Transporting your cycle in India and wondering how to go about it? Read on to figure out transport logistics by rail, bus, air and shipping via courier services, and a hint or two about cars and motorcycles as well…
Stuck in Delhi with a race in Bangalore, live in Kerala and want to tour for a fortnight in Arunachal Pradesh or holiday with your bike in Goa while you live in Bengal.
There are a bunch of reasons why you should travel ‘with’ your bike and not just on your bike!
The easiest way of course is to leave your cycle at home and rent one at your destination. But cyclists don’t like easy!
Riding a rental when the love of your life is parked away at home is a ‘no go’ for most riders. Eventually you decide to cart your mean machine along.
How do you carry it? How do you pack it? What mode of transport should you use? Who should you contact? What works and what doesn’t? We find out!
Transporting Your Cycle in India
The first form of budget bike travel that people generally think of is the humble locomotive. Trains cover incredible distances across the country and are perfect to take you along with your bike from one corner of India to another.
And barring the mountains, trains are accessible everywhere in the country.
If it’s so perfect then why doesn’t everyone carry their bikes by train?
To sum it up in one line, well, the railway is a government organisation!
More often than not, you will be sent back and forth by babus, pack your bike at the luggage office and still ‘hope’ that your cycle ends up at the same railway station as you and in one piece.
Even considering all these blood pressure inducing problems of the railways, often it is the best choice for those on a budget.
Getting it done
Steps to book your bike for train travel:
- Take your cycle to the railway station 3 hours before departure of the train.
- Find the Parcel Office at the railway station.
- Show your confirmed ticket and book your cycle onto the same train
- The clerk will record your PNR number, book your cycle and hand you over a receipt for the same.
- Watch your bike being loaded onto the luggage van of the train. You might want to tip the porters who load and unload your bike.
- Get your cycle removed from the luggage van at destination station. You can tip these porters as well.
- Go to parcel office at destination station. Show your receipt, train ticket and ID card to get your cycle released.
Things to keep in mind
- Take a train which terminates at your destination station. Else you run the risk of it being carried beyond.
- Make sure you declare the correct value of the cycle for insurance purposes.
- Enquire in advance whether the train you have selected has a luggage van or not.
- Reach the railway station at least 3 hours before departure.
- Carry a copy of your ticket and a photocopy of an ID card.
- If you ride to the station, you need to pack your bike there itself. Packing agents will help you with that. They wrap the handlebar and saddle in cloth. This is probably inadequate protection for your bike!
- Tip the porters who load and unload your bike, for increased safety of your bike.
- Charges for train travel are embarrassingly low. Vignesh VP reported paying Rs 450 for booking his luggage from Erode to Jammu, a distance of 3100 km. [Read Vignesh’s cycle journey from Jammu to Kanyakumari]
The ‘Jugaad’ Way
There are a number of cyclists who don’t like to leave their bikes out of sight for a moment. These enterprising souls have mastered the art of whataboutery, pleading and trickery!
The method to this madness is that you are innocent and don’t quite know what you are doing if someone asks…
Dismantle your bike completely. This entails removing the saddle, handlebar, fork, rear derailleur, wheels and pedals. Then stuffing this into tiny bags which do not yell out BIKE. Finally take this entire ensemble and keep it on your berth. If questioned, plead innocent, poor struggling athlete etc.
The worst case scenario is that the TT might fine you for carrying oversized luggage. Which at the time of writing of this article, is unheard of.
The ultimate jugaad masters have even carried their cycles with them as is. Just throwing a sheet over to hide it from prying eyes!
Cargo by Train
This section is a later addition to the article, with information provided by Niraj.
There might be occasions when you travel by some other means of transport, but still want to ship your bicycle on a budget.
For those instances, you can book your cycle as luggage in the train. Cost of this is higher than if you just added it to a travelling ticket. It is still significantly cheaper than courier or flight charges.
Visit the luggage office with your packed cycle. Book your cycle as cargo from your home station to destination. You will be given a receipt for the same.
The bike will be loaded on any train going to your destination. It is as per the discretion of the railway clerk. You will be given a receipt for the same.
