You’ve booked a holiday to your favourite cycling destination, maybe Mallorca, the Alps or possibly a bit further afield. Either way, you are now faced with the prospect of getting your bike to the destination in one piece. This can be a straightforward task but equally there are plenty of pitfalls that could potentially cost you money, damage your pride and joy and derail your holiday. Let’s have a look at the key things to consider when flying with your bike:
Before booking, thoroughly research the airline's policies regarding bike transportation. Different airlines may have varying rules, fees, and packaging requirements. Some airlines may treat bicycles as regular checked baggage (BA), while others might require them to be booked as sports equipment with additional charge (Easyjet). Factor this into your overall budget, don't assume all airlines are the same and read the small print in advance to avoid pain later.
Invest in a quality bike box or bag. A sturdy and well-padded box/bag is crucial to protect your bike during transit. A box is best for protection and eliminates the risk of crushing, but they can be heavy. A soft-shell bag is generally lighter and more convenient for storage (get one with an internal frame to avoid crushing). Pick the type that works best for you and go for a reputable brand – the likes of Thule, Scicon, Bike Box Alan and Evoc all hit the spot. Regardless, consider getting insurance coverage for your bike. While airlines may offer some compensation for damaged items, it might not be sufficient to cover that £2k carbon wheelset!
Avoid the temptation to overload your new box/bag. Check weight and size restrictions when booking, as most airlines impose restrictions on checked baggage, including bikes (BA is 23kg). Given that some bike boxes weigh 12+kg on their own, that doesn’t give much wriggle room for your bike, kit, tools, gels and anything else you plan on stuffing in there. A few kilos over limit can cost £70+, so use your bathroom scales to avoid additional fees or complications during check-in. Also make sure anything you do pack in there – tools, water bottles, helmet – are securely packed to prevent them flying around and causing damage.
Take the time to disassemble and pack your bike carefully, start with removing pedals and deflating tires. The level of disassembly depends on the box/bag you have – some require both wheels to be removed, other just the front. Equally the handlebars may need to be removed completely or just turned sideways in some instances. Judicious use of padding or bubble wrap helps to safeguard delicate parts – and it could be worth removing the rear mech completely, wrapping and zip-tying it to the chainstay for peace of mind. Taking some pictures before packing can ensure easy reassembly and don’t rush packing – a trial run might help ease your anxiety on the day.
It goes without saying your bike has had a thorough service before dealing with the rigours of an intense riding holiday? Your bike should be clean, chain well lubed and parts like tyres and brake pads must be in really good condition. Also be sure take a stock of spares with you – especially for items specific to your bike (ie. rear mech hanger). Bring all the essential tools to reassemble your bike at your destination, a small toolkit with wrenches and allen keys can be invaluable in case any final adjustments are needed after unpacking.
Depending on the airport, once you’ve checked in you may have to re-queue for oversized baggage to hand your bike over, which can be a slow process. Simply moving around a busy airport with bags and a bike can take longer than normal. Arriving at the airport nice and early allows ample time for check-in, security checks, and handling any unforeseen issues. Removing stress points from this part of the journey makes a big difference and gets your holiday off to a more relaxing start.
Flying with your bike can be a fantastic way to explore new terrain and enjoy unique cycling experiences. It can also be stress-free if you follow these simple guidelines and plan ahead accordingly. Don’t get caught out on your travels this summer and make sure your beloved bike arrives safely at your destination, ready for new adventures on two wheels.
On a final note, why not get your bike booked in with us for a Bike Safety Check. We can give it a once over to make sure it will be riding at its best for when you need it. We can even collect and return it from your home or work.
And with that, bon voyage!