Unicycles and airplanes

Who here has taken your unicycle on an airplane? What were the issues? How did you pack it? How much extra did they charge you?
I’m thinking about going to the Unicon in Montreal, and thinking about taking my unicycle. Just looking ahead. (Yes, I know Eric “Saskatchewanian” famously breaks his down in to small pieces and puts it into a suitcase, but there’s no way I’m prepared do that. The wheel will have to stay in one piece, assembled to the hub.)
I was thinking maybe shipping it separately to the hotel might be a possible option, but then there’s customs to deal with.

There have been many threads on this, so there’s lots of information out there. 20" wheels take up an amazing amount of space, even in a large suitcase. Most large suitcases won’t even fit a 24" wheel. But as you can read in my other posts on the subject, I recommend sticking with “normal” looking luggage. Avoid boxes, which may get destroyed on the trip out, leaving you having to find a replacement for the trip back. Large, loose luggage, camping pads or other light materials for padding, and never say the “B” word at the airport. If they ask what’s in there, you can say “circus equipment”, “Part of a balancing act”, or whatever. Just be truthful. Remember, 50 pounds is the limit for US airlines. Overweight can be very expensive, as can oversize. Check your airline’s website for the details.

Thanks for the input. If I take a uni, it would be a 36" or 32". No way to put it into a suitcase. I think mountain bike people take their bikes with them, what do they do? I’m thinking about making a hard-side travel case.

John, assuming the “B” word is B*ke, why can’t you say it at the airport? :thinking:

Thanks for creating this thread, I’m tagging it so I can keep an eye on it.

I may have to do this soon and at one point was even considering just buying a unicycle (and subsequently ditching it) at my destination just to avoid the hassle.

I’d be looking to smuggle fly a 26er, I figure it would give me the most versatility, a tad faster, muni capable, and still small enough for trials.

Many, if not most, airlines have a specific charge for a bicycle. It may be as low as $50, and as high as $200. I think what John was saying is that if you can check it as luggage, it will cost a lot less.
I realize this subject has been discussed before, but in the year that I’ve been on the forum, it has only been lightly touched on, and the attitude of the airlines has changed significantly over the last couple of years towards what you take on the flight with you. That’s why I thought it might be worth it to have a discussion in the present, particularly since I don’t think I’m the only one in the world that’s thinking about bringing a uni to the Unicon next summer. I’m just thinking ahead here.
It’s looking more like a good option is to dismantle it, pack it and ship it to the hotel the day before I leave, and ship it home the day before I come back. At least That way I should know ahead of time what the charges will be, and I won’t have to worry about getting it in packaged form into a cab or bus. I’ve found that there are bike shipping services that will pick up and deliver if you want. So that’s an option, too. Not exactly cheap, but with the scale of a trip from Los Angeles to Montreal for a week or more, with all that entails, a couple hundred bucks doesn’t look that huge. It seems to me that a great service the IUF might set up is a central shipping location for people in this same situation. That would be pretty handy, especially if they alerted the customs people that all the equipment being shipped in for that event is private property, not for sale, and would be shipped out again at the end. That might ameliorate duty issues.
Anyway, that’s why I posed the question of who out there on the forum has experience with this. I’m guessing the people that just came back from the Uzbekistan trip could have some useful tips. They all travelled with big wheels, and I know some of them are on this forum.
Thanks, LanceB

Hey Lance,

I usually travel with a 20" and a 24", and pack them (plus my safety gear, tools and some clothes) in a UDC Nomad Bag, flip the extra material and tape it all tight.

It might not be pretty, but it is very convenient, especially with its shoulder strap. I have never had any problem yet, and I’ve been to NZ, California and Italy with it (can’t remember with which airlines though). And somehow it has never even been sorted as oversize.

It might be different for a 32-36" though, so I can’t say. In my experiences, it has always been a matter of linear dimensions (length+height+width must be under X inches), so you might be fine if your luggage is very slim.

As far as shipping in advance to Montreal, I guess it would be possible. However, I have yet to find a place where people could store their unicycles for a couple of days before they arrive. If you are planning on sleeping at CdeM (our main accommodation center/headquarters), you could always ship it there. However, we will get there only on the 29th of July, so that would be the first day when packages can start arriving. Should you choose this option, please inform us in advance by email at info[at]unicon17[dot]ca.

Good luck in any case!

Plus, along with the up-charge some airlines add a waiver you must sign, that essentially says they are not responsible for damages to your bike. How nice, that you get to pay extra and at the same time give them less responsibility over your stuff! So I avoid being slotted as a bike, even if I’m flying with two unicycles.

Not so much since the big changes, following 9/11. More recently, it’s all been about getting more and more strict with the existing rules. Airlines are very serious about weight, due to Workers Comp insurance (and fuel costs). Size is an opportunity for them to charge more, so they’re paying more attention to it.

That said, I flew my 36" out to Pennsylvania last summer, with my MUni in the bag. I got charged for oversize on the way there, but on the way back, the nice check-in lady gave me a nod. She informed me it was oversized, but then just pointed where I should take it to check it in. :smiley: Those were packed in a handmade bag for 36" unicycles.

Shipping your equipment separately from the flight would cost more, but reduce risk and stress. The hard part is having the place to ship it to and from. If you’re at a hotel, I recommend calling ahead about shipping a package, getting names of the people you’re talking to and making sure they understand you will be arriving after the package so it doesn’t get refused, lost, etc.

This indeed would be very handy. It’s possible if someone in the hosting location is willing to be the recipient of those large packages, and has room to store them and capacity to bring them to the Unicon venues. Usually this turns out not to be the case, due to the overwhelmingly busy state the volunteers are in at that time. Perhaps offers of compensation would help in finding volunteers?

Based on my experience last summer, you’re likely to be in good shape with a 32", but the 36" is iffy, because it’s not going to be under those maximum dimensions. But since it’s smaller than the equivalent rectangle, I think you have a decent chance of getting a pass.

I encourage you to check with your local riders/volunteers to see if anyone is willing to receive packages ahead of the convention. They can charge a fee for their time and trouble.

Thanks for the tip about the UDC Nomad Bag, Hugo. I hadn’t seen that before. That might be just the ticket! (At least I have a while to think about it.)

You may find this article useful.:slight_smile:


Since you seem to be looking at spending a bit of money anyway, why not just buy a 20"? It will fit in nearly any suitcase or duffel bag if you break it down a bit. A 20" rather than a 32" would make exploring Montreal on one wheel a bit laborious, but then at least you won’t have to worry about the airline regulations and the expanding security forces.

That was a great packing breakdown on AdventureUnicyclist.com. It reminded me that I had “preserved” one of mine a few years back (holy crap; ten years!) for all to see. Hover your mouse over each picture in the sequence for the caption, which gives more information.

What’s changed since then, is that if you use one of those bags fully extended, it will probably be flagged as oversize. Also, as mentioned in the captions, that collection of stuff was probably over the 50 lbs (23 kg) normally allowed for US domestic flights. Back in the day, overweight was usually pretty cheap; not any more!

Well, John, you are missing a wheel after all.

For RTL (2008) I took the seat post out and removed the pedals on my 36er, taped everything together so they wouldn’t shift around added a piece of cardboard to each side then put the whole thing in a big thick plastic bag that the airline provided.

I wasn’t the prettiest or best protected but arrived without any damage and I wasn’t charged any extra fees. This was within Canada though, I think they are more strict with international flights (hence my take down wheel).