Recently, I decided to transport my bike from Manhattan to my college in Upstate New York by Greyhound bus. I was apprehensive, knowing how crazy the bus system often is, but the promise of riding my bike through the beautiful countryside near campus this spring convinced me.
As it turns out, it was not as difficult to pack a bike for shipping by bus as I imagined. It was actually pretty easy. Getting the bike onto the bus proved more of a challenge.
Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is by velojoy.com intern and college student Christina Bogdan.
In preparation for my journey, I did some online research. Greyhound provides the following information about transporting bikes:
Q: Can I take a bicycle or golf bag? A: Bicycles and golf bags are considered oversized items. They are allowed as long as space is available in the baggage area. The oversized item will count as your one bag allowed under the coach. You'll be responsible for placing the item in the baggage bin. An additional baggage fee may be applied for oversized or overweight bags. Greyhound is not responsible for damage to oversized items or items that are not placed in normal luggage or a carrying case.
Baggage must not exceed 158 centimeters (62 inches) when adding the total exterior dimensions of the (length + height + width). Any Bags exceeding the 158 cm. (62 inch) limit will be assessed oversized baggage charges. The only exception to the oversized surcharge is skis and ski poles, assuming they are packed in an appropriate canvas or hardcover container. Bicycles can be accepted as baggage only if they are in a cardboard box designed for bicycles and are subject to the maximum oversized baggage charge regardless of the distance traveled.
Bicycles in Baggage Service: Bicycles checked into baggage must be boxed. Bicycle boxes are available from Greyhound Courier Express at selected terminals for $10 each (plus GST). You will be charged the oversize charge of $30 plus GST.
By digging a little further, I found the rules are not uniformly applied. Online, some Greyhound passengers reported being able to place their bikes in the baggage area without having boxed them; some said they had been charged for transporting their bikes, while others had not. One common complaint was that boxes are not available at the terminals, so I would suggest getting your own rather than relying on Greyhound to supply one.
Here are the key steps to follow:
Find a free box: Most bike shops have extra bicycle shipping boxes on hand and are willing to give them away. I was charged $10 for mine at a store near my house, which I thought was steep. I bought it anyway because I didn’t want to deal with carrying a giant box from the next closest shop on the subway.
Disassembly made easy: To disassemble my bike, I removed the front wheel, seat post, pedals and handlebars. The whole process (see slideshow below) took me no more than 10 minutes. I used two hex wrenches and an open-end wrench, both of which I had in the house, to remove the parts. I wrapped my seat post in bubble wrap to prevent it from damaging the rest of the bike. I stuck my pedals, along with other small, loose parts into a big envelope and carried this separately. Pro tip: Put any extra (soft) things that you can’t fit in your luggage in plastic bags and place them in the bike box for padding.
Enlist a friend: This was definitely the most challenging part of the process. Ask a friend to help you. Luckily, my bike is not very heavy, but the box was huge. If the bike had been my only piece of luggage, I would have been able to carry it alone, but combined with all my other bags it would have been impossible for me to transport it to the bus station alone.
Move to the front of the line: I wasn’t sure if I needed to alert anyone about my bike before I boarded the bus. My past experience with Greyhound shows that the system is generally unorganized (especially at the Port Authority) and really depends on what the driver is like. So I decided to wait until I boarded the bus to say anything. When I finally got to the door, the driver told me that there was very little room in the baggage area, so I had to wait for the next bus. I blame this mostly on the fact that I was near the end of the line, so try to get yourself to the head of the line.
When the next bus arrived, the driver let the bike on without any extra charge. The baggage handler loaded my bike into what looked like a separate compartment for big boxes. My box was not secured and was laid down on its side, so I assume it slid around a bit.
When you’re home again: I managed to fit the box into a cab to campus and assembled my bike as soon as I got back. Nothing was damaged, but I ran into problems reattaching my front wheel. It was screwing on crooked and brushed the brake pads as I pedaled. Apparently this is a common newbie problem. I solved it by holding the wheel in place as I screwed in the quick release.
Now that I can use my bike to get around campus (photo, above right) and for weekend rides, I’d say the bus trip was definitely worth it.