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Can You Bring a Mountain Bike on a Plane? a Comprehensive Guide

Planning on a vacation with family or friends could be a lot of fun, but sometimes, it could also be a little complicated, especially when you’re traveling with heavy and bulky luggage like a mountain bike. A common question usually raised by bikers whenever going off on a faraway place is this: can you bring a mountain bike on a plane?

You can bring a MTB on a plane as long as you follow airline guidelines and pack it according to the rules. In order to travel you’ll need to partially dismantle it, clean it properly, and store in a suitable bag designed for bikes.

Some also travel for the main purpose of going on world-renowned bike trails. In this article, we will be providing you with guidelines on how you can safely bring your mountain bike on a plane, so you could have an enjoyable time sightseeing on your favorite ride. After all, it would be pretty amazing to enjoy the magnificent views of a destination while going on a bike ride.

person on his way to an airplane with a mountain bike

Mountain Bike Airline Guidelines

Bringing a mountain bike on a plane can be quite a challenge, but with these tips, we hope to make your life a little bit easier. Just take note of these considerations and your off-road trip will be a breeze.

  1. Before anything else, the most important thing to know is if your chosen airline allows bringing a bike on a plane. You want to do this early on, as you don’t want your whole trip ruined because of airline restrictions. While most airlines allow it, sadly, some prohibit bikes on their planes. In the event that your airline will not allow you to bring your bike on the plane, check out the last section of this article for alternative options.
  2. Make sure to read up on the baggage policies of the airline. Take note of weight restrictions before purchasing a ticket. The maximum baggage limit varies from airline to airline. Obviously, knowing the weight limit will help you determine whether you can bring your bike or not. Vacations are supposed to be fun, you don’t want to have any regrets just because you didn’t read the fine print.
  3. Find out how much the fee is for bringing a bike. Whichever airline you pick, there will always be a bike fee. Usually, the cost ranges from $50 to $250 one-way. It’s better to check with your airline ahead of time to help you budget your finances appropriately.
  4. When you finally get on the plane, you have to double check that your bike is secured tight in a bag. There shouldn’t be any pieces rattling or moving around inside the bag as that may cause severe damage to your bike as it is being transported.
  5. Once you have reached your destination, it is critical to check the condition of your bike. If it is damaged in any way, shape, or form, you will have to report it immediately to your travel insurance company. If you don’t report right away, chances are they won’t pay you.

Prepping Your Mountain Bike for the Trip

Once you’ve had all the airline regulations all sorted out, now it’s time to ensure that your mountain bike is ready for the long trip ahead. You might think that it’s going to require a lot of work to pack your bike and bring it on the plane, it is actually not as arduous as you would think.

Don’t worry now, preparing your mountain bike for that foreign trail you’ve always wanted to try is not as difficult as packing up a road machine. Plus, we’re here to provide you with step-by-step guidelines to make sure your mountain bike flies safely on your trip. After having read this article, you will surely have a relaxing, stress-free journey.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Bike Is Squeaky Clean

The first step to prepping your bike is to clean it well. First of all, certain countries such as New Zealand have strict regulations about foreign dirt entering their country. If you think those dirty tires look badass, think again. Better do some research, as bringing a dirty bike on your trip might result in getting it impounded.

Secondly, who wants to go on a trip with a muddy bike? Wouldn’t it be so much better if you bring a clean bike to a new country and then have it get dirtied up with foreign mud?

Step 2: Prep Your Tools

Once you’ve given your mountain bike a good bath, it’s time to dismantle certain parts. Here are the tools and items you’ll need in order to get this all done:

  1. A Bike bag or box. Now, if you will be going on multiple off-road trips with your mountain bike, it’s advisable to invest in a good bike case. You don’t want to open your bag after a plane trip and see a damaged brake rotor or derailleur hanger. That will just cost you an entire day and a lot of money to have it repaired in a foreign country. That’s not how you want to start a vacation.

