Flying with a bike has literally been a source of anxiety for me the past few months in the build up to attending the TriLiving triathlon training camp in Lanzarote.
The decision was made for a number of reasons; firstly because I just didn’t have the energy to be sorting out a bike from the UK. Club La Santa, where we were staying, have great bikes for hire but the women’s bike only had very small sizes left.
Another reason for wanting to take my own bike was due to my role as a Liv Ambassador – it would just feel weird using another bike. Oh and to be honest, I just wanted to ride my own bike which I know and love.
Booking A Bike on Ryanair
Once I decided I was taking my own bike I then had to book my bike with Ryanair. I had already booked my flights so needed to add on the bike as sports equipment.
From my research, it seemed that Ryanair charge £60 each way if you book at the same time as your flight or £75 each way if you book at a later date. So I was prepared to pay £150 but was actually charged £120.
For whatever reason, I had also purchased priority boarding so I could take a decent sized bag onto the plane. I used the Osprey Transporter Carry-On 44 as it can be worn as a backpack leaving my hands free to
drag, sorry, pull, the bike box. It was the perfect fit for the overhead lockers. The rest of my kit for the week was then packed in with my bike so no need to pay to check in luggage.
Packing A Bike For Flying
Once the bike was booked on the flight, the next decision to make was what to pack the bike in for transportation. I reached out to a couple of cycling communities I’m in for advice and in the end decided to go for a Bike Box Alan (BBA) Premium Bike Box.
How Much is a Bike Box Alan?
When you do a google search for BBA it seems there’s alot of old information out there from BBA themselves with different prices. I found a listing on Pinterest – see below – which said the price was £365 but the price (at the time of writing this post) on the BBA website starts at £438. You then need to factor in £25 for delivery and costs for stickers and accessories.
I ended up purchasing my BBA from Sigma Sports. Delivery was free and they were running a promotion for new customers (£25 off a £250 spend at the time). So although they sell the bike box for more than BBA directly, once you factor in the discount and free delivery, it worked out cheaper.
Another benefit of purchasing from Sigma was knowing stock availability and quick delivery. On the BBA website, you need to purchase at least 2 weeks in advance to make sure you get it in time.
Bike Box Alan Accessories You Need
Having now made my first trip with the BBA Premium Bike Box I would highly recommend getting the following accessories:
Quick Release Skewers: The BBA Premium Bike Box does not come with QR skewers. If like me you have disc brakes I wouldn’t bother. Thankfully Matt at Giant Loughton had a novel way to secure the tires using cable ties.
Pull Strap: you need this. The ‘moulded handles’ are not ideal and are little to no help when trying to lift the box. I live in a first floor flat and on my return home I had no help. Trying to find a way to lift up the biggest, flattest box weighing nearly 30kg almost saw me falling back to the bottom with the bike box landing on top of me!
Ideally, the box needs a shoulder strap and I can only assume the pull strap can be used as such. A shoulder strap would help you to lift the box which you’ll need to do to get it on the oversized luggage belt, get it in the back of the car, get it up stairs when no slope or lift is available and generally make life easier.
The strap costs £12 on the BBA website and includes free shipping (for my UK postcode).
Padlocks: I purchased these TSA approved padlocks* from Amazon. A super cheap way to secure your bike and all the other things you will pack in with it. These padlocks also came with an ID tag that I attached on the inside of the bike box to ensure my contact details were available should they be needed.
Here are a few other recommendations I received:
- Bonza Bike Bag
- Buxum Box
- Bonza Bike Box
Personally I wouldn’t risk packing a carbon bike into a bike bag, but each to their own, right?!
Packing My Bike in The Bike Box Alan
Now, everything you read on the BBA website makes it sound like it will fit any bike, it’ll be super easy to pack and it’ll take you 15 minutes to do. I beg to disagree.
Thankfully, the guys at Giant Store Loughton offered to help me pack my bike into the box or else I would have probably ended up in tears of frustration.
First of all, I took my bike in a few days before I left to have a mini service which was a good shout as a few things needed adjusting. They kindly cleaned the chain for me too so it’d be a less messy job packing the bike.
According to BBA a small frame bike should fit in the other way round to how mine is with no need to adjust the seat post (you can see the images stuck in the box). However, I did try this myself on the way back and it did not fit.
Rather than removing the stem, Matt removed the plate that holds the handlebars so they could then be placed across the bike. And we lowered the seat post.
My tires are tubeless so they cannot be fully deflated which means they do not sit into the recess for tires very well. I also have disc brakes which BBA suggests face into the box, but I’m pretty sure on the website they say to face the other way.
As I mentioned earlier, Matt secured my tires using cable ties as QR skewers would (probably) be nowhere near long enough, as well as the fact that my wheels use through axels so a converter might be needed. Basically it’s quite a faff.
Hacks from GCN For Packing a Bike Box:
My rear derailleur sits precariously near the side of the bike box so we did move the gears so it sat a little more inline with the bike. I also took along a spare mech hanger incase it got bent during transit.
Closing the bike box can be tricky too – the top half needs to sit inside the bottom half before you close it. You can protect your bike frame using bubble wrap, foam tubing and your cycling kit. Pop tools in your water bottle and place in the bottle cage.
I also took along:
- a pedal spanner
- 2x multitools
- spare sealant for tires
- mini pump
- disc brake spacers
Assembling My Bike
This part was pretty simple, but a little tedious. Once built, I took the bike out for a few laps of the Club La Santa lagoon to check the angle of the handlebars, check my seat height and make sure the bike was generally in working order.
I did have to learn how to reindex my gears as the chain kept slipping but it was super simple! One step closer to being the self sufficient cyclist I put as my goal for 2020.
Now that I’ve successfully travelled with my bike once, I’m pretty sure it will be easier each time. I’d love to take my bike out to Mallorca after researching it intensively. Then I’d love to hit some lesser known places in Europe and beyond to cycle. A USA road trip maybe?! I need to get manifesting….
Have you ever flown with a bike?!
TL;DR – How To Pack A Bike Box Alan
You can watch the original video from BBA here , or read the summary below.
- Open the bike box with the wheel compartment as a lid
- Use the gear levers to put the chain on the smallest ring at the back and the largest ring at the front
- Remove the pedals (facing forwards right hand pedal has right hand thread, left hand pedal has left hand thread)
- Mark your seat post height, then remove or lower
- Remove handlebars / headset
- Reduce air in tires
- Remove front wheel and secure in front wheel recess in lid of bike box
- Remove rear wheel from frame and secure in rear wheel recess with gear cassette next to the lid
- Make sure the spokes are not in the way of the anti-crush pole
- Place the frame into the box, as per instructions depending on size
- Fasten the velcro straps and check for any movement
- Strap in the pedals, seat post, helmet, and / or track pump
- Place tools under the bottom layer of foam
- Place other kit in bags and place in / around bike
- Replace the anti-crush pole and place the intermediate foam layer over the bike