I’ve just completed successfully sending two bikes to two different continents from London, a feat achieved by few, it seems, since I combed the internet, posted queries to forums, and asked all I knew for advice but to no real avail. Not only did I find little information, that which I did discover led me astray. So here I’ll tell you what I did, and the mistakes I made, and ways I would suggest for anyone who wants to take their steady steed with them safely across the waters, to follow:
Bike 1 ships to The Gambia by boat
The London-based company Red Coat has been shipping bikes and other goods and materials to The Gambia and other destinations for over forty years. You can arrange to have your shipment picked up or you can drop it off at one of their offices.
To be fair, there is a lot of information about flying with a bike (though see the next section on how that information was less than helpful), but shipping a bike by sea seems to remain a mystery (or those that have done it have kept quiet about it)! So, not knowing any better, I bought a cardboard bike box online at Packing Boxes and waited for it to be delivered so as to avoid having to haul it home. Unfortunately, though I informed the company they use to ship TNT, our bell at home doesn’t work, the driver didn’t call upon delivery. When I called to ask why they simply told me he’d knocked but since we live on the fourth floor of the building, obviously I didn’t hear it. It ended up taking many repeated phone calls to them until the box was finally delivered to my workplace, these calls I might add were extremely frustrating as I was told by one person that an attempt to deliver the box was made to an abandoned pharmacy, next that I’d receive a text confirmation upon reshipment only to later learn the company performs no such service.
In essence, acquiring the bike box was a palaver, only to learn upon arriving in a hired van with the bike and the box at the shipping office that I would have to pay more for the box and that I should have simply ridden the bike there and handed it over to ship for less that £40. Together with some other materials for the farm, I spent £120 (not including the £15 bike box and £7.50 costs for it to be misdelivered nor the amount I paid the driver of my beloved Unicorn Transfers who took all these items to the Red Coat warehouse in Peckham). All of which was unnecessary.
Bike 2 flies with me to the U.S. by plane
I should have used the bike box for the plane trip. The latest and greatest online bike touring forums recommend the CTC bike bag which I ordered from Wiggle (without a hitch I must add), but I was not impressed with the (another £16) clear plastic bag which simply slips over the bike yet provides it no protection whatsoever. The airlines (Virgin/Delta) were hesitant to take it at all and made me sign a release form explaining the likelihood of it being damaged en route. Further, there’s claim that the bag can be reused but so much taping is necessary to enclose the bike (there’s no closure mechanism) that it will be impossible to open without cutting it.
In essence, I’d recommend getting a used bike box from a bike shop to use for flights and using the bag or nothing at all for shipping. Otherwise, there’s those permanent bike carriers that, given how much I plan to travel with my bike from now on, I plan to purchase. Your bike is your best friend so best to pack it right!