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Bike Prep for Air Travel
by Ken Bonner

Ken answered a question on the club forum about the logistics of flying with bikes. Reprinted here with Ken's permission.

I’ve packed my bike in a plastic bag supplied by Air Canada for the 5 times I have gone to PBP. So far, no calamities, but you never know. Sometimes they give you the bag, sometimes there is a $5-10 charge for the bag. Let the air out of the tires (they insist you do this); and, reverse the pedals so the pedal is sticking in towards the frame (don’t forget to bring a pedal wrench). Also, turn the handle bars sideways so the hooks are under the frame. The one time I had a rear rack on the bike, I left it attached.

Also, some folks have used new mattress plastic bag coverings rather than the airline supplied plastic bag. Note: If you get an airline plastic bag, check that it is for bicycles, as once I received one which was for wheel chairs (the wheel chair one is too small).

I use foam pipe insulation to wrap around the wheels, forks, and frame. Put the chain on the small front chain ring; the large rear cog (the rear derailleur does not stick out so far). I use a large sponge I have hollowed-out around the rear derailleur and duct tape it on. I also use duct tape to keep the pipe insulation in place.

Another alternative is to purchase a lot of Saran Wrap (or equivalent) and wrap the whole bike in many layers. Throw it all away when you arrive in Paris. Go to the local supermarket in France, buy some more for your return trip.

I’ve used a bike box once for LEL --- it was a hassle!

The theory is that baggage handlers assume a boxed/padded bag bike is ‘bomb-proof’, so it gets treated accordingly. They can see through a plastic bag & see that it is fragile. Sometimes bikes will be loaded on a separate freight carton.

Also, another reason to arrive in Paris early … your bike might be delayed. Once, my bike was delayed in Heathrow. The folks in Paris said not to worry as they knew where it was. (Implying, sometimes they don’t know where your baggage is?) It was finally delivered by taxi to my hotel late the evening before the bike check. In 2003 Karen Smith’s bike did not show up until after PBP! She ended up riding PBP on a borrowed bike.


June 10, 2011