I'm planning on flying to Japan for a bicycle vacation early this spring. Having had a look at flight bags, I'm puzzled. They are expensive, weigh tons and are huge, I couldn't feasibly bring them with me on my bicycle trek. I might be able to rent storage for roughly a month in Tokyo, but it seems like quite a tedious project on its own.
How do the rest of you manage? Remove the wheels and wrap the thing up in (EDIT: cardboard and) plastic-wrap on the airport, have it checked in instead of luggage, and then use the panniers as carry-on luggage? Is it safe? Has anyone had their bicycle damaged or stolen during transport?