Traveling with Bicycles

Much has been written about traveling with bicycles. Our reasons to do so is because we like mountain biking and because people are easier to approach from a bicycle. The bicycle says you’re not a normal (whatever that is) tourist. The bicycle (and particularly a mountain bike or touring bike) is a good way to visit out of the way villages. We didn’t plan to use the bikes as our only means of transportation, in fact most of the distances would be covered by bush taxis.

The downside is that you’re lugging around a rather large, awkward 30-lb. object. Some of the airlines love it because it gives them the excuse to charge $75 to $100 extra for the flight. Which is exactly what Delta did on our LAX to JFK leg. The trip was booked with Royal Air Maroc which code shares with Delta. I guess Delta considered the leg a normal domestic flight.

We boxed our bikes in boxes used to ship new bikes to bike shops. They arrived in Conakry in good shape and they were checked straight through. At least we got something for our $100 as moving the bikes through airports from one flight/airline to another is not much fun. We could have been hassled in Conakry, but our State Dept. escort took care of all the problems. See earlier post for explanation.

Since our leaving Conakry was rather frenetic we decided to forgo the boxing and just turn the pedals around, turn the handle bars 90 degrees, lower the seat, and bungie or tie the wheels together so the bike has to be carried and not rolled (tends to keep the derailleur from getting munched). Thanks Kit for that suggestion. Air Senegal said we had to wrap the bikes together. Whatever! I stacked the bikes as compactly as I could while trying to protect the derailleurs. I put the front wheels together, but the handle bars opposite which seemed to make the most compact package. Probably wouldn’t make it through some of the scanners and down the conveyer belts, but I knew that someone would try. The wrapping people scrounged up a couple of boxes and flattened them out to put on both sides and then used wrapping tape to hold the whole mess together.

The package made it fine to Dakar, but Royal Air Maroc insisted we let all the air out of the tires. I wasn’t in favor of it and argued a bit.

When we got home Louisa had a broken spoke—pulled out of the nipple and I had a pinched tube. The inflated tire would probably have protected the wheel from whatever it got jammed into.

The good news is that we didn’t have to pay any extra to ship them home. Probably because at JFK, Royal Air Maroc took care of getting the bikes on the Delta flight.

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