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Totally, and to the max.
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,
I need some advice. On May 24, my wife and I are landing in Amsterdam (from San Jose, CA) to start a 6-week cycling trip through Europe, and I need to figure out the best AND cheapest way to get two bikes and a BOB trailer there. I first thought the only option was to pack it down and bring it all as luggage and excess baggage, but there's always another and sometimes, better way to do anything. If you've traveled abroad with your bike, how did you do it?

Here's some points to consider:

--We're flying into Amsterdam and out of Switzerland (all one direction, no looping back to a starting point), which is why we're bringing our own bikes as opposed to renting. This also prohibits us from bringing expensive cases or anything that we'd want to store somewhere and use twice. Any packing mat'l will be discarded in Amsterdam and re-scavenged in Switzerland.

--If bringing it all on the plane, I considered buying some really cheap suitcases and trying to fit as much as possible in them. We're allowed a total of four bags and two carry-ons. Then we would have to pack the larger items in cardboard and foam and pay the oversized baggage fee.

--The biggest measurements I'm dealing with are:
- BOB trailer (disassembled): 39" x 17" x 10"
- 2 frames: 40" x 18" x 7"
- 4 rims: 23" diameter
- two forks: 26" max height

--Weightwise, the complete bikes and trailer are 63 lbs. But if shipping just the bigger stuff was an option, it'd be maybe 20 lbs.

Am I on the right track here? Or is there a shipping company out there that will transport it all for a competitive price?

I've got three weeks to figure this out. Help!

Thanks,
Kyle
 

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crash test dummy
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545 Posts
I moved to Europe 1.5 years ago from the US

I researched transporting bikes up, down, and sideways. There are just NO cheap options to ship your bikes to Europe! There are a few companies that specialize in it, but it is so much more cost effective (and so much less trouble) to bring your bike with you on the plane that the only reason I could think of to ship a bike is:

- if you have way too much baggage (like me, because I was moving)
- you are a professional and need to guarantee your bike is there before a race

You can also get hit with ENORMOUS duty fees upon delivery in Europe - I'm talking 500 - 800 euros minimum. I have been fighting these duty charges for nearly a year now, and I still don't know if I will have to pay.

On the other hand, I have brought bikes to Europe with me 5 times now. Only once did I experience damage, but that was the first time I shipped, and I didn't do a nearly good enough job of packing.

Bike boxes work very, very well, and for return shipping, just go to a bike store in Switzerland and get more boxes (free) from an LBS. You could probably even pay them to pack the bikes for you while you go sightseeing.

I would suggest that you pack the BOB, two bike boxes, and your travel gear as your checked bags, and pack your clothes into your carry-on bags. I guess you can't use suitcases as you're traveling by bike. Do an internet search on properly packing a bike - there is tons of info. Be absolutely sure to pad the hubs on the wheels, put in a brace for the fork dropouts, and zip-tie the bike into a tidy package that doesn't move much.

Good luck. Biking in Europe is awesome. Drivers are so much more alert and courtious here than in the US.
 

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Totally, and to the max.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the response...

Very good info. It sounds like transporting the gear with us is the most prudent plan. I'm going to invest in some high-density foam, zip ties, duct tape, corregated plastic and just about every other package armouring device I can find in the next three weeks. I'm okay with paying the extra fees acquired to ship larger boxes, but it'd sure be nice to check it as normal baggage. And everything else we're bringing will easily count as carry ons. This is going to be a very minimalist trip. Until Belgium, that is, when the BOB trailer will get a little weighed down by bottles. :D
 

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crash test dummy
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K-max said:
This is going to be a very minimalist trip. Until Belgium, that is, when the BOB trailer will get a little weighed down by bottles. :D
Rock on. I did a 2 week tour in the Cotswald region in England, although we used panniers. We were a bit TOO minimalist - man did I get tired of the plaid buttoned down shirt I wore to dinner every day.

I read my original post and realized I mis-stated (I'm tired). I have FLOWN with my bikes 5 times to Europe, not shipped. I have shipped 2 bikes by seafreight though, which is when I got socked with taxes. I have other ex-pat friends here that shipped by airfreight, and comparing notes we had the same tax issues.

Some un-asked for advice. The hardest part about biking through England (and living in Europe in general) is remembering that commerce stops here at 6pm, and almost everything is closed on Sunday. If you aren't eating in restaurants every night, be sure to reach your destinations by 5pm, or buy your groceries along the way, or you will starve. Also, buy all provisions Saturday that you will need on Sunday, or you will starve.

Of course, you could always live on beer. :)
 

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Totally, and to the max.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
No worries, you didn't mislead me.

