Frankfurt Airport & Bike Boxes - CycleBlaze

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Frankfurt Airport & Bike Boxes

Bob Raynard

For years my wife and I have bought bike boxes at Frankfurt airport to ship our bikes home.  It was convenient, and the boxes were of adequate size.  Although not very sturdy, the boxes got our bikes home with minimal damage.

On our last trip, we realized the boxes had undergone a redesign, and are smaller and even less sturdy.  The box now gets sealed on the end rather than the top/bottom, meaning there is now only one layer of cardboard on the top and bottom.  (Watch your forks dig into that tiny layer of cardboard as you try to slide your bike in.  Height and length remain very satisfactory, but the box is so narrow that it is touch and go if a bike with wide forks or bottom bracket will even fit without distorting the box.  There is not room for your front wheel to slide into the box after your bike is in.  The wheel has to slide in with the rest of your bike. 

Once we had our bikes sealed up in their boxes, we put them on a luggage cart and my wife's box sagged over the rails of the luggage cart, the bottom was so flimsy.

When we sealed the boxes, I noticed that they no longer had handhold holes in them.  Naïve me, I was encouraged by their absence; it took out the weak point the holes create, and without them the boxes are awkward enough it will take two people to carry them.

Ha!  Silly me!  Based on the holes in the boxes, it would appear the baggage handlers have learned they can just punch, or cut, their own hole in the box and carry them that way.  Alternately, they  can just drag your box - quite a way if the amount my wife's handlebar coupling was ground down is an indicator.  When we got home my wife's bike needed a new rotor for her front brake it was bent so bad.

From this I learned two things.  First, try to avoid buying these inadequate boxes at FRA.  If your hotel will store the box you flew your bikes over with, that would be great.  If not, we have dealt with Fahrrad Kuchler in Morfelden, just south of the airport, on another matter, and can report they are used to catering to cycle touring foreigners, and speak excellent English.  When I asked the fellow we dealt with last week (Wolfgang) about using one of their bike boxes, his greatest concern was the large size of the boxes he had on hand, so you will want to know how large a bike box your airline will carry.  Air Canada uses the sum of the height width and length.  Remember, in Europe they only work in centimetres.  Wolfgang indicated that they routinely put bike boxes in cargo taxis to people's hotels.  (But not the airport, it is too hard to connect with people)

If you want to email Fahrrad Kuchler, go to their website and use the email form you find there.  Before I made contact with Fahrrad Kuchler I emailed several other bike shops and heard nothing, and emailing Kuchler likewise gets no reply.  I believe there is some form of filter that decides an email from North America must be spam.

Unfortunately, Morfelden is not on the same S-Bahn line as the airport, so carrying an empty box on the S-Bahn isn't really very convenient.  The S-Bahn from the airport goes on to Russelshiem, where Alls Fahrrad is a short walk from the S-Bahn station, but I know nothing about them.

My second take away from our unfortunate experience, is that if you have to buy the boxes at the airport, try to rig up some form of handle to tape to the outside of the box.  The purchase price of the box includes a roll of packing tape, so if you can tape some kind of handle to the box, the baggage handlers will use that rather than make their own handles by punching holes in the box, and perhaps they will carry the boxes rather than drag them.

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6 months ago
Brent IrvineTo Bob Raynard

A few years ago I tried something new-to -me. At the end of the tour I picked up a roll of plastic wrap at a grocery store and once the bike was in its box, I wrapped it in the film. Vertically, horizontally... over and over, and around and around for the entire roll. The box was bulletproof. Maybe that would help these boxes.

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6 months ago
Bob RaynardTo Brent Irvine

That is an interesting idea, Brent.  It took me a minute to realize you were referring to plate-sized plastic wrap sold for food preservation.  While I still prefer using a higher quality box, the former science teacher in me is curious about how the baggage handlers would treat a plastic wrapped bike box, one that was no longer possible to just punch a hole through.  I am also wondering if the plastic would provide enough support that it would work to cut hand holds in the plastic wrapped cardboard, giving people an easier way to carry the box.  

If nothing else, the plastic wrapping would result in smaller holes in the box.  In addition to the bike, I also put the front racks that came off, a helmet, and a handlebar bag containing the little bits that came off during the airport disassembly, like pedals, bolts for mounting the front rack and the yoke mounting the handlebars.  As you saw in the photo, the holes were big enough those things could have fallen out in transit.

Sadly, I think the bent rotor on my wife's bike was solely a result of the narrow box.  Even putting the wheel in rotor side in left it vulnerable to being squeezed against the bike frame.  If I ever have to implement your solution I will also take the rotor off at the airport.

At one point there was a small grocery store in the basement of Frankfurt airport, so your soluton could be very easy to implement.

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6 months ago