Travel Tips

5 Tips for Flying With Your Mountain Bike

July 6, 2013

1. Get a proper case

If you plan on trav­el­ing more than once with your moun­tain bike, or are doing mul­ti­ple legs on your jour­ney, invest in a prop­er case for your bike. Noth­ing sucks more than get­ting to your des­ti­na­tion, open­ing up your card­board bike box and find­ing a bent or bro­ken dérailleur hang­er or brake rotor, and then spend­ing half a day look­ing for bike shops to fix the prob­lem. See the next sec­tion (A guide to pro­tect­ing your moun­tain bike) for more infor­ma­tion on the var­i­ous types of bike protection.

2. Clean your bike before you go

Some coun­tries (like New Zealand, for instance) are real­ly strict about for­eign dirt com­ing into the coun­try; your dirt-caked tires might look real­ly cool, but they could also result in your bike being impound­ed. Do your research, and if you need to, give your bike a prop­er clean­ing and wash­ing before pack­ing it up for trav­el. Plus it’s a lot nicer pulling a clean bike out of your case and cak­ing it with fresh local dirt! 

3. Don’t just use your bike bag for your bike

All air­lines have a max­i­mum weight allowance for your main checked bag­gage, but you can often get around this by trans­fer­ring clothes and oth­er gear from your lug­gage to your bike case (you usu­al­ly pay a flat rate to bring a bike on the plane, with no weight restric­tion). If you’ve fol­lowed sug­ges­tion #2, then you can kill two birds with one stone by wrap­ping your bike clothes (jer­seys, shorts, armour, etc…) around your bike frame to fur­ther pro­tect it. 

4. Bring lots of riding clothes

Let’s face it, moun­tain bike gear gets dirty – and real­ly stinky – fast. You may think you can get more than 1 day out of a jer­sey, but trust me – after you’ve put a hard day of rid­ing into a jer­sey or shorts, you’re real­ly not going to want to put them on again the next morn­ing. And you prob­a­bly don’t want to spend a big chunk of our vaca­tion sit­ting at laun­dro­mats, so bring at least 3 or 4 jer­seys and shorts if you have them. Dit­to with socks. 

5. Shipping vs. Flying vs. Renting

If you’re fly­ing to your des­ti­na­tion then you have three options for hav­ing a bike at your des­ti­na­tion: ship it via mail/courier or bring it with you on the plane or rent a bike. 


If you’re stay­ing with­in your con­ti­nent (e.g. North Amer­i­ca, or Europe) then ship­ping your bike may make sense: you don’t have to lug it around with you, couri­er com­pa­nies are usu­al­ly more care­ful with your bike than air­line bag­gage han­dlers, and you can pur­chase insur­ance eas­i­ly. Here are a few ship­ping options:

  • FedEx (They will insure your bike case.)
  • UPS (Accord­ing to Adven­ture Cycling Asso­ci­a­tion, UPS costs more and takes longer than FedEx. They will not insure your bike case.)
  • Bike­flights (Prides itself on being the “eas­i­est and cheap­est” way to ship a bike. 


If you’re fly­ing away from your home con­ti­nent, then it’s usu­al­ly pro­hib­i­tive­ly expen­sive to ship your bike (for exam­ple, ship­ping a bike from our office in Toron­to to Lima, Peru is about $600 CAD) and it makes more sense to bring it with you on the plane. Most air­lines charge an extra fee for trans­port­ing a bike, gen­er­al­ly any­where from $50-$250 each way. Although it’s a bit of a has­sle to pack up your bike and lug it with you to the air­port, it’s usu­al­ly not as much has­sle as you might think.


A final option is to rent a moun­tain bike at your des­ti­na­tion. While we gen­er­al­ly rec­om­mend our Rid­ers – and all moun­tain bike trav­el­ers — bring their own bikes with them (you’ll usu­al­ly ride bet­ter on a famil­iar bike, unless your famil­iar bike is a piece of crap), some­times it’s just more con­ve­nient to rent, for exam­ple if you’re plan­ning on trav­el­ing on after your moun­tain bike trip and don’t want the has­sle of lug­ging your bike around or stor­ing your bike. A few rec­om­men­da­tions re: rental bikes:

  1. Plan ahead: in high sea­son many shops are slammed and may not have avail­abil­i­ty at the last minute, so book your bike well in advance
  2. Ask for exact details on brand, mod­el and year of their fleet.
  3. Ask how often they main­tain their fleet: are they inspect­ed and main­tained after each ride, or on a peri­od­ic basis?
  4. Ask about their dam­age pol­i­cy: for instance, whose respon­si­bil­i­ty is it if the dérailleur hits a rock and the hang­er snaps off? Or whose respon­si­bil­i­ty is it if the front fork blows out and leaks oil all over the place?
  5. Siz­ing is super-impor­tant: a medi­um Spe­cial­ized doesn’t fit the same as a medi­um San­ta Cruz. If you’re inter­est­ed in a rental, find out the mod­el and then find a local shop in your area that sells or rents the same bike, and go to the store and try out bikes to find your size. At Sacred Rides we’ve part­nered with great local bike shops and rental shops in all of our des­ti­na­tions to ensure that we have high-qual­i­ty moun­tain bike rentals for our Rid­ers. Whether you’re trav­el­ing with us or on your own, feel free to drop us a line to ask about rental options in our destinations.
  6. Check your airline’s bag­gage poli­cies. It pays to read the fine print about bag­gage poli­cies: some air­lines even go so far as to pro­hib­it bikes on planes. Read the fine print about weight restric­tions, bike fees, etc.. before you decide to book that flight.