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Ending an International Tour in a Different City Than You Start In

Old 03-23-23, 03:14 PM
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Ending an International Tour in a Different City Than You Start In

Hi All, First post here and maybe this has been discussed, but I couldn't find anything. I'm not even sure how to word the title or what to search for. But I have a problem and am hoping some past experience can guide me in the right direction. I am from the United States, I am planning on a month long tour starting in Milan, Italy and ending in Athens, Greece. I will fly into Milan and out of Athens. The problem I'm facing is getting my bike to and from those two cities, or more specifically packing it for the flights. If I pack it in a bike bag, I can't carry the bike bag along with me, so how do I get that bag to Athens for the return flight? Do I ship it? Do I use a box, discard it in Milan, and hope I can find one in Athens? Those are the only two options I can think of, and both come with their risks and problems. I'm thinking shipping the bag from Milan to Athens would be the best option. I have an address in Athens I can ship it to. However I'm having a hard time researching what service could do that.

Any input is appreciated!
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Old 03-23-23, 03:40 PM
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What I have done:
1. Packed my bike in a box to get to my starting city. Discard the box on arrival.
2. Cycle to the destination city.
3. At the destination city get the bike packed back in a box from a variety of possible sources.

To give you examples of possible sources:
1. I cycled from Amsterdam to Vladivostok and brought my bike to a shop in Vladivostok and had them pack it up.
2. I cycled from Georgetown to Paramaribo and contacted a local cycle place and they had boxes that I used to pack things up.
3. I cycled from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and had a local bike shop pack up the bike.
4. I cycled from Manali to Srinagar (both in India) and brought my bike bare to the airport and had the airline help me with packing (it ended up flying outside a box mostly in a bag)
5. I cycled from Uzhgorod, Ukraine to Samara Russia and stashed the bike with friends in Russia. A friend retrieved the bike, cycled the Pamir Highway and then ended up getting a box in China to fly back.

Unless I clearly had someone I knew in Athens and was 100% certain of mechanics of shipping - I wouldn't try shipping anything to Athens or even more so from Milan. Instead if it were me I would think of it more as "where in Athens can I get a box to fly back with my bicycle..."
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Old 03-23-23, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
What I have done:
1. Packed my bike in a box to get to my starting city. Discard the box on arrival.
2. Cycle to the destination city.
3. At the destination city get the bike packed back in a box from a variety of possible sources.

To give you examples of possible sources:
1. I cycled from Amsterdam to Vladivostok and brought my bike to a shop in Vladivostok and had them pack it up.
2. I cycled from Georgetown to Paramaribo and contacted a local cycle place and they had boxes that I used to pack things up.
3. I cycled from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and had a local bike shop pack up the bike.
4. I cycled from Manali to Srinagar (both in India) and brought my bike bare to the airport and had the airline help me with packing (it ended up flying outside a box mostly in a bag)
5. I cycled from Uzhgorod, Ukraine to Samara Russia and stashed the bike with friends in Russia. A friend retrieved the bike, cycled the Pamir Highway and then ended up getting a box in China to fly back.

Unless I clearly had someone I knew in Athens and was 100% certain of mechanics of shipping - I wouldn't try shipping anything to Athens or even more so from Milan. Instead if it were me I would think of it more as "where in Athens can I get a box to fly back with my bicycle..."
Thanks! That's exactly the type of advice I was looking for. Hoping others can provide more experiences like yours. I'll have to look into potential bike shops in Athens where I could find a box. In your experience have shops been pretty willing to give you a a box? I do have a personal contact and address in Athens to ship to, but the mechanics of shipping from Milan to Athens are tricky.. The Italian postal service website doesn't translate well to English and I don't speak Italian (Yet!) lol. Sounds like going the box route is my best bet though, I'm certainly going to start putting more research into that.
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Old 03-23-23, 04:17 PM
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We've done that frequently. Wife, kids and I pedal out/in the airport, which rules out boxes.

