So you've weighed up flying your bike and hiring one and decided to take your bike with you.
(Did you read our article on bike hire to help you do this? Take a look if you're still at all unsure on which option is best for you.)
Here's our guide to taking your bike on a plane and getting it safely to its destination. We hope it helps!
Step 1: Book your bike onto the plane
1. Shop around.
The cost of taking your bike on a plane varies a lot. Once you’ve added the cost of taking your bike, your choice of airline might change. For example, BA will take your bike for free, as long as it doesn’t exceed your luggage allowance, whereas Easyjet charges £40 each way.
This infographic from Yellow Jersey is great for a quick overview of bike charges (though you do still need to explore the detail behind the figures given).
Also bear in mind that if you use a third party site to book your flight (e.g. Lastminute.com) you may not be able to add the bike to your booking when you book. You’ll need to call the airline and book a space for your bike.
2. Read the airline’s policy and comply with it.
They differ a lot. For example BA permits bicycles up to 23kg (if they’re heavier they may incur an overweight baggage charge - read more) whereas Easyjet give you 32kg of weight allowance for your bike (read more).
3. Remember that airlines aren’t legally obliged to put your luggage (that includes your bike) on the same plane as you.
If you’re flying to a big sportive and it’s likely there’s going to be lots of bikes on the plane, bear that in mind when you book the flight and consider booking a flight that’s unlikely to be so popular or being at the front of the queue on check in.
Step 2: Get a bike box
We love our Bike Box Alan, but if you want to put off the expenditure (around £450) or don’t have somewhere to store it, you could also consider hiring one. Tap “bike box hire” into google and you’ll come up with lots of options. You’ll be looking at around £35-60 for a week.
For completeness we should mention that some people swear by packing into a cardboard box or even just a plastic bag - but we personally wouldn’t take the risk!
Already got a bike box? Move on to step 3.
Step 3: Get your bike into the box
Speaking from experience, don’t leave this until the last minute! Bike Box Alan (whose boxes are at the speedy end of the packing spectrum) say packing into one of their boxes should take 10-30 minutes. We’d allow more time, particularly if you haven’t done it before or for a while. It’s also a good idea to try taking the pedals off a few days in advance in case they’ve become jammed on.
1. Clean your bike.
Not essential but definitely worth it to avoid getting yourself covered in grime when you’re taking it apart and putting it back together again.
2. Find your allen keys.
Some pedals will also need a pedal spanner. You may also find some tape useful and extra bubble wrap may come in handy if you’re feeling particularly protective about your frame.
3. Pack the bike into the box.
What you need to do varies between bikes and bike bags. Our beloved Bike Box Alan makes life particularly easy since all you have to remove are the pedals, seat post, handlebars and wheels.
Our top tips:
4. Lock it.
If your bike box has a means of locking it, we’d recommend you use it. Likewise, consider a distinctive strap or sticker to avoid a bike mix up on the conveyor belt at your destination.
Step 4: Get your bike to the airport
Remember that a bike box is big. If you book an airport taxi to/from the airport, check in advance that your box will definitely fit, remembering the passengers and other luggage too!
Likewise think about these logistics if you're planning on using your own car.
Step 5: Check in
1. Arrive early.
It makes it more likely there will be space on the plane for your bike and that the check in staff will be co-operative.
2. Be nice to the check in staff.
They are the ones who will decide whether there’s room for your bike on the plane, whether to weigh your bike and how to apply the airline’s policies. Once you’ve checked in they will direct you to the oversize luggage drop where you’ll need to take your bike.
3. Go to the oversize luggage drop.
Take off any detachable pulleys/straps from the bike box before it goes on the conveyor belt. Wave a fond goodbye to your box as it heads off - then it’s time to grab a coffee!
Over to you!
Have you ever taken your bike on a plane? Tell us about it, we’d love to know how you got on.
If you've been putting off getting insurance for your trip, now is the time! Check out our essential cycling travel insurance guide, here.
Looking for tips on what to pack? Take a look at our ultimate packing guide for cyclists?
Want to know the best places to ride? Our destination and ride guides are for you.
Photo credits: Step 1 photo: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock.com; Step 2 photo: num_skyman/Shutterstock.com; Step 4 photo: PixieMe/Shutterstock.com; Step 5 photo: asiandelight/Shutterstock.com.