Taking a bicycle on an aeroplane

2009-06-07Comments

It’s perfectly possible to take your bicycle on an aeroplane as part of your regular baggage allowance, though it’s worth double-checking when you book your ticket. The instructions on the British Airways website (look for baggage, then sporting goods) read:

British Airway notes on cycle transport

I’ve taken a bike without problem and without any prearrangement through SYD, LHR, LAX, LGW, BSL. Be aware, though, that large airports are designed for efficient road access by car, bus and coach. You’ll need to be a confident cyclist to (e.g.) cycle up to one of the Heathrow terminals.

Folding bicycle bags aren’t expensive and pack small enough to fit in a rucksack or pannier. If you’re precious about a new bike, it may be worth taking some bubble wrap or newspaper to protect the bike-in-a-bag from jostling on the luggage carousel.

Some more tips:

  • clean your bike beforehand, otherwise you’ll get filthy dismantling it at the airport
  • in any case, have some tissues to hand for cleaning up
  • Dru suggests using disposable latex gloves, which I’ll definitely be taking with me next time
  • have some small bags to put pedals, nuts and bolts into — a decent saddle bag will also do this job
  • you should be able to prepare a modern bike for aeroplane transport in just a few minutes with nothing more than a set of allen keys, but check in advance you can unscrew your pedals; natural cycling action tightens them into the cranks, and it may take some force to loosen them
  • cable ties are a great way to fasten the bike parts securely together.

Here’s my Trek Pilot ready to go in a folding cycle bag. I took the photo outside Basel international airport, after a cycling trip I made with Richard last year to the Vosges mountains. Pedals and tools are packed safely in the saddle bag.

Bicycle dismantled

The BA website suggests deflating the tyres to reduce risk of damage. I don’t understand what damage you’re risking (anyone?), but I dutifully followed these instructions. It’s a nuisance, though; I can never inflate my tyres to optimum pressure using a hand-pump, and there’s no room for a floor pump in a cyclist’s luggage. Last year we found a cycle shop in Masevaux where they were happy to sort us out.