Taking your MTB on a plane?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Taking your MTB on a plane?

    American and Delta no longer charge for taking your bike on a trip. I am headed to Tahoe next month and I want to take my Blur. The travel case my local shop has for a loaner is too small. Another buddy has traveled to Europe and used a cardboard box like they ship the bike in to the dealer. I am concerned about damage. Should I be?

    Anyone have experience traveling with a bike on a plane?

  2. #2
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    A friend of mine just flew from Dublin to Cleveland with his YT Jeffsy in a bike box. Itís all about how well you package it. His arrived perfect with 1 exception, you MUST deflate the airshock! He did not and it vented into the negative chamber and required a rebuild. Not a major deal, but if you plan to ride when you land, this would be a problem.

    You also want to let the air out of the tires, not all the way, but enough so they donít pop at altitude.


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  3. #3
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    We've flown a fair amount using padded soft cases with no issues. Pika Packworks make them. We take the fork off to make them fit more compactly. They're way less bulky and lighter than hard cases so are easier to schlep around the airport, on shuttles, taxis, rental cars, etc.
    Packing and padding is key to success. Other options include shipping your bike in a hard case or recycled cardboard bike box. Bikeflights.com probably has the best rates. You can certainly box the bike yourself but bike shops usually charge ~$75 to box or assemble a boxed bike.
    Do the math.

  4. #4
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    The EVOC soft cases are excellent, as long as you have a place to stash the case. The bike shipping ads sound pretty good, but the actual quotes have laughably high IME. If you live in AK Alaska Air effectively ships bikes free.

  5. #5
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    Taken my bike to Holland, Iceland and colorado on a plane. Used a old performance bikes hardcase to holland and more recently a Dakine soft case to Iceland and Colorado with no issues. Air down the tires, and pad the hell out of it and it will be fine. Remove der and hanger too. The Dakine soft case is showing wear no though....

  6. #6
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    I fly with my bikes often. I have an evoc bag. I would be very concerned about shipping the bike in a carboard box. It should be fine, but my bike bag goes through hell during the trip. I've literally seen my bag get thrown around on the runway from standing inside the terminal. Assume your bike bag/box will get dropped from a 5' height to the ground several times and plan/pack accordingly.

  7. #7
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    Yes, you should be concerned about damage. I use an Evoc and I take several steps to ensure everything is secure and won't be damaged. One of the reasons that the airlines had $200 bike-fees was people were throwing them in cardboard boxes that thrown around and crushed all the time.

    And yeah, Bikeflights was going to be $150 to go from Anchorage to the Whiskey Off Road and $250 on the way back. The ironic thing is that Anchorage is one of the biggest cargo hubs in the world, Polar, Atlas, Fed Ex, UPS, Singapore, China, Korea, Japan, they are all constantly flying 777s and 747s in and out of here. But luckily Alaska now treats it as normal luggage. Some of the airlines will still charge you for over-weight, as 50lbs is usually the max. This is not enforced all the time, but I wouldn't count on it. I've refused to fly Delta until they changed their policies, which they recently did...
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  8. #8
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    I shipped my bike in a cardboard box once and it was totally fine. But since I have multiple flights coming up and I really donít want to damage my new bike, I picked up the douchebags bike bag. The amount of disassembly and time packing for the cardboard box to be safe, was a bit of a pain. If you have the means to get a good bag, it will probably be worth it in the long haul. And yeah let the air out of the suspension and tires.


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  9. #9
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    Sounds like more trouble than it's worth. Iffin I was flying to a biking destination I would just rent a bike there.

  10. #10
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    My wife and I flew with our bikes once. Will probably do it again given the right trip.

    We flew Southwest, which charged $75 per bike per leg of the trip (so, $150 per bike round trip). We considered renting at our destination, but we were going to be there for a week. I rode 6 days out of 7 that we were there. She rode 3 (work trip for her, I just tagged along). With rentals being $75/day, it was cheaper to fly with bikes. Plus, my wife has NEVER been able to find a rental bike that actually fits her. One rental shop cut a seatpost for her, but that didn't solve all the problems. So that's a problem all by itself.

    I borrowed Thule hard cases from a friend, but my bike didn't fit in it. My wife used one for her bike. I had to use a recycled cardboard bike box I picked up from a shop. I packed things fairly well (I even put tools and stuff in the box for assembly/disassembly) and I just suffered a bent derailleur hanger on the way there. A shop took care of it before my first ride. I packed things even better on the way home and had no trouble.

    On the flip side, a friend of mine just traveled to Crested Butte for the Adaptive MTB World Championships, and the baggage people wrecked his bike on the way home. They opened the case to inspect his bike and that's where the problems started. They removed some of the padding/frame protection (and didn't put it back) and his practically brand new carbon frame got scratched up with big paint chips, and one of his hydro lines got ripped out of the lever (which has a fancy splitter on it because he uses a single brake lever to control both brakes). I dunno what kind of box or case he used, but it shouldn't matter. I also dunno what airline he used.

