Author Topic: Transporting a bike: box or bag?  (Read 5061 times)

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Offline alfonso

Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« on: October 05, 2009, 10:08:26 pm »
I’m planning to join a supported ride at the end of this month. (I’m in the Southern Hemisphere, so no need to panic on my behalf about the weather.) Timing is tight: for work reasons, I have to get the last possible flight to another city to get to the rendezvous.

I foresee some difficulties with transporting a bike in a box to and from airports, and with keeping the box somewhere during the ride. I wonder if a soft-sided bag might be a better option. Does anybody have experience with them? How are they for convenience? How do they protect the bike? I don’t feel that it’s worth shelling out for a hard sided case.

Any comments will be welcome. Relevant and printable ones especially so.   :)

Offline geegee

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2009, 10:58:21 pm »
I personally prefer putting my bike in a clear plastic bag so that it is obvious to the handlers that it is a bike. My current touring bike is barely 2 years old and it has gone on six flights without any damage. Airports here in Canada usually have special heavy duty clear plastic bike bags on hand, but last year when I flew out of Anchorage AK, I had to make do with two smaller baggage bags. I first wrap the entire frame with pipe insulation, and unbolt the rear derraileur. I've posted these pictures here before: unwrapped, wrapped (Ignore the plastic cap on the rear derailleur, it is much easier to undo it and tie it to the chain stay). Since then, I have also learned to turn the fork 180 degrees so that it is facing backwards thus reducing the length of the bike a few inches, and then strapping the front wheel to the frame. With the air out of the tires, it is a snug fit, and avoids possible stress on the headset.

Offline biker_james

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2009, 07:37:13 am »
I personally prefer putting my bike in a clear plastic bag so that it is obvious to the handlers that it is a bike. My current touring bike is barely 2 years old and it has gone on six flights without any damage. Airports here in Canada usually have special heavy duty clear plastic bike bags on hand, but last year when I flew out of Anchorage AK, I had to make do with two smaller baggage bags. I first wrap the entire frame with pipe insulation, and unbolt the rear derraileur. I've posted these pictures here before: unwrapped, wrapped (Ignore the plastic cap on the rear derailleur, it is much easier to undo it and tie it to the chain stay). Since then, I have also learned to turn the fork 180 degrees so that it is facing backwards thus reducing the length of the bike a few inches, and then strapping the front wheel to the frame. With the air out of the tires, it is a snug fit, and avoids possible stress on the headset.

My wife and I do basically the same thing when transporting our bikes-pipe wrap, rear derailleur off and zip tied to the frame. We turn the handlebars, and rotate them down so that the top tube sits in the drop. I think that puts the shifters out of harms way. We have always left the saddle and the front wheel on, but removed the pedals. Turning the fork around seems complicated with racks, fenders, and cables. It's probably a good idea to call the airline/airport to see that they have bike bags available for you, or you may want to source one out in advance. You may find that after its all bagged up thqat you will need to cut a small hole to wrap the tags around the seatpost or frame (they don't really stick to plastic), and airport security will want to swab it for their "sniffer" to see if an exploding bike. We have transported the bikes like this many times and never had an issue with it. I believe that as soon as the  baggage handlers can see its a bike, and not just a box of "something" that they are treated better. Plus, they are not the right shape to stack mountains of stuff on top of, so they go on top of the cargo load, not the bottom.
You have to bring your own pipe wrap, and duct tape, but its only a few dollars for that stuff.

Offline JimF

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2009, 09:43:33 am »
I think a soft containment is risky. My son tried it on a flight from the west coast to east on a well-known airline. He stripped it down to the frame, packing it in a duffel bag with lots of stuff around it. When he unpacked, the rear stays were bent. An expensive lesson. Luckily, he was able to recover from the airline, but that didn't help with his ride plans. I assume you looked into shipping the bike via a package delivery service to, say, a local bike shop at your destination? With airlines charging for baggage, it might be equivalent to ship ahead to insure your bike is there and ride-able. I tour with a Bob trailer and use the Cello bike-trailer shipping case for my commercial transport. On my last trip I flew along with the Cello. The Cello didn't arrive with me (plane change) and was slightly damaged on arrival. Luckily, neither the bike nor trailer was. Good luck on your tour.

Offline DaveB

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2009, 10:28:01 am »
A soft sided bag, large enough and padded enough to hold and protect a bike, isn't going to be much easier to store than a box. 

I recommend a bike box sourced from a dealer and HEAVILY reinforced with cross braces and padding.  Another possibility is to rent a hard-side bike box (Ironcase or similar) from a dealer if you can find one.

The recommendation to ship the bike by the local version of UPS or Fed-Ex is a good option and may be cheaper than the airline charges.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2009, 12:27:58 pm »
Kinetic Cycles in Clarkston, Michigan used to rent a soft bag designed specifically for transporting a bicycle.  One of my buddys honemoon in Ireland, and used these soft bags to transport two bike from Detroit to Dublin.  It worked well and they were happy with the experience.

