How to travel with your bike

EW:

Packing your mountain bike for flights can seem a daunting prospect, but we’ve put together our top tips on how to travel with your bike to make it as stress-free as possible.

We researched and now want to share our thoughts on how to travel with your bike around the world

By Euan Wilson, H+I Adventures owner

Our passion for mountain biking and adventure travel has taken us – and our bikes – to all four corners of the globe. Whilst traveling with our bikes has got easier over the years, transporting our precious mountain bikes safely on planes, trains, and automobiles is always a worry. So we thought we would share with you some valuable hints and tips on how to travel with your bike.

Flying with your mountain bike is probably the most stressful of all public transport options because you have to hand your beloved bike over to airport staff before you board and just pray that it gets to the other end at the same time as you, and in one piece. There are various different bike packing options, which we’ll come on to later, but first, here are a few key tips on how to pack your mountain bike for flying and reduce the chances of your bike being damaged in transit.

  • Remove your front wheel (and insert your axel to prevent your forks being damaged)
  • Remove your pedals
  • Remove your rear derailleur
  • Remove your stem, not your handlebars. It is easier to replace your stem with handlebars attached, then align your handlebar position/ angle on arrival
  • For hydraulic brakes, be sure to put something in between your brake pads to prevent them being forced together
  • Make sure most of the air has been expelled from your tyres (this is a requirement of the airlines)
  • Make sure your mountain bike is marked clearly with your name, and your home and destination addresses

Above: Preparing the bike for travelling needn’t be a chore if done right!

How to pack your mountain bike in a bag for travel

Over the years we’ve been exploring the world with our mountain bikes and we’ve tried almost every bike packing option available: from the cheap and cheerful cardboard bike box from the local bike shop, to more expensive, hard-shell boxes. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, for example, the cardboard option is inexpensive and easy to access, but also requires a lot of extra protective packaging to secure your bike and is very time-consuming to pack/ unpack. The hard shell, on the other hand, offers a good deal of protection for your mountain bike, but is extremely cumbersome to transport around train stations and airports.

Having tried and tested most products on the market, we were blown away when we discovered the Evoc Bike Travel Bag, which we’ve actually enjoyed travelling with for many years now. The cunning German design means that you’ll have your bike safely packed away in under ten minutes, but more importantly, it will be built up and ready to ride within ten minutes of you arriving in our destinations around the world! While all your riding buddies are struggling with rear mechs and bubble wrap, you’ll be relaxing with a drink!

A couple of final points: check how much the airlines will charge to transport your bike before you book your flights; and make sure you check the fine print of your luggage insurance to see if it covers you for sports equipment. It’s likely that your bike won’t be insured and you may need to take special insurance to cover you for loss or theft of your bike in transit.

If you have any inspired tips on how to pack a mountain bike for flying leave a comment and share them with other mountain bike adventurers.

Found this useful? Why not read up on these posts too! “Why a 20 litre backpack?” and “What to pack for your mountain bike adventure“.

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Read more of our stories for great travel tips, skills and adventure inspiration…

52 thoughts on “Tips on how to travel with your bike

  1. Hi Niki,

    We have support vehicles on our tours that transport your luggage and bike bags from one location to the next. Or if it’s a centre-based tour, like our Cairngorms Adventure in Scotland, you can leave the bike bag at the accommodation.

    Thanks

    Catherine

  2. Thanks for nice blog! I want to add an advice to your readers. When you are going to travel to another city by bike, try to plan all your trip in advance. You should book your hotel and create travel map. I am using well-way.com for this, it’s simple and useful tool. It helps you to optimize your routes and you will not miss any interesting thing.

  3. Travelling with bike what every rider loves to do… but I got a few points here that would gift you a safe ride.

  4. as Niki mentioned, the bag in which the bike traveled is often a problem when arriving at your destination. I find that a good old cardboard box that you can discard works well… you just have to find another one when it’s time to go back home.

