The tandem divided into two

The tandem split into three

Taking the Tandem by Air

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As we all know none of us should travel by air at all. This trip alone could take our annual carbon emissions up to that of a car owner. We would prefer to go by ship and bike. But our average daily travel is now down to about 30 miles. It would take us about a month just to get to the Canaries let alone exploring them. We could only achieve this by becoming bicycle gypsies and never going home. And we like home. Furthermore, there are no ships left in most places which take passengers on ocean crossings. Even in the Canaries we may have to do some island hops by air, letís hope not.

So we have reconciled ourselves to being treated like cattle at the airport and having our possessions checked as if we were criminals. We then accept that we will be herded into a space far too small for human habitation and into seats designed to induce DVTs. We also accept that the whole process on the ground will take just as long as the flight and that all those involved will at best be civil but are normally rude, unhelpful and treat us like children.

The divided tandem in three bags

As far as we are concerned the most important thing is to get us, our luggage and the bike to our destination airport. And better still, all at the same time and all in one piece.

Before mindless bureaucracy set in we just wheeled our then one piece full sized tandem to the oversize baggage check in with a label on it. This was based on the premise that even a baggage handler would not intentionally smash a fine tandem. The only problem we ever had with this method was that in those days on some aircraft the hold was too small to take a tandem.

Things have changed and this is how we do it now. We first read the air line small print. Beware, each one has different rules. The Stoker then applies her great brain on the cheapest option, depending on how much baggage we are taking. Sometimes we pay for a bike. Sometimes we take it as part of our luggage weight allowance and sometimes as invalid equipment. See the link to stokerís leg below.

Even though our bike splits into three parts the same principles would apply to taking any bike. We still go for the minimalist approach and use very little packing. We still think that there is lots of good in baggage handlers and they will not intentionally smash a clearly fragile piece of luggage. So we put pipe lagging around the frame. This is available from builders merchants in almost every place we have been to. We then put the bike into thin nylon bags made from an old tent. We do the minimum disassembly we can get away with. The only minor problem we have at airports is the size of the security x-ray at the oversize baggage check in. If the bike will not fit we have had to unpack it so that it can be manually checked and sniffed for explosives.

How it looks when it is back together

The problem we would have with the recommended cardboard box is that we would need a new one to get home as we almost always return from a different place. These have never been available at any airport we have been to, though if you are stuck, as we were once, have a look at the rubbish in the arrivals area. We carry our nylon bags with us and find them very useful as ground sheets.

With regard to other baggage, we leave as much as we can on the frame parts of the bike so that these are as small as possible. Most airlines say we canít do this but we have so far not had a problem with water bottles, tent poles etc. That leaves us with several small bags to go into the hold. So far the airlines do not charge per bag so we just check these in in the normal way, tying pannier straps etc to ensure they canít come undone.

As a fall back solution to the inevitable jobs worth we will meet in due course there are the bag wrappers found working at many foreign airports. They wrap the bags in layers of polythene on a turntable machine.

But then we are back to global warming. But whatís a little plastic compared to the emissions from a jet aircraft running on tax free fuel to make huge profits for fat cats?

We would be very interested to hear if anyone has tried booking an extra seat in the cabin for their bike in the same way as some professional musicians do for their instruments. It could be an interesting option if seat prices are very low.

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This site is created and maintained by Anne Neale and Ken Reed.