Taking my bike on a plane

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What is the best way to transport your bike on a plane? CTC's Anna Cipullo discovers what happens when you take one bike in a sturdy bike box and another in a CTC plastic bag
Anna Cipullo in Teide Tenerife
CTC's Anna Cipullo tackles Tenerife

Setting off for Tenerife - with bikes

My friend Cris and I decided to take our own bikes and test the CTC knowledge of flying with bikes. I bagged my aluminium Specialized Allez into Wiggle’s comprehensive own-brand (DHB) flight bag complete with separate wheel slots and skewer pockets. Cris took the pedals off his delicate carbon Look and rolled it into a seemingly flimsy CTC bike bag – a giant clear plastic bag also purchased from the CTC shop.

I felt smug until we started walking to the bus station in town. My bag wallowed in the middle and dragged in front of the wheels. I raised it up higher hooking the handles on my forearm and moaned the rest of the way to the station as it was quite a lump to lug around.

The wheels barely helped. I was starting to wish I had one of those fancy EVOC bike boxes on wheels that all the professionals seem to use. Then again, I’m not sponsored, nor am I made of money.

Cris happily trotted along with his light-weight bike under his arm. It looked awkward though, and anyone with a bike weighing more than 18lbs might wish to consider wheels if they are planning on walking a lot.

Reaching the bus station, the bus driver slung my bike in the loading area quite cautiously and then turned to Cris and said “this bike should be in a bag”. We restrained ourselves from the obvious retort and thankfully he let us on anyway. Perhaps more tube padding would have eased his concern for liability, I don’t know. We didn’t have time to discuss this. For reference, this was National Express, but regardless, I would call in advance and explain what you are bringing on board, just to be sure.

At Gatwick Airport

Two hours and a little snooze later and we had arrived at Gatwick Airport. Thankfully trolleys are available to cart bikes and luggage around on, but, why they decided to line the outside of the building with large steel bollards a metre apart is beyond me. I presume it’s some kind of misguided security device, but it forced us to remove our bikes and reload the trolley at each doorway.

This was repeated in the lift on the way to Departures. That wheeled bike box wasn’t looking too expensive by this point. Nonetheless we made it to the desk, from which we were redirected to a separate desk for our bikes. A large round man stood silently, looking concerned. Cris loaded his bike onto the conveyor belt and watched the scales do their thing. The baggage man raised an eyebrow, looked shocked and moved it along.

My bag of rocks was next. Lifting it was a two-person job and we certainly got the scales thinking. He sucked air through his teeth and let out a long sigh.

“Go on then.”

We thanked him graciously, but never found any indication online or in our booking advice that the bike weight had a limit. I’m guessing he was just making his job more interesting, but it’s worth checking before you board as different airlines have different policies. Also, bring a copy in black and white to be sure.

Anyhow, we were off. The bikes were going through the airport mangling system and we were cosy on our plane, planning the week’s routes.

Damage in transit

 Four hours later we stepped out onto a cloudy but warm island to check the damage.

Cris, with his carbon pride-and-joy wrapped in nothing but a piece of plastic found his bike to be in perfect condition. Me, with my sturdy steed and large padded bag, found my bike with a bent rear derailleur hanger!

Cris, with his carbon pride-and-joy wrapped in nothing but a piece of plastic found his bike to be in perfect condition. Me, with my sturdy steed and large padded bag, found my bike with a bent rear derailleur hanger!

Whether the baggage people handled Cris’s bike with more care because it was visible or because it was lighter and thus easier to move I don’t know, but those are the facts.

And for the record, no damage was received to either bike on the plane back home.




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