If you plan to travel internationally with a bicycle, at some point you will be required to put your bike on a plane.
Taking a bike on an airplane as luggage can be a gut wrenching proposition. In addition to the various and variable fees imposed by the different airlines, there is the matter of packing and unpacking your bike for air travel, sourcing packaging materials and protecting your bike during transit.
The first time we combined bike touring and air travel I tediously and meticulously removed and bubble wrapped every single piece of both bikes, right down to water bottle cages. I packed the pieces in re-enforced cardboard bike boxes, marked FRAGILE on every possible surface, crossed my fingers and was generally tense throughout the entire experience. The whole process took about 1.5 hours per bike, on each end of the journey.
Other than the time and labor and stress involved, all went well. We’ve done it few times since… It always works, but it’s expensive, time consuming and stressful.
Isn’t there a better way to fly with a bike?
Pack your bike in a clear plastic bag.
With multiple benefits over packing a bike in a cardboard box, this is now our preferred method for flying with our bikes on an airplane. At first we were skeptical, and honestly if we weren’t forced into using this technique by the lack of bike packing resources at the southern end of our Destination Dubrovnik tour last summer we would have never tried it. It does feel a little like stepping off a cliff, until you realize that your bike will be treated much more carefully when packed in a clear plastic bag.
4 reasons why we like this technique.
- Simple – It’s a plastic bag. Think a big sandwich baggie for your bike, hold the mayo. The CTC Plastic Bike Bags is specifically designed for this purpose. If you order one before your trip, you can carry it in your panniers and it’s reusable. No need to source anything at the last minute. If not you can make your own. In Dubrovnik we used a home-made version by doubling over clear plastic sheeting and duct taping the edges. Slide the bike into the bag, fold down the top and tape it. Natch!
- Quick– Total packaging/unpacking time including removal/reinstallation of pedals etc.. is about 15 minutes on either end of the trip. This is fabulous compared with the one hour minimum build/pack time per bike when using a bike box. With the plastic bag method almost the entire bike remains intact.
- Cheap – If you plan ahead. (Not our strong suit) then use the CTC Plastic Bike Bag or similar. At present it retails for $13.50. Not bad. If you need to make your own, then the price is a little more variable, since you have to run around, find plastic sheeting and duct tape, which depending on your location at the time, may or may not be simple to locate. Still you shouldn’t have a problem. Our homemade bags, sourced and made in Dubrovnik from plastic sheeting from the local garden shop cost us around $35 for two bags, not counting bus tickets running around town to find plastic. Still a bargain when you consider how smooth the whole thing works. . . . .