How to ship bikes from US to Europe?

Hello,
I’m preparing to travel again to Europe, but this time I want to bring our bikes. 2 road bikes. I’ll be traveling from USA to the Milan or Rome airport.

I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts, experience and tips on traveling with a bike. I plan on being fairly stationary with our location and staying in one spot for 2-3 months, then (hopefully train) to another spot for 3 months, etc. So it’s the initial international flight I’m most concerned about. But realistically, I think a regional flight will be inevitable with the bikes, too.

I know a bike box will be huge and we will have to break down the bike, thankfully our bikes are fairly light weight. I’m expecting it to be a huge pain…but I think the reward of having a good bike to roam around with will be invaluable. Especially since we will be staying in rural areas and don’t want to rent a car.

General range of cost?

Anyone bring their bike and glad they did? …Wish they didn’t?.. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks!

I’ve traveled with my road bike and triathlon bike, separately, since 2016. I’ve taken them on many planes, some trains, buses, boats, and cars. I take a bike pretty much everywhere I go. I’ve never regretted it. It’s wonderful how much more you can explore with your bike. You’ll go places you otherwise wouldn’t.

I’ve even picked up an indoor trainer (Wahoo Kickr Snap) and took it with me to a couple of places. But that’s another story.

Case
I pack my bike in a Gavilan BFF bike case from Radicalvelo. The case cost me $475. However, it appears they no longer sell it. My friend, though, has the Orucase Airport Ninja case, that is about the same size as mine. It’s a nice case.

Packing
To pack my bike, I have to disassemble it: handlebars, fork, rear-derailleur, brakes, wheels. It takes me about 30-50 minutes to disassemble/pack and unpack/assemble. I’ve done it so many times now, I’ve gotten very comfortable doing it. I also adjust my brakes and derailleurs after re-assemblying it. I also have a small tool bag with hex wrenches, screwdriver, something to take the peddles off. I used to disassemble my chain but now just wrap it and the rear-derailleur together and attach them to the bike frame securely.

My bike pump also a bike stand: Topeak TRANSFORMER RX. It’s very useful and lightweight.

I highly recommend having a portable digital scale to weigh your case and other bags!

Fees
Regarding transportation fees: My case is always less than or equal to 20kg (45lbs). The dimensions are close to the maximum allowed. Nearly every international flight has a check-in allowance that allowed me to check-in my case and another bag without any additional fees. Out of the many flights that I’ve taken, only one airline (Avianca, international flight) counter agent has measured the case dimensions and made me pay an oversize fee over $100 (I can’t remember exact amount) for being 10 inches over. For budget airlines, some of them charge per kilogram over some minimum or something similar. Usually, the additional cost is reasonable; much less than $100, maybe around $20. It’s always best to pay the overweight fees ahead of time, if any.

There was a time where I had taken my assembled bike onto a boat and they charge me a small fee. Also, a similar thing happened when I had to take a long distance bus somewhere.

Bike Box
My wife uses a bike box. For me, the box is cumbersome because of the size, however, the bike is faster to pack and unpack. She’ll pay the oversize fee when necessary. But, she hasn’t travelled many places with it and so far the costs have been fine with us. Actually, some airlines sometimes have an no-fee allowance for bikes! So check the airlines for their policies.

Overall, I think you should take the bikes for the amount of time you’ll spend in one spot.

The advice from mentisdominus is appropriate for OP and anyone going to and returning from the same location. A bike case or box will provide maximum protection and is worth the effort when there is only a couple flights.

But here’s a tip for those of you who may be touring, arriving at one airport and departing from another, or taking many flights where taking a bike box or case with you on tour is usually not possible (unless you have something like a Bike Friday travel case). Most airlines will accept a fully-assembled bicycle with just a plastic cover, as long as the handlebars and turned sideways and the pedals are removed. Even airlines that specifically list a “box” as a requirement will allow a simple plastic cover. Ask at a mattress store for the plastic bag that comes on a twin size mattress (cost $0–10). Now you can roll up to the airport, pack your bike in its bag and secure the plastic with packing tape or rope (5 minutes) and drop it at the “oversized luggage” desk (after check-in). Final package looks like the image below. When you arrive to your destination you can roll up the plastic and keep it with you until you arrive to the next airport. A plastic bag certainly doesn’t provide as much protection as a box or case, so I would also remove bike parts that are delicate, for example I would unscrew the rear derailleur and tie it to the frame somewhere it won’t take a hit, also things like bike bells or lights that might easily break off if bumped. No need to deflate the tires. I’ve even used this technique with a tandem bicycle, for which airlines didn’t even blink (and they charged only one bicycle fee :).

Not just going to and returning from the same location and a couple of flights. Can do many point to point to point, etc… (for example, LA->Saigon->Hoi An->Da Lat->Saigon->Tokyo->Osaka->Kyoto->Hiroshima->Onomichi->Kobi->Osaka->Taipei->Taichung->Saigon->LA) But @quinn makes a good point, you may have to repack everything or find a way to send your bag before heading to your next destination. In Taiwan, for example, I sent my bag by post to my next destination and it arrived before I cycled there. @quinn tips and info for touring is great, though! Very useful. :+1: