Ride to Fly: Taking Your Bike on a Plane

It's summer, you want to leave town, and you want to bring your damn bike on the plane with you. Here's how you can fly from SFO on the cheap.

Getting to the Airport

That's the easy part ever since BART lifted the rush-hour ban on bikes. If you want to pedal your way to the airport, it's about 15 miles from downtown San Francisco. Google says to take Bayshore to Airport Boulevard to McDonnell Road. Much of the route has bike lanes, including the crazy frontage roads that SFO's spokesman talked about.

Getting Ready to Fly with Your Bike

Since most airlines aren't going to consider a bike your carry-on luggage, you're going to have to disassemble it. Luckily, SFO has bike stands in the International Terminal Courtyards (A and G) and at the Rental Car Center. There are also tools available for rent at The Airport Travel Agency on the G side of the International Terminal where you can break the bike down.

If you don't know already, most airlines charge a flat fee to check your bike. Those fees vary dramatically based on the airline; for instance, U.S. Airways charges $200 one-way while American and Delta Airlines will tack on a $150 each way. Frontier will charge the normal $20 bag fee. But there is a way to check your bike without getting saddled with fees. Keep reading.

How to Fly

I asked a couple of the best bike-polo players in the world, Eric Kremin and Brian Dillman, who both live in San Francisco, to tell me how they manage bikes on a plane. First, they said, the cost to bring your bike on board really depends on the airline, so make sure you do your research. Pack it in a suitcase or box. But most importantly, "never, ever, ever, ever tell anyone in an airport you're traveling with a bike," Dillman says. "I've heard or used anything from 'art project' to 'wheelchair' to 'my little brother,' but personally my favorite is: 'vague trade show materials.'"

 
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