Monday, October 25, 2010

How You Move a Bike From Canada to Thailand

So how do you get a bike from Canada to Thailand?

You might not be interested in the answer to this question, but I am proud of how I managed it, so I'm going to answer it anyway.

The answer depends on the bike. If you don't care much for your bike, or you think you can repair or replace it cheaply, you deflate the tires and trust it to the airline and let them take care of it. That's what the French guy I met at the oversized luggage pick-up area in the Bangkok airport did. One of his expensive-looking hydraulic cantilever brakes was messed up, but he seemed to think he could get it fixed in Bangkok. I've never even seen hydraulic cantilever brakes before, though, and I'm betting that the chap he talks to at the bike shop in Bangkok hadn't either, but I wish him luck.

So what do you do if you love your bike and would rather have someone step on your left nut in work boots than see it damaged by some luggage-tossing simian? Well, you spend some money and you buy a stout box to put your bike in.

Shopping for a bike box is a difficult process. They're not exactly a common purchase and they take up a huge amount of storage space, so most bike shops don't carry them. The few that deal with them at all do it by special order only, so it's pretty hard to even look at one before you buy it.

In Vancouver, I found only one shop that carried them. There were two problems with the boxes they carried: they cost about $500 each and they weighed 35 pounds. The airline we flew has a maximum luggage weight of 50 pounds per piece for coach passengers, and they charge you one (1) arm and one (1) leg for every pound over. This box was going to be an expensive option.

So I did some extensive internet shopping for cheaper options and found that virtually every bike box costs $500, plus or minus about $50, except for one. A US bike store chain had something called the Team Bike Case, which was on sale for $199. Some of the product reviews suggested that it wasn't the best case and that the latches are difficult to use, but it was less than half the price of a good case, it weighed only 25 pounds, and it definitely beat using a cardboard box, so I bought them. Including shipping, I got both of them for about $500.

Then you've got to rip your bike apart. You pull off the wheels, the handlebars, the rear derailleur, the pannier rack, and your pedals. Nobody can offer you a definitive answer on how to pack your bike. Every bike and case combination is different. The important things are that everything fits, that everything is securely fastened in place, that any surfaces that might rub are padded, and that nothing is vulnerable to being crushed.

This is what Snakeslayer looks like in his box:

And here's Erin's as-yet unnamed Velo Orange Randonneur:

The box, the bike and the packing material weighed just under 50 pounds in each case. We got these things on to our Cathay Pacific flights from Vancouver to Bangkok for no extra charge. The jerks at Bangkok Airways charged us about $60 in excess weight charges, though, because their limit is 30 kg per passenger.

Your bike might look different when you tear him or her apart and take him or her to Thailand. The important thing is that you get him or her there undamaged, which we did. We had some minor brake issues with Erin's bike, and I managed to screw up putting Snakeslayer's rear derailleur back on, which resulted in me riding up Doi Suthep (the mountain with the monastery we're using as a training ride) for the first time without my bottom gear working. I didn't realize it wasn't working -- I just thought the road was really steep.

There, we've indulged my bike geekery. Tomorrow I'll get back to being entertaining.

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