Let’s Talk: Traveling with Bikes and TSA Confiscations

Let’s talk. What is your experience shipping your bicycle for a special ride by plane or delivery service?

Thule bike case allows you to ship your bike safely.
Thule bike case allows you to ship your bike safely.

I am flying to ride RAGBRAI via Southwest Airlines to Des Moines. They allow 2 checked bags to fly free. I read somewhere that this includes bikes in a case. I was checking a bag through to LAX today so I asked the Southwest employee handling my suitcase if there is a fee.

Als, they do charge $150 each way for “oversized luggage”. I asked if Southwest charges for golf clubs. No. I smiled and lightly protested sports discrimination. She said she would pass my comment along to management.

I was planning to rent a Thule case from Mike’s Bikes for $50 a week or approximately $100 with my travel time tacked on to the 7 day ride across Iowa. So this would be $100 plus $300 Southwest luggage fees or a total of $400.

Versus $110 each way shipping with FED EX with my bike in a box. The helpful FED EX representative in Davis gave me that quote and encouraged me to bring it to them because they have a lot of experience shipping bikes. Say it is slightly more expensive, shipping with FED EX  is still $250 compared to $400. I will probably ship my bike to my Cousin David in Des Moines and save the box for the return shipment.

Any advice?

Let’s talk. When is Homeland Security going to review the rules around what we can bring through security?

As a seasoned traveller you would think I would know better than to try to bring a small jar of very thick, premium chocolate sauce through security. TSA confiscated it.

I would say “bring on board” instead of through security except I am sitting on the plane a vente ice tea that I bought at the Starbucks in the terminal.  Why my jar of chocolate sauce from Ginger Elizabeth so thick it doesn’t move until you heat in the microwave is more dangerous than all of the liquids I can purchase after security, I fail to see. Starbucks ice tea

I offered to pop the seal and show them how solid it is. The security person and the supervisor declined to investigate and just said no. I confess in my frustration I accused them of just wanting my chocolate sauce. She said it will go straight into the garbage. Sure, but will it stay in the trash?

How many of us want to speak up about the many indignities that are now a regular part of air travel but do not out of fear we will be put on the No Fly list? Are we really any safer because TSA daily confiscates thousands of dollars worth of expensive hair gel or chocolate sauce or jam that exceeds 3.5 ounces?

Maybe you can tell by my slightly snarky tone that am experiencing a horrible, no good, very bad day. I want to go to Australia.


RAGBRAI starts in 64 days. I am spending at least 8 hours a week in the saddle putting in the miles to prepare for riding 462.2 miles. My biggest effort to date has been 4 consecutive days in Otago, New Zealand. This will be 7 consecutive days and longer time/miles each day.

My odometer turned over to 700 miles on one year anniversary. Good reminder that I am still learning.
My odometer turned over to 700 miles on one year anniversary. Good reminder that I am still learning.

I have to remind myself that I only began riding a road bike last year. In fact I just recently celebrated my first year anniversary on my Trek bike. Before I bought my Trek Lexa, I rode my daughter’s road bike. I did not have clipless pedals though until I was properly fitted on my own road bike. Last weekend my odometer turned over to 700 lifetime miles. I will more than double this training for RAGBRAI.

I read an article in the Sacramento Bee about the trend among the pros for wider tires. Apparently the science has proven what seems counter-intuitive: wider tires are faster, especially on rougher pavement. The thought of trimming time off each day with just an equipment change was worth exploring. The Trek rep at the AMGEN Tour of California thought I could go up to 25 cm. I rode my bike to Patrick at Mike’s Bikes and asked him to outfit my bike. The 25 cm tires fit!

Fat tires are the bomb!
Fat tires are the bomb!

Today I took them out on the American River Parkway and boom! I gained a couple of miles per hour. Last weekend I consistently rode 20 miles in 2 hours (with some interruptions for phone calls). Today I rode 20 miles in an hour and a half. It is also more comfortable and the gears feel easier.

In other preparations, I made my flight and hotel reservations. I am registered with team Larry. I still have some shopping to do and a tent to learn how to set up. Really though, it is all about getting miles in my legs.