So you want to fly with your bike more often? Here’s a guide with tips and tricks to make traveling with your bike easier.
Flying with a bike can be daunting, but after some instruction and a test run you’ll be an expert.We’ve got some basic tool and part checklists that will make disassembly and assembly go smoothly, our packing instruction video, and some advanced tips learned from over a decade of racing back when we first designed our Airport Ninja Bike Case.
Photo Courtesy of Jordan Clark Haggard
The goal here is to get you flying with your bike more often, and paying less to do it! For starters check out our tool and spare part checklists.
- A good multi-tool. We use the Unior Euro17.
- Pedal Wrench
- A pump. We’re partial to the Lezyne frame pumps (remember, no Co2 on flights), although most floor pumps will disassemble and can fit along the base of the Airport Ninja Bike Case as well.
The only addition to what stays on my bike is the pedal wrench. I can just keep my fully stocked saddle bag (2x tubes, a Lezyne patch kit, 2x Unior tire levers, and a Unior Euro17 tool). I can assemble my bike wherever I’m staying with this setup.
We always recommend bringing one essential spare part. A derailleur hanger. This is the one part that might be difficult to find on the road. Wheels MFG has all your needs covered.
Packing Your Bike For Flying
Now that you’ve assembled your tools, be sure to pack your bike in the case you will be using in advance. Practicing well in advance of your flight can alleviate a nightmare travel day. Small changes in something as innocuous as cable housing length can alter the fit of your bicycle in any bike case.
Practicing in advance will also get you ready for some of our advanced packing tips.
If you’ll be using our Airport Ninja Bike Case, a case we specifically designed to avoid extra baggage fees, check out this video of the packing process.
General Notes On Flying With A Bike
It’s also important to come to the airport prepared with a knowledge of airline policies and procedures. Screenshots or printouts of relevant information can come in handy to help clarify these policies for less well-versed airline employees. It’s prudent to take baggage policies into account when planning a trip and buying tickets. Why take the budget airline if they are sticklers at the baggage counter and will likely charge you double or triple to fly with your bike? Check out our Cyclist’s Guide To Airlines to see the baggage policies for various airlines. This will allow you to choose the least expensive ticket + baggage fees depending on your travel plans. Essential information when some airlines may try to charge you $150 each way on top of your ticket price.
Advanced Packing Tips For Flying With A Bike
Once you’re comfortable with packing your bike and flying with it, we have some more tips and tricks to help you get the most out of flying with your bike. These can help minimize the risk of getting charged extra fees, keeping you bike safe, and making use of all the available space in your bags.
The best way to increase your odds of flying for free is to use Curbside check-in. They’re less likely to break out the measuring tape and while a hardcase won’t make it by, we find a 90+ % success rate even with our larger and oversized cased. A $5 tip is well worth it here.
Filling The Bag
Once you feel comfortable with packing your bike, you can get a feel on where you might have extra room to store other gear. The experienced traveler will fill their bike case with extra tools, a pump, and extra clothing. The goal here is to fill up your bike case right up to the weight limit (generally 50lbs). This will allow you more room in your other bags and enable to not have to pay for additional checked bags. The bonus here is that soft good such as extra cycling clothing can take up dead space and prevent loose parts from rubbing or bouncing around, protecting your bike.
What’s in the Bag
If for some reason you do get questioned you can fall back on some tried and (semi) true explanations for what’s in the bag. The key here is to never admit defeat, there’s no Guantanamo Bay for people trying to fly with their bikes. Here’s our top 10: