The good news is that flying with your bike is surprisingly easy. Stay with us while we guide you through how to take your bike on a plane.

When it comes to cycling abroad, you have two options: hiring a bike out there or taking your own. The benefit about taking your own is that you know and trust your bike (vital on those mountain descents), and you don’t have to worry about finding the bike hire shop or returning your bike by a certain time.

Taking your bike on a plane takes a bit of thought, but once you know what you’re doing, it’s a piece of cake. To give you a heads up, we’ve put together this ultimate guide on flying with your bike. We’ll cover:

  • What type of bike box or bag should you use?
  • How to pack your bike
  • What to do at the airport
  • What are the policies and costs of the major airlines
  • Taking your bike on other forms of transport
  • Insurance for your bike

Should I use a bike bag or box?

The type of bike box or bag you go for will depend on your budget and how much travelling you’re likely to do with your bike. To run you through the various options and their pros and cons, we’ve done our research and summarised our findings for you.

Cardboard bike box

These can be picked up free at some bike shops and are accepted by most airlines. However, they offer little protection while your bike is in transit and are a complete pain to lug around.

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CTC bike bag

The great thing about these is that there’s not a lot of bike dismantling to do. Handlers can see it’s a bike, so they should (in theory) be careful with it. And it’s light, foldable, and cheap to buy. However, it offers practically no protection and isn’t accepted by all airlines.

Soft bike bag

These offer some protection against stuff rubbing against your bike in transit and are accepted on most airlines. However, you’ll need somewhere to store it in your hotel/accommodation while touring.

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Hard bike box

These give you maximum protection for your bike and are accepted by all airlines. They are the most expensive option (although you can hire them or borrow one from a fellow cyclist), and you’ll need somewhere to store it when you reach your destination.

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OK, now you know what you’re going to take your bike in, we’d best tell you how to pack it safely.

How to pack your bike

Now comes the fun bit. Depending on the type of box or bag you opt for, there is likely to be some dismantling of your bike required, so make sure you read through the instructions before you begin.

Before you get started, make sure you have to hand:

  • Tools
  • Pipe lagging/bubble wrap
  • Zip ties
  • A rag or two
  • Wet wipes (you’re going to get oily)
  • Tape
  • Cardboard

Then comes the fun bit.

Remove pedals, seat post and saddle

Take off your pedals, tape them together, and tape the threads. The trick is to secure them in your box/bag, so they don’t rattle around and damage your bike frame. If there isn’t any way of keeping them in place, it may be wise to put them in your normal luggage.

Next, remove your seat post and saddle (or lower it to its minimum height, provided this won’t scratch the post). Either way, mark your saddle height with tape – it will save a lot of faffing about trying to get it in the right place when you put it back together again. Finally, ensure the clamp is either lightly tightened or removed and carried in a separate pocket.

Remove the wheels

Take off the wheels and deflate the tyres slightly, but not too much, because this can cause rim damage if your bike bag or box gets dropped. Take out the quick-release skewers and stash them safely in any bag pockets available or tape them to the spokes.

Remover the rear derailleur

Now for the rear hanger and derailleur. Remove and tighten the hanger bolt, so you don’t lose it. Wrap the mech in bubble wrap or a rag and strap it between the rear stays to keep it out of harm’s way.

Handlebars

If you have room, turn your stem sideways and turn your bars downwards and under the top tube on the chain side (padding the top tube and strapping the bars against it). If you don’t have room to do that, remove the bars and strap them in the same position.

Cranks and chainrings

Turn the cranks parallel and pad the bottom of the chainring. Foam padding (pipe lagging can be bought from your local DIY shop) is a Godsend when it comes to protecting your bike and its components.

You can never have too much padding around your bike. If you have room (and can remain within the weight limit), pack some of your lycra around your bike (but keep it away from oily chains).

You’ll have to put your bike back together again at the other end, so pack all your bike tools (secured firmly in your bike box or bag – assuming there’s room). Very few airlines allow you to take CO2 canisters with you, so when it comes to reinflating your tyres, you have two options: buy canisters when you arrive at your destination or (if you have room) take a track pump with you.  

What do you do at the airport?

Lugging a bike box or bag around an airport is not easy. As we mentioned, book meet and greet parking instead of parking miles away in the long stay and battling to get your luggage on and off the shuttle buses. It will save a lot of angst.

Once at the airport, be prepared for strange looks and stupid questions. Yes, people will stop and stare, small children will point at you, and you’ll be asked, ‘what’s in the box?’ The best question one of our team was asked when travelling with her bike was ‘is that a drum kit?’

After checking in your normal luggage, you’ll need to take your bike to the oversized luggage check-in point.

When you arrive at your destination, your bike may appear on the standard carousel, or you’ll have to pick it up from the oversized baggage claim point. Not all airports are the same, so ask a staff member if you’re unsure.

