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):
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
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?
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.