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?
As someone that has lots of experience carting bikes along while traveling, the best choice is a light bike that folds quickly and simply. Such a bike opens a wealth of cycling possibilities both locally and when traveling.
Naturally, bike rentals and S&S couplings are other options but they carry greater disadvantages (rental bikes vary in quality, consistency and style; S&S couplings are expensive and can ruin a bike if installed improperly).
Over the last few years, a wide variety of quality folding bikes have come onto the market (Bigfish, CarryMe, Giatex, Mobiky, Montague, Strida, Reach...). Frankly, every bike has it's trade offs so identifying a specific model of folder as the best is a judgement call. My top choice (and daily ride) is an IF Reach but these are pricey.
If all you want is a bike that's light and easy to take on a commercial airline, I've had good results with the CarryMe. Weighing in at 17 lbs, this bike folds to the length of a golf umbrella and can be taken aboard some airlines (such as Southwest) as a CARRY ON! As quality bikes go, the CarryMe is cheap at under $600. It's a single speed so don't expect to pedal it up San Francisco's Knob Hill but it is incredibly portable and suitable for real world use (I used one as my sole means of transportation in Las Vegas, riding from the airport to the Strip and more).
If you have more questions, I have a lot of info about folding bikes and places to go cycling on my website.
Hi: ( I posted this on the wrong thread before; sorry for doubleness)
I saw your question about the bike packing. I have done lots of bike traveling and have used all options--I have a 64cm frame so it's just huge no matter what.
Option 1: Bike shop to bike shop--it's packed professionally and re-assembled. Problems: the bike shop on the other end may or may not have it assembled. You have to ship and assemble twice. Could be expensive; you have to travel to said bike shop.
Problems: reassembling yourself; what do you do with the box u shipped it in after assembled?
Option 3: Ship to whomever you are going to visit: cost effective if you can assemble. I take off my Bottom Bracket and cranks personally each time.
Option 4: Just buy a burner when you get there--there's plenty of second hand, Clist, and nefariously begotton bikes, if you just ask around. It's never taken me more than 3 hours to procure a bike in a city even if I did not speak the native language.
I only do option 3 and 4 these days.
I love option 4 because when I am done with the bike, I usually just give it to someone I bike by on my way out of town. It's usually the cheapest; your bike is safe at home; and it's kind of fun just riding a burner that you are going to dump...I pay no more than $75 on out of town bikes--that's less than airlines and FEDEX to ship both ways and assembling. I have a couple cities that I travel to more than twice
a year that I have crypto locked bikes there. Sometimes they are there when I arrive, sometimes not, but who cares, I just buy another burner for $60. Check out the Craigslist where you are going, look up a couple second hand stores, and in places like San Fran, just go to the hangout areas and someone will sell you one. And if you have the time, more than 5 days or so, you can sell on Craigslist again for best offer--I have had a few net-zero bikes that I bought and sold for about the same price after riding for a few days. At the worst, I just sell it for 1/2 what I bought it for, if it doesn't sell, I just put free and leave at airport.
Depending on how much cycling you plan, one alternative is to pick up a bike at your destination. Recently I went to Boston and needed a bike for two days. I bought a low end bike at target, used it for the time I was able to ride, and then donated it to Bikes not Bombs This was a cheaper alternative than paying the airlines prices to bring my bike on the plane. Bikes Not Bombs also rents bikes too.