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Thread: Advice Needed: Bike Case for Air Travel

  1. #1
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    Default Advice Needed: Bike Case for Air Travel

    So. I need to get my bike to South America or otherwise risk not having a bike for 6 months. To achieve that, I'm going to need a case that can protect my bike on an international flight.

    To that end, I need your help/advice... what the heck should I be getting? What have your experiences been with cases? Which have worked for you, which haven't? How easy/impossible was the packing/reassembly process?

    By way of numbers, my bike is a Trek Crossrip with a 49cm frame, 31" drop handlebars, and commuter wheels running 32s.

    Thanks for your help! I need to figure this out soon (or get lucky on finding a commuter-quality, flight-ready, folder.)

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    I mentioned this in your other thread, but I would forgo trying to buy/borrow a bike case/bag and just pack your bike in a cardboard bike box (that you can get for FREE from any bike shop) and ship it via Bike Flights. It is going to be a lot cheaper in the long run.

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    A good travel case is a significant investment. I have a Scicon Aerocomfort 2.0 TSA, which allows minimal disassembly of the bike. It works, but was expensive. Also, airline only accept damage claims on bikes store in hardcases, not soft/fabric ones. I'm not sure if this policy applies to all airlines, so be sure to check.

    Unless you plan to travel with the bike often, my suggestion is just to have your favorite bike shop pack it up the in one of their new bike box, and request "Fragile" stickers at check-in (so it is loaded last and unloaded first), and it should be fine.

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    Before kids, my wife and I did a few vacations that involved shipping out bikes overseas on a plane as luggage. Back then, it was free if it was one of your two checked bags. No idea what the fee is now. On domestic flights, it's outrageous. I've got a couple Performance hard cases sitting in my tool shed gathering dust. You're welcome to borrow one. They're hard plastic, but have no wheels. They're not the real fancy ones like trico, but they work. There are latches on the side for locks, but I'd use carbiners instead because TSA may want to open it up and examine the contents.

    Look on ebay and you'll find some used Performance cases.

    The packing/unpacking process is pretty easy

    1. Remove the wheels
    2. Remove the skewers and cassette from the wheels and store in a bag
    3. Remove the saddle/seat post
    4. Remove the pedals
    5. Brace the front and rear drop outs -- you can make braces yourself, or get them from a bike shop. Don't skip this step.
    6. Loosen the headset and turn the bars 90 degrees.
    7. If you're worried about your paint job, you can buy plumbing pipe insulation -- basically 4' round foam tubes an zip tie them to the frame tubes.

    If this sounds like a PITA to you, your local bike shop would probably box it up for you for a fee and show you how to unpack it. Or you could just ship the thing to where you're going. Know anyone down there?

    One year we did Ride the Rockies. Hundreds of people were wandering around the Denver airport. I think we were the only ones with hard cases. Everyone else seemed to be getting along just fine with cardboard boxes.

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    Maybe also consider https://velosurance.com/ w/ the "international option" to cover any damage / theft of bike during trip + while you're there.

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    Thanks guys! The more I dig into it, the more complex the situation is becoming. United's bike shipping policies aren't terrible (if its >50 lbs no extra "bike" fee) however, it looks like there is a restriction imposed by Brasil for the Sao Paulo (and Rio) airport against oversized baggage... I'm going to have to make a phone call or two.

    I'd looked into the BikeFlights, but their quote was something akin to the cost of a tricked-out Brompton. Brazil further complicates things by having an extremely closed economy that makes imported goods (like bikes and bike parts!) stupid expensive so buying a bike there might be similar in cost to a tricked-out case. If I could get the plane to take a case, it would have been a good investment since I'll have to do this a minimum of every-other-year, but no dice.

    Sooooo... any thoughts on folding bikes? ^_~

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kitty View Post
    I'd looked into the BikeFlights, but their quote was something akin to the cost of a tricked-out Brompton.
    HOLY COW! I just did the estimate and that is more than three nice new car payments!

    I guess it is less economical if you are not shipping domestic. Sorry about that.

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    Yeah, when I was looking at shipping a bike to Switzerland it was $1200 each way (IIRC) for bikeflights ... !!! And United would have charged me $250 each way (my bike was less than 50lbs -- I wasn't aware that if it's > 50lbs they don't charge extra). So that basically just gave me justification in having a $1500 coupler bike frame built and buying a $400 case. Yeah, I'm not sure the math worked out there for that first trip, but I've used that frame + bag again since then with expectations to use it for many more trips, so it makes sense in the long run.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kitty View Post
    Sooooo... any thoughts on folding bikes? ^_~
    If the airport/airline is strict on the oversized baggage limits, then you're most likely restricted to a folding bike with 16 inch wheels like a Brompton or getting a specially-made piece of luggage or getting creative. Per their website (https://www.ternbicycles.com/support...-bike-suitcase), even a relatively compact and partially disassembled Tern with 20 inch wheels requires a suitcase that is 30x21x13 inside (compared to the normal 62 linear/dimensional inch limit). The problem with most suitcases are that they are rectangular, and you need a big square space to fit wheels.

    I have seen posts where people have taken a larger folding bike (e.g., a Montague) and fit it into two standard sized suitcases with a decent amount of disassembly. https://wheelsdown.wordpress.com/200...etting-packed/ is one such example.

    One extreme option to minimize spending money on new stuff but maximize workload: if you have a small enough frame (which in of itself is a bit of a longshot), you theoretically could disassemble your bike so that the frame fits into a box/case that is just within the size limit, have a second box/case for the wheels, use available space in either for the parts you took off, and travel with it that way.

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    So the State Department provides you no assistance with moving your personal possessions to your post?

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