Who's Checked Their Bike on an Airplane?

I was wondering what folk’s experience is with checking their bikes on airline flights? I would box it like I would ship it (obviously). Seriously, I won’t try to carry it on and jam it in the overhead!

It looks like it would cost a conventional luggage fee versus which is way less than shipping it via Shipbikes or other comparable service. However, if most people’s experience is they get a deformed and broken High tech garbage heap at the other end or simply don’t get anything at all I will reconsider this otherwise brilliant sounding plan…

Thanks and Ride Right!

28 Replies

Iceman, June 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Paul, my Serfas box is considered (using United as an example) oversized. Accordingly, to ship on United it would be $35 each way (second checked bag fee), $100 each way for oversized charge, and $50 each way (if you choose the max insurance coverage of $5k, although my bike would cost nearly twice that to replace) – total round trip of $370 on United Airlines.

Yes, it is more convenient to ship with PBV and certainly much, much cheaper.

Oh yes – I have been contemplating replacing the Serfas box with a Tri box (a bit wider; no need to disassemble other than to remove the pedals and wheels, turn down the handbars) but FedEx considers my Serfas to be the max allowable, and calls the Tri box oversized (i.e., price goes up by 20%).


Pdiddly, June 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Thanks Iceman. I picked up a box from shipbikes.com and it looks pretty good. I’ll probably only get two maybe three trips out of it, but it’s pretty well thought out. It does require some disassembly which is not a problem for me. Wheels, handlebars, pedals; and I’ll detach and secure the derailleur plus support the forks with spacers and plenty of padding.


trknight, June 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Down the road, think about a Ritchey Break Away or a bike with S & S couplers. I have a Ritchey, a full sized bicycle, that packs in a case that is a normal check on airlines. The top tube and seat tube are seperated and clamp around the seatpost. A clamp fits around flanged ends of the bottom tube where it comes apart just in front of the bottom bracket. Cables have cable connectors. If you didn’t look close, you wouldn’t realize the bike is a “travel bike”. I’ve taken it on RAGBRAI and I’ve seen others on the ride as well. I’ve travelled with it many times around the country and to Europe.


Iceman, July 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I’m not trying to sell bike cases for any company but I think I’m switching to one of these. It’s the Tri-all case. You can leave your derailleur on and leave pedals on. It’s still oversized for FedEx/UPS rules (and for some but not all airlines) but even if it is, it’s still much cheaper and certainly more convenient/reliable than putting you bike on a plane.



gingerjet, July 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm

The notion that the airline will break your bike is frankly FUD and is usually pushed by those who don’t fly regularly or are pushing shipping services. Airlines handle these things all the time.

Personally – I’m flying from San Diego to Minneapolis where I’m meeting up with a team. I’m taking a direct flight (to avoid a delay if the bike misses the transfer) and I’m using a hardcase. There are a couple of advantages to this but I think the most important one is that the bike stays with you. There are just too many variables that can go wrong with shipping a bike. Plus I can use my bike right up to the flight.

Delta charges 150 bucks each way.


Iceman, July 5, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Gingerjet – it is not”FUD” which I guess means something like bs. I have had two bikes damaged by airlines (one in a plastic case, one in cardboard) and I have had one bike “misdirected.” They limit their liability to unrealistic amounts, they won’t deliver your bike to you (you are responsible for going back to your destination to get it). They are roughly twice as expensive as bike shipping services. And I have no desire to drag my case across, say, Iowa.

And yes, I travel about three times per month.


Sandaltan ., July 5, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I will never consider air travel “reliable”. I have had way too many “experiences”. Among them, an employee flew out to D.C. for training and on the way back someone opened her luggage and removed her “unmentionables” and a bottle of perfume. Yes, the airline reimbursed her but think about her embarrassment when she opened her luggage…

RIDE RIGHT … if you have time to spare go by air.


Dale White, November 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I had to fly with my bike multiple times. There are couple things to keep in mind: The size restriction of 62 linear inches that most airlines adhere to as being oversized is impossible to conform to for most fixed frame bikes in a travel case. Even the ultra-compact Trico IronCase traveling bike box measures 45” x 28” x 12” or 75 linear inches. The box itself weighs 26 lbs so packing a bike and some accessories into the box you will certainly exceed the 50 lb over weight restriction.

This is useful article to read about this : how to fly with your bike


trknight, November 15, 2013 at 3:14 am

I have a Ritchey Breakaway, a full sized bike. The frame “splits in two” and packs in a regular check case (no added fees). I check it on airlines at least 5-10 times a year and I’ve had it for about 5 years. I’m on my 2nd case with it but with a little care in packing I’ve had no issues with damage on the frame or components. It’s made it easy to travel with a bike. In fact it’s with me on a business trip to California this week, will be with me next week on another to Arizona and in a month I’ll be in Spain with it. Cycling, tapas, paella and rioja…. Somebody’s got to do it, right? πŸ˜›


Sandaltan ., November 15, 2013 at 10:25 am

We are envious Trknight!!! Have a good time and bring us back a bottle of Spanish red.



Iceman, November 26, 2013 at 8:45 am

Looking back at the posts to this thread, three more things come to mind.

1st – on a regional jet, even if you bike case fits in the cargo hold and you are willingly to pay two or three times the price of UPS or FEDEX, again remember “cargo hold” actually means your bike case is considered “cargo.” Thus, it goes LAST. Trust me – it happened to me. And that means it is loaded last after all the “normal” bags. If there is no room left to jam your bike case it, your “cargo” is “held” at its departure point until there is room. And I promise you – no airline will volunteer to take your bike case to you. It’s your responsibility to go back to the original destination airport (say, for RAGBRAI, Omaha airport) to fetch your case, not the airlines. And, since the airline “warned you” that it is subject to “cargo hold,” they won’t pay for a rental bike for the first day or two o RAGBRAI, assuming you can find one.

2nd – no matter who you use to ship your bike (airlines or FEDEX or whomever), take off your rear derailleur prior to shipping. I have a hard plastic Serfas case – great case – but most cases (not all) “flex” a bit and if your rear derailleur is left mounted on your frame when you ship the bike in your case (even if it is padded prior to packing), the shipping services and certainly the airlines are likely to throw other boxes, bags, etc. on top of your case. The result often is either a bent derailleur hangar or worse, both a bent derailleur hangar AND a broken rear derailleur. Again – I speak from experience on this issue. Fortunately, I am compulsive enough to carry a spare hangar with me (cheap insurance for $10) if I’m too lazy to remove the rear derailleur prior to shipping. Sometimes I do, sometimes not.

3rd – If you buy one of those funny wedge shaped cardboard bike shipping boxes (looks like a big wedge of cheese), check with your shipper first. Some will (and some won’t) charge you extra for irregular shaped containers. The shippers are not so much concerned with weight as shape.

Good luck!


Iceman, May 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

Bumped up for May of 2014 forum.


Pdiddly, July 3, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Good job Ice. I remember the regional jets can be a big surprise when trying to get your bike box from point a to b. You’ll be in Cedar Rapids or Des Moines, but your bike will be in Denver because it wouldn’t fit in the small hold of the Canadair….


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