1. Our padded flight bags roll to the size of a large sleeping bag. Easy to carry on the rear rack
2. I often carry a renko (unpadded) bag and protect the bike with a sleeping pad. In my experience, largely sufficient. (A local airline hands out plastic bags so you can roll your bike to the check-in counter. Meaning that there is perhaps no need to invest treasures of imagination to protect the bike.)

Variant -- sometimes possible to mail flight bags. Done that in the US last year for wife and daughter. My bike flew unpadded.
Cheating -- sometimes easier to take a transport back to starting city (train, bus, car rental). In your case, there's an Athens - Venice ferry. 32 hours on the Adriatic!

Renko pack the size of a water bottle. They are often required if you take trains/buses. As our bikes are seeing more and more airports, I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of unpadded (sleeping pad only) flights. Now, you may ask why on earth bother with sleeping pads -- mid-trip delamination. Never again.
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Old 03-23-23, 04:27 PM
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If you have a touring bike, they often have a longer wheel base than most other bikes and if your bike is a larger than average size, it would be helpful if you knew the minimum box dimensions before hand. If the bike box you need is unusually large, a bike shop might not get many bikes in of that size. I waited for a local bike shop to open up a big enough box for my bike, they do not like to pull a new bike out of the box if it is not needed for the showroom floor yet. When they called and said my box was ready, I went over there and picked it up. And ... my bike did not fit. I ended up using my folding bike on that trip instead.
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Old 03-23-23, 04:49 PM
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Using a non-padded and packable bag is an interesting point. I hadn't really considered that. I use an inflatable pad, but I could put clothing around the bike to protect it. I'll have to play around with that concept.

Taking a ferry back to Milan is also an interesting idea. Adds significant cost to the trip though...
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Old 03-23-23, 08:10 PM
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On a couple of occasions when I couldnít get back to where I started and getting a box is a hassle. I just show up at the airport and the airline will provide a clear bag to package bike. Twist the bars remove pedals lower seat place in bag. Tape the panniers together and keep one as carry-on. Bike has always remained undamaged upon arrival. My theory is the handlers see it as a bicycle and treat it accordingly. Two flights returning from Europe and one from Southeast Asia never a issue.
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Old 03-23-23, 08:51 PM
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We did a trip in 2010 where we flew into Paris from Denver, rode around France some, then flew out of Nice (back to Denver). In Paris on our second day in country we carried our boxes to a shipping place and sent them to the hotel at our final stay in Nice. It worked ok, but chewed up a day on the trip for that logistical work. It was a three week trip, so we could spare the lost day.
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Old 03-23-23, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by j208w406
In your experience have shops been pretty willing to give you a a box?
I have been fortunate so far. In some cases, I paid them to box the bike so box was included as part of the service. For example in Kuala Lumpur I could have packed it myself but by paying them I got a box and packing material and it wasn't too expensive.

Other instance like Paramaribo I tried contacting via internet in advance and got a generic "we can find something" before arrival so some uncertainty. However being there in person was able to sort things out pretty quickly.

I've also shown up at destination airport and been fortunate in finding something. Often a large bag (in Europe) and sometimes a box (in US), though I've been doing that less often lately.
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Old 03-23-23, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by j208w406
Taking a ferry back to Milan is also an interesting idea. Adds significant cost to the trip though...
I'm not sure what the ferry would accomplish if you're flying out from Athens.
I agree with getting a box from a bike store or at worst from an appliance shop and use lots of tape
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Old 03-24-23, 12:21 AM
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Searching for a cardboard bike box has on occasion taken me a whole day, so be sure the day before you fly out that itís a weekday and the bike shops are open (not a national holiday or whatever).

Decathlon, a huge sports chainstore in europe, usually has their own cardboard compressor and donít save boxes once theyíre opened. Iíve always had much better luck at regular lbsís.

If worst comes to worst, you can make your own box with smaller cartons and packing tape (lots of it!)
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Old 03-24-23, 07:57 AM
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There you go bag and fly it saves you a day of hassle and is a reasonable option.
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Old 03-24-23, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
There you go bag and fly it saves you a day of hassle and is a reasonable option.
In August 2014, I flew back from Bangalore to Austin with two bicycles shown below. I flew a four hop flight (Bangalore -> Frankfort -> Washington/Dulles -> Austin). My bikes missed one of the connections and were delivered as below a few days later. Despite the packaging looking beat up, the bikes in the end were OK and I was able to set them up again and ride.

