There is undoubtedly more than one way to pack a bike for a flight.
All airlines have different requirements, some require it to be boxed, others will only require it to be wrapped in plastic. Of course you can travel with a special bike bag or box but not when you are cycle touring because you won’t have anywhere to keep it! The benefit of a box is that you can shove some other things in there if you don’t have room in your main luggage.
Here is how I did it (with a little, ok a lot, of help from my German friends).
1. Find a box. This is fairly straightforward (although not so much in Asia I hear). Go to a bike shop and ask for a box. They will normally give you one for free. In Dariwn the only bike shop had a whole stack of flattened ones out the back and we were able to go and choose our own.
2. Get some packing materials. Tape, cling film, a couple of empty plastic bottles and a marker pen.
3. Put off doing it for a bit because it’s a messy and arduous task.
4. Remove the pedals
5. Wrap pedals in cling film and attach to the frame with cable ties.
6. Remove the chain
7. Wrap the chain in clingfilm or put in a ziplock bag and attach to the frame with cable ties. (it is best to attach loose items to the frame to stop them moving about and damaging the bike)
8. Unscrew the rear derailleur, wrap the frame in cling film and secure the derailleur with cable ties (use a lot of cling film on the frame, I only used a bit and the derailleur scratched my frame a bit).
9. Lower or remove the seat post.
10. Remove any accessories from the handlebars
11. Detach the handlebars and turn sideways, secure with cable ties. Before you remove them mark the position on a piece of tape so you know where to put them when you reassemble the bike.
12. Attach a plastic bottle to the bottom of the crank set. This stops the cranks from puncturing the box and getting damaged, and also stops the cranks touching the ground and getting damaged when you take the wheels off
13. Remove the rear rack if you need to
14. Remove wheels
15. Deflate the inner tubes (there is some debate about this. Tyres are unlikely to explode at altitude – the plane’s tyres don’t – and if they did explode the only damage would be to your inner tube, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, I wasn’t asked a single question about the packing of my bike at check in)
16. Cover the cassette with the end of a plastic bottle to prevent it puncturing the box or getting damaged
17. Put it all carefully in the box, this may take a bit of jigging about
18. Add in any other bits you want to put in the box (I put in my tent poles, shoes and rucksack)
19. Write your name, home address and email address on the box as well as the airport codes of your start and end destinations.
20. Seal the box with all of the tape.
I used the rack pack as my hand luggage and the boys donated this ‘laundry bag’ which has my panniers and the rest of my stuff in.
My bike box weighed 21.6kg and my check on bag weighed 11.8kg. My allowance was 20kg for each, but they didn’t charge me for the bike box being slightly overweight.