In few months we are going to visit Japan to cycle the 88 Temples pilgrimage there, and therefore we want to take our bikes with us.

Neglecting the transport from home to the airport, I will need to carry the bikes first on the plane, and then from the airport to the starting point, either via train or bus, with the constraints that the bikes must be covered and shall not exceed certain dimensions, else they won't be ammitted on the transport (and the train/bus crew is very strict on the size fitting).

I booked a direct flight to minimize handling at airport, but still I am not able to decide among the various options for packing them (taking for granted that the bikes will have the wheels removed and tightened to the frame before packing):

  1. Use two hard bags:

    Plus: good protection of the bike during the flight

    Minus: hard to store for the flight back, rather expensive, won't allow usage in-between in case we decide to take train or bus

  2. Use two soft bags covered with Fragile labels

    Plus: lightweight and easy to carry along, less expensive than hard bags, can be used also for taking the bikes on the train or bus no matter when it happens during the trip

    Minus: do airport operators care about "fragile" bags?

  3. Use cardboard boxes

    Plus: they come for free, good protection

    Minus: likely single use only, where to find a new pair of boxes in Japan (both bikes are XL, not really the common Japanese size), won't allow usage inbetween in case we decide to take train or bus.

Talking with a friend who is often travelling on airplanes with his bike along, he always used a simple home-made soft bag with no labels, which led only to a bent derailleur gears after several trips. In my case the derailleur gears will be protected by the dissasmbled rear wheel, but I am still concerned about the carbon fork, which is not really keen to take strange impacts. Another one told me he found a kind local who accepted to keep his cardboard box at his place for the entire lenght of the trip, but I'd rather not count on lucky meetings to plan this trip.

  • 2
    A cardboard box need not be one time use - get one from a bike shop and you are the second user. Only difference is (hopefully) where it is recycled.
    – mattnz
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 19:04
  • One option to consider is shipping the bike there and back, via a freight carrier. And the only time I've ever flown with a bike (round trip between Minnesota and Toronto) I had it boxed per "spec", but they still damaged it on the way back -- wrecked the derailer. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 1:19
  • Can't answer a question that is closed, but this one is a bit different. All the answers have been to "how do I carry a bike on a plane" but the difference is OP wants to use the bike. Its not just shipping the bike then riding it at destination, its flipping between riding and something else and then riding again. So my answer is:
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 10:08
  • 1
    @Móż that misses the point of this question - How do you carry the bike packing on the bike to the next location where you need it? This question is asking about changing from riding the bike to packing the bike and back again, possibly several times.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 2:56
  • 1
    I think @Criggie is right, but the question needs some editing to make this clear.
    – Batman
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 3:23

3 Answers 3


This is how I travelled with budget Wizzair from Malmoe to Warsaw:

enter image description here

Three bikes were wrapped with stretch foil, with almost no disassembly, just handlebar turned by 90 deg.

One bike was totally disassembled, including derailleur removal, and put in soft bicycle-bag.

No damages were observed.

  • the not disassembed one is how my friend normally travels, and indeed he reported only a single damage over multiple trips. Quoting him "if they see it is a bike they are not going to throw it like they would do with a normal black bag"
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 13:50
  • The stretch wrap would not be sufficient for entering the US by air unless you want to re-wrap it all at your point of entry. At least in my experience with my point of entry being YYZ. DHS has to swab the frame for explosive residue so as far as I know all bikes must come out of their container. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 16:34
  • @BenjaminKelley yes, I had to report bicycle before check-in and before wrapping it.
    – krzyski
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 16:45

I'd prefer a hard case myself, especially if the bikes are expensive. The big advantage of cases is that most come with wheels, which is handy for making the trek from the airport to the hotel. Regarding the cases, you can store them either at your hotel, hostel, or at the baggage storage services (which might get expensive for multiple days). There are now hostels and hotels who cater to the bike crowd so you might want to explore using them.

hard case

For cardboard boxes, they might actually survive in good enough condition to use on the return trip. Bring or buy lots of duct tape. Transporting a bike box from place to place is a pain because they don't have wheels, be sure to also get a trolley:

enter image description here

And being a Brompton fanatic, I have to ask if you've considered a folder. My Brompton fits in a custom hardcase that I bodged together in my workshop for less than 100 euro/dollars. The beauty of folders is that you can declare them as "circus equipment" and not bicycles, so you don't get hit with the bicycle surcharge. This is my brompton travelling as regular luggage in its case (no wheels, so I have to use a folding luggage cart like the above):

Brompton case

Finally, you have one other option:

  1. Rent a bike. There are numerous bike rental places in Shikoku. Japan has finally realized that bike touring is a thing and there are numerous bike shops, bike rental places, bike hostels, and so forth in Shikoku. They may also be amenable to storing your case/bag/box.
  • 1
    Cardboard boxes are actually fairly excellent at surviving two trips. I use duct tape to armor the corners, reinforce joints and hand holds PRIOR to the flight. Then I keep a roll handy to fix the slash damage that inevitably occurs during transport. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 19:47
  • See also bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/44762/59096 Commented Feb 20, 2023 at 23:29

Check with your air carrier, they may refuse liability for any bike not packed in a cardboard or hard sided bike case, which may limit your options, assuming that's something you care about:


United is not liable for damage to bicycles that do not have the handlebars fixed sideways and pedals removed, handlebars and pedals encased in plastic foam or similar material, or bicycles not contained in a cardboard containers or hard-sided cases.

The one time I took my bike overseas (in a hard-sided case), I regretted it. It's expensive ($200 each way on United) and inconvenient -- I had a hard time finding a cab that could hold us and our two bikes (we ended up taking 2 cabs to our first night hotel, fortunately our hotel helped us find a larger cab to take us to the start of our biking journey) and we had to deal with lugging them around on the last few (non-biking) days of our trip. A bike case takes a surprising amount of room in a small hotel room.

Now I spend some time researching quality bike rentals and only carry my pedals and helmet along. It's much much more convenient. And if for some reason we change our plans (like, say, due to a injury), we don't have to figure out what to do with our bikes.

If you plan on multiple overseas bike trips, another option would be to get a quality folding bike that fits into a suitcase sized case. A friend that does this regularly did that -- I think his bike is a Brompton. It's a pretty decent bike, I've ridden on some century rides with him and he has no trouble keeping up or doing the distance, so it seems like it would be a good option for travel, and if it saves $400 per trip in oversize bag fees, it wouldn't take many trips to pay for itself.

  • The crucial word is or. It makes the whole clause mean anything they want it to mean, after the fact.
    – andy256
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 0:20
  • I have had no trouble asking hotels to store my bike for a few days, while I'm there and while absent. And never had any trouble fitting a bike in a bike bag in a taxi either. Seems our experiences differ greatly. Take away: YMMV :-)
    – andy256
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 0:23
  • 1
    @andy256 - that's helpful if you're returning home from the same point that you started, but my travels are usually linear -- i.e. I start one place and end up somewhere else, so storing my bike box in a hotel while I continue my trip means I've got to go back and get it somehow. Even in the USA with it's large cars, I've had trouble finding a cab big enough to handle two bike boxes.
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 1:14

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