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I'm planning on doing some flying with my bike (I just bought a hard case) and I've heard more horror stories about bike abuse by airlines than I'm comfortable with! Other than taking care when packing the bike, any other advice about how to keep the expensive cargo safe? I thought it might be a good idea to make sure I open the box and check the bike before I leave the airport at my destination, that way any damage can be reported while at airport. Any thoughts?
 

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Make sure you don't jam the case... Chances are the TSA is going to open and inspect the bike and you want to make easy for them to put everything back..

I use a folding bike when I travel....I've flow dozens of times and had no issues...
 

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Ricardo Cabeza
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DON'T use an expensive case. They see it as a challenge.
 

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Make sure you don't jam the case...

this. Also, have as few loose items in the case as possible. I put my pedals in a ziploc bag and tape it to the frame, likewise for skewers.

What does the airline charge for the case? This summer American wanted $100 each way per case. Wow....

A friend uses a wheelchair and does not pay anything extra because it is an 'essential medical device'. I wonder if I could get my bike classified the same? ;>)
 

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Leave your CO2 cartridges at home. TSA will confiscate them.

At smaller airports like Milwaukee TSA opens them in public. You can stay and watch. They may or may not allow you to assist in repacking. My bike got opened both to and from California last year. All was good with how they repacked it. I was pretty impressed.

4 more tips for packing:

1.) Foam pipe insulation is a nice thing to add to your frame tubes as added protection.
2.) Unbolt your rear derailleur.
3.) Make a spacer for your rear dropouts. a piece of plastic pipe with your skewer inserted works good.
4.) I have used Thule and Serfas boxes. I like the Serfas better as the two halves of the Thule can move around. Small items can fall out. Serfas has positive stops built into the lip and metal clamps that hold it tightly together.
 

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As said, assist the TSA people with the repacking if at all possible. If you're going to do a lot of flying, agree 100% with Dave on the folding bike. Some fold down so small that they fly free. (Or at least they used to fly free, it's been a while.)
 

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Ricardo Cabeza
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Chef Tony said:
Make sure you don't jam the case...

this. Also, have as few loose items in the case as possible. I put my pedals in a ziploc bag and tape it to the frame, likewise for skewers.

What does the airline charge for the case? This summer American wanted $100 each way per case. Wow....

A friend uses a wheelchair and does not pay anything extra because it is an 'essential medical device'. I wonder if I could get my bike classified the same? ;>)
Delta charges $225 each way. Friggin UPS is only $50
 

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Don't Tread on Me
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Andy69 said:
Delta charges $225 each way. Friggin UPS is only $50
I flew with my bike a few months ago, and the cheapest prices I saw from UPS was around $80.

I actually ended up shipping my frame and fork overnight USPS for about $70, and carrying the wheels and everything else on the plane.
 

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merckxman
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I have a TSA lock and simple latches on my case. Traveling westward, no problems. I found after I arrived a TSA note inside.

Traveling eastward from SFO I had a nightmare. After passing through security my name was called to report back to ticketing. At ticketing no one knew why I was being paged. After awhile it was discovered that TSA wanted the key for the latches (which must use the simplest of keys). I had to go to another level, turn in the key.....and wait to get it back. I'm grateful they didn't bust my latches, but I had to go though the security line again and made my flight by one minute. It was very stressful.
 

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Wrap the top, down, seat tubes with Styrofoam pipe insulation from a home improvement store. I do this everytime I ship a bike.
 

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Depends

on if you're going US domestic or doing international and also, the carrier.

I've never done it US domestic with a bike and generally, the prices point toward shipping with USPS, UPS or Fedex Ground.. International flights, from and outside of the US, I simply use a corrugated bike box and have never had an issue. In fact, I've never been charged either but it's always been a non-US carrier. This includes economy and business class flights. International shipping can be expensive so taking it on the plane is more cost effective. I'm going to Boston next month, retrieving my Colnago C40 out of long term storage and bringing it back in a corrugated bike box.
 

