Road bike decision

My husband will be cycling during part of our trip. We are trying to decide if we should rent a road bike, ship his or check it when we fly knowing that we will pay extra on Air France. We have 2 connections from Florida to Munich.

He will want to ride in the Dolomites and Tuscany.

Thanks for any and all information.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
2109 posts

We did two weeks of luggage supported but self guided bike touring in Northeastern Germany (Mecklrnburg) in 2010. I was happy that we rented. The rental bikes were well suited to the road conditions with robust 32c touring tires. My 23c tires on my road bike would have not survived road conditions including the cobbles and rough roads that we occasionally encountered.

Other friends who bike Europe frequently are a retired 747 pilot who flies nonrevenue. He and his wife rent bikes in Germany to avoid dragging around bikes. Do you want to drag a bike around or find a place to store it when you are on the not biking part of your trip?

I have not biked the areas of Italy mentioned, but a number of bike club friends have. (They all shipped their bikes). Their reports include a lot of hills with evening stops in Tuscany ending at the top of a hill. You may need to train doing big chain ring sprints over Florida overpasses. A light weight bike will feel worthwhile on sustained climbs.

The question only you can answer is how much of the trip is bike-centric vs something else. If the purpose is to ride, you will likely be happier on a high quality bike that is a perfect fit than a heavier rental that is only a close fit. If you do rent, consider bringing your own peddles and saddle.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1617 posts

Our trips to Italy are always for biking. We maybe spend 3-4 days after a 10 day self guided bike trip based in one town and then explore via train or bus for day trips.

Since biking is the reason we go, we always bring our tandem with us. I can't imagine using a rental. However, if cycling is a few days only of your trip, then rent. As Edgar says, bring your own pedals and saddle for comfort.

We fly either United or Lufthansa. International flights allow one free checked bag per person...this is our tandem. We carry on for our clothing...we've never had to pay for the bike, but it is S&S coupled, so comes apart and fits in two suitcases that doesn't exceed airline specs. If your bike goes into a box, or travel case that is larger than standard, I can see that you'd have to pay for it.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
2109 posts

Ellen's base camp itinerary simplify logistics when you travel gear heavy. A base camp simplifies gear and bike storage. If you have a bike crate where do you store the create? If you are not riding between the Dolomites and the Tuscan hills, will your ground transport mode be bike compatible? Will your bike crate fit in your rental Fiat? If you are doing multiple region travel you need to factor in more than just the transatlantic hop.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9974 posts

If your bike can be boxed up, then you can carry it as luggage onto a train and find a place to stash it. This is easier if you're boarding near the start of the train route, before it gets crowded. To find trains that have bike racks onboard, which are not usually offered on the fastest category of trains, request "carriage of bicycles required" when you search schedules online through the DB link.

Posted by tntmace
1 posts

September 2014: We went to Italy to bike in the Tuscany region. We decided to take our all carbon road bikes with us. We purchased new travel cases for the trip. We flew Delta and Air France (part of Delta). No problem going, but had to pay $150.00/bike. Same thing coming home, except our bikes did not make it on our flight. Delivered the next day. One bike was ruined, the carbon frame had big chunks taken out to the point where the carbon frame was delaminated. Delta says our bikes received "normal handling and protection".
Bottom line: RENT a bike in Italy or France!
Don't fly Delta! They will not take any responsibility for your bike once checked in. But they will take your money and tell you they hope you are ok with their decisions.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
2109 posts


Sorry to read about you bike being damaged. The iglass half full is getting to ride in Italy.

Unfortunately the cost of lighweight gear (bikes, XC skis etc) is inverse to its weight to a higher power. And to rub salt into the wound baggage fees for international flights are higher than domestic and international liability limits are a lower than domestic livability limits:

...the maximum an airline pays on lost bags and their contents is
limited to $3,300 per passenger on domestic flights, and $1,131 per
passenger for checked baggage on international flights

Posted by Adam
2925 posts

Given that he is only cycling for part of your trip, I can understand why you would investigate renting. To reality check that idea, see how easy it is to rent a decent road machine over there, and if the arrangements are feasible and convenient.

Ideally he would locate reputable bicycle shops in both locations and rent and return to each. Then he would be free of the burden of transporting the bicycle and would be able to select his rental for a number of suitable bikes that he could inspect and test. However, he might have to settle for a bike that would be delivered to him (for a fee) and hope that it is right.

Maybe he has already scoped this out, but for me it would be the sort of information that would help me to make this decision.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1617 posts

Yours is a horror story!

Were the cases you used soft sided? (ours are hard plastic cases we bought when we bought our S & S tandem 10 years ago, they've been on many trips in 10 years) The only issue we have EVERY time, is TSA has to open one case to check it out, and the tire usually gets caught and pinched.

We've never been charged to take our bike cases on an international one "bag" per passenger is included on United...we take a carry on for our clothing and check the bike cases (tandem bike, 2 cases- and they sized within the allowed dimensions)

I'm SO SORRY you had a terrible experience with Delta and for the damage to your bike.