Once the cycle reaches the destination station, you need to visit the luggage office there, show them your receipt and ID and collect your bike.
Since the movement of your cargo is not in your control, it is better to book with buffer days in hand.
They charge you on the basis of the size of the box, since a cycle box is oversized luggage, you pay at double the normal rate.
Niraj paid Rs 700 for shipping his cycle from Bangalore to Delhi. He also tipped the porter 100 rupees for ‘safe’ handling of his bike!
Buses are good and buses are bad. Depends on which part of the country you live in and where do you need to travel to!
Buses rule when travelling to remote areas or the mountains. For shorter distances, bus journeys are perfect.
Types of Buses
Choosing the correct bus is important and these are the buses available in India for inter-city transport:
- The Mass Movers: These are non-AC buses which generally have a roof rack. You need to climb onto the roof with your bike and secure it up there. Then hang onto your seat inside the bus as you lurch back and forth without puking!
- Semi-Deluxe: As the name suggests there is nothing deluxe about these other than the ticket price! These buses also generally do not have a roof rack. Luggage is placed in the rear, which is rather small. Fitting your bike in this cramped space with other people’s luggage is tricky and best avoided.
- Deluxe AC: Air conditioned buses with space in the boot. As with the above, these also have limited space and might not be enthusiastic about fitting your bike as well.
- Volvos: The best your money can buy for you and your bike. The bikes easily fit in the luggage space at the bottom. All you need to do is drop the saddle and remove the front wheel. At times they might ask you to open out the handlebar as well. The rider also travels in relative comfort.
Buses can be both private or government.
With private carriers, it is best to clarify with them on the spot whether they are willing to carry your bike and only then buy a ticket.
- Contact bus operator (private or public) and check whether they will carry your cycle along.
- Book bus ticket.
- Reach an hour early for your bus and find the bus operator. Reconfirm placing your bike in the bus.
- Dismantle bike as per bus operator’s instructions. You will have very little time for this, so keep tools at hand and work fast!
- Secure cycle in boot by placing your luggage bags to hold it in place. For the roof, carry rope, bungee cords etc. to secure it in place. The bike shouldn’t move at all. You will have far too little time for this as well. You might also need the help of a porter/ or passerby to place your cycle on the roof.
- Pay money and take receipt of carrying your cycle as excess luggage.
- Assemble cycle at destination city and ride away!
As a rule of thumb, bike charges are roughly half the value of the human ticket. It can vary depending on the helpfulness of the bus conductor and desperation of the rider!
When time is in short supply and money isn’t; then transporting your cycle by plane is a good option.
Travelling by flight with your cycle is the trickiest. You usually book a long time in advance. Need to go through security checks with your bike. Each airline has different rules for packing. Usually the ground staff at the check-in counter have no clue about cycles. The list of airline woes goes on and on.
Yet for most, flights are the only option available.
Amusingly, carrying your cycle on international flights is easier than domestic airlines.
Here’s a few pointers on getting airborne with your cycle:
- Before you book your ticket, check the airline policy for carrying bicycles.
- If the airline doesn’t have a specific policy for cycles, then send them an email.
- Print an affirmative email from the friendly airline and proceed to book a ticket.
- Factor in the cost of excess luggage while booking your flight ticket. The cheapest flight ticket available, might work out expensive if that airline charges extra for your cycle.
- Reach the airport 3 hours before departure.
- Take ticket and print of customer care response regarding cycles and go to the check-in counter.
- You might need to haggle with the airline staff about oversized luggage charges, this is why you need to reach early!
- Collect your bike at destination airport. Roll your cycle away and assemble before riding off.
The folks at BOTS had written a useful blog about air travel. Check it out here.
Charges vary wildly between airlines, so it is best to contact each individual airline to get a quote. Some airlines like Air India do not charge extra.
An important point to remember is to deflate the tyres marginally before packing it for a flight.
Couriers are the best on paper. You hand over the bike at your doorstep and take delivery wherever you want. The rest of the headache is theirs.