I knew what you meant about flying with your bikes. And I've thought about those nights in nice cafes wearing smelly poly and fleece outdoor wear. Not sure how to reconcile that, except to do some shopping while we're there. Thanks for the commerce advice. That's something I wouldn't have thought of until it bit us in the butt. We are foregoing the British Isles on this trip, but I suspect the same rules apply throughout the continent, correct? Since we'll be staying in hostels much of the time, I'm sure we'll have something to scrounge up even on the toughest days. And starving hasn't killed anyone, right? :p

Feel free to extoll any other advice you might think of. For the most part, this trip will be a seat-of-the-pants adventure, but it'd be nice to have some local knowledge of things while we're exploring. Wanderlust is a wonderful thing.
 

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crash test dummy
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K-max said:
I knew what you meant about flying with your bikes. And I've thought about those nights in nice cafes wearing smelly poly and fleece outdoor wear. Not sure how to reconcile that, except to do some shopping while we're there. Thanks for the commerce advice. That's something I wouldn't have thought of until it bit us in the butt. We are foregoing the British Isles on this trip, but I suspect the same rules apply throughout the continent, correct? Since we'll be staying in hostels much of the time, I'm sure we'll have something to scrounge up even on the toughest days. And starving hasn't killed anyone, right? :p

Feel free to extoll any other advice you might think of. For the most part, this trip will be a seat-of-the-pants adventure, but it'd be nice to have some local knowledge of things while we're exploring. Wanderlust is a wonderful thing.
Wandering around screwing up is definitely part of the fun. But there are little things that can make a huge impact on your happiness. Here are a couple other things: if you are staying in hostels, bring three essentials: EARPLUGS (for snoring roommates), cheap flip-flops (for showers), and a towel.

The same rules def. apply on the rest of the continent, except maybe Italy. Actually the UK has become a lot more convenient since my last trip, but the rest of europe is pretty much the same.

If you want cheap clothes to wear and chuck during your trip, try H&M. Great stuff, low cost, and they arent made by children in the Dom Republic. Err....probably.
 

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simian23 said:
Here are a couple other things: if you are staying in hostels, bring three essentials: EARPLUGS (for snoring roommates), cheap flip-flops (for showers), and a towel.
And figure on buying locks and other security measures as soon as you get there!!!
If your gear isn't locked up or safe by other means then don't be surprised if they go walkies. Don't leave anything to chance.

And when packing make sure you think about the overall weight of the box as well as how well it is packed. Try your best to make it as light as possible. If the boxes constitute your checked baggage then they will have to meet weight requirements. This can be as little as 20kg if the airline is being picky. My boxed bike weighed 23kg and was meant to be extra baggage that i thought my travel agent had sorted out with the airline. Then i got to the airport and the lady at the check-in counter said there was no record of this on their system. Would have cost me $800 if she wasn't so damn nice, she let me through without any charge at all!!! Couldn't believe my luck, thank goodness for cool people! :)
 

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Totally, and to the max.
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
yeah, I've been reading up on issues like theft...

I know theft is more rampant in Europe, and why not, with so many clueless travelers that bring way too many valuables. Our plan is too not bring what we'd hate to lose, although it'd suck to give up our bikes to thieves. Then lock everything up well, and be away from our stuff the least amount of time. I figure that if we want to rest in a city for a few days, we'd get a B+B or hotel room and keep our stuff (locked) in the room. The nice thing is, all our possessions will store nicely in the BOB bag, minimizing attention.

Good point though, about the weight of things. One question: Have you gotten any rasied eyebrows or cavity checks trying to bring bike tools or parts as carry ons? I can only imagine what a crankset with chainrings would look like to security! Any advice?

I think i'll take a trip to the airport to talk to some staff and try to get an idea of what's acceptable. I want no surprises at the airport...
 

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stop...safety first
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Regardless of how you pack it, plan on unpacking at the airport. There is a great bike path that goes from the airport to basically anywhere. Yes a quality bike path to the airport. Not a road shoulder after thought. The path I took led straight to a coffee shop that didn't sell any coffee. go figure.
 

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K-max said:
Good point though, about the weight of things. One question: Have you gotten any rasied eyebrows or cavity checks trying to bring bike tools or parts as carry ons? I can only imagine what a crankset with chainrings would look like to security! Any advice?
Tools? Not if there is a flat blade screwdriver on your multitool!!
In fact i don't think any tools would make it through security to be taken in carry ons! They are so picky about this kind of thing that any item that could be deemed to be a potential weapon will be confiscated. Cranksets would NEVER get through security, just look at them, they totally look like a danderous weapon! Think worst case scenario with carry on items, meaning that you could come across a total security nazi and they might confiscate something important or valuable. They are allowed to do this under new airport regulations.
Instead pack other non-dangerous looking stuff in your carry on bags, the heavier the better. And get the biggest allowable size bag you can, then fill that sucker up!!! :)
 
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