There could be a film in this… Or perhaps not. Cast your mind back to late August 2010. If you were an avid reader of this blog at the time, you may recognise this picture. It is of course my bicycle, Reggie looking a little forlorn to say the least. I had finished my cycle in Brindisi and had been picked up by my good friend Basil for the short return journey to his house in Ostuni where I was to spend a couple of days with him and his wife Liz before flying back to the UK. In the book I wrote the following;
“I wasn’t very chatty as we drove back to Ostuni that afternoon. I had dismantled poor Reggie at Brindisi airport so that he would fit in the back of Basil’s small car and when we arrived at the villa where we would be spending one night before my final night back at the flat in Cisternino, I took him out of the car and left him in an ignominious pile around the back of the building. I felt guilty at having treated him in such a way but he was, after all, just a collection of metal, rubber and plastic. Albeit one with soul.”
We subsequently bundled poor Reggie up in a box from the local bike shop, taped up the box and, not literally, but almost, threw him onto the conveyor belt at Brindisi airport. He survived the journey back to Stansted and onward to Reading but the following day I took him back to the bike shop and asked them to put him back together him. It was a little like the opening sequence to the ‘Six Million Dollar man’. ‘Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…we have the technology…‘. They did and he is still with us.
Unfortunately, I won’t have the expertise of A.W. Cycles to rely upon when I arrive in Athens three weeks today. After Reggie is transported by British Airways flight BA0638, I won’t necessarily have the technology and I am only capable of rebuilding a bike if it still resembles a bike in the first place. So I need to make sure that I take a little more care than I did back in late summer 2010.
This afternoon, I posted what I know about transporting bicycles by air on Twitter in four succinct tweets;
1. Put the bike in a box from a brand new bike from a bike shop.
2. Deflate the tyres.
3. Turn around the handlebars and remove the pedals.
4. Remove the front wheel and attach it to the frame.
And awaited a response… It came in quantity and quality.
Caroline Stewart suggested pipe lagging to protect the bike. D. Phipp-MacIntyre had a warning: “…be wary of gas canister for tyres, lighter fuel, stoves, lighting gel – camping parafernalia“. Mark Sutton: “Remove any air out of the forks and rear shock wrap rear mech from being bashed“. Mike Beckley was the first to mention ‘spacers’: “Detach rear mech. Put spacers between drop outs“. He then clarified that these are pieces of plastic that keep the forks apart when the wheel has been removed. They stop the forks being bent in transit I suppose. Mark Sullivan also mentioned the chains and rear mechanism: “wrap and tape the groupset and derailleur in rags or bubblewrap, wrap the chain in a rag, and tape it to the frame.“
A few links were suggested. Aurelie Owens pointed me in the direction of this useful Bike Radar article which answers most questions that I had. Joel Levitt suggests this bag from Wiggle as an alternative for a box. It has the advantage of showing the baggage handlers what’s inside and (in theory) makes them a little more eager to treat your treasured bike with a little respect. It’s actually branded as a CTC product but is out of stock on Wiggle. Further investigation is needed on that one.
Back to Mike Beckley who should really receive some kind of honour (or perhaps treatment for OCD?) for his ability to box up his beautiful Bianchi bike. Here it is packed and ready to be transported in safety to its destination. The wheels are behind the foam by the way, one wheel on either side of the hinge to the box. Unfortunately I will be flying home from a different airport – probably Lisbon – so I don’t have the option of taking a rigid reusable box with me but hats off to Mike for doing the job properly.
Finally the hashtag #bikesonplanes offered this link from @bike_travel back in April 2012 which includes an entry for British Airways;
“Amazingly enough, there is an airline that will fly your bicycle for free and treat it as a normal piece of checked baggage! That being said, British Airways only allows one free piece of checked baggage per passenger. Therefore, if you are traveling with another box containing your panniers or trailer, you will be charged extra for this second piece of luggage. The only people who can avoid this are those belonging to the airline’s FIRST, World Club, and World Traveler Plus programs. For the rest of us, we’ll be charged anywhere from £20 – £90 ($35 – $150 USD) depending on our destination and the distance of our flight. Register and pay for your excess baggage in advance when you check in online and you’ll save as much as $25 per bag.“
Here is the link that I will need to read before I arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 with Reggie.
Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and ideas earlier this afternoon. It is very much appreciated. Wish me luck!
My advice on transporting bikes by air: take the train, or the ferry, or anything but a plane.