Traveling on a Plane with your Bike

I’m heading to Utah later this year, and it will be the first time I take my bike with me on a long distance trip. If something happens to my bike in transit, do the airlines have a maximum amount that they will pay, similar to lost luggage? If there is a cap on their losses, do the airlines offer additional insurance beyond their normal maximum limit? Should I consider BikeFlights, or something similar, where I can insure my bike up to a higher amount?

Where are you travelling from? I’ve always shipped bikes to the hotel or bike shop since I’ve found it way more convenient and was a ramper in college so I know the beating luggage takes that being said if you’re flying in from Europe you could probably add a rider to your homeowners insurance and a nice hardcase and still come up ahead with how expensive shipping is these days.

Thanks. It’ll be a domestic flight, Boston to SLC. I was thinking about shipping it to the hotel, since i could do BikeFlight and significantly increase the base insurance. It’s a new bike (still acquiring parts to complete the build), so I just want to protect my investment.

Yes, there is a cap on what they will pay. Whether you can buy additional coverage is likely based on the carrier and probably varies in terms of cost, etc.

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Check with your airline on coverage. Most domestic airlines no longer charge for bikes (although you will pay a heavy fee if it’s over 50lbs). An additional rider on your homeowners policy plus keeping the bike at 49lbs is probably cheaper than shipping. There’s no solid guarantee that a shipper will treat it better than a ramp agent. If you put it in cardboard or a soft case (SciCon/Evoc/etc), it’s going on top of other bags. Hard cases go on the bottom.

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I travel frequently with my bike. Years ago, when there were large fees for bike boxes, I invested in custom bikes with S&S couplers. I continue to use these today, and I think these are still a good investment. Schlepping a small bike box is way easier, logistically, than a larger bike box. I put my bikes in a hard case, with “compression members” on the inside with prevents the box from being crushed. With these installed one can stand on the box with no issues. After 20 years with S&S bike travel, I have yet to have an issue.

In terms of airlines causing damage or losing a bike, I personally would not count on them to replace an expensive bike - not even close. Check with your homeowner’s insurance policy. Some insure bikes without a rider, some will require one. You can of course also purchase separate, dedicated bicycle insurance which will insure your bike for its full purchase price whether lost, stolen crashed, or damaged by a careless airline. This is expensive, however.

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One very important consideration is that most airlines in the US specify that if you bike is not in a hard-sided case they will consider it “fragile” and not cover anything for damages.

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Hello. I’ve done boxes via airline or ground in advance, Pika soft bag for a while and more recently a Ritchey breakaway. Would rank each as an improvement over the last. Been fortunate to mostly avoid fees but I think this is mostly a fcn of the carrier. Recovering $s from insurance, even it successful, is poor compensation for the lost time, opportunity, etc. The only bike claims I’ve ever filed were for an MTB stolen from home and a defective Cervelo. Both were clear cut, well-documented claims and still took months to resolve. It’s just the risk you take. 1st decision is I wouldn’t travel with anything I could not afford to lose or have damaged. Anyone else got an insurance claim data pt?

For what its worth, I’ve had two issues with damaged bikes through BikeFlights and they were phenomenal to deal with both times. But, for personal travel, I just invested in a hard sided case and it’s served me well.

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FInd a big screen TV box and pack the bike inside.

I think Kona ships their bikes in cardboard boxes printed to look like TVs.

brilliant…

Back in the day, when asked what was in my box, I would just tell the agent “a wheelchair”. They then either don’t care or are too flusterd to ask for more details (like why, as a clearly able-bodied person, am I travelling with a wheelchair). Worked everytime…but then 9/11 screwed that up and they started checking baggage. Got called back to TSA once and was forced to pay the airline fee once they opened the case.

Why? Is there a reason they do this or are they just being cheeky?

Yes, TSA often left a note to indicate they had inspected - but not repacked properly. Another reason to not travel with anything you cannot afford to lose or have damaged. Also, after having CO2s confiscated a 3rd time, gave up on it altogether and went back to pumps.

Haven’t the foggiest idea, but the boxes I’ve seen look like legit tv boxes.

Same, and just got back from Spain, which was 2 Delta legs plus a Vueling flight. The smaller case for an S&S bike (Orucase sub-62) had no extra fees anywhere, and is a lot easier to transport through airports, rental cars, and hotels than a full size case like an EVOC.

My travel bike is a Carver ti, semi custom. Couplers are Chinese copies of S&S and seem to work fine.