Are you thinking about taking your bike on vacation or an exotic training camp? Is your dream race too far away to drive to? Chances are, you’ll have to take your bike on a plane. Is it better to pack your bike in a hard case or a padded bag? How to disassemble and protect your bike properly to ensure it arrives without a scratch?

Prep your bike

Almost all airlines require you to pack your bike in a bag or box to take it on board. Regardless of which option you choose, it’s advisable to protect your bike by disassembling and wrapping it. You should strip it off pedals, wheels, and handlebars. You’ll need a set of allen keys and a pedal spanner for the job; don’t forget to bring those with you on the trip so that you can reassemble the bike when you arrive. You should also deflate your tires a little bit. Some airlines require you to do that but even if they don’t it is a good idea because the cabin pressure can cause tyres to over-inflate.

Depending on how much you invest in a box or a bag, you will need to add some extra padding. Bubble wrap is always a good option for this but consider using your clothes to save space in your carry-on. Just check with your airline if they allow clothes in your bike case, some demand that it only contains your bike. Lastly, if you can, make sure it’s visible on the box or bag that there’s a bike inside. The airport staff is human so there’s a chance they’ll treat it better. Unfortunately, that won’t help with conveyor belts and other machinery. That’s why choosing a good bag or box is essential.

How various airlines treat your beloved companion.

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Bike Box

Bike boxes are the ultimate protection, they are a great option if you travel a lot and your bike is really expensive. Thy will cost you about 400 – 900 EUR.

Advantages

• It’s the best possible protection for your bicycle.
• They are very durable and will survive countless flights.

Disadvantages

• They can get quite pricey.
• They take up storage space at home.
• They add a lot of weight (about 16 kg or 36 pounds).

Bike Bag

If you travel with your bike only occasionally, then bike bags will offer a much better value. You can buy them for 50 – 500 EUR and they still protect your bike very well if used properly.

Advantages

• They can be quite cheap.
• They are very light yet still durable.
• They don’t take up storage space.

Disadvantages

• They require a bit of practice to be packed well.
• With cheaper models, you will need to add padding.

Cardboard box

If you’re on a tight budget you can always go with a cardboard box. You can ask your local bike shop, they usually just throw them away so they’ll be happy to give one away for free.

Advantages

• They are for free.
• They are very lightweight.

Disadvantages

• They don’t offer much protection at all.
• You need to add a lot of padding and it takes time to fit everything well.
• You might need to replace them on the return journey if they’re too damaged.