Tips for Flying With Your Mountain Bike

Spend less time and stress less when flying with your mountain bike

If you’ve ever planned or gone on a bike trip, you know how much planning can go into it. From scoping out trails and routes from hundreds of miles away to getting your bike to your destination. We’ll explain how to do that and more, so you feel prepared to buy that plane ticket and get on your way!

Planning and Prep for Your Trip

Picking your perfect mountain bike destination will involve a little research. We suggest reading blogs from other riders about the area, looking at trail apps like AllTrails to see the difficulty and assortment of trails, and checking the weather to make sure it’s appropriate for the time of year you’re planning.

Once you’ve chosen the perfect location, pull your bike out of the shadows and give it a once-over. It’s essential to get your bike tuned up and ready for your adventure ahead of time. It will be much easier to get any needed parts and clean it while you’re still home. Once you're on vacation, bike maintenance is the last thing you’ll want to be doing!

The same goes for your gloves, helmet, and other riding gear. Dig them out of storage and make sure everything is in tip-top shape. Maybe you forgot that you tore a giant hole in your shorts last fall; now’s the time to swing by your local shop (or order your favorite Kaden shorts online). Whatever it is, go through all your gear (and throw your clothing in the wash to freshen up) so you’re ready to rock-n-roll!

How to Pack for Your Mountain Bike Trip

Now that your bike and gear are looking fresh, it’s time to start packing. Packing for a mountain bike trip is no small task! Between making sure your bike is safe and watching the bag's weight, there are some tricks that can go a long way to ease the process of packing.

First, decide which items would RUIN your trip if they didn’t show up! Carry-on must-haves might include a chamois, helmet, saddle, and shoes. These are key pieces that you ideally wouldn’t have to rent or buy on location.

With your carry-on bag packed, it’s time to get your checked bag and bike ready. Depending on your destination and whether you’ll be camping or staying in a hotel, your gear needs will be different. We consider these things essential, regardless of the accommodation:

  • Slippers or after riding shoes. Whether it’s fuzzy slippers, sandals, or your favorite pair of Crocs, having something comfortable to slip on after being in bike shoes all day is a game changer.
  • Sweatpants and a sweatshirt (technical or casual). Like slippers, sweats are super cozy after a day of cruising the trails. These can be bulky, so pack strategically. Do you have a comfy technical layer that could double as an extra layer for cold rides? That would be perfect!
  • Mini first-aid kit. You should always have this with you, but especially when heading to a trail system you may not know well or somewhere equally remote. Being prepared for anything offers peace of mind and is much easier than running to a store or clinic after an incident if all you need is a few Band-Aids.

Packing Your Mountain Bike

It’s time for the main event: packing your mountain bike! There are a lot of quality bike cases on the market, both hard- and soft-sided, for almost every budget. If it’s not in the cards this season to buy one, head to a local bike shop and let the pros do their work. For less than it would cost to buy a bike case, they can package your bike in a cardboard box with padding.

Each method of packing your bike has its pros and cons. A cardboard box is light and cheap but usually needs to be more dismantled than a travel bike box or bag would require. In recent years, soft-sided bike bags have become the crowd favorite for their ease of navigating airports and packing your bike. (Check out Evoc and DAKINE for two of the most popular options.)

If you are packing your bike yourself, always remove the handlebars and pedals, and take the skewers out of the wheels. It’s a great idea to grab wheel caps and rear/fork spacers to save you a big headache once you arrive at your destination. When removing the smaller pieces of your bike, put them in a small bag to avoid losing them in transit.

Once your bike is packed, there is often room left in the bag and some wiggle room for weight allowance. You can stuff a few bulky items in with your bike to save space in your checked luggage and possibly avoid checking another bag at all.

Cost of Flying with Your Mountain Bike

You’ll find that most airlines don’t make it overly difficult to fly with your bike. Airlines like Alaska Air will charge the cost of a regular checked bag. They waive oversized/weight fees for bikes as long as they are less than 115 linear inches and under 100 pounds. Alaska Air is one of the most bike-friendly airlines, but they only serve a small part of the country.

As far as major airlines go, you will see similar policies from Delta and United. If your bike box weighs less than 50 pounds, you should be golden and will only pay a checked bag fee. Sometimes the flights you want will require a smaller connection aircraft, which could cause issues. Do yourself a favor and chat with an airline representative before booking your ticket to make sure you know the total cost upfront and what is possible. Likewise, it’s becoming more and more popular to put an Apple AirTag into your checked bike bag to track where it is at all times.

If you don’t want to fly with your bike, check out BikeFlights. They make it incredibly easy to ship your bike to your destination. This is an excellent option if you are taking smaller planes, don’t want to deal with a checked bag, and would like a way to track the shipment.

You simply fill out the form on the website, pack your bike, and they provide a shipping label for you to send the bike. You can arrange for the packed bike to be picked up from your house, or drop it off at a participating bike shop and they will get it shipped out.

Time to Fly

You’ve checked all of the boxes. You researched airlines to find the best deal for transporting you and your bike to your destination. You packed your carry-on with essentials, your bike is padded and ready to go, and you are primed to fly! It’s time to get out there on your dream vacation. Share in the comments where you’re heading this season and which essentials you won’t leave home without.

Don’t forget to freshen up your kit for the season and snag a new Kaden kit before taking off!


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