Here is a great article written by friends of Bike Box Buddy www.yellowjersey.co.uk who offer comprehensive bike insurance at competitive rates:
It’s summer, and it’s Tour de France season. Cycling is in the air, and huge numbers of Yellow Jersey customers are heading over to the continent and further afield for sportives, triathlons and touring holidays. I know many of our age groupers are heading off to the ETU European Triathlon Championships in Geneva this weekend for 3 days of racing, and this is exactly what our Insurance is designed for. We’re here to let you enjoy yourself, without worrying about your bikes; we have you covered.
Taking a long planned trip can be an exciting time, but travelling with bikes is at best a pain, and at worst an unwelcome stress. Bike bags and boxes come in all shapes and sizes at a dizzying array of price points; we all know airlines take bikes in the hold, but they are rarely forthcoming with how much it is going to cost or what you need to do in advance to make sure your bike ends up where it needs to be. Let us take the strain out; follow our top tips on travelling with your bicycle.
Packing Your Bike
You have a few main options when packing your bicycle: a hard shelled box or soft bike bag are your best bets, having been designed specifically for the task with pockets for wheels and gear, and often extra accessories for added protection.
- Remove anything that sticks out. Take off your pedals and tri bars, and absolutely don’t have them poking out of the zips. A little extra bubble wrap or cardboard on protruding tri bars isn’t going to stop them getting rubbed or snagged on an airport conveyor.
- Remove the rear derailleur. This makes all the difference,particularly in a soft case. With the derailleur hanging out to one side, it is in danger of being snagged through your bag, bashed or crushed, and with nowhere to go, highly likely to be bent or even snapped off. There is no need to take it off the chain; once it’s loose wrap it in a small towel, and tie them together to the chain stay. The towel will prevent the frame from being scratched, but still allow the derailleur enough movement to protect it from damage. Check out YouTube if you’re not sure how, but it takes an Allen Key and about 30 seconds to detach.
- Cable-Tie the chain to the big ring. The teeth on your big chainring will chew through pipe lagging, towels, and your padded bag if you’re not careful; and a bash at the right angle can easily chip a tooth off even through soft padding. You can securely hold the chain on the big ring with a couple small cable ties, and it will form a sheath to keep the chainring safe. Any padding put on top will be saved from a big-ring-mauling, and any stress on the teeth will be distributed over a wider area.
- Brace the forks and drop outs. In reality, crushing is an uncommon cause of damage during transit, but the forks and stays are vulnerable to this with their wheels removed. While more expensive bike bags and boxes may come with some form of bracing, most will not. Old hubs will do, and some companies produce braces specifically for this purpose. Your local bike shop on the other hand will likely have a box of old plastic spacers, which came on their frames when they were delivered. Chances are they will have held on to some to give out to customers who need them. They are light, and do exactly what you need them to.
Largely, safely packing your bicycle comes down to considering the types of stress it is likely to come under when out of your hands at an airport. We have all seen videos on YouTube of bags being mishandled by staff, but in reality, most bag handlers are a safe pair of hands. They work under constant scrutiny, on view to passengers as well as travellers in departures and arrivals. Baggage handlers who don’t take care of our possessions, don’t last long.
In most scenarios, bikes become damaged by the automated conveyor systems in airports. Your bag will be pushed back and forth along metal channels and shoots by large mechanical arms, and dragged along inclines by conveyor belts. There is a huge disparity in the quality of these systems at different airports, but anything protruding is in danger of getting snagged or rubbed, causing damage to your bike, bag, or both. Large items such as your bicycle are loaded last and by hand, so oddly enough, the aeroplane itself is the place where you need worry about it the least.
Most of all, try to relax. Our bikes are precious to all of us, and it’s unusual to let it out of our site if not safely locked away. If you take care while packing your bag, your bike should be fine, and if anything does happen to it, we have you covered
None of the airlines make it particularly easy to see exactly how much extra it is going to cost you to stow your bike. In a time of low cost airlines making the money up wherever they can, it’s hardly surprising, and price comparison websites are rarely any help either, usually not giving the option to add the bike into the quote, presumably to show you the lowest price they can for the trip.
- Book in advance. Most charge between £25 and £50 each way, with the price usually lower if the bike bag is paid for in advance rather than on the day. Pre booked bikes are also more likely to get on the same flight as you, and it is in your interest to check them in early, as large items can be moved to a later flight if there isn’t enough space for them. At this time of year, there is no shortage of cyclists heading over to the continent, particularly if you are traveling to a large sportive.
- Check your weight. The most important thing to consider is weight allowance. Our bikes don’t weigh a huge amount, but a hard shell bike box can, particularly as most of us will try and stuff everything else we own around the bike. The maximum weight for one bag on any airline is 32kg, above which they will refuse to handle it for health and safety reasons. Most airlines have a weight limit a fair way below this for bicycles, the limit on Monarch for example being just 13kg, with anything over incurring significant excess baggage charges. Double check with the airline the weight allowance for bikes to avoid an unexpected extra cost.
The EuroStar are a little more helpful with their information, dividing up their faqs into areas popular with cyclists, and providing information on popular destinations. They require you to pre-book your spot, but don’t always guarantee your bike will leave on the same train as you. Only a problem at particularly busy times (during the Tour de France for example) you may have to wait for the bike to arrive on the next train across. If you are catching a connection down to the Pyrenees, it may not be an option for you to hang around in Paris for an hour, and so it is possible to drop your bike off at Kings Cross early (even the night before) to reserve your spot on the train.
What’s the Worst Case Scenario?
It doesn’t happen often, but bicycles are lost stolen and broken in transit. Fifteen riders from one of our local clubs, Red Hill CC, had their bikes left behind their flight to Mallorca in March. We want you to travel and race without concern for your possessions, so not only are your bikes, and boxes covered, we will pay you back for a hire bike too, so there is no reason to miss out.
We don’t want your bikes to be damaged in transit any more than you do, and after meeting with Polaris, we are to offer our customers a discount on their Bike boxes and bags. Click here to find out more.