The first thing that always come to mind when traveling by air with the bike is,
"How do I pack my bike so that it's safe, secure and doesn't get damaged?"
Before jumping right into the tips on how to pack your bike for your next gran fondo, you'll need to decide the type of bag you're using.
It can be as simple as a cardboard box, soft shell or hard shell bike bag for air travels.
Each has its own pros and cons. Generally, it boils down to 2 things – your budget and your risk appetite.
Let’s quickly go through them.
Personally, I'll always go for the bike bag option.
My bag has been more than 10 trips in the last 3 years and they did very well each time.
I'll share some tips below on how to pack your bike for air travels.
These tips are skewed towards using a bike bag. But if you're using a cardboard box, they're equally useful.
So, let's start.
Things to Remove Before Packing Your Bike
When it comes to packing a bike, whether into a cardboard box or bag, there are components that need to be removed.
There are some must have bike tools to bring with you when you travel, such as:
Exactly what needs to be removed will be determined by the type and model of bike bag you are using.
For example, you'll only need to remove both wheels if you're using the Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 bag. If you're using hard shell bags, you'll also need to remove the handlebars, seatposts and pedals.
Here’s what need to be removed, sorted from have-to’s to optional.
- 1Wheels. Remove both front and rear wheels, deflate your road bike tires completely and make sure they're clean.
- 2Quick release skewers. Remove them from the wheels and keep in a small storage bag.
- 3Pedals. Some bags are slim and the pedals might get in the way. Use a 8mm allen key to remove the pedals.
- 4Handlebars. Have them twisted sideways and secured to the frame
- 5Seat post. Make a marking to indicate your saddle height before removing.
- 6Mechanical rear derailleur. Sometimes the cables can get in the way of the bag. If so, remove it from the hanger, cover with bubble wraps and secure it to the chain stays.
- 7Disc rotors. These are vulnerable to bending especially if the bag stores the wheels on the outer parts.
How to Pack Your Bike for Air Travels
Besides removing all the necessary parts and components, the packing tips below will minimise the chance that your bike will be damaged.
Let's go through each item one by one.
The teeth are sharp and can cut anything that goes into its way. Put the chain on the biggest chain ring to have them well covered.
Additionally, tie the chain to the chain ring using a zip tie so that it doesn’t fall off, which happens quite often.
Place the fork spacers to protect your fork and rear triangle dropouts.
It prevents them from being squished together when your bike bag is laid down horizontally.
You don’t need to buy them they’re usually available for free at your local bike stores.
When you remove the rear wheel, the chain looses its tension and tend to move around, especially dropping from the chain rings. Use a chain keeper to keep the chain together.
Rotate and keep them parallel to the floor at the 3 and 6 o’clock positions.
Use either bubble warps, foams or pipe lagging to provide extra protection and care to the bike frame.
Wrap them around the fork, top tube, down tube and chain stays.
Double or triple wrap the seat stays as these are usually the most vulnerable.
Once done wrapping, use a tape to hold the wraps together.
Have them taped to the bike frame so that they don’t dangle around. You could risk the brake levers hitting the bike frame during transit.
Remove the rotor from the wheel if possible.
For some bags, the wheels are usually kept on the outer sections and the rotors are vulnerable to bending should the bags are stacked up together.
Pedals, Saddle, Seatpost, QR Skewers and other Accessories
Make sure the bag is securely closed and zipped.
You can also stash your bike helmet and cycling shoes inside the bag if there's enough space.
Also, don't forget your bike saddle bag and spare tubes!
I know we’re tempted to pack everything bike related into the bag as long as there are still space.
But from my own experience, I would advise against doing so.
Try to keep the weight down as baggage handlers can be less tolerant when it comes to big and heavy bags, including bike bags.
3 Things to Do Before You Check In Your Bike Bag
Check for Any Loose Stuffs
Once all packed, move/rattle the bag from side to side, put it horizontally (that’s how your bag will move along the conveyor belt) and try to see if you hear any sound.
If there’s sound, check again if you’ve forgot to pack something securely inside.
Use an additional tag besides the baggage tag provided by the airline when you check in.
Have your information like name, address and contact number in there.
Stickers. Ask the airline check in staff to provide you with a Fragile stickers or tags. Put them around your bike bag.
Some bike bags come with straps for ease of maneuvering around the airport.
But these can be a hazard if you don’t remove them during check in.
The straps could get tangled while the bag is moving along the conveyor belt and the bag could possibly get stuck and damaged.