Packing was done in the airport; including assistance from some of those folks that have the devices that wrap plastic around suit cases. I knew Lufthansa would accept an unboxed bicycle from a previous trip. I had two bikes with me because (a) one was a Trek 5400 I had flown to Bangalore in 2011 and left there so I had a bike during my local travels. This is the one mostly in plastic wrap (b) the other was a Trek 5400 I flew out six weeks before, first for work but then I had done a round trip from Bangalore to Delhi (flight) to Manali (bus) to Leh (bike/bus) to Srinagar (ride) to Bangalore and so still had a box from my outbound travels.
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Old 03-24-23, 11:49 AM
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If you have your airplane ticket already, you need to research what requirements the airline may have for accepting a bicycle as checked luggage. If you haven't purchased a ticket yet, then you should find out the rules for each airline you are considering. Don't assume an airline will accept a bike in a plastic bag or that an airline will supply or sell you a bag or a box.

As for a ferry, first of all, Milan isn't on the coast. There are ferries from Piraeus, Greece to Brindisi & Bari, Italy, but both are in southern Italy, far from Milan. There could very well be others which arrive further north on Italy's Adriatic coast but they will be long boat rides. A train might be possible. Once again, something for you to research.
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Old 03-25-23, 02:52 AM
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Airlines used to sell boxes, is this no longer so? I just arrived early ai Marseille, got two boxes from Air France and packed the tandem. But that was about 15 years ago.
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Old 03-25-23, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by canalligators
Airlines used to sell boxes, is this no longer so? I just arrived early ai Marseille, got two boxes from Air France and packed the tandem. But that was about 15 years ago.
Not sure. In my experience/perception:
- In the US, 10-25 years ago, I pretty much expected to find a box at an airport. Some carriers didn't have them (Southwest) but if you looked at neighboring carriers they would have them.
- After the fees went sky high, I found fewer case of boxes. For example not finding a box at all in Portland OR (2014) or having a mainline carrier (Delta) w/o box (2016) in Denver. Fortunately Denver was big enough that United also didn't have a box but Alaska Air had one.
- Internationally, I was always less certain. Even 25 years ago, I flew back from Amsterdam with an airline provided bag. I expected and found boxes in Australia/New Zealand but was a lot let confident in India, Southeast India, etc.

So after finding no box once or twice, I've also been more cautious on figuring out a box in advance, particularly outside US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia or New Zealand.
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Old 03-25-23, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
On a couple of occasions when I couldnít get back to where I started and getting a box is a hassle. I just show up at the airport and the airline will provide a clear bag to package bike. Twist the bars remove pedals lower seat place in bag. Tape the panniers together and keep one as carry-on. Bike has always remained undamaged upon arrival. My theory is the handlers see it as a bicycle and treat it accordingly. Two flights returning from Europe and one from Southeast Asia never a issue.
Great theory, until it doesn't work out. The one time I put my bike in a clear bag, one of my wheels got pretzeled. (Fortunately it happened on my flight home so it didn't affect my tour.) Moreover, some airlines require that bikes be boxed. That's why it's important to check airline rules since they vary widely.
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Old 03-25-23, 11:52 AM
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The first thing I would do is check what your airline requires for bike transport.

See last sentence of post immediately above.
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Old 03-25-23, 12:03 PM
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Have you picked an airline yet? Some charge oversize fees for bikes, some have dropped their oversize fees for bikes, and the ones that charge fees vary greatly.
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Old 03-26-23, 11:45 PM
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The one international point to point trip I did ended in Spain. We flew out of Madrid. We spent a few days in Madrid, including one day to call around to the bike shops to find some spare boxes and schlep them back to where we were staying. Most bike shops have spare boxes. Now that e-bikes are popular, it's even easier to get a nice big box for a touring bike.

