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Travel Tip — Flying with Your Bike

By Blue Competition Cycles | June 29, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)

Flying to a race with a bike has never been an easy prospect, but recently things seemed to have become tougher and more expensive than ever. Airlines have declared war on anyone traveling with their bike by charging excess weight and baggage fees that can sometimes exceed the price of your ticket. 

Experienced racers have learned that flying with your bike packed in a soft-sided bag is your best shot at avoiding some of these outrageous fees. Soft cases are smaller and much lighter than the traditional hard shell case, giving you a better shot at getting checked-in without having to fork over large sums of cash. 

Regardless of which case you decide to use going to your next event, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on packing your bike to help insure it arrives unscathed. Additionally, here are some tips from the pros on how to get your bike to the races as safely and cheaply as possible:

“I like to go to Home Depot and buy two of the 6 foot long foam insulation tubes used for 1-inch hot water pipes, cut them to match the length of each tube, fork blade, seat stay, and chain stay, and zip tie them into place for extra protection without adding weight.” 
— Tina Pic  (Five-time National Criterium Champion)

“I shift the chain into the big ring so that the chain covers the teeth, protecting it from potential damage.  I use zip ties to hold the chain into place on the big chain ring so it doesn’t slip off during shipping.” 
— Brent McMahon (Canadian National Champion, New Orleans 70.3 Champion, Two-time XTERRA World Championships 3rd place)

“I like to keep my packed bag lightweight so that I do not have to pay overweight luggage fees at the airport. I accomplish this by not packing any extra gear into the bag with the bike. I always carry my shoes and helmet separately in a carry-on bag.” 
— Andreas Raelert (Two-time Olympian, IM Arizona Champion, 2nd place 70.3 World Championships)

“If I am traveling with two bicycles, I can remove the wheels and pack both bicycles into one bag and carry all the wheels separately in my wheel bags. You can save a lot of money flying this way” 
— Laura Van Gilder (US National Cyclocross team member and NRC Road Champion)

“I find it useful to carry a small bottle of degreaser, a wiping rag, a set of Allen keys, and a package of 50 zip ties with me when I travel with my bike.” 
— Sarah Haskins (U.S. National Triathlon Champion, Member of 2008 US Olympic Triathlon Team)

“To avoid questions about what is inside the bag, I try to look as inconspicuous as possible. Fortunately, my case is discrete looking. If I walk into the airport with a ‘Bound for Paris Roubaix’ shirt, a helmet strapped to my bike bag, and shoes sticking out of my backpack, I’m a lot more likely to be charged an oversized luggage fee.” 
— Heather Wurtele (IM Coeur d’Alene Champion, 3rd place IM Canada)

“I am a tall guy and ride one of the largest bikes. When packing my bike, I remove the front brake caliper from the fork, remove the fork, and put the fork into one of the inside pockets. This allows me to tilt the bike forward so that the seat mast does not stick up too high.” 
— Trevor Wurtele (Top 15 IM Arizona, 6th IM Coeur d’Alene)

Blue Competition Cycles is a gold partner of USA Triathlon. Visit the Blue Competition Cycles website at