I love bakfiets-style front-loading cargo bikes for year round use in the city, but they’re not much good for adventuring afar. Longtails, however, are a dream for family bike travel. The only catch? They can be tricky to transport due to their length and weight.

Transporting longtails is fairly easy by car, sometimes doable by train, but challenging to impossible on a bus or plane.

We had travel on our mind when we found a basic build of a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day on sale at our local bike shop so I asked around and heard that these bi-partable bikes could fit into a standard travel bike bag… it gave me hope!

Bike Friday bikes are known for being good at travel, this extends to the Bike Friday Haul-a-Day. The Bike Friday OSATA joint is what makes this longtail cargo bike so easy to fly with. Not only does this joint change the length of the frame, it also makes the bike bi-partable for travel. By splitting in two, the Haul-a-Day easily fits into the Ground Effect Tardis bike bag.

flying with a bike

 

Flying with a bike

There are four ways to fly with a bike:

  • a bike box (free/reused from most bike shops),
  • plastic bike bag,
  • hard plastic case, or
  • fabric travel bike bag.

 

The venerable bike box

I think most people opt for using a bike box for plane travel, something they can get for free from a bike store (they can also be purchased new). This is what we did in Winter 2018 when we flew Calgary, AB to Nanaimo, BC; I packed two kids’ bikes into a smaller bike box (we left the Strider behind):

bike box for plane travel

Pros

The bike box is usually free from your friendly local bike shop, it’s headed for the recycling bin anyway! Many also relatively durable and reinforced at key parts (this box was, at least). If you are lucky, you can store your bike box and keep it for your return journey.

Cons

They’re super awkward to carry, you have to source them before you fly (easy at home; sometimes very challenging on the return leg of your journey), and you might have to unpack them at airport security as they’re unlikely to fit in the scanner (a wee bit annoying while simultaneously supervising small children, trust me, plus something you must allow extra time for).

 

The plastic bag

Simple, cheap, and reusable to an extent. Some people swear that your bike will be treated better if the baggage handling staff can see what is inside.

Here is a fabulous overview of how to pack your bike in a plastic CTC Bicycle Bag from Travelling Two.

 

Hard shelled bicycle travel case

These very durable hard shelled plastic bike cases are what many roadies use for racing. They are pricey, heavy, and perfect for really expensive road bikes but they are no good for bike touring where you end your journey in a different spot than you started, plus they are tricky to store at your destination while out on a tour.

They absolutely do not work for a cargo bike, even a small one like the Haul-a-Day.

 

Bike bags for travel

Travel beyond a car almost always requires some sort of packaging: buses and planes, for sure, and even on some trains, it is required that bikes go in a bag (like many trains in France).

Pros and cons

We opted for bike bags because we do not want to deal with the hassle of having to track down bike boxes for the return leg of our journeys. It also means that we are prepared for buses and trains if we have to include them in our trip.

A folding bike bag may add a couple of pounds (eek) but it greatly reduces stress for me by avoiding an extra step prior to a scheduled departure. On open-ended journeys, all I need to source is some extra padding from fast-food retailers and/or recycling bins at the airport, and possibly use some clothing. Along with regular bike tools and some Voilé straps, it becomes a low-stress, easy-peasy, and familiar way to fly with a bike.

 

Flying with a longtail cargo bike

I know of people who have flown with Xtracycles and their method has been using two bike boxes taped together. The thing that stresses me out about this is that from all of the research I have done, this puts you into no man’s land for airline fees and who knows what the total cost will be each way:

  • the fee for a bike
  • extra fee for being overweight (very likely)
  • extra fee for being oversized (dimensions-wise) (absolutely)

So, know that it can be done (I know of three people who have done so) if that is what you choose to do, but it didn’t sit well with me due to too many unknown variables: cost, sourcing boxes with small kids, etc.

Hence we were stoked when we found a Haul-a-Day and now that we have tested it on the airplane, it is becoming quite stress free for me to fly with a bike, which is wonderful.

 

Packing a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day in a Ground Effect Tardis

I chose a Ground Effect Tardis bike bag because I had heard great things about them and now that I have seen and used one in the flesh, my short review is: They are slick and seem very durable. An extra 1800 g, yes, but worth it for my sanity.

A photo essay:

ground effect NZ

The bag, all neatly folded up, weighs about 1800 g (according to Ground Effect NZ website).

 

bike bag

The Tardis unfolded. There is also a shoulder strap near where the two zippers meet (in between the orange cinch straps). There is an orange handle on the reinforced area around the hub (front middle) and two more on top, near the zipper.

