This past weekend I had the ultimate solution: find someone who's
driving to where you're flying, and give the unicycles to them. And some
gas money. That's as good as it gets, but can't work every time!
Search the forums for many other threads on this subject. I won't go
into the same detail here that I've done before. But here are some
things to think about.
If you travel with one loose unicycle, often you can just slip it into a
box and be fine. But sometimes we want to fly with two or more, and
depending what we're going to do with them, we also have helmets, pads,
spares, tools, pump, etc. In other words, another piece of luggage.
Some airlines are stricter than others when it comes to "things with
spoked wheels." Ryan Atkins had a big hassle yesterday when he went to
fly home on Northwest. I'm not entirely sure of the exact sequence, but
it went something like this:
1. Sir, your bag is overweight. You'll have to pay $25 for the extra
weight. -- Ryan offers to remove a heavy textbook from the bag, which is
just a little bit over the limit. He opens the bag...
2. Sir, you appear to have a bicycle in there. Okay, it's not exactly a
bicycle, but it's got two wheels and my interpretation is that it has to
count as one. Now it's going to cost you $80 for our bicycle fee. --
Ryan counters that it isn't a bike. Were it me I might suggest that if
anyone at the Northwest counter could ride the "bike" I'd gladly pay the
3. Well, sir, your bag is also oversize (a gigantic Bauer bag for sports
equipment; one of the biggest I've seen). If you can squish it down and
tape it into a smaller size, then it'll be okay.
In fact, the lady was incredibly helpful. She doesn't make Northwest's
stupid rules. Ryan took up what seemed like 15-20 minutes of counter
time before he was all done. The final solution? A $10 cardboard box,
into which he put all the smaller items from his monster bag. He took
the seats off the unicycles (kind of a pain as one had a hydraulic
brake), and then taped the bag into a smaller shape. I helped.
So what do we learn from this?
1. These days, most airlines have limits of around 50 pounds per bag.
Overweight is going to cost you about $50, based on my experience. So
much for my cool Samsonite hard-sided suitcase with the 5 wheels and
other heavy hardware. Too much weight in just the suitcase! Weigh your
bags and consolidate items from the heavier to the lighter ones.
2. Airlines have size limits. If you can make your bag look more
"normal," there is less chance of it being noticed and measured. A large
cardboard box will attract the tape measure every time.
3. Many airlines have rules about bikes. Over the years, I've had to
sign a release of liability, making them not responsible for damages to
my cycles. There has often been the potential for me to be charged the
dreaded "bike fee," but I always managed to duck that one.
4. Don't put pedals in your carry-on bags. Pedals could be a deadly
weapon! Somehow, the TSA can figure out how pedals can hurt you. We know
from reading this forum. Also never bring tools, even if they have no
sharp edges. Best yet, avoid anything metal in your carry-on. It will
make your life easier, and your bag lighter!
5. Try to pack your unicycles so they look like ordinary luggage. Mine
are contained in a piece of expandable, soft-sided luggage that has a
flat bottom with wheels. Get something with wheels if possible, they
make life much easier. I often surround the unicycles with pieces of
foam, to protect them and to obscure their identity from outside the
bag. Before I found the foam *** camping mats, I used an old
6. If you end up in a situation where you have to open the bag, like
Ryan did, try not to do it where the airline employee will see tires and
7. When asked what is in the bag, don't use any words containing "cycle"
and avoid the word "wheel." Circus equipment, stage props, sporting
goods, are all truthful. NOTE: these instructions are for airlines
employees. If you are talking to a customs or security person, always
tell the accurate truth! They are not going to charge you for having
8. Yes, if you're on a US flight your bags are going to be X-rayed no
matter what. That's fine. The X-ray is run by the TSA (or airport
security) and not the airline. If your bags already have their bar-code
stickers on them, they're good to go!
johnfoss - Home of the Garage Page
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
"jfoss" at "unicycling.com"
"Wow, I'll never complain about hills ever again!" -- Bicyclist on the
American River Bike Path, watching me pass on my Coker on my way to work
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