How to bring bikes on vacation?
April 29, 2009 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Mrs. Argyle and I want to take our road bikes on vacation this summer. What's the best way to take them along?

We live in LA and will be going to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Hard bike cases look to cost in excess of $300. The airlines want $150+ to bring them on the plane.

Any experience with packing & shipping bikes to a bike shop at the destination who can reassemble them and after a week, re-pack and ship them home?

Any bike boxes that cost less than $300 that are meant for shipping?

Thanks!
posted by Argyle to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can rent bikes just about anywhere on the Outer Banks. Is there a reason you have to bring yours?
posted by COD at 1:42 PM on April 29, 2009


We ride road bikes that are fit out to our sizes and particular likes for longer rides. We aren't looking for cruiser/fixed bikes that we've seen typically rented. I haven't seen any place in the outer banks that rents high end road bikes would fit them out for longer rides.
posted by Argyle at 1:47 PM on April 29, 2009


I highly doubt you'll get bike shops to assist you on this. I've bought numerous frames and bikes and such on eBay and I've never gotten a bike shop to agree to have them shipped there (even when I'm going to be buying parts from them and having them build them up). They don't want to sign for product that is not theirs.

The Austin video on this page shows the MashSF guys arriving in Austin with bikes in both hard cases and bike boxes so you may be able to just bring them in proper bike boxes (which your LBS will probably sell you or give you).

If you plan on travelling a lot with your bikes, you can have them converted to be more travel-friendly by adding S&S Couplers, which allow the bike to come apart so it'll fit in a smaller case. Bilenky does this, though it ain't cheap. For an idea of how doing this affects travel-size, check out Freeman Transport's gallery. Their bikes all come with S&S Couplers standard.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:03 PM on April 29, 2009


When I buy a bike on eBay, it costs about $75 to get it shipped to me. So, that's going to come to about $300 to ship both your bikes both ways. Re-assembling a boxed bike is something you can do yourself - none of the cabling is removed so it's just putting the wheels back on, re-attaching pedals, and re-attaching your handlebar (brakes/shifters are not removed from the handlebar).

re: bike shop- get it shipped to your hotel instead?
posted by bobot at 2:03 PM on April 29, 2009


I don't know of any at your destination, but it has been my experience that local bike shops will gladly disassemble/pack (and vice versa) your bike for $20 to $30. Just call a few and get some price quotes.

And you're right, this is a far better option than renting if you have the money.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:16 PM on April 29, 2009


If it's a high end road-bike, presumably most of the parts you need to take off are quick release? I have traveled with my bicycle by plane using a bike-bag; the wheels, saddle, pedals and handlebars need to come off for it to fit in. It's not difficult, and just two hex keys were required (and an awareness which way you need to turn pedals to remove them). I used a semi-hard case which protected the bike well.

Could you send a two-bike bag to where you are staying in advance by courier? Then you could reassemble, use and post back.

I realize this option requires the purchase of a bike bag, but you would have it afterwards for future traveling which is perhaps a bonus?
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 2:49 PM on April 29, 2009


Colorado Cyclist cells a coroplast box for about $110 that lets you ship the bike with minimal disassembly. This would be a better bet than the extensive disassembly that would be required to use the kind of bike box that bike makers user. Even if you need to do a more extensive disassembly for some reason, it shouldn't be anything you couldn't manage on your own. Pulling the seat, handlebars, and pedals requires only a long-handled wrench and an allen key.

As for package receiving, see if there's a UPS store in the area. Back when I worked for Mail Boxes Etc (which became the UPS store), package receiving was one of our typical services. You might even be able to get them to hold onto the boxes for the duration of your visit for a small fee.

Tip on packing: a relatively cheap 'n' easy way to add some protection to your frame's tubes is to slip pipe insulation over them.
posted by adamrice at 3:21 PM on April 29, 2009


I have S&S couplers on my touring bike. They're great for packing the bike into a regulation-size suitcase to avoid airline surcharges. However they cost a fair amount of money, and they can only be installed on round tubes (pretty rare, these days).