Another great thing about having a bike case is that you could also use it to store other items apart from your mountain bike. You’ll have to pay a bike rate anyway (with no weight restriction, mind you), so better maximize that extra space. As we all know, airlines have a weight limit for passengers’ checked baggage.

So, feel free to transfer bike clothes and other items to your bike case to save up on baggage space. You could even use your bike clothes to further protect your bike frame. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone.

  1. Allen Keys or a Multi-Tool Set
  2. Pedal Wrench
  3. Bubble Wrap or Foam
  4. Zip Ties
  5. Tape
  6. Rags
  7. Booze (not required, but highly advised)

Step 3: Dismantle the Bike

Once all the tools and items are ready, it’s time to dismantle certain parts of your bike. You’ll need to do this if you want to safely bring your mountain bike on a plane. There’s no need to be overwhelmed, as we will walk you through this every step of the way. It’s actually pretty simple!

  1. Place a mark on your seat post and handlebars. You will dismantle these parts when as you pack the bike for travel. Stick a piece of tape around these bike parts and mark them with a pen.
  2. Take out the rear wheel. As you remove this, make sure to put a hub spacer or something similar in the frame’s rear. You might need to take out the rear derailleur as well. Make sure the derailleur is protected with foam or bubble wrap.
  3. Take out the tires. Before removing, though, ensure that the bike’s chain is moved on to the biggest anterior chainring and the smallest posterior sprocket.
  4. Take out the pedals. As you do so, be reminded that the pedal wrench or allen key must be turned in the right direction.
  5. Remove the handlebars off the stem. After taking this piece out, we suggest that you reattach the stem faceplate just to remove the chances of it getting lost. Make sure to secure the bolts tight so they won’t move around. Check your bag first, though — some cases might need you to remove the stem completely, while others might require you to position the stem such that it is facing the back.
  6. Secure the thru-axles so that you may easily reattach the rear wheel back onto the bike frame.
  7. Dismantle the front wheel. Make sure that the fork is protected by making use of an axle spacer. If you do not have one available, an old axle or hub will do the trick as well.
  8. Deflate the tires. Airlines sometimes don’t require you to deflate bike tires prior to flying, as plane cabins are pressurized anyway. However, other airlines do require it, so might as well do so just the same to avoid trouble. Just be sure to leave just a small bit of air in: this step is critical if you want those rims protected. Also, it’s important that you wrap the linkages with some bubble wrap for protection.
  9. Take out the handlebars and seat post. In certain bike cases, you will need to remove the seat post. Others come with a fitted dropper, so instead of removing the seat post, there is no need to do so. Just position it properly and you are good to go.
  10. Protect those disc brake pads. In order to stop them from contacting each other, place a pad spacer such as a piece of cardboard in between your front and rear brakes. It’s a small step that will come a long way, trust us.
  11. If you have any excess chain, use some zip ties to attach them to the bike’s frame. Use some bubble wrap or cardboard to wrap the chain as well. This will help eliminate the chances of the chain scratching or damaging your mountain bike. It will also prevent grease from spreading all over the bike case.
  12. Protect the bike frame by applying foam or bubble wrap all over it. Go crazy!
  13. You’ve done a good job so far. Reward yourself and have some of that ice cold booze.

Step 4: Put Them All in the Case

Now that you’ve taken apart the pieces of your mountain bike, it’s time to bag them up. Don’t just throw all of them in randomly. Follow these steps for some organized packing.

  1. The first to go in the bag are the wheels. Before placing them inside the case, make sure to detach the skewers first. Place the skewers inside any of the bag’s side pockets.
  2. Now it’s time to place the bike frame inside. Bike cases usually have straps and fittings to allow you to put the bike properly in place. If there aren’t any, not to worry. In this case, you may use some cardboard, foam, or bubble wrap to secure the bike safely.