  5. I just received a mountain bike for my birthday, but I want some more gear when I ride it. Your tip to remove the front wheel and pedals off the bike when moving it is great. I think I’ll try to find a rental place where I can rent gear for my mountain bike. Thanks!

  6. Here in this article I found some greatest post about the biking. This is really helpful article to me hopefully as well as the other viewer of the site. I am waiting for next article.

    Thanks !

  7. Some great tips there. It’s amazing how much airlines do try and charge sometimes, so always worth checking it out before booking. I wouldn’t mind but they don’t even take good care of the bikes either, so always remove as much as you can off them before handing them over!

    1. Hi James! Thanks for your comment. We’ve found that airlines are getting better and better at handling bikes and, touch wood, we’ve had no problems travelling with ours over the years. The EVOC bike travel bag does a great job of protecting the bike from damage, which makes travelling with your bike a much less stressful experience.

  8. Why do you want to expel most of the air from the inner tubes? I want to make sure I am doing all I can to keep my bike in its best condition. Since I travel with it a lot, it can be hard to take care of it unless I know what I am doing! So, it would be nice to know why the air needs to be released!

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment! It’s actually the airlines that demand that you expel all the air from your tyres. You shouldn’t expel all the air from your tyres, especially if you’re running tubeless tyres, just take some of the air out to allow for smoother travelling.

    2. Airlines are worried about tires bursting at the thinner air at altitude but since holds are pressurized the same as cabins, which based on my altimeter watch is around 5000′, it’s not much of a problem. If there was complete loss in cabin pressure at 30,000′ that would be like adding another 10psi to the pressure in the tire.

      1. Thanks for your comment, Alistair. You’re absolutely right, on both counts. However, I have been spot-checked at Vancouver airport and they made us deflate our tyres there and then. It’s worth taking a little air out so that you can say that they’ve been ‘deflated’, especially if you have tubeless tyres.

  9. Great tips. Just enjoyed reading this blog post. These tips are indeed very valuable indeed. I’m looking forward to follow up these biking tips.

  10. I came here looking for tips because I’ll be traveling with my bike for the first time. I agree with the others, great stuff – I’ll certainly give the Evoc a go.

  11. If you have to take different airlines on your trip, make sure you check each airlines policy on bikes. It’s also much easier if you book all the way through on partner airlines so it’s checked all the way to your destination. Delta charges $150 USD each way but their partner Korean Air has no bike fees, so you can use your Skymiles for Korean Air and virtually pay nothing. I flew to Nepal with my bike round trip for $140 (airline fees). If you ever wonder why golfers don’t pay the same outrageous fees for their bags, it’s because the golf associations banded together and lobbied airline associations like IATA to waive the fees so the airlines would get more golf travelers.

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for the advice, that’s really helpful. It is important to check all airline bike handling policies so that you don’t get a nasty shock on check-in. Booking with the same airline (and its partners) is often a good way to avoid confusion with charges. Thanks again!

    2. First, yes, double check all airlines – one option for me last August was FlyBe from Dublin to Inverness but they don’t accept reservations for bikes so if there’s no room on the spot you could be SOL, which led me to “just” enjoy my extra 5 days in Inverness!
      Secondly, and ironically, Delta did Not charge me for the return from Inverness – I transferred in Amsterdam and again in the US and I kept expecting someone to ask to charge me. Also, I flew with a hard case and was extremely pleased with the ease of hauling it (I’m only 5′ and had a backpack and day pack)and that TSA opened the box and pretty much left the straps and foam intact both directions. A great experience overall for my first international bike trip!

      1. Hi Helen,

        Hope you’re well! Thanks so much for your input on your bike travel experiences, that’s really helpful. We hope to have you travelling with your bike again soon! Best wishes, Catherine

          1. Both fab trips, Helen, but maybe Croatia… we can chat about and see which one would be best for you 😉

  12. I like to deflate the front suspension which helps in better fitting the bike into evoc bags. Also brought some old rags to wrap the chainring and rear mech(and anywhere that may rub the frame).

