International Travel with Unicycles?

As a parent who will be traveling to UNICON in Switzerland this year with a rider, am wondering if the unicycle riders out there who are Uni-Globe-Trotters have any tips and tricks about traveling/packing/airlines/customs, etc.

For the first time, Panther Pride Demo Team will be sending a team this year to the Internationals and as this is kind of new for us (we always have taken the trailer to Nationals). Anything that may be of help would be appreciated.

Besides the obvious of taking the uni apart i.e. wheel, seat, pedals, etc. you still have to pack it and get it through customs. As an example, I will be traveling with (minimum (Becky wants to take more)) 2 frames (1-20” - 1-24”) and 3 wheel sets (1-20” - 2-24”). Looking around at luggage, the 24” wheels seem to pose a problem.

So, Master Foss, thee Honorable Ms. Connie, Master Gilby, and all you other Uni-Jetsetters, let us know how you do it. Is it better to box?, Buy big luggage? What about customs? (all these metal pieces, parts, tools to put it back together). Some of you travel with Cokers, so you have had to see it all. Any nightmare stories?

Connie, I know you will be here for the Clinic this weekend,. Maybe you can give us a lesson on International travel, I know the other parents will appreciate it.


Dennis Banning

When I’m in Washington this coming weekend I’ll show you what travel bags I’ll be using to get my unicycles to Switzerland. This year I’m planning on bringing my freestyle (20"), my racing (24"), and my MUni (24"x3"). This will be 3 frames, 3 wheels/cranks, 2 sets of pedals, 1 seat (but 2 seatposts). I’ll have my custom-made bag for the 3 wheels, then another duffle bag on wheels for the rest of the parts and clothes. I take the unis apart into 4 pieces: wheel, frame, pedals, seat. Some of my clothes are the padding between the wheels.

A box isn’t really recommended - carrying it is really a pain and storing it while at your destination is often difficult. Then there is the problem of what to do if the box falls apart on the way to your destination - you’ll have to find a new box to get home.

One big thing to remember: never ever say the word “cycle” when the airlines ask you what is in your odd-shaped luggage. If they ask me, I always say something like “my equipment”. Usually they don’t ask any more questions. The reason to avoid the “c” word is that (bi)cycles are something that the airlines can and will charge money to transport - up to $100 each way.

Tools to assemble - work with your team and bring ONE set of tools for all of Panther Pride. You are lucky in that you have a fair amount of parents travelling, so weight wont be that big of an issue. Don’t bring the odd tools that you sometimes need (crank pullers, etc) - count on someone who drove to Unicon to have them. Most airlines are having weight restrictions of 50 pounds/bag for travel departing from the US - and we have it easy compared to many from Europe who have to deal with 20 or 30 pounds/bag for travel within Europe. (Sorry for not converting to kg for the majority of the world)

A final note: There has been a few threads on this subject. A good primer that John Foss wrote:

See you on Friday!


Thanks Connie

Great Link! Thanks John

I used to be heavily into BMX. This article was written by the leading (in my opinion) engineer in BMX today. It is a very good article and the same sort of thing could be used for unicycles. Hope this helps!

Ride on!

Good advice above, especially from Connie. I think there is also a hard copy version of my “ultimate unicycle luggage for conventions” solution in On One Wheel from about two years back.

One area where I’ll differ from Connie: Tools.
Coming with a big group, you can assign the “main” tools to a single person. But I’d hate to be in one hotel and find out the pedal wrench is at a different hotel. Certain tools will be convenient for everyone to have. I always bring a crank puller, pedal wrench, and the tools needed to completely disassemble/reassemble all the cycles with me. You never know when your custom builder is going to throw in an annoying bolt that needs a 5/16" allen wrench. This is the one for getting the wheel off my Wilder! Don’t expect to find a 5/16" anything in Europe. I also bring my own pump, a tiny one. Sometimes you just can’t find the right kind of pump when you need one.

Go to your airline’s web site(s) and find out exactly how much weight you’re allowed, and how many bags you can check. Weight is definitely the big issue these days, though some airlines only charge $25 if you’re between 50-75 lbs, for instance. Over 70 and they start getting real curious as to what’s in there.

As Connie said, never say the C word. Well-packed unicycles should look like luggage, not something to ask questions about. The big bags I use look like luggage, and then I pad the cycles. Not only to protect them, but to obscure what they are. The padding I use weighs less than a pound for the whole thing. Plus, using regular luggage leaves room for extra stuff with the _ycles.

It took me years to figure this one out. Put each wheel in a garbage back, and they’ll slide in and out of the luggage 100 times easier! Plus it’ll keep things cleaner in there. Always travel with some extra garbage bags and several ziplock bags. They weigh nothing and they’re always handy!

I don’t know which cycles I’m bringing to Switzerland yet. Coker sounds tempting, but is a separate hassle for air travel (recommend packing that wheel separately). Probably the 29er then…

just a note about the “cycle” thing. they charge you more because they’ll handle it more gently. if your uni or bi cycle gets damaged and you didn’t claim it as such, you are out of luck on claiming any damage to the airline. not so much an issue with a properly packed unicycle but can be a problem with bicycles. just fyi.

They may claim that they “handle it more carefully” but they also charge you and then make you sign a responsibility waiver that says if anything happens to your bike, they take zero responsibility.

That doesn’t sound like any way to encourage delicate handling to me.