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
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):
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.
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:
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.