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Bicycle Shipping - Easy and Affordable
By Daniel Lebarge
My cycling pal Carrie takes her bike wherever she goes, even when the trip isn't dedicated to biking, like the Christmas visit she is making to her parents in Nevada. We recently talked about the advantages and comparative costs of different methods of traveling with a bike. I also did some research on the subject of traveling by airplane and being able to bike once you arrive.
Essentially, you have three options: you can carry your bike on the plane, ship it by a delivery service, or rent a bike at your destination.
Renting clearly lost the race among the three contestants. Mainly because a rented bike isn't yours, and it's likely to be a poor fit as well a being a clunker compared to your own. What is worse, is that renting is expensive. Low end rental is often more than $50 per day (USD), but that can vary. Generally, the better the bike, the more you're going to pay. So, if you rent and ride once or twice while you're there, you'll have almost broken even with the cost of shipping your bike. If you ride more than a couple times, you're money ahead, once you've invested in some kind of shipping carton.
Shipping a bicycle in the cargo hold of the airplane you're on is a good option, and might be the best choice depending on the ircumstances. The advantages of carrying it with you on the plane include have your bike with you continuously. You won't be without your bike for the several days it takes when shipping by UPS. Depending on the type of packaging you use for the shipment, disassembly of your bike is minimal. You can get by with as little as taking off the pedals and handle bar. Usually, the cost is about $40 each way.
The option I prefer is to ship via delivery service. The main benefit is the minimal hassle factor. You don't have to wrestle the crate from taxi to check-in and end the flight by waiting in long lines at baggage claim. There's no need to squeeze the crate into the rental car. Instead, the bicycle is delivered neatly to your door. You have a tracking number, if you like to check in it while the bike is en route. Depending on the beginning and ending points, the cost is often lower than carrying the bicycle with you on the airplane. For less than $40 you can ship your bike from Chicago to Los Angeles. You need a good shipping carton, of course, but if you travel with your bike even a couple times a year it is worth making the investment.
Here is the run down of options for shipping cartons. You can get a hard-sided bike suitcase for around $350 USD, and it will last forever. For these, you have to take off both of the wheels as well as handlebars, seat, and pedals to fit the bike into the case. For around $200, you can get a waterproof bike box that is very durable and has the advantage of being collapsible when not in use. I don't recommend the plain cardboard rectangular boxes because they are expensive, around $150, and only last for a handful of trips. Both the waterproof and cardboard rectangular box comes with tie-downs, straps, and foam chocks. You do have to do some disassembly of the bike, removing the pedals and handlebar. There's one more set-up that is a little less expensive. For about $80, you can get a triangular cardboard shipping carton. You don't have to do any disassembly, not even the bars because of the triangular shape. Just use the quick release for the front wheel and seat, and hold them in place with the tie downs that are provided.
For more details about shipping crates and rates, go on-line. Enter the term 'bike shipping' in any search engine. You'll find that traveling with your own bike is affordable and fairly low hassle. If you haven't taken your bike with you on trips already, try it. You'll like it.
Daniel Lebarge is a contributing writer for News from First Bicycle, your resource for a world of bicycle information.