Travel Tips: How-To Take A BMX Bike On An Airplane Without Being Charged
Text and video by Fat Tony. Images via Google Images
Traveling with a BMX bike on an airplane is something that all of us here at Ride do on a regular basis, and so does just about every professional BMX rider out there. Here are a bunch of tips for traveling with a bike without being charged for it along with a video showing you how quickly and easily you can break down your bike for airline travel.
Don’t ask me why, but if an airline knows you have a bicycle in your luggage they will charge you—up to $100 each way! Luckily there are ways around it and you don’t have to let that stop you from flying with your bike. With the right kind of bag and packing job you will be able to breeze through check in with no problems, and without shelling out any extra cash.
CHOSING THE RIGHT BAG
Although airlines charge you if they know you have a bike, they don't charge you for military gear, hockey equipment, or golf clubs. So here are a few options for “bike bags” that you can take on a plane without paying anything extra.
Military Duffel Bag (Cheap)
You can pick up a military style canvas duffle bag at an army surplus store for pretty cheap. The downfall to this inexpensive option is that it doesn’t have wheels and is extremely awkward and heavy to carry. Another negative to this approach is that you often will have to do some creative rigging to get it to stay closed properly, and your forks, axles, pegs, or other bike parts that stick out can rip the canvas pretty easily. Keep in mind, the size of the bag will determine how much you will have to take your bike apart to make it fit.
Hockey Gear Bag (Moderately Priced)
At most large sporting goods stores you can find hockey gear bags that are big enough to fit a bike. However, most of them are too small to be able to leave your rear wheel on, so you’ll have to spend a little more time packing and rebuilding your bike. Some of these bags have wheels, and some do not, but if you don’t want the hassle of the military style bag and have a little extra money to spend, this could be a good middle-ground solution.
Golf Bag (Expensive)
If you are going to be traveling a lot with your bike and want to do it like the pros do, this is the way to go. Golf travel bags are made for bringing an entire set of golf clubs in their original bag on the plane without having to do anything, so they are really tall and have a ton of room in them. For these kinds of bags you only need to remove the front wheel/front pegs, the bars/stem, and the forks—all of which can be done in about five minutes. (My personal record is three minutes.) Since golf bags are made for flying on airplanes the people that check you in for your flight rarely, if ever, question you at check in. Also, golf bags have great handles and wheels making it really convenient for getting around with. DK and Ogio both make great golf bags that are perfect for flying a bike.
– The weigh limit for most airlines is 50lbs in the US and 70lbs when flying internationally. The bigger your bag is, the heavier it is, and the less stuff you’ll be able to put in it after putting your bike in it. You may want to weigh it on a scale at your house before going to the airport because you don’t want it to be overweight and be asked to remove items at the counter and have to unzip it in front of the check in agent.
– Most of the time (especially with golf bags), these large makeshift bike bags will be classified as “oversized” luggage. Although you won’t get charged extra for it, they will not come out with the other luggage at the airport baggage claim carousel. Each airport has a separate area for oversized luggage, so you will have to pick up your bike bag at a different place than your other checked bags.
– If a check in agent ever asks you what is in your bag you need have a believable story ready. You never want to tell them it is a bike or make them suspicious enough to make you open it.
PACKING YOUR BIKE
How much you have to take your bike apart will always depend on what kind of bag you have. The bigger the bag, the less you’ll have to take it apart, which means less hassles, less chance of wearing out parts, and less time between removing your bike from the bag and being able to shred the spot. However, no matter what kind of bag you use, there is always a few good general practices of how to make it easier and quicker on yourself and how to protect your bike and parts.
Pack A Good Tool Kit
Having a proper travel tool kit is really important when flying with a bike. You want to have all the essentials and a few “good to have” items all packed away nice and neat in as small of a space as possible; and as lightweight as possible. Extra tools may come in handy, but will also take up more space and more of your weight allotment. My personal travel tool kit includes: socket wrench, extension with 17mm deep hex socket, 6mm Allen head for socket wrench, 8mm Allen wrench, two tire levers, chain breaker, spoke wrench, small multi tool with various sized screw drivers and Allen keys, and a small hand pump. A patch kit and/or spare tube are always good items to bring with you, too.
Protecting Your Bike & Bike Bag
This one is up to your personal preference, what kind of bag you use, and how concerned you are with scratching your bike. If you are using a canvas military bag, there is nothing rigid on the bag to protect your bike, so you will want to wrap the parts with bubble wrap or towels to protect the bike from being beat around at the airport and on the plane. Also, dropouts, bar ends, and pegs should be covered with something protective to prevent them from ripping through the bag. If you use a hockey or golf bag and you don’t want your paint scratched, you can wrap towels or bubble wrap around your bike to help protect it. Keep in mind though, all the packing material you use will have to stay with you on a trip and will take up extra space when your bag is folded up and stored away. When my bike was new I tried to keep it fresh for a while and wrapped it up with two towels, but now since it is old and already scratched to hell I’m not worried about it anymore and only use one towel to wrap around the forks to prevent the headset spacers and caps from being dented.
Do you have tips of your own? We want to hear them. Leave them in the comments on this page to share them with our readers and us.
Here’s a video showing how you can break down your bike and pack it away in a golf bag for traveling.
Video by Fat.