Airline policies and costs

Some airlines are more bike-friendly than others.

Before you book anything, check the airline’s website for their rules and costs. Look for the section on sporting equipment or special baggage. For example, British Airways' bike policy is no fee, whereas Easyjet will charge you £42.  

To give you a head’s up, we’ve scoured the sites of several leading airlines for their latest information (as of August 2022). If you click on the airline's name, you will be taken directly to their website to see if there have been any changes.

Air Canada

Bike fee: $50

Max. weight: 32kg

Max dimensions: 292cm total dimensions

Notes: The bike must be registered at the time of booking and transported in a hard bike box. The box must not contain any other items

Air France

Bike fee: €55

Max. weight: 23kg

Max dimensions: 300cm total dimensions

Notes: Needs approval at least 48hrs before the flight

American Airlines

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 23kg

Max dimensions: 157cm total dimensions

Notes: For bikes overweight and size, there’s a fee of $150

British Airways

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 23kg

Max dimensions: 190 x 75 x 65cm

Call ahead of time to confirm you bike reservation

Delta

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 32kg

Max dimensions: 157cm total dimensions

Notes: For bikes overweight and size, there’s a fee of $150

EasyJet

Bike fee: £42

Max. weight: 32kg

Max dimensions: Unclear

Notes: Bikes are classed as large sports equipment. Only your bike can be in the box (no other equipment)

Emirates

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 20-35kg depending on class

Max dimensions: 300 cm total dimensions

Notes: Bike must be registered 24 hours before flight and packed in a hard bike box

JetBlue

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 23kg

Max dimensions: 157cm total dimensions

Notes: If overweight/oversized, there’s a fee of $50

Jet2

Bike fee: £30

Max. weight: 32kg

Max dimensions: 182 x 91cm

Notes: Your bike must be registered in advance

Lufthansa

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 23kg

Max dimensions: 315cm total dimensions

Notes: Your bike must be registered 24 hours in advance. If it is overweight/oversize there’s a fee of $80-$287

Qantas

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 32kg

Max dimensions: 140 x 30 x 80cm

Notes: Must be packed in a bike box

Ryanair

€/£60

Max. weight: 30kg

Max dimensions: Unclear

Notes: Must be packed in a bike box or protective bike bag

Virgin Atlantic

Bike fee: £0

Max. weight: 23kg

Max dimensions: Unclear

Notes: If your bike is overweight/oversize there’s a fee of £65+

Taking your bike on other forms of transport

If you’re not planning to jet off to try your hand at cycling abroad, you may want to do some touring closer to home. Whether you take your bike to commute in the city or are planning a UK cycling break, you’ll need to know if you can take your bike on trains and buses.

Folding bikes are allowed on most services, but the rules about non-folding bikes aren’t so clear. To help you out, we’ve looked around to find out what the UK’s largest rail providers have to say. Here’s what we found out.

London North-eastern Railway

Folding bikes to be kept with luggage in the passenger compartment. You must make a reservation for non-folding bikes through the LNER website

Great Western Railway

Folding bikes are allowed, but you need a reservation for non-folding bikes

Cross Country

Two reservable bike spaces are available and folding bikes can be placed on the luggage rack. Bikes without reservations may be allowed depending on space

Scotrail

Reservations for bike spaces are available. Unreserved spaces are on a first come, first served basis

Great Northern Rail

Folding bikes are allowed but there’s no space for non-folding bikes

Greater Anglia

Folding bikes are allowed and are to be stowed in the luggage space. There is a set number of non-folding bikes allowed depending on the type of train service

Southwestern

Folding bikes allowed but non-folding bikes are allowed on a first come, first served basis

South-eastern

Folding bikes are allowed anytime, but non-folding are only allowed off-peak

Generally, you don’t need a ticket for your bike (although it’s always best to check the rail operator’s website before travelling).

What about the tube?

We’re glad you asked. The London Underground always allows folding bikes. However, non-folding bikes can only be taken on board during off-peak times. When it comes to underground, metro, or tram services in other cities, it’s best to check their websites for the latest information.

Don’t forget about bicycle insurance

Your bike is your pride and joy. The problem is that when you hand it over at the airport, you have no control over what happens to it. Most of the time, it will be handled with care, but there is a chance it could become damaged or even lost in transit.

That’s why getting insurance for your bike against loss or damage is a good idea.

Happy travels

Well done for sticking with us to the end. As you’ve seen, there’s a lot to think about when flying with a bike. But with a bit of luck, you’re now armed with all the information you need to enjoy a stress-free cycling holiday.

Do you have specialist bicycle insurance?

Laka’s bicycle insurance is your fairy godmother when it comes to flying with your bike. With us on your side, you can jet off knowing that your bike and all your gear is covered no matter what.

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