Shipping your bike

Sun shines through the trees in a courtyard in Germany

You are living in London, but you want to go on a cycling holiday in Spain? What do you do?

  1. Find a bike shop and hire a cheaper bike when you get there for around £15 per day (£25 per day for an expensive bike)
  2. Take your bike on your flight
  3. Take your bike with you on a ferry
  4. Use a shipping company
  5. Fly over a folding bike
  6. Go on a guided tour that includes a bike

I’ve tried a few options. In Bolivia, when I cycled down the World’s most dangerous road, I rented a bike with a company there. When I flew with British Airways to Germany to cycle along the Rhine, I made a few foolish mistakes with my bike packing.

British Airways are in fact one of the most bike friendly airlines as you can fly your bike for free. The Guardian did a good comparison of different Airlines:

  • EasyJet it costs £25 per flight although there is an extra £9 admin fee, along with 2.5% surcharge on credit cards (min £4.95). Therefore, to fly to Spain and back would cost £63.95.
  • Ryanair: it costs £50 per flight, with £6 admin fee per flight. Therefore the total is: £112.
  • Monarch: £20 per flight if you book in advance, therefore the total is £40.

There are some downsides as I experienced. For a start, it’s a pain to lug your bike all the way to the airport and back. Especially if you are relying solely on public transport and your legs. Also, it is questionable how well they will look after your bike. You really have to pad your bike with as much protection as possible.

An alternative is to ship your bike out using a service like Luggage Mule. All you have to do is package it up in a bike box or bag at home and then schedule a day to collect it.

The prices seem reasonable for two-way journeys:

  • Spain: £89.99
  • Portugal: £89.99
  • France: £79.99
  • Germany: £119.99
  • Italy: £109.99

This saves you a lot of hassle with carrying your bike to and from the airport, as you can send it directly to your hotel from your home address.

There are a couple of downsides. The first is that your bike must be collected a few days prior. If you are relying on your bike for your daily commute, then you’ll be without it for a few days before and after your trip. If you have a second bike, this isn’t an issue.

Additionally, collections only happen on weekdays, so someone needs to be available to hand the bike to the courier and to pick it up. However, the bike can be picked up from your office or a friendly neighbour, a family member etc.

Overall, it’s really an option worth considering. Personally, I could see myself using it if I was ever to move to another country. It’ll be enough hassle carrying all the rest of my luggage, without having to worry about a bike at the same time. Instead, I can get my bike shipped, as well as any extra boxes that I haven’t had space for.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

9 Responses to Shipping your bike

  1. Nick 28/07/2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Easyjet now up to £70 return.

  2. Dave 28/07/2014 at 8:09 pm #

    I took my bike to New Zealand for a cycling / camping holiday on Malaysia Airways. It went free as they regarded it as sporting goods. I have never considered a Brompton as a sports bike but I wasn’t going to argue over a freebie.

    I had a great holiday and travel in the country was brilliant, and my bike travelled all the way there and back undamaged

  3. Dave 28/07/2014 at 8:15 pm #

    International airlines are more accommodating

  4. spoquey 28/07/2014 at 9:52 pm #

    I bought one of those lovely red B-Twin bikes from Decathlon and took it out to Spain a couple of years ago, and left it there at a friend’s house. £250. It will have already paid for itself by the next trip I take, as Ryanair charges £100 return to take your bike away.

    This is a good arrangement if you plan on going somewhere regularly. You will have a bike that is set up for you in good condition when you get to your destination, and you won’t feel like you’ve been regularly scalped by Ryanair. Plus Decathlon have a good bike frame guarantee that (I hope) will be worth its while.

    I used to travel in India and Nepal a lot, and always took my bike on holiday free of charge. I used to just wheel the bike onto the plane – no bags, no removing pedals or turning handlebars. Those were the days!

  5. hannah mann 29/07/2014 at 2:23 pm #

    BA are probably the best airline that we’ve used but we aways put our bikes in hard bike boxes to protect them, you can hire boxes pretty cheaply at bikeboxonline.co.uk

  6. Vincent 01/08/2014 at 1:14 am #

    An alternative to a Brompton, which some people have carried with them on the plane as hand luggage, is to get a demountable bike:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=demountable+bike

    It takes more time to disassemble/reassemble at the airport, but for longer trips, it’ no biggie.

  7. Mark Brayne 01/08/2014 at 2:01 pm #

    I’ve flown my (very expensive but very solid) Thorn steel tourer to NZ and back twice now, and once to Berlin. packing it in no more than a CTC plastic bag, with handlebars removed and strapped to the crossbar, and pedals off. And tyres slightly deflated (though I forgot that bit in Berlin this May, and had to buy two new tyres…)

    Each time, almost perfect. Because the bag is see-through, handlers know it’s a bike and treat it appropriately, it seems. Only damage was a rear light knocked off the back mudguard on the first way out to NZ (with two flight changes, checked through), so I didn’t replace that. ANZ now costs more than it did, but still well affordable – around £70 return or so, I think.

    I did also fly my Brompton back from Edinburgh on Easyjet the other day, ordinary check-in inside its ordinary black cloth cover, and while pretty much OK, it might now be just a tiny bit bent. Will be more careful next time.

    I’ve also flown my disassembled Thorn tandem, wtih S&S couplings, to Romania and back – these ones always scheduled airlines – in two bike boxes. Three hours to put it back together, which was heavy. Next time, she flies in the plastic bag again. £11 from Wiggle.

  8. Jon France 01/08/2014 at 8:09 pm #

    KLM sell a cardboard flat pack bike box for 20 or 25 Euros at Schipol. I bought a heavy Dutch bike in Amsterdam last year and brought it back on the plane to Norwich after the bike shop packed it up with just a couple of adjustments on the bike required at the other end. It was all handled very well, although I recall the additional charge for taking the bike in the box, at around 25 kilos total weight, was about 100 Euros.

  9. Sean Wilson 03/08/2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Monarch charged me £25.00 each way, totalling £50.00 to take a 20 kg (LOL!) bike box (Bike Box Alan hard case) to Lanzarote from LGW – just returned on Friday.

    BTW-confusing information on CO2 cylinders. I took four CO2 cylinders out, and was not asked by check-in staff at LGW if I had any at all. Nor was I called back by security/handling staff after x-ray. Box arrived safely at Arrecife.
    On the way back handling staff at Arrecife will ask if you have CO2 cylinders in your bike box – they allow you to take two cyclinders in the bike box. They will X-Ray the box to check how many you have, and call you back to open the box and remove any excess cylinders, as I found out at the airport..
    Bike box was not weighed at either end…lucky there as well, I guess!

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