Traveling with your bike can seem intimidating, but once you arrive at your destination and hop on your familiar ride, you’ll find it is so worth the extra effort.
Though myths of baggage handlers damaging bikes through sloppy handling persist, people who travel regularly will tell you it’s not likely. A well packed bike will not sustain damage.
Cardboard bike box
The most accessible and least expensive option is to pack your bike in a cardboard bike box. This requires minimal disassembly. Bike shops will provide a free box, but call ahead to ensure they have them. Check out the video below for a tutorial.
PROS: Cheap, easy, accessible
CONS:You need to get the bike home in a box, too. So do you hold onto that same box or hunt down a bike shop in your destination city? Boxes are thick, but only provide minimal protection.
Whether you choose a hard case or a soft case is mostly a personal choice. The case takes up more storage space when not in use and the case itself adds significant weight to your luggage. The hard shell provides optimal protection for your bike.
A well constructed soft case is an excellent way to protect your bike. The case stores easily when not in use. Because the case is more modular, a few companies have come up with excellent designs that make packing your bike a snap.
Cost for airlines
Airlines have different regulations for shipping bikes, many of which are completely infuriating. In some cases, you can ship something larger and heavier and pay less if it is not a bike. Frontier has a very bike friendly policy that promises to not charge a special fee for bikes. Folding bikes can be put in smaller cases and if the airline does not know it is a bike, you may pay less. Some people travel with this as “exercise equipment” to avoid additional charges.
Given that some airlines charge upwards of $150, it’s worth asking the airlines about their fees before booking your flight.
If you know how to put your bike back together, that is the easiest way to travel. Be sure to pack your tools with your bike for easy access. Some tools may not make it past gate security.
If you are arriving to Portland airport, there is a bike assembly station downstairs at the end of Baggage Claim near the Max train loading.
Calculate the costs. If you are not particularly handy or are not in a position to lug your bike box around, it may work out best to have a shop dismantle and ship your bike to another shop that will build it back up in your destination city. Explore this option with your friendly neighborhood bike shop.