As our plane freed itself from the gravitational confines of the earth, I tucked my head into my book. A calm flight lasting an hour and fifteen minutes lay ahead of me. However, the past three hours had been anything but calm.
Everything started at 4 am. Awoken rudely by my alarm I climbed out of bed, completely disorientated. Only a few hours ago I was loading up an Open Cycle Map of Germany onto a Garmin 705 and I had clearly not considered the huge amount of beauty sleep my body needs these days.
I packed the last few items into my panniers. I was already sure I was carrying too much but it was too late now as a taxi was waiting outside. I wondered to myself if I’d ever plan something a little better and how it would be to be organised for a change. Promising myself I’d one day be organised I taped the bike bag and carried it into the taxi.
Picking up my friend we reached Paddington station.
The train roared its way to Heathrow Airport. At this moment I realised mistake number one. The first part of our journey could have been an absolute pleasure had we made one crucial change in timing. Instead of struggling and calling on little used muscles to haul the bike to the airport we could have packed the bikes when we got there. Then, we would have enjoyed a short cycle to the train station, and wheeled the bikes onto the train.
Welcome to Terminal 5
The next mistake soon presented itself upon being greeted by the British Airways employee. A lady who was clearly just as unhappy as we were to be awake at 5.30am. She quickly dished out the bad news. We had to pay an extra £35, each, to check in the panniers.
With the benefit of hindsight, I’m not sure why I didn’t realise the bike would count as one item of luggage and the panniers as another. However, I guess it is the fact British Airways claim to carry your bike for free. Unlike budget airlines that have a set fee.
My stupidity didn’t stop there. Owing to the early hour and my brain working at around 20% of it’s normal capabilities, we didn’t realise we could have tied all our panniers together and split the £35 fee. I’ll class that as mistake number three.
Welcome to Frankfurt
Before boarding the plane we made jokes of haulage employees launching our bikes onto the plane and amused each other by recreating the image of someone kicking the spokes of the bike as they struggled to cram it into the plane. We laughed, somewhat nervously. On arrival at Frankfurt we were about to find out if our predictions were to come true.
May I present you with mistake number four. As I pulled the bike out of the bike bag I looked for damage. It seemed minimal, a few scratches on the panniers and that was about it. However, placing the front wheel and trying to give it a spin a realised it was out of alignment. It had obviously had its share of banging during the flight. A little more padding and care taken to wrap the bike wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Despite our errors, ahead of us lay 400km of Unesco world heritage sights, traditional German towns and German beer. I couldn’t wait to get started.
Learning from my mistakes
- Tape extra protection (clothes in carrier bags I’m told) around sensitive parts of the bike
- Tie all your panniers together in one big bundle and pay for the extra luggage ahead of the flight to save money
- Pack your bike when you get to the airport if it is in a bike bag
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.