IMPORTANT NOTE: You can’t fly with electric bike due to the fact that the battery is considered a hazardous material! There is a way to ship the battery separately, but it costs a lot of money (around 200 USD one way) and you have to organize it early ahead as it won’t fly with you but with another forwarder ahead of you. That said, it makes sense only if you plan to travel for a long period of time.
There is a lot of discussion about protecting your bike especially recumbent in an airplane. Mostly because none is 100% safe. People who are responsible for loading and unloading the luggage to/from an airplane and all others around do not really care what is inside and they are in fact not responsible for any damages at all. So two extreme opinions are:
1/ Let your bike as it is, unpacked. Only remove pedals, bars, and the seat and maybe protect some important part. People at an airport will see it is a bike and will care more. BUT, some airlines do not allow such transport and the bike is at the end not protected at all against any scratches.
2/ Pack your bike as much as you can for example into a paper box, tape it, protect it inside, etc. BUT, nobody knows what is inside, there can be other suitcases thrown on the box, it can lay down, etc. And the box is also much heavier than „nothing“
I have traveled quite a lot with our recumbents not only in airplanes but also on buses and trains. I can give you some recommendations, tell you some experiences, but please, note, that I do not care much about little scratches here and there. My bikes are used for hard traveling and they are scratched quite a lot anyway. I even like bikes which look used. They have a kind of adventure look.
So, here are some points, suggestions, experiences. In a big mix and maybe a little bit messy, but I hope it helps you.
– You can use different size paper box and pack the bike inside. A very safe way which also airlines like.
– Or you can pack your bike or trike into a fabric bag. We have one like that in AZUB. It is recommended to use some protecting material inside too. You can fold an AZUB TRIcon inside or I can pack inside my prototype of folding AZUB Mini recumbent.
– Or you can use the kind of simple thin fabric bag and just wrap the bike inside and then tape it around. You have to disassemble your seat, handlebar, and pedals from your bike.
– If you can, let stands your bike/trike on wheels.
– Always remove rear derailleur and let it hang on the chain. Or in fact, tape it then to the frame securely using the zip ties or stretching foil. Also, disassemble derailleur hanger as this is a very fragile part and can be easily damaged. To be sure, you should have one spare too.
– Airlines usually allow to pack only a bike inside the box or bag, but you can use your clothes as a protecting material. Should not be a problem with that and you save the weight of your second checked-in luggage. Or you can even go only with hand luggage. I like to put my mattress (I still own the old style which does not inflate anyhow) inside and time to time also sleeping bag or part of the tent.
– Security officers usually want to see what is inside the box. Think about it. They should have a chance to somehow look inside, but the bike should stay packed also after that. They can look inside even after check-in. Especially when you travel by a need to change from plane to plane. UPDATE: Time has moved and I have traveled with my bike by airplane in other countries and also inside the USA. I have to say that it never really happened to me that somebody would like to really see what is inside. They just asked and answer: “bike” was enough for them. But I have to say I am still somehow afraid that sometime somebody will want to see the bike and I always try to be prepared for it.
– Check with the airlines what are the conditions of transporting a bike. Some offer it for free. For example, KLM offers for intercontinental flights one hand luggage, one personal luggage i.e. camera or laptop, one checked-in luggage and/or one sports equipment. EL-AL (Israeli national airlines) offers that too up to the weight of 20 kg of the bike. But for example, Delta charges like 80 EUR per one flight! Most of the low-cost airlines will also charge for a bike. So check all that before ordering the ticket. The cheapest one can be quite expensive in the end…
– Check also for the size and weight of the box/bag allowed. If they do not mention it and talk only about sporting equipment or bike, you win. BUT, note that the maximum weight of one luggage is 32 kg world wide. Even if there is an allowance of combined weight for two or three travelers. Those people who lift your luggage to the plane are heroes, but not robots!
– Bikes are usually checked in on different place as they are oversized. So you should go to the check-in counter with all your luggage include the bike and they will tell you what to do later and where to go.
– Same when you pick up the bike after your flight. There is always a special counter for oversized luggage. It happened to me just once my bike appeared on the same conveyor belt as other luggage.
– With buses, it is far more different. They do not like such big boxes as the trunks of buses are much smaller. But we traveled with a non-foldable recumbent tandem from Czech to Greece by a Bulgarian bus. Or in fact from Brno to Sofia and then on another bus to Athens. The company confirmed to me they will be able to bring the bike from Brno to Sofia for 10 EUR. But then, nobody knows. We risked it knowing you can always give some „additional“ fee to the driver. And we succeed 🙂
– We also traveled by train from Ukrainian Crimea peninsula via Kyiv to Uzhorod on the slovakian border. We had a portable tandem with trailer. Huuuge. I disassembled it completely and it took me 8 and a half hours to assemble it back 🙂
– Once in China, they did not know what to do with my bike as they did not have a special counter for oversized luggage. So they told me to stand on the conveyor belt with the bike and sent me through the rubber flaps and wall inside the airport. You can imagine the faces of people on the other side looking at the bloody European foreigner standing there with a bike!
I will probably add some more experiences and pictures soon when something pops up in my mind. The thing is traveling is great and a little bit of hassle when transporting a bike is just part of the big adventure called travelling.
One trike and one bike under the x-rays.
All the best during your travels!