Packing your bike for air travel

With borders opening up again and the thought of interstate or international travel becoming a reality in many places, it’s time to plan some epic cycling adventures! You’ve got a fancy road bike, you’ve racked up those hard training miles and now you want to explore pastures new. Maybe even tick off a few epic mountain climbs. Perhaps there’s a few European tours you’d like to do!

Well then, how are you going to get your bike there in one piece?

Most airlines will carry bikes as general luggage (or oversized) without any fees, but of course it’s worth checking beforehand. Then it’s just a matter of packing it. These days, there are a multitude of different options out there from a plain old cardboard bike boxes, to soft bags, to full rigid metal cases! Picking the right one for you often comes down to budget and your confidence in airline baggage handlers.

In my opinion, there’s no substitute for a hard case bike box. Soft bags are lighter and usually slightly smaller, but if you want the best peace of mind for your (probably quite expensive) road bike then it’s GOT to be a hard case box. Nobody wants to arrive at their destination to find a snapped derailleur hanger, broken spokes, or a crushed carbon fibre frame!

My favourite is the Bike Box Alan. A real workhorse and totally rock solid. It’s got plenty of internal padding, Velcro straps to hold everything in place, a strong anti-crush pole, plus loads of extra space for all your other gear such as helmet, clothes, a track pump, and shoes. Most importantly, it’s incredibly strong! While not the cheapest option and certainly not the lightest, in every other way the Bike Box Alan really is a top contender.

The photo above shows my Kinesis Aithien packed neatly into the box. Pedals and tools are bubble wrapped in the bottom left corner. I’ll also pop my shoes in and bottles into the cages. You can fit a full sized track pump in there too. That will take the total weight up to around 23kg (50lbs). With an “empty” starting point of 11kg, weight is the main downside to hard cases.

I’ve flown international and also moved house with the BikeBoxAlan. It’s taken some hard knocks along the way and there are plenty of scratches to the outer case to prove that, but everything inside has always arrived in perfect condition, exactly how I packed it. You can’t ask for much more than that. Now, if they made a lightweight carbon fibre version…

– Hard shell protection
– Soft inner foam lining included
– Anti-crush pole
– Easy to pack, everything held down with Velcro straps
– Plenty of additional room for spares
– Can be secured using TSA approved locks
– Castor wheels for ease of movement

– Expensive in comparison to some others
– Weight penalty (11kg empty)
– Unsure if my older model is disc-wheel compatible
– Storing when not in use, doesn’t pack down

9 Comments Add yours

  1. The Omil says:

    Minor photo glitch?


    1. Not sure what you mean by that sorry? 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Omil says:

        When I looked I only got the top picture! Must have been a problem with loading on my computer.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. bgddyjim says:

    Nice post, brother. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hopefully it’ll come in handy if I ever get across the the USA one day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan says:

    My problem with something like this is getting it back home. I’m planning a cross nation ride in a bit over a year so it’s a one way deal. Ship the empty crate home?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You could ship it back. Alternatively if you’re ok with less protection, grab a cardboard bike box from your local bike shop. They tend to throw them after building up bikes. Pack it well, then dump the cardboard in the recycling at the other end!


      1. Dan says:

        I’ll probably take Amtrak to my starting point. Their boxes are pretty solid and large enough that you don’t have to take wheels off. Take off the pedals, turn handlebar sideways, and roll it in.


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