Travelling with your bicycle can seem daunting, but sometimes it’s the only option. Once you’ve got a handle on things you’ll see that it’s not as scary as it seems, and before you know it, you’ll be packing your bike up and heading international like a pro.
Packing a bicycle is pivotal for keeping a bike safe on a plane. Sundays Insurance's coverage extents to damage on a plane
We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you through traveling with your bike.
Book in advance.
Checking your bike in before a flight is going to save you a lot of hassle and stress at the airport. Different airlines have different rules when it comes to flying with bicycles. Contact the airline and find out the specifics so you know exactly what to expect and how to pack your bike. Whilst many airlines charge a fee for transporting a bicycle, some don’t. Since the bike fee can affect the price of your flight significantly, it’s worth considering this when looking for flights.
What to pack it in
When it comes to getting your bike ready for travel you’ve got several options. You can pack it in a box or a bag.
A bike box takes the form of a cardboard bike box or a hard shell box. A cardboard box is great if you’re looking to save on weight as they’re light. However, they are also not that durable and you may have to organize a new one for the return trip home.
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A hardshell bike box is tough and durable but it can be heavy and take up a lot of space. They are often bigger and great for mountain bikes. A hard shell box can be pricey however you will get multiple uses out of it and use it for years to come.
A bike bag is your other option for packing your bicycle. These come in a soft case or semi-structured soft case options. A soft case is often unstructured and doesn’t offer as much protection as a box. This case is usually lightweight and padded. Meanwhile, a semi-structured soft case features an internal frame that provides structure and protection for your bike. These usually have straps, compartments and tie-downs to keep all your bike’s parts in one place. They’re also easy to use and often come with wheels making them easy to transport too.
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How to pack your bike
Unfortunately traveling with your bicycle isn’t always as easy as loading it onto a bike rack. Certain parts need to be removed, wheels need to be deflated and handlebars detached. What needs to be disassembled will depend on your bike and the box or bag you’re packing it into. Here are some of the standard practices.
Your wheels are a good place to start. These usually both need to be removed from your bike and deflated. Once you’ve removed your wheels, we recommend putting brake blocks into the space between your brake pads on your disc brakes. This will prevent the brake pads from being squeezed out if your brake levers are accidentally pushed. Deflating your wheels is recommended and even required by some airlines. It will prevent your rims from cracking under pressure. You can leave a small amount of air in your tyres to act as a cushion for your rims.
Take both off and store them in a bag or case that you can put into your bike box or bag.
Your handlebars will need to be removed as well. You can either take off the entire stem or you can just remove the handlebar by unscrewing the stem’s front plate. Make sure that you put any screws back into the bike or store them in a bag so that you have them when you need to rebuild your bike again. Place your handlebars on their side, parallel to your fork.
Some boxes and bags require you to remove the derailleur from your bike. If this is the case, carefully remove it and wrap it in bubble wrap or cloth for protection. Secure it in place with packing tape or zip-ties to prevent it from moving around during the trip.
Seat and Seat Post
You’ll likely have to remove your seat to make the frame fit in the box or bag. Pack it into your box or bag with the bike, making sure it’s fastened and won’t move around during the trip. If you have a dropper seat post you may get away with dropping the seat instead of removing it entirely from the frame.
If your bag or box doesn’t have much in the way of cushioning, we recommend adding some to protect your frame from nicks and damage. If your wheels are in the same compartment as your frame, wrap the cassette and discs in bubble wrap or cloth to protect them. You can also add extra protection to your fork by using a fork support that fits into the gap in the fork.
Extra Space in the bag/box
It’s very tempting to fill the extra space with your helmet, shoes and extra clothes. A helmet is a fragile piece of equipment and can be damaged if you pack it in with your bike. There are also often restrictions on the weight of your bike bag or box and packing it full with other items may exceed those weight restrictions. Rather carry your helmet and shoes as hand luggage with you. This also means that if something happens to your bike or your luggage you’ll still have your shoes or helmet.
Remember to pack the necessary tools into your box or bag so that you can rebuild your bike on the other side.
If you’re still feeling uncomfortable taking your bike apart and boxing it up yourself, you can always take it to your local bike shop and get them to do it for you. Watch how the pros do it and ask them for any advice to build up your confidence for next time.
Check-in with your bicycle Insurer
If something happens to your bike, you want to make sure that you’re covered. Check your bike insurance policy to ensure your bicycle is covered when travelling. Sundays Insurance covers your bicycle for loss or damage in transit anywhere in the US. We also offer optional worldwide coverage to extend your coverage for up to 90 days abroad. Click here to find out more.
Getting around with all your bags and your bike can be a nightmare if you don’t plan accordingly. Take into account the size of your bike when packed and make sure that your lift or rental car is big enough to fit the packed bicycle. If you’re getting picked up from the airport, make sure that the transfer service is aware you have a bike box or bag as well as your standard luggage. This will help make the transfers less stressful if everyone knows what to expect.
All in all, travelling with a bike requires slightly more planning and preparation than without a bike. Once you’ve got the basics sorted out, you’ll be cruising through customs on to your next adventure.