An objective such as Georgia can be a real logistical problem for a potential cyclist.  Fortunately, fear has big eyes only and air travel with your bike is not difficult. Of course, you need to prepare yourself for this. The main problem is usually the size of the bike. It also seems problematic to secure fragile (and expensive!) elements, mainly the suspension and braking system.  This applies in particular to full suspension bikes. 

Cardboard box, bag or special suitcase?

There are many options available on the market, but the best way to check the cardboard box is during transport, exactly the one where the manufacturers send their bikes to the distributors. Why not a bag or a suitcase? In my opinion, the bag is too delicate to protect the contents from possible damage. In fact, when using a bag, we need to use even more security than a box. A suitcase has basically two main drawbacks. It is extremely expensive but if the financial aspect does not count, another argument against it is that it weighs a lot in itself - even a dozen or so kilograms. Unfortunately, the carriers have considerable weight limitations. To Georgia, most often we fly the WizzAir line where a solid 32 kilograms of limit allow you to pack your bike with additional equipment.  The cost of transport on the day of writing the article is 129 PLN - quite tolerably. For example, Polish Airlines Lot charge 250 PLN. The above prices apply to a one-way flight.

Box and what is next?

Branded bikes are sent to distributors in really solid boxes. We will get them in the nearest bicycle shop and the seller will be happy to take the cardboard. Bicycle packaging has guidelines, even those of the airline.  Let me quote the packing method on WizzAir's website, as it defines the basic requirements for transportation: 

bike - packed in a travel bag (wheels and pedals must be removed and the handlebar placed parallel to the frame or packed in a cardboard box; the tyres must be drained of air);

This means nothing more than compressing the baggage to the max so that our packaging is flat and nothing is left out of any part of it. 

What and how do we secure it?

The first thing - we drain the air from the tires, it doesn't have to be zero, but we shouldn't leave a high pressure, it can cause damage to the tire. It's the same with the shock absorber and the dammer - not many people pay attention to it but we have to drop the pressure in the gas spring! If we take care of the above, we can think about further packing. 

The best option is to transport the bike without removing the rear wheel. The rear wheel will secure the derailleur trolley and hook during transport. With 26-inch wheels, this can work, but with 27.5/29-inch wheels, there's a problem. As the rear derailleur is delicate we need to provide it with a proper support so if you take off the rear wheel, unscrew the derailleur. The frame itself should be placed so that the sprockets on the crank do not directly touch the bottom of the box. This will protect both the crank and the packaging. A very irritating experience is to air in the brake system, we prevent it by inserting a flat object between the pads of appropriate thickness, for example a ruler and protect it with adhesive tape. The steering wheel is fixed in such a way that the containers with brake fluid are placed upwards, just like during the operation of the vehicle. A good place is to mount it on the upper tube of the frame. All unscrewed elements should be fixed so that they do not wander loose around the box. The axle of the front shock absorber can be put back and between the forks we put a sleeve. Thanks to this, the shock absorber will have a stiffness. The top pipes and damper themselves are very susceptible to scratches.

I recommend use foam to insulate the pipes to protect these elements - it works great. The general rule is to dismantle/secure all sensitive equipment. We have a lot of possibilities, from bubble wrap to foamed polystyrene. Finally, in order to stiffen the construction of our luggage, we put everything we want to take in the box for the spacer. Although the airlines do not allow the carriage of items other than bicycles, no one does not go uphill. Clothes, shoes, tent or sleeping bag are perfect for this purpose.

Where is up?

Advice at the end but very important. Don't forget to mark where the top and bottom of the box are. Airport staff have very little time to unload and load luggage so it is worth helping them by making handles (scotch tape), it will suggest to employees how to move your treasures. Secure corners and exposed edges. Show your inventiveness. Rollers or skateboards will help you to manoeuvre the whole set and protect it from abrasion. 

See You at the airport!


Packing a mountain bike for air travel

30 April 2019