Bike Tech: Flying with a Bicycle

Flying in the US with a bicycle sucks. Currently, most airlines have published fares ranging from $150 - $175 for any domestic flight with a bicycle.

Well, I'm about to let you in on a little secret that will make your life easier and save you money...
Pika Pack!

Pika
Packworks is a
one man operation in the Park City area that makes the best bike luggage on the planet. It is a very tough, lightweight, protective, easy to use soft sided bike luggage. As a bonus, it is within airline size and weight restrictions.

The well made and functional Pika Pack

I've had my Pika Pack for about 8 years and have flown many times with it - both within the US and also to Europe a few times. Gratefully, my bike has always arrived at my destination in pristine shape, protected by my Pika Pack!

Loading and unloading a bike into a Pika Pack is simple and takes 10 minutes or less. The following things need to be removed from the bike:
  1. Remove the saddle/seat post from the frame (leave the saddle on the seat post)
  2. Remove the handlebar stem from the steer tube (leave the handlebars mounted to the stem)
  3. Remove the pedals
  4. Remove the Wheels, then remove the skewers from the wheels
  5. Using a 5mm allen wrench, remove the derailleur from the frame
Now you're done taking stuff apart and it's time to load the bike into the bag.
  1. Start by putting some plastic end plugs into the hub axle ends (on the wheels)
  2. Stick the wheels into the side wheel pockets of the bag
  3. Put plastic dropout spacers into the rear dropouts and the front fork dropouts
  4. Put the frame into the bag, being mindful of the bottom bracket area resting on the foam pad at the bottom of the bag.
  5. Securely position the handlebar/stem that you removed from the fork steer tube in the bag, likely vertically toward the front end of the bike frame
  6. Put your small parts including pedals, skewers, and a few key tools into a small bag and put it in the Pika Pack.
  7. Finally, using the provided straps, lock everything down and zip up the Pika Pack. You're ready to go!
Now back to the airlines... They want to charge you for flying with a bicycle even though a Pika Pack weighs less than most suitcases and is dimensionally smaller than a lot of luggage. Bear in mind, that the Pika Pack is called the "EEP" or "Exercise Equipment Pack" for this reason. It is not labeled as bicycle luggage anywhere.

Sometimes at airline security, the airline/TSA staff will just send the Pika Pack through without question.


However, sometimes the airline agent will ask you what is in the bag. Simply tell them that there is "exercise equipment" in the bag. Based on my experience and that of many others I know, this will satisfy airline/TSA staff about half of the time and they'll send the bag through free of charge.


Next, sometimes they will ask if it is a bicycle in the bag. Don't even think of lying as they have every right to check the bag. Once you admit it’s a bike, you’re stuck paying the standard bicycle fee. I have heard that some people have talked their way through this point by saying that the bag contains “bike parts” and not a complete bicycle, but have never tried that myself.
Once you get to this point, I think it would be difficult to argue your way out of paying… It is interesting to note that the US is the only country in the world that I’m aware of that charges passengers extra for flying with bikes.

One of the coolest things I’ve ever done with my Pika Pack was fly to Switzerland. Once I got to Zurich, I went from the airport to the train station. Once at the train station I built my bike, folded up the Pika Pack, and stuffed it into a little locker at the train station. I left it there in the rented locker for my week long trip. You can’t do that with a hard bike case or bike box! I got back to the train station one week later, packed up my bike, and then flew home!

3 comments:

  1. This would be a completely legitimate thing for environmentalist shitheads to cause a stink about...and it's something that they could actually conceivably get changed...and it would be for the better...but as usual they're too busy driving around in their environmentally disastrous Priuses.

    We also need electric trains across America (to put the airlines out of business) but nobody's talking about THAT either.

    Stupid assholes!

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  2. what about the 100 dollar oversize fee???

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  3. Thanks for your comment "anonymous".

    The "oversize fee" that you mention is what the 2nd half or so of the article is about - the nuances of calling it an "Excercise Equipment Pack", saying that you have "bike parts" in the bag, etc are efforts to avoid being charged the bike fee by most airlines.

    The Pika Pack itself is not oversize for checked luggage, rather is dimensionally smaller than many pieces of luggage that other check full of clothes, etc.

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