  11. #11
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    I use a Trico hard shell box. It has wheels and a pull out handle, and is easy to navigate the airport. I've flown with it twice to Iceland and both times TSA got into it and they were able to get everything back together. I stash the box at the bus station in Reykjavik where all transit from the airport comes in for a small fee. The airport also has a bike building station with a stand and tools, and probably a place to stash the box. I'm sure everywhere has similar set ups if you search.

    I've shipped a DH bike to Hawaii ahead of me to a shop because it was cheaper then the airline fee. I also threw some love the shop's way and had them build, break down and ship the bike back after the race so I didn't have to worry about it while doing the tourist thing with the wife, hopping islands. The box showed up with the head tube sticking out of the box. At least it was a heavily gusseted HT with a King Steelset so no damage.
    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  12. #12
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    Many of the airlines have a disclaimer in their fine print that they won't cover damage to bikes in cardboard boxes. They basically require you to use a hard case.

    Found this out after they killed a custom snowbike en route back from AK.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Many of the airlines have a disclaimer in their fine print that they won't cover damage to bikes in cardboard boxes. They basically require you to use a hard case.

    Found this out after they killed a custom snowbike en route back from AK.
    That sucks. The airline destroyed my dad's well packed surfboard on the flight to Hawaii. You'd think Hawaiian Airlines would be handling boards on every flight. A board is something I'll rent from the location I'm traveling to these days. Gotta have my own bike though.
    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    ...the baggage people wrecked his bike on the way home. They opened the case to inspect his bike and that's where the problems started. They removed some of the padding/frame protection (and didn't put it back) and his practically brand new carbon frame got scratched up with big paint chips, and one of his hydro lines got ripped out of the lever ....
    Bummer. We've been fortunate in our domestic travels. We've found TSA tickets in our bike cases that said the contents were inspected but found no disruption of our packing or any other issues. I'm guessing they just swabbed around checking for explosives residue.

    Put a firearm in the case and tell the gate agent (as you must) and TSA will inspect it only in your presence. They had me readjust the packing and close up the case after they were done.
    Do the math.

  15. #15
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    I just got back yesterday from a trip I took my bike on Delta. They did drop fees for bikes .....if it is 50lbs to $50 USD

    Now my evoc pro bag is 22lbs, my bike 29lbs...thus impossible to get under 50lbs with some soft towels etc to protect the fork etc. In the bag also I put my helmet, pads, some tools to put it back together and shoes. 63 lbs. Cost now with Delta $130 USD. Be careful of what you read.

    I flew Westjet on the way there $50 CDN for 70lbs and under. I also read Alaska treats you well but I'm not sure of the weight restrictions.

  16. #16
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    I flew American Airlines to Reno a couple weeks back. I originally was going to book through Southwest due to their bike fee of $75 and 100lbs limit. I flew with them before and packed all my riding gear and clothes in the box so as not to bring a carryon. Then AA did their press release that they were dropping the $150 bike fee, so I booked with them. When I booked the flight, I didn't read the fine print on the bike fee. I thought all bikes were $30 baggage charge. Then a week before leaving, I scoured the fine print and noticed the $150 overweight (50lbs) fee. Got dinged for $150 on the way to Reno. Then on the way back home, I shipped it via Bike Flights for $49.

    The key with BikeFlights is linear size. Use a small as a box as you can and it'll be $70-90 both ways.

    And the key to flying with your bike is weight. Unless you have a road bike or an uber light XC bike, you won't make the 50lbs limit with a hard case. You'll have to use a softcase.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale-Calgary View Post
    I just got back yesterday from a trip I took my bike on Delta. They did drop fees for bikes .....if it is 50lbs to $50 USD

    Now my evoc pro bag is 22lbs, my bike 29lbs...thus impossible to get under 50lbs with some soft towels etc to protect the fork etc. In the bag also I put my helmet, pads, some tools to put it back together and shoes. 63 lbs. Cost now with Delta $130 USD. Be careful of what you read.

    I flew Westjet on the way there $50 CDN for 70lbs and under. I also read Alaska treats you well but I'm not sure of the weight restrictions.
    I'm flying early tomorrow morning. I take all of my heavy metal parts, tools (except those with sharp edges) pedals, rotors, etc. and put them in my carry-on, I can get the enduro-bike with coil shock+evoc back to a hair under 50, but it's close. Much easier with my XC bike and in that case, I can stuff helmet, shoes and the stuff you mention in there. Same thing with your other checked back, you gotta watch the weight.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  18. #18
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    Yeah. Baggage policies keep changing. It often used to be $150 for a bike irrespective of size and weight. You gotta check website before departure. I couple of times I ran into the situation checking my bike where agent didn't know the policy and I had to request a manager. Other times, checking in my road bike at just under 35 lb total the agent didn't look and checked it as normal luggage. After seeing the big case and asking what it was they didn't want to go through the trouble of changing it and charging the bike fee so I got it on for free.

