Taking your bike on a plane opens up a whole world (literally) of cycling holiday destinations. People sometimes ask me at airports, when they see me with my bike, why I don't just hire when I reach my destination. There are many reasons, the main one being that I'm most comfortable on my own bike and comfort matters if you are riding for several hours a day. Another big advantage is that flights are often sold as singles rather than returns nowadays, and that is ideal if you are planning a linear trip as you can fly into one airport and out of another one some distance away. Organising one-way bike hire is not so easy, and traveling back to the bike hire shop by train just wastes valuable holiday time. And let's not forget cost -- the longer your bike tour, the more likely it will work out cheaper to take a bicycle rather than hire one.
But flying with a bike can be quite a hassle, and for periods of a week or less it may make sense to leave it at home. When planning a cycling holiday that involves flying, there are a few points you need to consider:
1. Are there direct flights to your destination? The more frequently a bike is loaded/unloaded the more likely it is to suffer damage, so changing planes is best avoided.
2. Does the airline carry non-folding bikes, and what will it charge? How does that compare with the cost of hiring at the other end?
3. Does the airline takes any responsibility for damage or loss? Many have terms of carriage that state the passenger takes all the risk.
4. If your bike is insured, does the policy cover air travel and use overseas?
5. What is your bike worth to you, both financially and emotionally? Even if the airline's terms of carriage are favourable and it is well insured, you might prefer not to take the risk of damage.
6. If you are traveling with one or more other cyclists, check there will be room on the plane for all the bikes. Be sure to ask when booking whether your bike will definitely be on the same flight as you.
7. What are the airline's requirements in terms of packing your bike ? If it has to be in a proper bike bag you will need to have somewhere to store it at the other end, or else carry it with you.
8. Do you have a special reason for taking your own bike? Maybe the saddle is nicely broken-in or you use a particular shoe/pedal system. But you could just take those parts and have them fitted to your rental bike.
9. How will you get to the airport with your bike?
10. Renting a bike and riding it for several days provides an ideal opportunity to try something new, like a carbon fibre frame, a full suspension mountain bike or even a tandem.
11. If you are going for a lengthy period, buying a bike (second hand or even new) at your destination, then selling it before you return, may be the best option.
Take a little time to investigate all the possibilities before finalising your travel plans.
If this has been of interest then have a look at the various airlines' rules on bike transportation at our Bikes on Planes .