Whether you are a Roadie, Triathlete or All-terrain shredder, there comes a time when you are ready to test your skills amongst a new crowd, or simply enjoy the scenery of the road less travelled. Flying with your bike can be a challenge for amateurs and professionals alike, but there is a way to plan and prepare- and take the stress out of your trip.
Choose Your Bike Bag
Choosing the right bike bag for your trip can seem like a complicated decision- there are so many choices! In any bag, your bike is a significant investment and you are choosing a travel bag to ensure it will arrive at your destination ready to roll. The right bag for you will depend on a few things- the type of bike you are transporting (MTB, Road, or TT), what accessories you will require, and your budget. With that said, there are two main types of bike bag that will help narrow down your choices…
Soft Shell Bag: A soft shell bike bag is a great, lightweight option for transporting your bike. Soft bags vary between brands but are commonly constructed from padded nylon, or semi-rigid polymers. They are both effective protectors, and padded nylon bags can also be folded down for easy storage. Some soft bags feature an aluminium frame that your bike can be skewered onto at the fork (just like a wheel) which holds the bike and the bike and bag upright, while other brands utilize a padded system that protects your bike as it rests on it’s side in the bag. In both bags, it is best to provide some extra padding of your own such as lightweight towelling, bubble wrap or foam, to ensure your bike is well supported. Many soft bag bike bags are also equipped with wheels, making them easily manoeuvrable.
Top Tip: Place clothes you are taking on your trip in a plastic bag and use as padding for your bike to economise bag space.
Hard Shell Bag: For those travelling frequently for racing, or in conditions where you might expect your bike bag to wear a bit of battering en route, a hard shell bike bag is the way to go. For the most part soft shell bags provide excellent protection for your bike in transit, but a well packed hard shell bag is the ultimate in protection. However, this does not necessarily mean a hard shell bag is the best option for you. While made from resilient plastics, hard shell bags can be heavier than soft shell bags allowing for fewer secondary items to be included in the bag. This might mean spending money on an additional luggage bag at the airport. Another potential drawback is size; hard shell bags that meet airline requirements don’t always come with enough space for wheels, meaning you may have to transport them in a separate wheel bag. Hard shell bags that do support wheels may incur an extra baggage fee at the airport if they do not meet set airline dimensions, while smaller hard shell bags may also require a greater degree of deconstruction for your bike. Hard shell bags are typically more expensive than soft shell bags. These are all important considerations when deciding which bike bag is right for you.
Scicon Aerotech Evolution 3.0 TSA Bike Travel Case, Hard shell.
Fitting Your Bike Into Your Bike Bag
Whether you have chosen a soft shell bag or hard shell bag, it is almost certain your bike will require some degree of deconstruction in order to fit correctly inside your chosen bag . Most bags will come with their own set of instructions on fitting your bike to the bag- these are important to follow to ensure your bike bag performs at its protective best. Taking apart your bike (and putting it together again!) can be an intimidating part of travel, to help make things easier here is a list of parts of your bike you may need to dismantle, and tips and tools to help the process run smoothly:
Handlebars: You may be required to remove your handlebars from the stem to prevent them from protruding outside the zip-line of your bag. Before you dismantle these, wrap insulation tape around your handlebar on either side of the stem to mark it’s position- this will make it easy for you to reassemble your handlebars with the stem in the same position. For travel, return the stem cap to the stem and screw the bolts back in to ensure nothing gets lost. Tools: Allen keys, insulation tape.
Seat post: You may be required to remove your seat post from your bike in order to fit it within your bike bag. As with your handlebars, it is helpful to wrap insulation tape around the bottom of your seat post before removing it from your bike- this will give you a clear marker for seat height when you reassemble your bike. Take care to find a position for your seat post in the bottom of your bag where it will not rub against your bike frame, it can be helpful to wrap your seat post in bubblewrap or a lightweight towel for extra protection. Ensure you re-tighten your seat clamp after removing the seat post so that the bolt does not come loose and get lost.
Tools: Allen keys, insulation tape.
Pedals: Another part of your bike you might need to remove for fit with your bike bag are your pedals. Depending on your pedal type this may require special tools- either a large allen key, or a pedal wrench. Be careful upon reassembly not to tighten your pedals onto your bike with a tool. Pedals are designed to self tighten during cycling and only require you to tighten with your fingers to the end of the thread to be secure. Tightening with a pedal wrench or allen key can make them very difficult to take off again.
Tools: Pedal Wrench or Large Allen Key.
Wheels: There is currently no bike bag on the market that will allow you to transport your bike without removing the wheels. Some bike bags come with allocated space for your wheels within the bag, while others will intend for your wheels to be transported as a separate piece of luggage (purchase of a wheel bag is recommended in this case). Either way, when you remove your wheels be sure to place the skewers in a safe place with the end cap screwed on. It is recommended when you fly with your bike to release the air from your tyres to avoid conflicts with air pressure during flight. You will not require any special tools to remove your wheels for travel, but it always helps to travel with a spare tube, tyre levers, and a pump.
Choosing your Airline
Flying domestic or international, often your choice of airline will depend on flight schedules and fare price ahead of luggage convenience. Various airlines will have slightly different approaches to bike allowance, with some including a specific bike option that you can buy additional to your allocated luggage, while others require no more than for your allocated bag to be within specified dimensions and weight allowance. These conditions may vary based on specific fare types and rules so it is important to look into these before booking your ticket. It is also important to have an estimate of how much your bike will weigh. If your bike is within the allocated weight you may be able to fit accessories and travel essentials within the bag alongside your bike, while if it is heavy it may require an earlier arrival at the airport to cover any extra costs. For international travel excess weight or additional luggage will only be able to be transacted at the airport upon check in, but it is useful to contact your airline ahead of time to ensure you have adhered to their protocol, and in bag they are able to pre-empt your additional luggage.
Top tip- While the check-in attendants are slapping ‘bulky’ or ‘heavy’ stickers on your bike bag, ask them nicely to add in a fragile tag to go along with them.
Now you are ready to take on the world with your bike in tow! Check out our Torpedo7 Bike Bag Range.