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Farmguy
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I have flown every year to Tour De Tucson from Spokane for the past 4 yrs, never a issue. Alaska charges $50.00 and they still do for this year. CO2 has been fine and case has been opened each time. They will not let you watch, I asked once and was "escorted" away, bubble wrap and foam insulation work great. Go to the LBS and get spacers for the forks to slip on, works great.

Oh, and I have mine STUFFED, so far, its all been good. Insurance!!!
Who knows when you need a new bike?
 

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n00bsauce
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viciouscycle said:
I have flown every year to Tour De Tucson from Spokane for the past 4 yrs, never a issue. Alaska charges $50.00 and they still do for this year. CO2 has been fine and case has been opened each time. They will not let you watch, I asked once and was "escorted" away, bubble wrap and foam insulation work great. Go to the LBS and get spacers for the forks to slip on, works great.

Oh, and I have mine STUFFED, so far, its all been good. Insurance!!!
Who knows when you need a new bike?
No airline allows CO2 cartridges. They may have not noticed them. If they find them they will confiscate them. Not much of a loss but they're easy to come by at your destination.
 

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I recently did a trip from San Antonio, TX to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I have a bike with S&S couplers and it costs the same as regular luggage, $30 each way. Here's the prices I found from FedEx & USPS: (each way)
FedEx Ground: $65
USPS: $28

I've only flown a few times over the years and have never had a problem with any damages to the bike taking it on a plane. So it looks like the Post Office would only barely be cheaper than taking it on a plane. As far as a regular sized bike case though either one would be cheaper than what the airlines charge. BTW I included $5k insurance on those charges above.
 

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Mel Erickson said:
No airline allows CO2 cartridges. They may have not noticed them. If they find them they will confiscate them. Not much of a loss but they're easy to come by at your destination.

+1....Do not pack CO2 in your bag...I use a threadless CO2 tool so I can stop by any Walmart/Sporting goods store and buy cartridges cheap....I've found threadless easier to find than threaded...
 

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Airlines are quite inconsistent. I've flown my bike for free and been charged $80 by the same airline just weeks apart.

I use the performance bike hard case (the cheaper one) and not had any damage. They are kind of a pain to pack though.
 

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MJCBH said:
I'm planning on doing some flying with my bike (I just bought a hard case) and I've heard more horror stories about bike abuse by airlines than I'm comfortable with! Other than taking care when packing the bike, any other advice about how to keep the expensive cargo safe? I thought it might be a good idea to make sure I open the box and check the bike before I leave the airport at my destination, that way any damage can be reported while at airport. Any thoughts?
I have flown a fair amount with my bike. Everyone packs differently, and I do not have anything of consequence to add to what others have said about packing. However, one thing that has not been mentioned that you should take into consideration is scheduling. First, make sure you get to the airport early. It often takes longer for bikes to be processed through the luggage handling system than regular bags -- for example, as some people have noted, the bike case may have to be opened and examined by hand by the TSA. My bike was been delayed on a flight without a transfer when I made it to the airport too close to takeoff time. Second, if you have to transfer flights, make sure that you have plenty of time between flights. Again, bikes move more slowly through the baggage system, especially at problem airports such as London Heathrow. As much as a two hour layover may suck as compared to a 55 minute layover, it may make the difference between your bike arriving when you do or your bike being delivered to you a day or two later by the airline.
 

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I have flown several times with my bike. After my most recent trip, my thoughts:

I recently got a soft Pik a Pak case. I think it will protect the bike just as well as a hard case if you wrap it properly, people often get away with having to pay an overage fee because it's light and it easily unzips so TSA can inspect from the top without taking anything out.

My last trip taking my hard case - box was opened and my helmet and rain jacket were missing. Undoubtedly removed for inspection and then not put back in.

Another friend had a hardshell case that was not closed properly. During the flight, his seat binder bolt worked loose and came out of the case. The bolt was an odd size. He lost a day of riding and went to several shops to find that bolt. From that experience, I make sure I tighten all bolts and carry everything that could be loose including pedals, skewers, tools, etc. in my regular luggage.
 
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