The Dedegol Mountains, Isparta, Turkey. This yearís challenge?

Transporting Bikes

We considered leaving this page out. Travelling by cargo ship avoids many of the problems associated with taking the tandem around the world. Even so we will have the problem of getting to and from the docks. Also, unlike many of those who publish in the cycling press, we have knowledge gained by experience. This can be of far more use when travelling than an academic study of the various rules.

Tandem by train Tandem by bus Tandem by air

We like if we can to travel overland by public transport. In most cases this is made difficult by the bureaucracy of the various transport operators. Even though tandems are not allowed on most trains in the UK they often do fit into the spaces provided and take up no more room than two solos. The primary rule for taking any bike by train is to put it on, lock it and disappear. In all our years of breaking the rules we have never had a bike put off a train. Itís more than a jobsworthís job is worth.

Travel by bus could be easy. A tandem will often fit into the luggage space under the bus. It is however not allowed by most UK operators. More enlightened countries often take the view that if it will fit in you can take it.

To travel by air you have to reconcile yourself to being treated like cattle at the airport and having your possessions checked as if you were criminals. You will be herded into a space far too small for human habitation and into seats designed to induce DVTs. The whole process on the ground will take just as long as the flight and all those involved will at best be civil but are normally rude, unhelpful and treat you like children.

The tandem in three parts

As far as cyclists are concerned the most important thing is to get the luggage and the bike to the destination airport. And better still, all at the same time and all in one piece. Before mindless bureaucracy set in we just wheeled our then one piece full sized tandem to the oversize baggage check in with a label on it. This was based on the premise that even a baggage handler would not intentionally smash a fine tandem. The only problem we ever had with this method was that in those days on some aircraft the hold was too small to take a tandem.

Things have changed and this is how we do it now. We first read the airline small print. Beware, each one has different rules. The stoker then applies her great brain to determine the cheapest option, depending on how much baggage we are taking. Sometimes we pay for a bike. Sometimes we take it as part of our luggage weight allowance and sometimes as invalid equipment. See the link to stokerís leg below.

Even though our bike splits into three parts the same principles would apply to taking any bike. We still go for the minimalist approach and use very little packing. We still think that there is lots of good in baggage handlers and they will not intentionally smash a clearly fragile piece of luggage. So we put pipe lagging around the frame. This is available from builders merchants in almost every place we have been to. We then put the bike into thin nylon bags made from an old tent. We do the minimum disassembly we can get away with. The only minor problem we have at airports is the size of the security x-ray at the oversize baggage check in. If the bike will not fit we have had to unpack it so that it can be manually checked and sniffed for explosives.

The problem we would have with the recommended cardboard box is that we would need a new one to get home as we almost always return from a different place. These have never been available at any airport we have been to, though if you are stuck, as we were once, have a look at the rubbish in the arrivals area. We carry our nylon bags with us and find them very useful as ground sheets. With regard to other baggage, we leave as much as we can on the frame parts of the bike. Most airlines say we canít do this but we have so far not had a problem with water bottles, tent poles etc. That leaves us with several small bags to go into the hold. If the airline charges per bag we strap them together. Then we just check these in in the normal way, tying pannier straps etc to ensure that they canít come undone.

As a fall back solution to the inevitable jobsworth we will meet in due course there are the bag wrappers found working at many foreign airports. They wrap the bags in layers of polythene on a turntable machine. But then we are back to global warming. But whatís a little plastic compared to the emissions from a jet aircraft running on tax free fuel to make huge profits for fat cats? We would be very interested to hear if anyone has tried booking an extra seat in the cabin for their bike in the same way as some professional musicians do for their instruments. It could be an interesting option if seat prices are very low.

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