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Flying with a bike was literally a source of anxiety for me in the build up to attending the TriLiving triathlon training camp in Lanzarote, back in 2019.
Tip – scroll to the very bottom for the TL;DR – How To Pack A Bike Box Alan summary
The decision to fly with my bike was made for a number of reasons. Firstly, I just didn’t have the energy to be sorting out a bike in Lanzarote, from the UK. Club La Santa, where we were staying, have great bikes for hire but the women’s selection of bikes 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 feel weird using another brand of bike and honestly, I just wanted to ride my own bike which I know and love.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve lived through the whole flying with a bike thing again. This time, for a tip to Finland to complete FNLD GRVL, so I’ve made a few updates to this post.
Booking Your Bike On Your Flight
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.
When flying to Helsinki, Finland I did the same again and the cost has remained at £60, each way.
I highly recommend you purchase priority boarding when flying with Ryanair, so you are able to 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 Alan.
The Osprey Transporter Carry-On 44 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.
Booking A Bike on Finnair
For my trip to Finland, I flew out with Ryanair but flew back with Finnair. Finnair share €70 each way to fly your bike, which equated to just under £62 on this occasion. Take note that they charge €100 each way for flights outside of Europe.
Finnair have been the only ones to weight my bike box when flying – it was 25kg total with my Liv Brava and some of my kit – which I believe is because if special baggage exceeds the standard allowance or size, an extra bag charge and/or a heavy bag charge applies.
A heavy or oversized bag charge applies if you are travelling with a bag that weighs 23–32kg (50–70lb) or exceeds the standard size of 90cm x 75cm x 45cm (35in x 30in x 18in), so was I lucky to get through with my 25kg?!
Whoever you’re flying your bike with though, always make sure you have adequate bike insurance that covers your bike for the flight and your actual holiday itself.
Keeping Track of Your Bike When Flying
Recently, there have been lots of instances of luggage and bikes not turning up at their destination as planned. One suggestion I came across was to get an apple air tag and put it in your bike box.
I purchased a pack of 4 air tags so I can have one in each piece of luggage and use for other valuable items.For traveling to Finland it worked a treat especially to track the bike when waiting for it to be unloaded from the plane and transported to baggage collection.
While it won’t help get the bags to their destination, you will be able to track where they are if they are “lost” or “delayed”.
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 cycling communities for advice and decided to go for a Bike Box Alan (BBA) Premium Bike Box.
How Much is a Bike Box Alan?
When you google search BBA 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 updating this post) on the BBA website starts at £440. You then need to factor in £25 for delivery and costs for stickers and accessories, if you want them.
I ended up purchasing my BBA from Sigma Sports, where delivery was free and I saved £25 using their promotion for new customers. So although they sold the bike box for more than BBA directly, once I factored 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.
However, it now seems the only place to purchase a BBA is directly through the Bike Box Alan website, yet lead times are quoted as 2-3 weeks from the date of order.
Dimensions & Weight Of The Bike Box Alan Original
According to the BBA website, the Bike Box Alan dimensions are approximately length 116cm x height 96cm x width 36cm. This is for the BBA Original Premium Bike Box.
To fly a bike on British Airways, your bike needs to be in a heavy-duty polythene bike bag, padded case or hard shell up to 190 x 95 x 65cm (75 x 37.5 x 25.5in). One benefit of flying with British Airways is that if the bike in your checked baggage allowance, there’s no extra charge. However, you will have to be mindful of your baggage allowance of other airlines, even if you book via British Airways.
Ryanair don’t seem to specify dimensions, but state that any item weighing over the 20 kilos allowance will be charged for the excess at the applicable excess baggage rate per kilo; with bicycles being a max of 30kg.
The BBA alone weights approximately 11.2kg.
If you’re flying with Jet2, or book one for their package holidays, you can add a bike at the time of booking, with a 32kg max allowance. They do also note that adding a bike to your booking may increase the cost of your transfer if you’ve booked a package holiday.
Bike Box Alan Accessories You Need
Having now made a couple of trips 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 though. Thankfully Matt at Giant Loughton had a novel way to secure the tires using cable ties.
Second time round, packing my cross bike, I had to just position the wheels on the foam, on the bike which were held in place by the box. I did actually purchase the QR skewers which were no use so again, if you have a bike with disc brakes, don’t bother.
You need this, for sure. 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-one to help me. 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!
The pull strap is also what it says on the tin – useful for pulling only. It’s not long enough to go over your shoulders to help you lift the box if you’re on your own.
Ideally, the box needs a shoulder strap to 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 £15 on the BBA website and included free shipping when I checked previously, but more recently, shipping charges are applying.
TSA Approved Padlocks
I purchased two TSA approved padlocks from Amazon. A super cheap way to secure your bike and all the other things you will pack in with it in the Bike Box Alan. My 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 taking just 10-15 minutes. I beg to disagree.
Thankfully, the guys at Giant Store Loughton offered to help me pack my bike into the box for my first trip or else it would have all ended 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 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.
Tip – Make sure you mark your seat height ready for when you build your bike back. We did mark mine with a sharpie but that long disappeared by the time I arrived! Masking tape worked much better next time round.
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 mentioned earlier, Matt secured my tires using cable ties as QR skewers were nowhere near long enough. 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 and track 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 of my cycling goals.
For Finland, I did the same. Built my Liv Brava, then took it out for a spin to sign on for race day and check out the expo. This time, one of my brakes felt a little iffy.
Stuart from SRAM kindly gave it the once over and told me my brake pads had likely been contaminated (oops). He gave everything a good clean, and they felt safe enough for me to ride confidently the next day.
Now that I’ve successfully travelled with my bike a couple of times, it’ll get easier each and every trip. I’m still super keento take my bike out to Mallorca after researching it intensively, as well as Girona. Then I’d love to hit some lesser known places in Europe and beyond to cycle. A USA road trip maybe?!
Have you ever flown with a bike?!
TL;DR – How To Pack Bike Box Alan
You can watch the original video from BBA here , or read the summary below for a road bike.
- 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 largest 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
Notes On Packing My Gravel Bike
Packing my gravel / cx bike was slightly different when it comes to the wheels. I found the best way was to first lay the rear wheel on the left hand side of the box with disc rotor facing towards the bike frame. Then the front wheel is placed on the right hand side, disc rotor facing upwards.
I placed a cloth over the rear wheel cogs to protect the front tire, which is probably what caused some contamination soooo, use something cleaner if you have to do the same. It was a snug fit with my gravel bike; be prepared to shuffle the bike and wheels around until you can achieve the best fit where the bike closes comfortably.