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MTB Bike Transport and Flying with a Bicycle

Flying with your bike used to be the domain of pros but now it is a regular activity for almost any keen cyclist. Now days events are all over the country, flights affordable and time of the essence so you have to fly with your bike. This traumatic experience is manageable by knowing how to pack your bike and transport your bike so that the airlines donít end up destroying it. There is no fool proof method and they all have their pros and cons, it just depends on your budget, love for your bike and unfortunately a fair amount of luck.

Bike bags and bike boxes are the best way to fly with your bike but its not the only way.

Firstly if you are flying with your bike to the Argus (yes some mountain bikers do do the Argus) then you should check with your airline about the exact process to be followed. Normally it involves checking the bike in a day or two before your flight and then collecting from the airport in Cape Town. Its probably not a good idea to arrive at the airport for your flight the day before the Argus and try to check your bike in. There are also other third party transporters offering a bike transport service to the Argus.

Ok so assuming that you are travelling outside of the Argus you would travel with your bike on the same flight.


 

Packing your bike
There are several options for packing your bike. Airline rules vary and change from time to time so check with them first. The ideal bike bag or bike box is big enough to fit your bike with minimal disassembly, is light weight and offers protection from being dropped or having items dropped on top of it.

Wheel your bike on
It is possible to wheel your bike on, strictly speaking you should lower your seat, turn the bars to parallel with the frame, take the pedals off and deflate the wheels. But that said it is sometimes possible to wheel the bike on as is.
Advantages: No major disassembly and re-assembly necessary, lightest option and some people believe that the bike will be seen as fragile and be treated more carefully. Carrying and handling around the airport is tricky.
Disadvantages: It can get scratched, especially when they try to squeeze it through the xray machine. So you need to protect it or wrap it up with bubble rap and cardboard. Fragile bits like wheels and derailleurs can get knocked or damaged.

Cardboard bike box
This is a popular secure and cost effective solution. Ask your local bike shop for an old bike box. Make sure it is a complete bike box and not just a frame box. You will then need to remove the wheels, seat and handle bar and maybe the pedals. Now you should be able to fit the frame in the box and then pack in the rest of the bits and pad everything and make sure it does not rub on the frame.
Advantages: Cost effective, good protection, light
Disadvantages: Requires lots of disassembly/re-assembly, must have right size box for bike, custom and extra packaging required, inconvenient for regular travellers

Padded bike bag
Padded bike bags are the cheapest bike packaging option to purchase. These bags are usually made of a durable and strong material that has extra padding, the bags have a varying level of protection depending on the bike bag brand. Some bicycle transport bags have very little rigid protection while others have a solid bottom and sides that offer additional protection. Depending on the size of the bike bag some or no disassembly will be required.
Advantages: Designed bike transport system with pockets for accessories and wheels. Lighter (6-7kg) than a solid bike box, cost effective, can pack in additional items.
Disadvantage: Padding only offers limited protection, aircraft handlers may drop and abuse the item seeing as it is a padded bag. Can be cumbersome and difficult is handle if it is poorly made with too few handles and poor or no trolley wheels.

Hardshell bike box
Rigid bike boxes are moulded and made of a hard plastic material that resists bumps and knocks. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Advantages: The most secure system, space to pack additional items
Disadvantages: Can be very heavy up to 13 kgs, lighter options can be expensive. Usually a bit cumbersome and difficult to pack.

Bike baggage costs
Once bike baggage allowance varies for bike bags and bike boxes depending on the airline. Sometimes the same airlines even have different rules depending on where you are and where you are flying to. Generally however bikes are seen as sporting goods and sometimes there is a special allowance for this otherwise the weight is just included in your normal baggage weight allowance which is linked to the type of ticket, usually 20kg for economy passengers.

How to transport a mountain bike - video
Airline baggage regulations for bikes
Airline travel with bicycles

 

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