Question: I’m packing my bike to fly to a tour. I don’t have a hard case. Are cardboard boxes okay? If not, what other options are available to me? – Jennifer W.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I don’t recommend using a cardboard box for flying with your bike. You can pad the bike well and maybe luck out, but baggage handlers aren’t noted for their concern regarding bicycles. The $150-$200 bike fee (or more, depending on the carrier) the airlines charge won’t buy you any special care.
If you don’t want to buy a bike-specific case (they’re available in both soft-side and hard-side models, just like luggage), ask your local bike shops about renting one. Or, check with your area clubs for riders who may have a case they’d be willing to rent or lend.
It can be cheaper to ship your bike ahead via UPS, Fedex or another company. However, you still need to pack it as well as when checking it onto a plane. Shipping companies aren’t any more dependable than airlines in terms of treating a bike with care, at least in my experience.
If you find yourself flying with your bike several times a year, definitely look into one made for travel.
I and many other roadies are partial to Bike Friday’s Pocket Rocket, which folds neatly into a Pullman-size suitcase. Because it looks like regular luggage, you don’t get hit with extra charges. It doesn’t take too many roundtrip savings before a Pocket Rocket has paid for itself.
Also on the plus side, a Pocket Rocket rides just as well as a conventional bike. I’ve owned mine for years and use it often flying to events and cycling camps. I’m way in the black after subtracting the price of the bikes from the airline or shipping fees I haven’t had to pay.