Before we share all out fun times in Bogota, I want to make an important public service announcement for anyone travelling with bikes on planes: don’t try the magical plastic bike bags.
After spending hours in the airport in Amsterdam putting three boxed bikes back together, we decided to try bike plastic bags for this flight. Made of heavy plastic, they are designed to need only pedals removed, handlebars turned, tires deflated, the seat lowered and the derailleur protected. We read a number of online reviews of magical 15 minute adjustments post flight to make the bikes ready to ride. In addition to saving time pre and post flight, they are supposed to protect your bike in transit because your bike is very visibly a bike and not just a giant box to be tossed around.
Before leaving Barcelona, we express ordered two bike bags from England. We picked up an awesome super thick electric fat tire bike box for the tandem as well as two smaller folding bike boxes that we cut up to use as extra padding and packed that bike carefully the night before.
Fortunately my family decided to humour me in my need to be at the airport at least 3 hours before the flight.
We took a taxi van and a regular taxi to the airport. (Leaving at 10:30 for a 3:40 flight).
Once we arrived, we took about 45 minutes to pack my bike and Anna Sierra’s bike into their plastic bags. (See our smug photos above). We were especially proud of the sandwich plastic container derailleur protectors zip tied into place.
We were flying Avianca because they take bikes for no additional cost – you can pay up to $200/bike with some airlines.
After a short wait at the baggage check in we were told gently but firmly that if we wanted our bikes to come on the flight, they needed to be in boxes and it wasn’t safe for them to be in bags.
Fortunately I found out that you could buy bike boxes at the airport. So we checked the tandem box and two of our bags and tried not to panic, because it can take a long time to box a bike when you have front and back racks that need to be taken off for it to fit. We also tried not to panic because we really love our bikes and they should be carefully padded before going in a box that might get tossed around or have heavy things on top of it.
Anyway, after waiting almost half an hour, the folks at the baggage wrap kiosk brought up two boxes and we all started working.
By this time we were all pretty panicky, but managed to work quickly together to get both bikes into their boxes and the boxes taped up. There were only a few tears.
We checked the last bag and the two boxes in and still had time to spare for customs and hanging out at the gate.
The 10 hour flight was amazing. We all watched a lot of TV, the kids slept and we didn’t worry about the bikes.
Arriving in Bogota, we were pretty concerned when we saw big rips in both boxes and my chain ring poking out the bottom. Fortunately our hotel had a free airport shuttle, so we just put the boxes in the minivan, went to bed and hoped for the best.
The next morning, while the kids rested, Derek put all three bikes together in the sunny hotel courtyard with help from a wonderful concierge who told him how to say all the parts of the bike in Spanish and who was happy to talk about all the amazing Colombian professional cyclists. He and I chatted about Bogota’s Ciclovia where over 120 km of roads are closed and he told me how children and adults can take free learn to ride classes. It was such a great way to wake up!
Amazingly, all three bikes were fine and we were even able to take them out for a short ride in the afternoon before the combination of jet lag an adjusting to altitude had us all needing a nap.
None of the parts even fell out of the holes in the boxes! We were so relieved that our trusted travelling companions survived.
1. It takes us a long time to carefully box bikes. That is okay. There is not an easier, quicker way. Do not put your bike in a plastic bag. Not even a fancy plastic bag imported from England.
2. Always leave lots of time before catching flights. 3-4 hours at least. The kids are already planning to be at the airport at 5am for our 8:40 am flight to Havana.
3. Do not panic. It leads to collective family meltdowns. This is really not fair for the kids who often take their cues from us and feel a lot safer and more resilient when we can be calm and confident.
4. Everything will eventually work out. If you’re worried, 8 hours of TV can help.
I’ll leave you with a few glorious teaser Ciclovia pictures and a promise of many more in the next post.