Up, up and away – flying with your bike!

Both times we have gone on long bike tours we have taken our bicycles with us. The decision to do this was not easy and we pro’d and conned for a number of weeks before making a decision. I wrote about this previously in my post on Getting to Paris: box, bag or bubble wrap?

On our trip to France, we had made a bad mistake in our planning – but it was our first cyclo-tour after all 🙂

The mistake we made

We had decided on the time to go (Autumn) and the duration (6 weeks). We then went and booked our flights – taking the shortest route that was available at a reasonable price. Flights from Australia to Paris can take 22 or more hours (depending on the route, stopovers and connections), so this is a very important consideration.

But, instead of booking at this stage, we should have got a list of all the airlines who were in our price/flight duration range and done some homework on luggage allowances. Had we done this, we would not have gone with the airline that we did. As I said previously:

We had made a bad mistake in our choice of airline, not realising that far better options were available. The error had to do with luggage allocations, and too late, we realised that we were limited to 23kg of booked luggage and 7kg of hand luggage. The 23kg had to include a bike, helmet, cycling shoes and tools. That was before considering items such as clothes and other everyday gear! An added problem in our situation was that our mountain bikes were quite heavy on their own. My bike and associated gear weighed 17kg, so my luggage allowance was reduced to a mere 6kg!

KJ watches the bikes at a busy station in Paris. Note the bike bags have no wheels and have to be carried or put on a trolley.

KJ watches the bikes at a busy station in Paris. Note the bike bags have no wheels and have to be carried or put on a trolley. The blue bag contains my 6kg luggage allowance!

avoidING the airline mistake

When we went to the UK the following year, we had wised up considerably. This time, we could purchase proper cycle bags which had wheels (no more carrying the packed bikes) and packing was a comparative breeze compared with our French trip.

Arrival in London, after having been in the air for many hours

A welcome cup of coffee after arriving in London, after having been in the air for many hours. Note the bikes in their great bags made by Tioga. The green bag contained my 23kg luggage allowance!

This was because we flew with Virgin Atlantic and they have a “sporting goods” allowance which is free. So we were able to take a few additional things like adequate clothes; a change of footwear and a spare cycling jersey or three!

What a difference this extra luggage allowance made to our overall tour. We did not have to wash clothes every day. What bliss this was – I hate hand washing clothes, and knicks are not fun to wash and try to get dry! With a few extra items, we could accumulate a few dirty clothes and then use a laundromat. (I lived for 6 weeks in the same jumper (jersey/pullover) while in France, and had to wash it at night, ready to wear again the next chilly day – very tedious :-().

We were also able to purchase a few mementos of our trip, without having to count the excess weight allowance to get them home.

What to do with the bike bags?

We did have a dilemma about what to do with the cycle bags while we were on tour. So we decided to stay at a large international hotel near the airport in London on the first and last night of our tour. We emailed them and asked about luggage storage, and explained about our situation. They were quite happy to accommodate us, or so we thought! When we turned up with our bags all ready to be stored for 5 weeks, we were told that this was not going to be an option. However, we had the email assuring us it was all in order and we had no more problems!

So if you are considering taking your bike with you when you next tour, have a close look at the luggage allowances and conditions for all airlines going to your destination. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that one of them encourages fitness and sporting activities and will take your bike for free.

And if you decide to leave your bag somewhere, get permission in writing – just in case!

Posing in front of an impressive gate in the UK countryside.

Posing in front of an impressive gate in the UK countryside. Cyclo-touring? It’s such a wonderful way to see a country! Worth all the dramas of getting your bike to your destination.

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