Protect your bike with a crash pad for climbing and transport 2 pieces for the price of one, perfect for flying (but you might get some odd looks)
Backstory: I had left a bicycle and crash pad with friends in California. i wanted to get them home fast, but shipping is ~$50 each and even flying Southwest would have cost me $75 each, unless I combined them into one. hence the challenge was met...
I apologize ahead of time for the image quality, I was traveling and only had the phone. I dismantled the bike the night before I flew in LA.
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Step 1: Materials/tools
*multi tool with 8mm allen wrench (for headset)
*pedal wrench (you can technically use a cone wrench, likely 15mm)
*possibly a wrench for the wheels if they aren't quick release
*tape and/or cords to package it together
Step 2: Remove Wheels
self-explanatory. remove your wheels. deflate the tires. you might need a wrench if they aren't quick release and probably have to release the brakes to do this.
Step 3: Remove Pedals
hold the opposite side of the crank while you remove the pedals. pedals can require a decent amount of force to remove, especially if rusty or you use a cone wrench instead of true pedal wrench. you might need a cheater bar for more torque
Step 4: Loosen Stem
Not all airlines require this. some are ok with you just securing the handlebars sideways. read the requirements carefully. if they require this, you'll probably need an 8mm allen key, but some headsets may require a wrench instead. loosen and remove the long bolt and work the stem out of the headset carefully. mountain bikes will likely have different mechanisms here. let the handlebars dangle below the frame and carefully set aside any small pieces. you might want to put them in a plastic bag and tape them to the frame if you aren't checking another bag.
Step 5: Place in Crash Pad
Possibly remove the saddle and seatpost. I placed my bike with the crankset against the pad, but you'll probably want to pad that so it doesn't rub too much the fork barely stuck out, and I wrapped it in some plastic as well. the rear triangle will stick out, you could pad it but the tarp will do a good job of that. place the wheels on either side (one on each side) of the frame and close your sandwich...
you may want to remove the derailer from the frame if you have one and let it dangle in the pad as well so it doesn't get damaged.
Step 6: Wrap in Tarp
place the packaged bike in the center of the tarp and wrap it. be sure to leave extra tarp where any parts of the bike protrude to pad them (wheels, rear triangle ) and wrap them particularly well around these bits. then tape or tie your package together. possibly add signs on the bag identifying that it is a bicycle and for people to exercise caution!
Step 7: Airport!
if all goes well, you should be able to drop off and pick up your bike and crash pad without a hitch!
thanks Organic crash pads for creating a pad that can cushion me and my bike, and Southwest for allowing this :)
also thanks to all my friends who helped with transportation issues!!