On domestic trips we usually pay a bike shop to box the bikes and send them home for us. It's way more convenient that way.
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Old 03-27-23, 05:59 AM
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This thread has reminded me how much I appreciate my S&S Backpack case.
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Old 03-28-23, 08:20 AM
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[QUOTE=j208w406;22838367

Any input is appreciated![/QUOTE]

I just get a box from a bike shop, or in one case Walmart. In San Diego the shop's dumpster had been emptied that morning. I offered a few dollars if they would take a brand new bike out the box to give me the box. That worked.

I usually fly British Airways. No size limit on bike boxes.

Economy fares need to pay a fee. Around $80 for transatlantic each way. The bike then counts as a second case. Premium economy and up bike goes free

It does mean I don't want to finish a tour the day before I fly. I want at least one clear day ro get a box and pack.

My Walmart box was so small the forks and cranks needed to come off to get it to fit.
.
And advantage of Hollowtech 2 cranks. Easy to remove.
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Old 03-28-23, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by irc
It does mean I don't want to finish a tour the day before I fly. I want at least one clear day ro get a box and pack.
That is one reason I really like just paying a bike shop to pack my bike and ship it home at the end of the tour. So nice to just drop it off and be shed of it at the end. I like flying with it at the start and riding right out of the airport. If you could count on the airlines having a box riding to the airport at the end of a tour would be more attractive to me, but still it is nice just not having to deal with the bike at the end. Getting a box, packing, and schlepping said box to the airport is not something I like to face at the end of a long tour.

Mailing my soft case ahead is a reasonable option though.

Truth be told I am flying way less these days. It has just gotten to be more of a hassle to the point that I am willing to drive even several thousand miles to get to a tour. So for within the same continent I am likely to just drive and use surface transportation to get back to my car.
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Old 03-28-23, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by irc
...
It does mean I don't want to finish a tour the day before I fly. I want at least one clear day ro get a box and pack.
....
Even when I am using my S&S Backpack case, thus not having to find a box, I like to have one extra day with nothing planned that day to just relax and sight see, etc. Buy some souvenirs, perhaps a few gifts for family. Double check itinerary and logistics to get to airport on time, misc. logistics, etc. I am there to have a good time, do not want to be rushed. That said, I am retired and do not have to rush back to a job so I have more schedule flexibility than I used to have.
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Old 03-30-23, 06:19 AM
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letters and numbers guy or gal,
no matter what you do, I highly suggest looking at some youtube or whatever videos of how to box a bike on your own. Over the years I have finally figured out how to do it so the bike is better protected, and one key thing is using. zip ties to hold the front wheel properly more or less in the. middle of the main triangle, so that the hub doesnt ding your frame.

in the past, I kind of just improvised what I was doing and I made mistakes, I had to do practice boxings over and over until things fit in properly, but I would suggest these things:

-always think of how you position stuff with the view that a side impact will happen, so think of what will get squished up against what, and avoid this positioning or pad things with some foam.
-use zip ties to keep things in place, this makes all the difference (so you'll need extra zip ties for return and a knife to cut them, there are also reuseable zip ties, handy things)
-go to a bike shop to ask about boxes and take the opportunity to see them unbox a brand new bike. Take photos of it when they pull it out of the box, you'll see the time and trued methods bike companies use to safely pack a bike.
-ask the bike store to put all the foam bits and super important plastic bits aside when they assemble a bike--the fork protector, the rear derailleur protector, the disc rotor protector etc. These are essential pieces and worth carrying with you on your trip to be sure that you have them. They weigh hardly anything at all and wont take up space.
-shift to largest sprocket at back, this moves the rd inwards, less chance of getting hit
-I put a bit of foam under my front fork, to cushion blows when and if the front of box is dropped onto cement, also helps keep the fork pointed forwards, because if box is big, it can and will get twisted around.
-use lots of tape on the cardboard box, reinforce corners where it probably will get dragged , tape the insides of the "grab holes" so that an overzealous baggage handler doesnt rip them-very common

give yourself a few weeks maybe before you fly to try out numerous times packing the bike, its worth doing it a bunch of times --- I and many of my friends have of course waited until last minute to do this and its a mad panic, and you risk not doing it properly, which increases risk of damage to bike

hope you read this
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