The bottom bracket must be placed on the block in the center of the case. The chainring must hang down to the side. These blocks are adjustable, so you may customize them depending on the size of your mountain bike. In case the case does not have blocks, just remove the chainrings and grab some bubble wrap. Fill the bottom of the case with bubble wrap for protection.

Next up, place the posterior axle into the rear block. Make sure that the axle is placed on the correct rear block slot.

  1. Using the straps provided in the case, attach the handlebars to the case. If the case doesn’t have any straps, use zip ties instead. Make sure to secure it properly to prevent any movements during the flight. Bag the pedals and seat post as well.
  2. If there is still some space left in your case, throw in your helmet and other protective gear. It is also good practice to bring some tools you might need while on vacation. We also suggest that you place energy drinks inside the bag. Just make sure that you have enough cardboard, foam, and bubble wrap to protect the bike and all its parts from rattling around.

Bonus Pro-Tip

When going on a foreign bike trail, we highly recommend that you bring boatloads of biking clothing. Mountain biking, as we’re sure you know, is a very exhausting and sweat-inducing sport. After a tiring day of riding your bike, we bet you’d hate the idea of putting on the same shorts and jersey the following day.

We’re sure you wouldn’t want to waste precious time at laundromats, either, so just to be on the safe side, take with you at least 4 pairs of shorts and jerseys for a 2-day bike trail. Make sure to bring as many socks as you can too.

Other Options

As promised, we’re giving you these alternative solutions in the event that your chosen airline prohibits you from bringing a mountain bike on a plane. These might be more expensive than taking your bike with you on the plane, but, if you’re really hell-bent on bringing your bike, then at least you have these options available.

Option 1: Shipping

We’re not gonna lie, this option is really pricey, especially if you’re traveling to a different continent. For instance, if you have your mountain bike shipped to Lima, Peru from Toronto, Canada, it will cost you around $600 CAD.

However, if you are traveling within your continent, say, Europe or North America, then this option might actually better than bringing your bike on a plane. It’s much more convenient, as you won’t need to carry the bike at the airport. Additionally, couriers will take better care of your mountain bike than airline baggage handlers because it’s easy to avail of travel insurance using this method. Some of the better shipping companies are as follows:

  1. Bikeflights. This company takes pride in being the simplest and most affordable method to get your bike shipped.
  2. FedEx. This company provides insurance for your bike case.
  3. UPS. This is a little pricier option, though. Also, the Adventure Cycling Association shares that it ships longer than FedEx. They don’t cover insurance either.

Option 2: Renting

Another good option for you is to simply rent a bike wherever you are staying. Usually, we advise riders and all bike travelers, in general, to take their bikes with them. It’s easier to ride using a bike that’s already familiar to you, except of course if you own a crappy one.

However, in certain circumstances, bike renting is just way more convenient than bringing it on a plane or having it shipped. For instance, If you’re going on another trip after your bike trail trip, wouldn’t it be such a hassle if you still carried the bike around everywhere?

To help you out, here are a few tips you need to know when renting a bike:

  1. Rent in advance, especially during peak season when shops are usually slammed with customers.
  2. Research on the rental company’s available bike models, age, and brands.
  3. Find out how frequent their bikes are maintained and inspected. Ideally, it should be done every time it’s been used for rent.
  4. Find out the damage policy. If a piece gets damaged or broken by accident, will you have to pay for it?
  5. Lastly, do not take sizing for granted. This is a critical aspect of smooth bike riding. For example, a medium Santa Cruz will not necessarily fit you the way a medium Specialized will. If you are set on renting a bike, figure out what brand and model you want first, and find local shops within your area that has that bike available. Then, proceed to that particular local shop and try out the bike to identify what your size is.

Sacred Rides has worked with various bike shops and rental stores in many destinations so that there are plenty of superb mountain bikes available for rent for you. Regardless if you’re traveling with them or going on a trip alone, don’t hesitate to give them a call to know your options.

Now, once you’ve done all these preparations, there is one final thing you need to do: sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.