A bicycle for the bus/train/plane
April 20, 2005 9:02 AM   Subscribe

How do you take your bike along when you ride the bus/train/plane?

Checked baggage? Carry on? In a box? As is?

I'm looking to get a new bike, but I want something that travels well. Ideally something that assembles/breaks down in a few minutes with little tools, if any. Something where I can peddle to the Amtrak, throw the bike in a bag, ride, unboard, reassemble, and jump back on the bike in quick time. Any ideas?
posted by airguitar to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here's a good litte site: travel with bikes
posted by yonation at 9:06 AM on April 20, 2005

You are looking for a "folding bike." Much info here.
posted by caddis at 9:08 AM on April 20, 2005

There are a lot of different models of folding bikes if that's the route you want to go. I'd recommend taking a look at Bike Friday. They have a lot of different configurations that seem to be tailored to someone who is really into biking and would like to buy a folding bike.
posted by bDiddy at 9:14 AM on April 20, 2005

Travelling on a plane with a bike is usually a PITA and expensive.

Different airlines have different policies, but they generally require that your bike be boxed (they may or may not sell you a box), and will charge you extra ($50 last time I tried, which was a long time ago) for excess baggage. Your bike will be manhandled*, so if you have a nice full-size bike, you're better off getting one of the relatively expensive boxes with padding and tie-downs inside, and packing it at home. Schlepping your semi-disassembled bike to the airport in one of these boxes (and then dealing with the box at the other end) will not be the highlight of your journey.

The Bike Fridays are really appealing to me (I love the fact that the suitcase becomes a trailer). Another interesting option is a full-size frame made with S and S couplers. These have been around for a long time, and have a good rep.

* I did manage to fly with my bike once where I somehow evaded the normal check-in process, walked it into the baggage-handler's area, and handed it to a handler who rolled it, unboxed, onto the plane. That's the one time it wasn't manhandled.
posted by adamrice at 9:29 AM on April 20, 2005

If you're going to travel with a full sized box, it may be more convenient and more safe to box your bike and ship it by UPS, if you have someone on the other side who will receive it. I did that this past September shipping from NJ to OR and back and had no problems at all. Just put it in a regular cardboard bike box that I got for free from a bike shop, took it all apart and packed it up with lots of bubble wrap. No problems.

But, that took me an hour and that's not what you asked for. Still, it's not as hard as it sounds.
posted by bDiddy at 9:36 AM on April 20, 2005

Bus: Load the bike on the bus' front bumper rack.

Train: Place the bike in the designated bike holding area aboard.

Ferry: Place the bike in the designated bike holding area aboard.

Plane: Checked baggage. Last I did this, several years ago, there was a fee of about $100 for domestic flights. No doubt it is more now. You usually have to pop the front wheel off, but if you install a quick release it's no big deal.

I see folks with folding bikes on the train as well, but I've yet to see a folding bike I would want to ride, as folding bikes appear to be optimized for environments completely free of potholes, grates, curbs, hostile taxicabs, hills, and rusty wet rail tracks. If you ride chiefly in suburban or exurban areas, there may be a practical folding bike for you, but so far I'm not yet aware of a truly capable folding urban assault bike. Perhaps that's just my (aggressive, dangerous, bicyclist reputation-destroying, much derided by safer and saner riders) messenger-ish urban riding style that limits my options.
posted by majick at 9:36 AM on April 20, 2005

I had my bike store pack it into a box they had. Different airlines have different policies, so during my flight on American Airlines, they charged me $80 for the bike, but Virgin Atlantic let me carry it in lieu of a second piece of checked baggage for free.
posted by grouse at 10:17 AM on April 20, 2005

also worth noting: several bike advocacy organizations and some airlines, rail services, etc. offer "bikes fly free" programs (some restrictions apply). many of these organizations use adventure travel for booking.
posted by RockyChrysler at 10:51 AM on April 20, 2005

If at all possible, do NOT check your bike in a cardboard box. A few summers ago, a friend and I had to transport out bikes from Atlanta to Vienna (a bad idea to start with, but that's a whole other topic) and used the cardboard boxes. The trip over there was fine, but on the way back, it was raining monsoon-style outside and one might be able to guess, cardboard and rain do NOT go very well together. We got out boxes back with many holes and my friend had missing parts (think the airline carrier cares??). Plus, be prepared for headaches with the airport staff when trying to check your bike at the ticket booth and when trying to retreive it...Here in Atlanta, bike boxed don't fit in the normal baggage claim area and it took us a few hours to track the darn things down.
posted by jmd82 at 11:34 AM on April 20, 2005

i've heard that if you use an expensive case, you should put the case in a cardboard box. the idea is that the container is typically not insured, so if your expensive box is damaged, you lose a lot of money. but if it's in a cardboard box, the expensive box is content, not container, so you can claim on insurance. sounds a bit odd, but might be worth bearing in mind.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:06 PM on April 20, 2005

Ritchey Break Away.

Bike Fridays are cool. I've ridden with plenty of folks that own them and they love them. We have a Co-Motion tandem with S&S couplers. This full size tandem with 700c wheels can go into a suitcase that is 26" x 26" x 14" which is slightly over the airline limit but usually no problem. I have also borrowed and ridden a S&S equipped touring bike for a business trip I took to Oregon a few years ago. You have to be pretty mechanical to put an S&S bike back together, slightly less so for a folder. You didn't say whether you had a preference for a full size bike or a small wheel bike, but if I were in the market for a full size travel bike with 700c wheels I'd take a look at the Ritchey. Goes together fast.
posted by fixedgear at 4:17 PM on April 20, 2005

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