Any experience with packing & shipping bikes to a bike shop at the destination who can reassemble them and after a week, re-pack and ship them home?

I work in a bike shop. Not just any bike shop, either -- pretty much the snootiest roadie shop in town. We do this for customers all the time, re-using leftover manufacturers' cardboard bike boxes. Even if it's a P4 costing $10,000+.

There is a standard way to pack bikes -- if followed then the package should be bomb proof. After all, we receive thousands of new bikes each year and send back at most a couple due to damage. A good packing job involves foam or cardboard around all the tubes, spacers in the fork dropouts to prevent compression, and these plastic disc things (WTF are they called???) that attach to the hubs and rear derailleur so that they don't pierce the sides of the box. The rear wheel is left in the frame, the front wheel removed and ziptied to the side of the bike, with the skewer removed. Put padding between everything. Detach the handlebar only -- leave the stem on the steertube so that headset and fork remain securely attached to frame. Remove seatpost and pedals, of course, and wrap these items separately. You may as well put things like shoes, helmet, clothing, accessories, etc in the box too because couriers charge by the greater of Rate A x Volume, or Rate B x Total Weight, and a packed bike box is pretty light for its size.

The cardboard boxes are all built to an industrial standard, and marked well to indicate how they should be handled (don't lay flat, don't stack horizontally). Reputable shippers such as Fedex, UPS, etc all know how to handle bike boxes properly. We charge $30 per bike for everything (re-used box, foam, extra padding, labour)... I can't imagine it being much more than that where you are.

Unless you're completely incompetent, you'll figure out how to re-pack the bike when you're unpacking it on arrival. Take photos if you tend to forget. Make sure you have extra zip ties (long, beefy ones) and packing tape (NOT duct tape) on hand.
posted by randomstriker at 8:13 PM on April 29, 2009


I highly doubt you'll get bike shops to assist you on this. I've bought numerous frames and bikes and such on eBay and I've never gotten a bike shop to agree to have them shipped there (even when I'm going to be buying parts from them and having them build them up). They don't want to sign for product that is not theirs.

You gotta understand something: eBay is different. eBay is the enemy of bricks & mortar retail. Why the hell would the LBS want to help you out if you're just gonna buy stuff from eBay?

If you're a cyclotourist who needs help, I'm pretty sure that the bike shop will be very happy to accommodate you. Just don't mention eBay.
posted by randomstriker at 9:40 PM on April 29, 2009


Just don't mention eBay.

I don't mention eBay. I say things like, "I'm importing a vintage frame from Japan and am having it shipped..." They don't want it shipped to them, period.

Yes, any bike store will help you with a box and unpacking/packing, if you walk in the door, but I've never met a bike shop that will receive a package that they didn't order. Believe me, I've called every bike store in Toronto. And I'm a known customer at some of these stores.

Are you saying the bike shop you work at regularly has bikes shipped to it by its customers?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:48 AM on April 30, 2009


"I'm importing a vintage frame from Japan and am having it shipped..."

Come on dude, we're underpaid but we're certainly not stupid. A line like that has eBay written all over it. We can smell you coming from a mile away, especially if you're "a known customer". Bike shops barely make any money off paying customers as is, so there is no incentive for us to help out freeloaders like you.

To the original poster, if you say "I'm arriving in town to do a triathlon / do some cyclo-touring, and I have my bike boxed. Can I ship it to you so that you can re-assemble it for me? I'm hoping you can re-box for me it also at the end of my stay. I assume you will charge me a fee, and I promise to pick it very promptly", then I can't imagine why they would refuse. We certainly won't.
posted by randomstriker at 10:17 AM on April 30, 2009


Just to add a data point I've shipped my bike to a few shops near touristy places and some are pretty used to it if you explain the circumstances.
posted by asterisk at 3:47 PM on April 30, 2009


Thanks for the tips. We've got a good idea of what we need to do.
posted by Argyle at 5:50 PM on April 30, 2009


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