Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bike Boxing

On his return to Mississippi, G took with him the 1995 Schwinn road bike that I affectionately call the “asthma bike.”  I’ve had lots of miles and smiles on that bike.  Its good to know that it will be brought back into riding circulation after a long period of inactivity. It’s just a solid, road-friendly cro-moly machine with good enough components to keep the rider happy. G will put this bike to great use.  After a little, um, misdiagnosis on my part regarding the shifters (thanks, Beth, for being there with a great solution just in case) we were able to get the bike back into riding condition for G.
So, how does one get a bike onto an airplane?  Well, through checked baggage, of course. If your bike is spendy enough, and/or you like dropping lots of money on accessories, you certainly could buy an actual airline case for your bike.  But for those of us who are still paying for orthodontists and music lessons, here’s another grand idea: a cardboard box.
Not all airlines handle bikes the same way.  After doing a little snooping on the internet and then asking around at the airport, we ended up buying a “bike box” from the United Airlines ticket counter. It was just a big, big, cardboard box. Ten bucks cash, which didn’t seem too bad at the time. Had we thought of it sooner, we should have gone to the local bike shops and see if they’d be willing to part with a bike shipping box, complete with the packing gizmos that protect the hubs and derailleurs, etc. Duh.

I learned a bunch of good stuff from watching this video.
The guy’s pretty darned excited about his upcoming trip to Norway, which gets a little too much air time on the video.  However, the technical information was very helpful. 
Anyway, we took off the pedals, front wheel, and saddle. We also loosened the handlebars (but did not disconnect anything) and repositioned them for compact packing. Some foam pipe insulation was cut to size for the frame and was kept in place with 8” zip ties.
We had way more room left in the box than we needed, so I threw in my tire pump, an old pair of riding shoes, and some tools. He'll thank me later.
It would have been ideal to just box it all up before driving to the airport, but our little CR-V just doesn’t have that kind of space. In fact, we had to make one additional “fold” to the bike box so it would fit inside with the back seats down.  So, we brought packing tape with us and did the final packing in the airport lobby.

We were observed several times by the dudes working at the CTX scanner while we packed, and apparently the box was re-opened and inspected by TSA pre-flight. All the parts arrived intact in Mississippi and G reassembled it no problem.
Of course, everything these days gets an additional baggage fee. It was comparable to what you'd pay for ground shipping, and you wouldn't have to worry about them dropping it off and leaving it at your door if you're not at home. Since it’s going to be his primary way of getting some much needed exercise it was worth paying the fee.

By the way, did you know that PDX has a bike assembly center right there at the airport?  I’ve not actually seen it, but in my research I found this link on Bike Portland.  I’m assuming it’s still there. What a great deal for folks arriving here with their bikes!

Having done this once, it's not hard at all to imagine taking a train or plane trip to a distant location with a bike. Totally do-able.

And now, there's one less bike in my garage, and one more smiling cyclist in Mississippi.


Jessica said...

Having only ever taken bikes on a road trip, I didn't even think of what one might do if they wanted to fly with a bike. Glad it all worked out! How's Mississippi for riding? I mean... after biking in the Great NW, I can't imagine anything will be as fantastic. ; )

Kelly Carlisle said...

I was imagining all kinds of problems getting the box packed and stuff. The biggest problem, really, was our small cargo space in the car.
Where Geoff lives it's really flat and wooded, so he'll get lots of straight roads :)
Unfortunately, he had a little accident in the kitchen last night and ended up needing 6 stitches in his hand. It'll be a little while before he gets to ride. :(
Sorry we missed you guys this weekend...thanks for being so understanding. How was your trip?

Jessica said...

We had a fabulous time! Our "family" lives only two blocks away from that place you wrote about, French Press. I discovered it when I went out to buy pull-ups because we forgot them. I pulled out to Commercial right at that intersection! Their house sits on top of a hill with an amazing view of four mountains and the capitol building. I got some fab pics.
So sorry to hear about Geoff's stitches... I hope he heals quickly.
Cargo space is the ONLY thing I love about driving a minivan. We went camping for 10 days with 7 bikes this summer and didn't have to get a trailer!

bikelovejones said...

Yeah, the bike station at PDX is pretty terriffic. They installed it last year sometime in erspobse to the growing interest in Portland's bike culture and something about not wanting to be left out of it.

Glad you figure out the issue with the shifting.
Coffee ride sometimes? Looking at Feb or March.