it!

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