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23-03-2023 | Frank Jansen

Four ways to transport your bike by plane

What are the best ways to take your bike on the plane?

1. In a box

Transporting your bike doesn't have to cost anything extra besides the plane ticket, you just pick up the box for free at the bike shop. It's not only a cheap, but also a sustainable solution. After all, the box has already been used. Getting your bike into the box is surprisingly easy. In many cases, your rear wheel and derailleur can stay put and you only have to remove the front wheel, pedals, seat post and handlebars. Inside the box is still a fair amount of room for things like clothes and tools. With some tape seal the box in no time. With some luck (and dry weather) the box will last a few flights.

The disadvantages are obvious. A box does not offer as much protection as a real case. A box also has no wheels, so at the airport you should immediately look for a luggage trolley. Preferably transport the box on it standing up, otherwise you won't get through a door.

Photo: Even on a size XL MTB, the rear wheel can stay on (photo Ruurd Bakker)

2. A soft case

A special bag in which your bike fits can be bought online for about 75 euros. If you shop on Ali you can succeed for much less. The big advantage of this solution is that the bag folds up small. That's handy for people who live small, but also handy at their destination. So a large (rental) car is not necessarily needed. Another advantage is that you usually don't have to disassemble as much as with a hardcase. Of course, this depends a bit on the type of bike and the size. With my size 58, only the wheels need to be removed. Pedals and handlebars can remain mounted. I do remove the derailleur and chain as a precautionary measure.

The big disadvantage, of course, is the lack of protection. Of the four solutions, the bag is at the bottom. A lot of stuff doesn't fit next to the bike.

3. Hardcase

A dedicated bike case with a hard shell offers the best protection of all. That benefit comes with a hefty price tag, as purchase prices are not cheap. Starting prices are a few hundred euros, but then you have a basic model that will not last long. The better cases go up to 700 euros - a good deal of money. To get your bike into a case, you have to disassemble many things: wheels, pedals and seat post. Taking off the rear derailleur is highly recommended, to avoid bending the derailleur hanger. Most cases also require removing your handlebars, although there are more and more cases on the market that no longer require this. Pretty convenient with all those integrated handlebars. A bike case takes up a lot of space, both at home, in your (rental) car and at the destination. An advantage is that a bike case can easily hold loads of cycling clothes, helmet, shoes and so on. Carry-on luggage is therefore usually no longer necessary. A bike case has wheels, which is a huge advantage. Even traveling to the airport by train is no problem.

Photo: In my bike case, the handlebars don't have to come off. That is, when traveling with a road bike. With an MTB, both handlebars and fork need to be disassembled.

4. Hybrid (hard case / soft case)

A hybrid case consists of a metal frame lined with soft padding. Thus, it is a mix between a bag and a suitcase. The most one is made by EVOC, but Scicon also has one. The big advantage of this system is that it is lighter than a hard case. As a result, the case is a bit more manageable. The disadvantage is that the protection is less. With EVOC, the wheels are on the side, in my opinion not the best design. Furthermore, a hybrid has the same disadvantages as a hard case: you have to disassemble quite a few parts and it takes up almost as much space. As with a hardcase, you can store quite a bit of stuff in it besides the bike.

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Tips for traveling with a bike

  • No matter how you transport your bike, always disassemble your rear derailleur. The chances of a bent derailleur hanger are high. It's only one bolt, so takes virtually no time.
  • Weigh the whole thing properly. Weighing at the airport is not always done but you want to be sure you are not over the limit. Check in advance what the maximum allowable weight is, this can vary quite a bit by airline.
  • Whatever airlines say, you can just leave your tires full. No harm done.
  • CO2 cartridges are allowed these days.
  • Think about having the right tools for assembling all the parts. An 8 mm socket for the pedals is not in most multitools!
  • Bubble wrap and some insulation material help to pack your thoroughbred neatly.
  • Do your handlebars need to be removed? Then detach your handlebars from the stem and leave the stem on the fork. That saves adjusting your headset.
  • Place a piece of tape on your seat post to mark the height. Never push the seat post into the frame, you will get ugly scratches!

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