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How to take your bicycle on a plane? Practical tips

All cycling and triathlon fans reach a moment in time where they have to travel abroad for a cyclotourism trip or competition. In these cases, few decide to rent a bicycle as they prefer to use their own.

But most haven’t even thought of how to take the bicycle on the plane and don’t know how to do it in a safe and efficient way.

In Cycling Friendly we propose a few ideas to do so:

  1. Prior requirements
  2. How to pack your bicycle for proper transportation
  3. How to store the bicycle in the case

Prior requirements

Ask the airline if the plane has room for bicycles, as in short distance flights they tend to use smaller planes with no capacity for bicycle storage.

Make sure that you have booked a transport service for the bicycle, which is normally billed separately, and in most cases it has to be confirmed over the phone, thus making sure the bicycle doesn’t stay grounded.

How to pack your bicycle for proper transportation

We will now discuss the various options available.

Cardboard box
Empaquetado bicicleta

Without doubt the cheapest option but the least recommended, as the box can break easily and we can get an unpleasant surprise unpacking the bike at destination.

If you still decide to use this method you have to make sure each part of the bicycle is well protected and use some kind of padding between the bicycle and the box, towels, bubble wrap etc as well as covering all the bicycle’s components or mobile parts so they don’t move inside the box.

Canvas cases
Maleta de tela bicicleta

There are cases, that depending on their quality and price, will have more or less protection, the exterior is normally canvas, the interior is usually padded around the pedal crank/ bracket and fork areas as well as having mechanisms to fasten the bicycle so that it doesn’t move. It’s a relatively economic and safe way to transport the bicycle. Its main advantage, apart from the price, is that they are quite light.

You can never be too cautious, as in the cardboard case option, in protecting the delicate parts of the bicycle with extra padding.

Half canvas half hard cases

Maleta semirrígida bicicleta

Very similar to the canvas cases, the exterior is slightly harder, therefore better protected. They are also sold at a decent price, but watch out for the really cheap ones as they normally don’t have any kind of reinforcement, so if you place something heavy on top of the suitcase it could damage delicate parts of the bicycle.

Hard cases

Maleta rígida bicicleta

Definitely one of the best options, you only need to take into account their size, as some are rather small, so it could be possible that neither triathlon nor mountain bikes fit.

Most of them have a padded interior, even though it is still advisable to have some separation between the bike and the case to avoid possible scratches.

Top of the range hard suitcases
Maleta rígida alta gama bicicleta

They are well protected cases, we can also find good quality price ratios that include useful accessories such as wheel covers or, in this case, the bicycle is tied to a base and the base is tied to the bottom of the case which also coverts into a removable tripod that stays in the case thus allowing for an easier assembly once arriving at your destination.

How to store the bicycle in the case

Firstly you should disassemble the two wheels and take the pressure out the tires.

Desmontaje bici avión

It is also advised to take out all the wheel clasps to avoid bending or breaking. 

Desmontaje bici avión. Segundo paso.

Subsequently, you need to protect all the weak spots, breaks, gears etc. 

Desmontaje bici avión. Tercer paso.

You should follow by taking off the handle bar, we recommend not taking off the levers and headset as assembling them again could be quite complicated. Instead you should loosen the screws that hold the handlebar to the speed sensor, usually 4. 

Desmontaje bici avión. Cuarto paso.

Once the handle bar is disassembled be careful on how its placed, not to force any of the cables and placing it in such a way that it can’t move in the case thus not being able to scratch other components.

Depending on the case, we take down or take off the saddle. Be careful if it has an electronic gear box as the battery is usually in the saddle. There should be enough cable, but you can never be too careful. 

Desmontaje bici avión. Quinto paso.

With the electronical components its recommended to take out the battery where possible, if not, make sure that the pushbutton hasn’t been pressed as it could flatten the battery and don’t forget the charger !

Have a good trip and enjoy cycling and triathlon!

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