 

There is a zippered inside pocket for your pedals. I also put a ziplock of bolts from our WhoopieDeux and basket attachments, and the lower half of the kickstand (so that it didn’t protrude so much in the bag). This is where you will find the fork and rear drop-out spacers, too (they come with the bag).

 

folding bike bag

Remove the QR skewers (mine are still in place here) and place a wheel on each side. You can remove the discs if it seems like the frame is going to place force on them (better safe than sorry); ours were fine like this both ways. The wheel sleeves in this bag are not designed for the Haul-a-Day’s 20″ wheels so they slip around a bit, but it works. On the return trip, I did add a square of sturdy cardboard on top of the disc area on each side in the end and I think that was a good idea:

Haul-a-Day in Ground Effect Tardis

 

flying with a bike

QR skewer in front fork using the plastic spacers provided (found in the zippered inside pocket of the Tardis).

 

Flying bike

And, repeat for the rear drop-out: QR skewer in the longer spacer for the back. (Don’t mind the rusty bits; we use this bike through winter and haven’t replaced the cables yet… but need to.)

 

Tricks for flying with a bike

Since we were flying in and out of the same place and had a spot to store the bag and packing materials, I grabbed two smaller diameter pool noodles from the dollar store. I roughly measured the length against a spot on the frame that I thought could use some protection, cut the tube, usually made another of equal length, then cut a slit in them, lengthwise (as shown).

 

folding cargo bike

Here the bike is ready for loading up into the bag, it just needs the WhoopieDeux removed. The steering tube clamp has been loosened so that it can be separated from the fork (don’t loosen the bolt closest to the fork as that keeps the headset wedge tight); slide the clamp up the steering tube towards the handlebars and then remove the handlebar/steering tube. Loosen the two bolts at the OSATA joint and split the frame in two. It took me less than 15 minutes to get to this stage (while supervising two kids under 7).

 

Bike Friday Haul-a-Day

Here, the bike is almost all set to be protected and bagged! WhoopieDeux has been removed. We kept the Xtracycle pad on and it was great extra padding as it faced outwards. We carried the WhoopieDeux & front basket in a duffle as checked luggage with our tent and sleeping bags.

 

flying with a bike

I removed the rear derailleur at the main bolt and taped it up and under the burly rear frame. Be careful not to cross-thread the main derailleur bolt when re-attaching. I have seen people use a Voilé strap to do this and others use a cut water bottle over the derailleur (but still attached).

 

how to fly a haul-a-day

This is how I oriented the main/rear half of the frame in the bag. Then, I tucked the front half (the part with the “Haul-a-Day” decal) into the longtail portion of the main half of the frame (such that it was 180 to this picture). The steering tube slips down that way, too, as well as the seat post (with the seat poking out the end with the cranks. You have to fiddle to get it to slide in nicely, but it works!

 

flying a bike Friday haul-a-day

Here it is! All of the front bits (front half of frame, steering tube/handlebar, and seat post with seat) have all been padded and tucked under the rear part of the frame. The longtail section of the frame is the perfect spot to stash these bits as it can protect them.

 

Bike Friday Haul-a-Day

Add padding where you see fit, using pool noodles, cardboard, clothes, or whatever you can pilfer from fast food joints at the airport or recycling bins. Styrofoam, cardboard, bubble wrap, etc. are your friends here.

 

flying a cargo bike

I oriented the cranks the direction that seemed the least likely to poke out of the bag. I used some cardboard that we had lying around the house. These is the piece underneath and the next picture is what I did for on top. The outermost edge is two layers of cardboard when done like this.

flying bike

 

ground effect NZ

Here is the front end of the bike, all tucked in and ready to go.

 

ground effect Tardis

Ground Effect mentions that you might be able to slip your bike in under the radar, checking it like a normal bag and avoiding extraneous fees for bikes. Alas, I think the Haul-a-Day makes that tricky.  However, it did fit perfectly into the security scanners at the Oversized Baggage drop offs at both the Calgary and Montréal airports which was great. This was not the case when I flew with a small bike box in late winter and I had to open up the box, unpack it, etc. The Haul-a-Day was not overweight packed this way, either.

 

bike travel with kids

Here are two massive car seats and the Haul-a-Day, en route to the Oversized Baggage check in at the Montréal airport. Ridiculous, but it was a great trip!

 

Reassembling the main part of the bike when we got home.

 

*Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. We bought two Ground Effect Tardis Bags with our own coin. Tip — sign up for their email list and you get a 10% discount. You still have to pay duty (in Canada). Our order was shipped in two packages, one which was charged no duty, the other was about $30CDN. We also purchased our own flights on any airlines mentioned in this article, I am just passing on what I learned re cost to fly a bike with them.

 

 

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