Flying With A “Bike Friday”

One of biggest advantages of owning a folding bike like a Bike Friday is the fact that the bike can fold down and fit inside a suitcase – thus enabling you to save a significant amount of money when traveling by plane.

As you may or may not know, most airlines charge approximately $80 per direction to fly a full size bicycle on an airplane. And even at this price, you still have to box the bike up, somehow get it to the airport, hope it passes inspection, and arrives all in one piece.

But with a folding bike, you can avoid all of these hassles.

I just recently returned from a short trip to Aruba where I took my Bike Friday folding bike with me for the very first time. I was excited to use the bike upon my arrival, but was nervous about flying with the bike. What would airport officials have to say about the bike? And if they found out there was a bike inside my suitcase, would they slap me with an extra fee anyway?

Today, I’m going to tell you about my personal experiences flying with my Bike Friday New World Tourist folding bike.

Before leaving home, I packed the bike up inside the suitcase and then took a shuttle to the airport. Checking a full size bicycle onto a plane can sometimes turn into a big deal, but in this case, the woman checking me in didn’t say a thing. I simply lifted the suitcase containing my bike and trailer onto the scale and checked in like normal. I had weighed the bike before leaving home and knew that it weighed exactly 49.8 pounds. At the airport, the scale read exactly 50 pounds (the limit for a suitcase on domestic flights).

Overall, check in was no problem. After going through security myself, I headed to my terminal and took a nap as I waited for my plane to leave

Upon arrival in Aruba, I was fearful that my bike wouldn’t be there. I had heard horror stories of people arriving on their bike trips only to find that their bikes had not made it through security and were now thousands of miles away. Fortunately for me, the suitcase containing my bicycle spilled out onto the baggage claim carousel with everyone else’s luggage and I quickly made my way past customs and out into the hot Aruba sun.

This is one of the most challenging moments in any bike trip: Where can you set up your bicycle?

The airport was crowded and people were rushing about, renting cars, hailing taxis, and generally bustling from one place to the next. But I was on my bicycle and the first thing I needed to do was find a place where I could sit down for a half hour and put my bike together.

Generally, it’s not a good idea to put your bike together in the airport or in front of the doors directly outside the airport. This is a recipe for disaster! The last thing you want to do is take your bike out of the box, start putting it together, and then have police or security come and tell you that you need to quickly move out of the area. With your bike in pieces, this can be terribly difficult to do.

Instead, you need to look for a place slightly outside of the airport… or at least in an area where you are out of the way.

In my case, I walked across 2 lanes of traffic and found a small island filled with parked cars. Under a small tree, I opened my suitcase, found that my bicycle was still in one piece inside of its case… and now all I had to do was put I together. Half an hour later, the bike and trailer were assembled and I was on my way to the hotel.

All in all, my experiences flying with the Bike Friday were absolutely fantastic. Airport officials didn’t harass me about the contents of my suitcase; my luggage was not overweight or oversized and I didn’t have to pay any extra fees to bring my bicycle with me; and transportation to and from the airport with the bike and trailer was easier than any other trip I’ve made in the past.


7 thoughts on “Flying With A “Bike Friday”

  1. David Fisch says:

    Another trick that works for assembling your bike at an airport is to take a shuttle to the rental car lots. You can usually find a nice corner to set up your bike and trailer and access out of the airport is typically a bit more bike friendly.

  2. Jacques R. says:

    Just a question… WHY does your bike weighted 50 pound?? The New World Tourist’s weight is listed as about 27 pounds. Is the suitcase 23 pounds??

    Also, I see you used the convertible “trailer”, but I dislike the idea of pulling this thing. Do you have experience with travelling only with the bike racks/bags? How would you compare the convenience/tradeoff of travelling with one solution or the other?

    I am in the process of buying a New World Tourist because I want to use it on my vacations in other countries. So I have exciting ideas of the fun this can be, but not much real experience yet 🙂

    Would you recommend the H-bar?

    Thanks for any info and for the articles, too.

  3. Bicycle Touring Pro says:

    The bike weights so much because it is the weight of the bike, the racks, the trailer, the suitcase, bike tools, and the packing materials. It all adds up.

    As for my thoughts on the trailer, read my full review of the Bike Friday here:

    My short answer is that I don’t like the trailer and would not recommend it for any kind of trip over 5 or 10 miles.

    And yes, if I could re-order my bike I would get it with the H bars.

  4. Jacques R. says:

    Darren, thank you very much for your recommendation of getting the H-Bar for my NWT. I finally received my NWT last month and you were absolutely right about the H-Bar: I love it and cannot imagine being without it. My hands and arms are thankful to you.

    I have bought your ebook, the “Bike Traveller’s Blueprint”. I am still in the process of reading it, but I can already vouch for the quality of the product. It’s filled with “real information” and just like for the H-Bar, it just shows that you know what you are talking about.

    I’m sure it will help me work towards my goal of ever more exotic travel adventures on my bike. Thanks!

  5. Robin Hamilton says:

    I have a Bike Friday and am planning a trip to Europe soon. I’m going to have four panniers. Any links to sites that have great packing tips? Thanks.

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