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i am flying chicago to boston on airtran next week and planning on bringing my bike. i loosely say "planning" because i haven't actually looked into the details yet. anyone have tips on flying with bikes?

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i took a bike to Scotland last year for the summer. First thing is check what the airlines policy is. this has drastically changed in the last 12 months along with everything else in air travel. When I went, British Airways allowed one piece of "sporting equipment" in addition to the regular luggage. Now you have to pay for that extra piece. I'm sure this is the same with all other airlines as BA was the last to allow this "extra". Second, A good case. While a cardboard box can work, it's not always the best, but most budget. This varies from line to line how they allow the bike to travel. some require an iron case, some allow soft bags, some allow just the bike with the pedals removed and bars turned sideways. regardless of what they allow, you should be concerned with the well being of your bike. The luggage handlers don't give a crap what you have as long as it packs like a sardine on the plane. Sometimes a bike goes through without a scratch, sometimes they are un-ridable once they get there and it all has to do with how you packed it. There are some local shops, which rent out cases.
anyway, I will stop rambling, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
You need a folding bike with 20" wheels or less to really made this viable. Full size bikes are a real hassle and expense for travel, or so I've heard from friends.... Not a big deal if money isn't a problem for you.
If you want to go the cardboard box route, check out this page: http://members.shaw.ca/boxyourbike
If you are going to be flying regularly, and want 26" or 700c wheels, get a bicycle fitted with http://www.sandsmachine.com/ couplers. A few (6) flights without the oversize luggage charge will pay for them
I have a Surly travelers check with s&s couplers. I love it and will travel with it again in a couple months. But if this is a one time deal you may be better off renting a bike for the trip. I've rented bikes in Europe and the US and the quality is good. Just do your research and find a good shop. $100 or more each flight to travel with a bike makes renting look good.

My favorite bike shop in the Boston area is Harris cyclery, here is there web site:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/

Thanks
Mark
ive mailed a bike from San Fran to Philly a few days before i left, was there when i arrived, just had to slap it back together. A bikeshop packed it for me.
Ive flown twice in the last two months with my fixed gear on southwest. if you use a soft shell bike case it counts as a free checked bag. the bike bag is 50 bucks from performance bicycles. I have a steel fixed gear so I do not worry about frame damage or cosmetic scratches (as some would with a soft shell case)

So yeah if your bike isnt super fancy I say fly southwest and use their softshell policy to fly for free! (I would never recommend this for a carbon bike that could crack if thrown carelessly)
I picked up a Bike Friday for this specific reason. The only problem is that the suitcase with the bike inside weights more than 50lbs so airlines sometimes want to charge me overweight fees. But I take out heavy stuff like pedals and maybe the stem and carry those on the plane with me. The bike is then viewed as a piece of checked luggage hence avoiding oversize/overweight fees.
Another option would be to get S and S couplers and chop up your bike frame. Then you can bring your fullsized bike onto the plane in a bag made specifically for those kind of bike systems.
http://www.bikyle.com/s_&_s_couplers.htm
www.bikefriday.com
"whats in that case?"

CAMPING GEAR.

(alt answer "miscellaneous bike parts")

seriously though, 175?! what bollocks.

grayson said:
United charges $175 each way =(

Chris said:
Ive flown twice in the last two months with my fixed gear on southwest. if you use a soft shell bike case it counts as a free checked bag. the bike bag is 50 bucks from performance bicycles. I have a steel fixed gear so I do not worry about frame damage or cosmetic scratches (as some would with a soft shell case)

So yeah if your bike isnt super fancy I say fly southwest and use their softshell policy to fly for free! (I would never recommend this for a carbon bike that could crack if thrown carelessly)
thanks for all of the great info.
i have a lot to ponder.
Ugh, yeah, it's almost never worth it to fly with a bike. AirTran charges $79 each way for bikes, and you have to provide your own box, which won't be fun bringing onto the Orange Line. (Otherwise, add in the cost of a cab ride...) Some options to consider:
- FedEx. Assuming you have a standard bike-shop box, insured for $1000, shipped from a staffed location, it'll be $40 via 3-day ground and $100 for 2-day express. Plus, you can have a shop box/unbox it for you, or DIY with a multi-tool and pedal wrench.
- Rental. These guys are fun (and downtown), and for the price of your round-trip shipping fee you could spend three (week)days on a new roadie or fixie.
- Amtrak. Deep underneath Union Station, there's a desk where you can box and ship your bike. To Boston, it'll probably cost $50, box included (the one time I did this was to Seattle, which was $70), and take <1 day. Very little disassembly required. You'll have to pick up at Boston South Station's baggage desk. In my experience, the guys at the desk will let you reuse an old box when you return.

S&S couplers, Slingshot bikes, folding bikes, etc. -- these are pretty big capital expenses, which would recoup themselves only after multiple trips, and not really options for a flight next week! (Plus, folding bikes sometimes can get slapped with the surcharge.) I'm somewhat curious about the small-ish suitcase-looking things that supposedly can fit a disassembled bike, but those also cost a lot.

Southwest does have a more lenient baggage policy than some others, but OTOH they don't always fly into the most convenient airports. In the OP's case, I've done PVD to Boston proper via transit before, and it's a pain.
I successfully used "exercise equipment" the one time I flew with my folder, ORD-LGA. Since then, I've stuck to bus/train travel with the folder. I've also heard that a nice tip to the skycap (the curbside check-in guys) can avoid such inconvenient questioning.

Again, though, all these little costs (cab to airport, skycap tip) start to add up fast.

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