To rent a bike or bring your own?
We have been getting a handful of questions about clients bringing their own bike on their tour, whether to ship it or fly it over with them, the ease of traveling with a bike box on trains, etc. In my personal opinion, it is not worth it to bring your bike. You are on vacation to relax and worrying about your bike the whole time will put unneeded stress on your mind, not to mention it may end up costing an “arm and leg.”
Every airline is different, but lets pick one, say Delta, to analyze. Here is Delta’s policy on bicycles from their website:
- Non-motorized touring or racing bicycles with single seats are accepted as checked baggage, with certain limits.
- Any bicycle in a box with overall dimensions not exceeding 62″ or 157.5cm (length + height + width) and checked in lieu of one bag is accepted. Bicycles exceeding 62″ are subject to standard oversize baggage charges.
- Your bike must be packaged in a cardboard or canvas container in one of the following ways:
- Handlebars fixed sideways and pedals removed
- Handlebars and pedals encased in plastic, Styrofoam, or other similar material
- Some connection carriers and aircraft may not accept bicycles as checked baggage, and may have different limits.
What about the fees? Delta says for travel within and between the US and Canada and all international markets it is 200 USD to transport your bike. Then you have to take into account the size and weight of your already charged special bag. For bags weighing over 51 – 70 lbs and extra 150 USD will be charged. Anything over 70 lbs will not be accepted when traveling between US/Canada and Europe. Bags measuring 63-80 inches (161-203 cm) in combined length, width, and height traveling between US/Canada, Latin America, Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe will be 175 USD. With all these bag fees you are looking at paying a hefty fee to bring your bike on your tour. Don’t forget your normal checked luggage fees that you will also no doubt get charged for.
Air France’s Australia website had more or less the same restrictions as Delta above with very similar fees and limits. Nobody is immune, even if foreign carriers are more solvent than the American companies; the chance to make money on this is too tempting. Expect to pay.
What else should you expect in traveling with your bike box?
Train troubles: in France and most of Western Europe, high speed trains have very limited luggage space. Most trains only offer space at the end of the car or overhead racks. Bike boxes don’t really fit, and you could be subject to the whims of the conductor of the moment. Smaller regional trains usually do take bikes even in built up condition. Travel in July and August when trains are packed is very likely to be difficult. Regardless, you schlep your box on and off the train by yourself, among the people who will not make room for you.
Lost luggage? Every year when we have groups that go to watch the Tour de France, at least 1 in 10 persons will have their bike box mishandled enroute. On these kinds of tours where the lodging is remote and the traffic is difficult, getting a bike redelivered and caught up is a problem!
Storage? Where will you store your bike box when you visit Paris or some other big city? Will it fit in the hotel elevator? How much will the taxi add on for an oversize bag – if the taxi will even take it!
Build that bike up – you better know how to do it and bring the tools to get it done! On our trips we do help with that of course, but if you are winging it on your own; be totally self contained with tools and parts and a mechanical inclination!