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Cyclists love to travel, it's in the very nature of cycling. It follows that many cyclists are avid jetsetters and want to conquer paths around the world. You can cycle from anywhere to ALMOST anywhere, and for everywhere else across the oceans, the most efficient way is by plane. Here are some tips on best practices to taking your bike with you on a flight.
Photo Courtesy of Nigel Murray via Flickr
Every airline has their own rules for transporting luggages, and will most likely have specific parameters and rules for bicycles. Expect to pay extra on all of the airlines to travel with your bike.
Get your tape measure and scale out! You'll need to know the dimensions of your bike, the dimensions of the case or box that will encase your box and the total weight. Make sure every single one of these is within the limits specified by the airline before you get to the airport.
How much extra you pay depends on the airline, the flight, and how savvy you can get with packing. Every airline's rules and fees will differ, so while you decide on an airline, make sure to also look up baggage fees and rules on taking your bike. Note that some airlines will not allow motorized bicycles, two seaters or bicycles over a certain weight limit. READ THE FINE PRINT!!
Photo Courtesy of ServInt via Flickr
Your bike will need protection, a custom box, hardshell case or softshell case. There are many different types of travel cases for bikes, you'll need to make sure the case is within the dimensions specified by the airlines. You'll need to add the weight of the box/case to the weight of the bike and make sure the total weight does not exceed the airline's specified weight limit.
Tip: If you do use a box to package your bike, try to get a box that does not advertise what's inside. "Fragile" and "This Side Up" stickers are recommended, it's better not to advertise the contents of your package.
Disclaimer first: This is a workaround that has mixed results and is not guaranteed to work.
You can get creative with packaging if you're willing. It might not be AS expensive if you're able to fit your bicycle in an oversized luggage box. Oversized luggage fees may be cheaper than specifying that it's a bike and putting it into a large bike box. If you're willing to do a little disassembling with your wheels, pedals and handlebar, and your bike isn't too large, it just might work.
This is a completely legitimate workaround that many "pro" cyclist travelers use when traveling internationally. No promises, but some people have actually fit their bikes into the allotted check-in luggage that comes with the flight and have been able to transport their bikes for free (again, no promises!). You should not mention that a bike is inside if you are able to get it into a regular checked luggage, oversized or otherwise. If you do say it is a bike to the airline at check in, they are required to charge you for it as a bike.
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