    I’ll try the removing stem method next time. Thanks. Have you guys had any experience of rotors bent during transport if you do not remove them?

    1. Hi Ron,

      Thanks very much for your input on the matter, that’s great! In all our years of travelling we’ve only had one bent rotor and we never remove them. I know some people prefer to remove them, and that’s fine, however in our experience it’s not necessary. Happy trails!

  13. My husband loves to travel, but he also loves to ride his bike. I thought I would surprise him with a way to do both this year. It is good to know that traveling with a bike is possible. Thanks for informing me that the first step is to remove the front wheel and insert the axel to prevent forks from being damaged. I am also glad to know that pedals are the next thing to be removed. My husband will be happy to have his bike while on vacation, thanks.

  14. Normally i don’t comment on blogs that i read over the internet but i think it
    worth’s leaving comment on this one. This fantastic post is very well written
    and is so easy to understand. I’m a mountain biker too. Not a travel rider like you guys but just a local rider in my own country Nepal . Thanks.

  15. Excellent post to select a right size travel backpack. I agree with you that it is very stressful to choose the correct carry on size bag. when I buy my first travel bag it was a great experience, I saw many backpacks in the market, I didn’t hesitate to decide which one will be perfect for me.

  16. Really this is very helpful tips, we should know how travel with our bikes and how to carry in the different ways like airline or by road. Travel backpack is very important bicycling equipment for keep easily our bicycle. Thank you very much for sharing this post.

  17. Wow, It’s one of the best articles about how to travel on my bike. Just a lot of helpful information and so helpful. This year I am again joining mountain bike tours, so your article helps me a lot. Many many thanks.

  18. This is a great beneficial content for bike lovers and riders because it surely help them to take proper preparation before going aboard for taking part of a competition or just riding for self inspiration.

  19. As good as this article is, I’d like to know more on different ways to actually transport your bike. All I got out of it was A) how to disassemble it, and B) how to now purchase a bag to put it in. In my opinion, I may simply consider leaving my DeVinci at home and spending the money I would have spent on a bag towards a rental at my destination. And as for special carriers and insurance? I’ll put that towards a new Sram Eagle or something like that.

    What I’m getting at is that this: either buy a bag, find a good airline company, and pay for insurance, thus spending between $400 to $700. But is there a way out there to not spend a third of my bike’s worth on getting it somewhere or is my only option to rent one?

    1. Hi Brahm, You have highlighted the eternal dilemma, that this blog wasn’t written to deal with. Do you, or don’t you take your own bike with you on vacation. Yes if you purchase a bag to protect your trusty steed, it will initially cost you $400-700, but subsequent trips don’t and you have your own bike to ride when you arrive in country. You could rent a bike bag from your local bike shop, use a cardboard box, use a soft case carry bag and a number of other options. All of which we have tried and none are as effective as the bike case we talk about. But as you say, there is always an option to rent when you get there and with us, the option to rent is always as high quality as we can possibly offer in each region. Hope this helps a little.

  20. This is really fantastic information. Every mountain biker and traveler need this kind of tips. I really can follow these tips for my own travel. Thanks for share.

  21. You have shared very important topics for all of the cyclist. When you want to go on a trip in different places you should pack some essential mountain bike gear or your necessary clothes before your tour on a mountain bike.

  22. Suberp blog, with such nice information and pictures.I was looking to take a trip with my mountain bike this will really help me. Thank you for sharing such information appreciate your efforts and work.

  23. That’s an amazing way to traveling with your bike and its cool. Wow great article thanks it was great reading.

  24. I love to travel together with my bike actually! It’s really cool and amazing to enjoy biking while traveling.

  25. This information is very awesome. Thanks for blogging your ideas on how to pack my mountain bike for travel. It’s very cool!

  26. So happy to read this article. I can now travel with my bike, we can now ride the plane together! Thank you so much for your ideas.

  27. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Fantastic read.
    This is what I am looking for. I will share with my riding team about this. Thanks for your suggestion and explanation

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