Getting a tandem to Greece
We'd like to take our tandem on a self-organised bike + ferry tour of Greek islands in early Spring 2020, but we've never flown with it. Our bike (like most members', I'm sure) is very precious to us and the holiday would be severely impacted if it were damaged in transit.
Should it fly with us to Athens or should we ship or courier it ahead? If yes to either, how?
We have a Thorn, with a Rohloff hub, full mudguards and pannier racks and S&S couplings which split the bike just in front of the pilot's seat post. I can't see how it can be packed small enough for the standard courier limit of 130x90x30, but surely windsurfers etc must have bigger packing sizes?
Any ideas welcome, especially from those with direct experience - good or bad - of flying within Europe with tandem, or of shipping/using courier services. Thanks
We’ve flown with EasyJet and Jet2 in Europe without any problems we used to pack the tandem (a Dawes Discovery Twin, no couplings) in a big bag padded with cardboard and was probably no longer than a surfboard once the wheels and racks were removed and placed alongside the frame, no one has questioned the size at check in, we just tell them it’s a bike.
More recently we’ve been packing the tandem in cardboard bike boxes from a bike shop, it takes one full box + about 12 inches of a second box taped to the end to fit it in (with wheels and racks remove as above). We did have a big green bag to put the box in, but have since lost this and just wrap the box in cling wrap.
After bending a chainring on one flight I now remove these and the disk brake rotors and bundle them al together safely.
If you search the discussion board for ‘flying’ there’s a whole load of posts with useful information.
We have flown with our tandem on three occasions with mixed results. On the first occasion we flew with Lufthansa from Heathrow to Frankfurt. Lufthansa wanted the bike whole and unboxed, this was a disaster as the bike suffered at the hands of baggage handlers with the front wheel forced out of the forks, a pedal broken and the frame badly dented. On two subsequent occasions we have flown the bike home, once with Wizz Air from Bucharest and once with Pegasus from Istanbul. Out tandem is also a Thorn with S&S couplings equipped as yours. We split it and scrounged a couple of bike boxes from a local bike shop on both occasions and then found plenty of soft packaging. This worked well with the tandem travelling safely but it does require a day before flying to get packed up. We contacted local bike shops after a bit of internet research on both occasions to make sure boxes would be available. Finally, we crossed from mainland Greece to Turkey in 2018 visiting 8 islands, I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did.
S&S machine in the USA makes the hard side travel cases for your Tandems that have 26" wheels. 26X26X8" travels as a regular case without any extra charges.
Of course you could get an interrail ticket and take it on the train to Venice with ferry to Patras from there. (Works with a single but you have to treat the journey as part of the holiday and you might not have the time.....
We have flown many times with our Roberts tandem and no longer dismantle it. Take off the pedals, let a little air out of the tyres, do not twist handlebars, put a toestrap around the front wheel and down tube to keep it straight. We have an old style mountain bike gear protector that stops damage to the rear deraileur. Then put the bike into a plastic mattress bag frontwards and then pull another mattress bag on backwards. Seal the whole lot with tape. Put it on the aeroplane. Never any damage and only a couple of minutes to put the pedals back on.
Interesting to hear your good experience of airlines Steve. Are there any particular carriers that you prefer, or that you avoid?
We have also had mixed experiences, good and bad. It's probably not directly airline related but more baggage handlers and airport related. We used to put pipe lagging on the frame and wrap in plastic and it was generally OK, but we did have frame damage coming back from Spain (can't remember the airline) and New Zealand (Air New Zealand). Fortunately it was a Longstaff, George was still around and we live not far away, but it was inconvenient and off the road for a fair while.
We now have a tandem with couplings and resort to the 2 cardboard box system, having a number of photos similar to Andrew Skelton's above. What we have tried to do over the last few trips is fly one way, dump the packing and get back to the UK by ferry, Bike Bus etc. avoiding the need to find new packing. So far we have had no problems with Easy Jet to Sicilly (back via Sardinia, Corsica and France) and SAS to Stockholm. I am confident with the boxed method but no longer with the plastic bag. We are going to Barcelona area in the early summer (with Jet2 who I've heard reasonable reports of), cycling the length of the Ebro and returning from Santander. It will always be a bit nerve wracking waiting for the boxes at the airport but am anticipating everything being OK again.
Regarding specific airlines you will need to check that they will take bikes and if your tandem doesn't have couplings that they will take a bike the size of the tandem. For instance SAS now say no tandems but an uncoupled one in 2 boxes is no problem.
I wonder if the SAS situation relates to a problem we had last year. I left them the tandem unwrapped, as they wanted, and having boarded the plane saw it on the trolley awaiting loading.. but it must have been taken back to the depo as it didn't leave Britain and we spent the first day of our holiday arguing on the phone about where it was. Eventually they paid us hire charges for solo bikes and a consideration for wasted holiday time too.
Most of our flights with tandem have been with BA but I agree with Ian that problems are likely to be handler related rather than airline related. Hope that the trip to Greece goes well, I'm sure you'll have a super time.