You never said where you were flying from and to.  So I don't know what kind of presence FedEx has in your end of the world.  In the states, Greyhound Bus Lines also has a shipping service.  I found it to be the cheapest way to tranport a bike.  You box the bike, bring it to a bus depot, they load it onto a bus, and it is picked up at a Greyhound depot at the other end.  Maybe there is a similar service in your end of the world?
Danno

Offline biker_james

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2009, 07:12:59 am »
Rear stays aren't very strong when they don't have a wheel between them. I would want to stick an old hub or some kind of block in there is shipping a frame stripped down. When its buried in a duffel bag, no one knows that its a bike frame.
I would think storing a softsided bag would be hard to do when away from home, and unless your tour doesn't finish where it starte, yu have to figure out how tto get the bag to your destination. The plastic bag simplifies that a lot, I think. I doubt that the softsided carrying bags offer much, if any more protection than the plastic bag and pipe insulation.

Offline tonythomson

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2009, 02:37:20 pm »
Have shipped my bike all over the world by plane without any problems but I find it very stressful.  Had to cycle Ben Gurian (sp?) Airport in Israel carrying a bike box about 20 miles, nightmare.   The best service for me and least stressful was after this years ride I shipped from San Francisco back to Orlando by UPS, very impressed with the service and they did the packing.

So next year plan to do the same from Orlando to Vancouver.
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline DaveB

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2009, 10:15:01 pm »
Rear stays aren't very strong when they don't have a wheel between them. I would want to stick an old hub or some kind of block in there is shipping a frame stripped down. When its buried in a duffel bag, no one knows that its a bike frame.
Forks aren't either so it's best to place a spacer in both the fork and rear dropouts no matter how you pack the bike for shipment.  Bikes shipped to bike shops have plastic fork spacers installed for shipment and you can get them free from any bike shop.

For routine shipping use, I've made reusable spacers from defunct hubs. Your bike shop shop should be able to provide these at no or minimal cost.  Mine were free for the asking.   

I removed the axles, cones and locknuts from the hub shell, threaded the cones back on and then add the locknuts to the bare axle.  Adjust the width between the locknuts to be a snug fit in the dropouts and tighten the cones against them to keep them in place.  Install these in the dropouts and use your qr skewers or, if you used threaded hubs, use the axle nuts to keep them secure.   

Offline jfitch

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2009, 10:38:48 pm »
"The best service for me and least stressful was after this years ride I shipped from San Francisco back to Orlando by UPS, very impressed with the service and they did the packing."

How much did they charge you for all that?

Offline bogiesan

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2009, 01:06:45 am »
"The best service for me and least stressful was after this years ride I shipped from San Francisco back to Orlando by UPS, very impressed with the service and they did the packing."
How much did they charge you for all that?

I have friends who ship their bikes all over the planet. They retired with better investment strategy than most of us will and think little of jetting off to tour on their bikes. They use UPS but they always have a bike shop pack the bike. Most shops charge  $50-100. UPS can run $100-200 in the States.

If I could afford to travel like this, I'd either rent a bike at the other end or go with a Bike Friday. I could not handle the stress of shipping my recumbent.

david boise ID
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline tonythomson

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2009, 06:53:26 am »
UPS charged me around $160 and that included the packing - which was excellent - probably not the cheapest way but as I'm from the UK I don't have the contacts or local friends/family to help out so this to me was the least stressful.  (cost me $62 to fly bike out from UK to Florida)
It also included most of my kit.

Not too sure what the air carriers cost plus, never too keen to cycle from airports as always seems to be very busy highway traffic.

Maybe ACA could do a survey on best roads out of airports?  Now that would be helpful.  
« Last Edit: October 08, 2009, 11:28:12 am by tonythomson »
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline staehpj1

Re: Transporting a bike: box or bag?
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2009, 08:09:10 am »
Not too sure what the air carriers cost plus, never too keen to cycle from airports as always seems to be very busy highway traffic.
On the other hand, I like riding directly out of an airport.  Not sure why, but I get a kick out of not using any ground based transportation other than my bike at that point.

I have done a few different options.  One trip I packed the three of our bikes in airline boxes, I have used Amtrak, I have flown with my bike packed in bike shop box, I have rented a car, and I have used shipbikes.com.

All of those had their advantages and disadvantages, but all worked well in one situation or another.  With the airlines increasingly becoming a pain to deal with I think I am more likely to use shipbikes.com, Amtrak, or FedEx in the future.  I really liked the fact that the shipbikes box and the Amtrak box both required almost no disassembly of the bike.  Shipbikes.com seems to be able to negotiate a better price than if I deal directly with FedEx myself.  They also ship door to door even to and from residential addresses. The shipbikes box is a clever design, but is $99 and is only good for maybe 4 uses on average.  They do offer replacement for the outer cardboard for 30 or 40 dollars.  It looks like they now also ship plastic cases.  The thing is that it is a bit of a hassle to deal with a case (or the shipbikes box), especially if like me you usually fly out to one place and home from another.

So far I have not found one answer that works to my satisfaction for all of my trips and just do what seems to fit the situation.  On my last tour I had the luxury of being able to ship my bike to a friend's house and then back again from there.  It was nice to be able to leave the shipbikes box there.  Since my tour actually ended 850 miles from his house I had to take Amtrak for that short leg of the tour where my box was.

Amtrak is great if you are going to and from locations that have baggage service and are not in a hurry if the distance is long.  I found the boxes to be huge and the service to be good.  The ride was a good bit longer than I could have driven it though and if there were several of us we would have probably been better off both in cost and time to rent a car.