Flying With A Bike

Flying with a bike can be a nerve-wracking experience! I remember the first flight I took with the bike it was a harrowing experience! Would my bike get damaged in fact would it even arrive!

History

I’d been cycle touring for nearly four years, and I’d always avoided going anywhere that involved taking a plane, but now I was planning to cycle around the world, and I knew that this would require a few flights!

Now that I knew I was going to have to fly I decided that I needed to try it out on a smaller trip within Europe, so at least I would have had some experience of taking my bike on a plane. Plus it was a good excuse to go away!

I’d done my homework and found out that British Airways allowed you to put the bike in a giant plastic bag, so there was no need to dismantle anything. The only thing I had to do was to take the pedals off and turn the handlebars! Perfect for a first flight I thought, thinking that the ground crew would see that it’s a bike and be a bit more careful, as opposed to it being packed up in a box which might get thrown around!

Bike packed for flying
All packed up ready for my first flight with a bike in 2011

The bonus of putting the bike in a bag was that I could cycle to the airport and pack it away there.

Panic Over

All my worrying was completely unfounded, and my bike arrived at the airport in Spain without a scratch on it!

Bike in an airport
At the airport in Spain

Since that first flight, I’ve flown many times, although I still get a little nervous before check-in, although once my bikes checked in I relax.

How to pack the bike away.

After sourcing a box from a local cycle shop, usually, they’re more than happy to supply you with one for a small fee, Although sometimes they’re just glad to get rid of them and will give you one for nothing.

Loosening pedals
Loosening the pedals

While at the shop getting the box I also get them to crack the pedals (loosen them). Pedals can be quite hard to undo particularly if it’s been a long tour so getting the shop to loosen them with a pedal wrench is the easiest option.

As explained in my previous post Planning A Bicycle Tour subheading at the end of a tour I find a quiet spot at the hotel.

Dismantling

Firstly, I remove the pedals that were loosened by the shop before turning the bike upside down. (The photos were all taken at home, so I’d undone the pedals myself)

Deflate a tyre
Deflate the tyres slightly

Next to get removed are the wheels and deflate the tyres a bit as they expand while in flight. It is also a requirement on some flights.

After removing the wheels, I’ve got some plastic tubes which I decided were needed when I packed my bike away for the first time in Istanbul. (They sit in my tool bag permanently now) The wheel axles are put through the tubes and then put back on the bike just as a bit of added protection against the forks getting squashed.

Plastic sleeve with axle
Plastic sleeve that goes over the axles
Bicycle forks
The axles along with the sleeves are put back on the bike

The racks and mudguards are the next parts to be removed.

Socket
Handy socket I added to my tools on my first trip to India which fits all the bolts

After I’ve removed something I always replace the bolt back into the hole it came from, that way when it comes to reassembling the bike you know where everything is and you don’t lose any!

Bike brake block
Replace the bolts back into the holes they came from

I don’t bother removing the chain I just put it in a plastic bag and tape it to the frame, making sure that I don’t put the tape on the frame.

Extra Packing

Once the bike has been stripped down, I always put extra padding on the forks, chain ring and rear forks for extra protection.

Padding on vulnerable parts of a bike
Extra padding on vulnerable parts

I also wrap all the parts that I’ve taken off in bubble wrap. That way they’re not all knocking against each other when in the box.

Bicycle racks and wheels wrapped for protection
Racks and wheels wrapped for protection

Next, the bikes turned up the right way, and the saddle lowered. Just before dropping I draw a pencil mark on the stem, so I know what height to put it back at when I reassemble.

Seat stem
Mark the position of the seat stem

Finally, I turn he handlebars, and everything gets placed in the box and securely taped up.

Cycle in a box
Everything neatly in the box
Reassembling

Reassembling is a reverse of the above. When reassembling the bike it’s a good idea to put a small amount of oil on each bolt. As this aids in the dismantling the next time you fly and helps avoid any bolts becoming seised.

Oil
I always put a splash of oil on all the bolts when I reassemble

 

4 Replies to “Flying With A Bike”

  1. Very interesting, Garry! Every time I read “fly with a bike” that song “lets go fly a kite” from the movie, “Mary Poppins” came into my head except with the word “kite’ substituted with “with a bike”!!! Haha.
    By the way, the new and improved website is bonza!

    1. Ha ha! Yes I can see why you would think that!
      Glad you like the new look website.
      Hope it’s not too hot in Brisbane at the moment, I see your having a bit of a heatwave!

  2. I couldn’t face that. With my kick scooter I just click a lever and it folds up. Why not try Marseilles for your next trip? Paris – Lyon Marseilles.
    Why don.t I see you among the world cyclists on youtube?

    1. Now that sounds a lot easier, but it really isn’t that bad once you’ve done it a couple of times!
      Paris to Marseilles? Maybe you could join me?
      YouTube is all down to search terms and what words I’ve put in I think, maybe I’ve never put “world cyclist” in my videos. It’s all a bit beyond me!

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