I recently flew to Taiwan to go on a bike trip around the island. One fun part of the experience was figuring out how to transport my bike. It all worked out well, though there were a few hiccups.

Here’s what my packed bike looked like:


In particular, I used zip ties, bubble wrap, and cardboard such that the bike didn’t hit the floor when it was on its side. One cool thing about how I packaged it was that it could stand up by itself, as it could lean on the right pedal, which was fixed in place by the left pedal being securely tied to the frame. I had a bike-camping bag on the front handlebars with clothes in it for cushion on that side.

It turns out that bikes count as checked bags on United, so I didn’t have to pay anything extra:


Technically I didn’t follow these rules. The plastic bag is not “designed to transport bikes”, and several customer service representatives were very skeptical of it. I even had to sign this when leaving from Taipei:


But it luckily all worked out in the end.

Plastic Bag vs Soft Bike Bag

At first, this may seem absurd and surprising, but it’s not much different from a soft bike bag:


The benefits of a normal bike bag:

  • The bike bag is not transparent (which makes people dubious in the first place)
  • The bike bag is more durable/not as tearable
  • The bike bag is “designed for bikes”, which makes it pass the technicalities of United’s rules

The bag I used is a 5 Mil plastic bag (decently thick) designed to cover a twin mattress:


The key, main benefit of the plastic bag:

  • It’s ultra light and compact when unpacked. When going on a bike trip and returning on the flight, you need to do something with a bike bag, as carrying it will probably be cumbersome.


Will Your Bike Get Damaged?

I don’t see how it’s any less safe than a soft bike bag. Both of them carry a risk of your bike being damaged (something that a hard shell or bike box would minimize), but my general sense is that good packaging can be very effective.

Minimally Recommended

While this worked out great, I’d only recommend it in very specific cases. I was catching a train a few hours after the flight landed, so I had no opportunity to stash my bag somewhere (at the airport, in a bush, at a hotel). My only real options were to:

  • Travel with my packaging
  • Throw away the packaging and obtain new packaging at the end of the trip
  • Ship the packaging to a 7-Eleven back in Taipei

In most cases I’d recommend a cheap, soft, bike bag along with some padding attached to the right places on the bike. Or a hard shell if you’re willing to deal with the downsides.


Reddit has a few helpful comments on this post.