    One thing I always try to do is get a direct flight so as to minimize handling and opportunity for the bike to get damaged or lost. I'm more concerned going than I am returning as I need the bike when I get there but have backup when I get home.
    Do the math.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Killrop View Post
    ?

    Anyone have experience traveling with a bike on a plane?
    Yes.

    It takes some work to safely pack your bike for a flight. Remove the Derailleurs and brakes, and any part than could be damaged should they pile other bags on top of it. The rear derailleur likely the most vulnerable part. Hydraulic brakes? Can you remove them from the bike, wrap them in a towel, and put them in a plastic bag?

    Could a full suspension bike fit in an s&s case with the rear triangle removed from the bike? Sound like too much work? How much work do you need to do to pay for a new frame? I just clicked on Santa Cruz, well over $3,000 for a new Blur.

    Don't be lazy, take the bike apart, and at least put the carbon frame in a hard case.

    I fly with my expensive bike in a S&S hard case. With a 17 pound case, the 50 pound limit is within reach, but not easy. Pedals and the seat can clear inspection for carry on. tools could be a no fly. Where do you plan to keep the case, sounds like a camping trip?

    I also fly with an old bike wrapped in plastic or in a cardboard box. Ride out of the airport. Ever sit in a Guatemala hotel, with borrowed tools to straighten a derailleur hanger that is part of the frame, or ride to the hotel without a front brake because they bent the front wheel to much to use them?

    Without an expensive, hard case, you can ride out of the airport, butu you gamble with your bike safety. With a hard case, you need a place to store your case, and have to return to the same airport, your properly packed bicycle is safe.
    Roll the dice, place your bet.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXgReZFB1SY

    I want to fly into San Jose and out of Managua. Should I take my S&S coupled Fargo, with hard case, or my $29 Hard rock, that cost several hundred dollars after I replaced the 28 year old parts with 9 year old parts?
    Flying with a bicycle is a gamble, careful packing could help.

    Is a ride on Amtrak to much time to spend?

  20. #20
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    Doing it right this morning. Coil rear shock Enduro machine. Rotors, pedals, stem face removed, small frame bag left on.

    Attachment 1275113
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Doing it right this morning. Coil rear shock Enduro machine. Rotors, pedals, stem face removed, small frame bag left on.

    Attachment 1275113
    vBulletin Message
    Invalid Attachment specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uby6jFCDjE

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisx View Post
    vBulletin Message
    Invalid Attachment specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uby6jFCDjE
    Donít know what the problem is, but 50.0lbs on the nose.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Donít know what the problem is, but 50.0lbs on the nose.
    Link does not work, this one, ( Attachment 1275113 )
    it comes back,
    Invalid Attachment specified.
    if you click it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqDNQ8apDpc

  24. #24
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    After returning home found one of my rotors bent. I thought there was enough protection in the evoc pro bag with the plastic protectors but I guess not. Lesson learned, taking off the rotors next time.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale-Calgary View Post
    After returning home found one of my rotors bent. I thought there was enough protection in the evoc pro bag with the plastic protectors but I guess not. Lesson learned, taking off the rotors next time.
    Evoc does a good job of protecting derailleurs and brakes IME, but I've never trusted it for brake rotors. They go in my other checked or carry-on.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  26. #26
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    TSA did want to look at my multi-tool on the way back, presumably to make sure there were no blades on it, all was good. Had several sets of pedals, bolts/stem faceplate, brake rotors in the bag.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  27. #27
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    My wife and I have rented everywhere we've traveled and had great success (CO, HI, NV, UT to name a few).

    I wouldn't consider flying with ours at this point. Too much hassle humping them around to and from your destination and while you are visiting places plus concerns about one of my bikes getting stolen.

    Lots of rentals I've done are pedaling distance or a shuttle ride away from trails. If I'm staying somewhere for more than a few days, shops are generally good about coming up with a price break (and if they can't, doesn't bother me).
    【ツ】 eDub 【ツ】

  28. #28
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    Not sure if this is helpful, but it is interesting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5OLvkygLxo

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by edubfromktown View Post
    My wife and I have rented everywhere we've traveled and had great success (CO, HI, NV, UT to name a few).

    I wouldn't consider flying with ours at this point. Too much hassle humping them around to and from your destination and while you are visiting places plus concerns about one of my bikes getting stolen.

    Lots of rentals I've done are pedaling distance or a shuttle ride away from trails. If I'm staying somewhere for more than a few days, shops are generally good about coming up with a price break (and if they can't, doesn't bother me).
    It takes me a good week usually to dial in suspension on a bike, so renting is a crap-shoot and will never be dialed in like my own ride. I've rented a few times at resorts for the DH action, so as to not damage my own bike, but for normal riding, I'd never consider it unless the fees were $150 each way again...
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

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