But for a long time sending cycles by courier had fallen out of favour. Until recently.
Duchakie has started a door-to-door delivery service. They pick the packed bicycle from your home and deliver it to the address provided.
As with any courier, you can track it and stay updated on the whereabouts of your bike. Perfect for those with a time crunch. If you have a problem packing your bike, they will even direct you to a nearby cycle store which will pack and send it.
Reviews for this service have so far been favourable across the nation.
Charges vary depending on your pickup and drop location. Shipping your bike from Gurgaon to Goa would cost you 1800 rupees, which isn’t a bad deal at all.
While private cars might not be the first thing that springs to mind when transporting your cycle, it is a viable alternative.
If you are planning on a weekend getaway with your cycle, cars help. If you own a car, perfect, if not, self-drive rentals are also cost effective considering the convenience.
With a bit of adjustment a hatchback can easily accommodate two cycles, riders and their luggage for a weekend out of town. The shorter the duration of your travel, the more effective is the cost of renting a four-wheeler.
You also have bicycle racks which you can attach to your car. This isn’t practical with rental cars, but a great option for those driving around regularly with their own cars.
Bike racks for cars can be roof mounted or at the rear. Each have their own merits.
Bike racks increase the drag and disturb the aerodynamics of your car, it also draws unnecessary attraction from the cops.
As per Indian RTO rules, no modification can be done to your vehicle without prior permission from the RTO. Cops often consider an external rack to be a ‘modification’ and can fine you for the same.
Though it is rare that a policeman will fine a vehicle for a bike rack.
How often have you thought of carrying your bicycle on your motorcycle?
Chances are, not very!
But there have been a bunch of intrepid travellers across the globe who coupled their love for motorised and non-motorised two wheels.
Out of this fascination was born 2x2cycles. A tried and tested product which allows you to carry your bicycle on your motorcycle.
You can check out their website here: https://2x2cycles.com/
If you are of the jugaad disposition, then you can try fashioning out a cycle carrier of your own for your motorcycle for transporting your cycle in India.
Packing for transporting your cycle in India
Once you have decided the mode of transporting your cycle in India, it is time to pack your bike.
Here’s a list of options available for packing your cycle:
These are the cardboard boxes in which cycles are shipped from the factories to the shops for the end user. Needless to say, if these are strong enough to withstand that transportation, it will keep your cycle safe while you travel.
- These are easily available. Bike stores have a ton of them lying around from cycles they have sold. They charge a nominal amount for the box and often will pack the bike for you as well.
- Secure. Once your bike is packed properly, there is minimal risk of damage.
- You can discard it at your destination with no monetary loss.
- Bulky. You can’t store these boxes in your house when not in use.
- It also occupies excessive space if you are planning to travel by bus.
- You need to dismantle and assemble your bike at source and destination.
Bike bags are available as soft and hard cases. Both have their merits and demerits. These do the job as cartons, but will last for many trips.
- Hard case bags provide incredible protection.
- Soft bags are easy to fold and can be stored in your house without much hassle.
- Both are reusable.
- Where do you store your bag at your destination? Especially a problem if your ride start and end points are different.
- Cost. Bike bags aren’t cheap and you might be left as worried about the bag as you are for your bike!
- Hard bags occupy as much space as a bike carton in your house.
Read the review of BTwin Bike Transport Bag!
A lot of people wrap their cycles in clear plastic bags. The advantage is that the airport baggage handlers can see the bike and are less likely to damage it in transit. The disadvantage is that it provides zero protection.
The Full Monty
For tourers, often you will need to use transport, but with no access to bike boxes or bags. At such times your bike travels without protection.
You strap it onto the bus, car, truck etc. and ‘hope’ that nothing goes seriously wrong with your bike!
Thanks to Chaitra, Dhanush, Mithun, Niraj, Pushkar and Vignesh for sharing their photos and experiences of transporting their cycles in India.
Now that you know how best to transport your cycle, go race some of the best cycle races in India currently. And check out this guide to buying a second hand cycle in India, since you know how to get it shipped from one city to another!