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Old 25th November 2022, 13:23   #1
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Transporting Bicycles across India

Here's a short guide on transporting cycles across the nation.

Frankly, they are unique when compared to other goods (including vehicles) for transport:
1. They hardly weigh a lot (8 - 12 kgs)
2. They have fragile components (e.g. rear derailleur) that can break easily if not taken care of
3. and they offer the interesting conundrum of being expensive (to us owners) but considered a "cheap" vehicle by the masses

Having transported cycles across cities, states, and even countries via different modes, this thread is to share my learnings with the larger audience as increasingly I see we still have different ideas/queries on this even today.

Primarily I see 4 options of transporting cycles

1. Via trains
The most affordable and (IMO) the best means of transporting your cycle(s) in the Indian subcontinent

2. Via flights
A premium alternative that works efficiently for domestic and especially international travel

3. On / In your personal vehicles
Ideal for short & local trips. Or if you are not extremely comfortable handing over your precious cargo to external parties

4. Via Movers & Packers
Works well if you are transporting a lot more than just your cycle (to fill up an entire truck). If not, it's a costly and risky alternative that I would not recommend

There are other means of transporting your bikes - you can always ride them to your destination of course One can also opt for a Tempo/goods carrier for carrying cycles. And most Volvo buses allow one to carry the cycle in their luggage section for an additional fee. But I wouldn't recommend them - the one time I did that for a relatively short Mumbai - Pune trip, the cycle came out with a few nicks and dents.

In the following posts, I'll expand further on the first three options that I have used in the past for different trips and requirements. I have used Movers & Packers (Agarwal Packers) to transport my cycles along with my household goods and they packaged and transported them (along with the rest of my goods) without any issues. However I would have not gone for this option if I was only going to transport my cycle as then I would be subjecting it to how they are able to combine it with other people's goods and I would have limited say on that.

Last edited by ninjatalli : 16th December 2022 at 12:40.
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Old 25th November 2022, 13:24   #2
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Transportation via Indian Railways

Frankly the best and most affordable option of transporting your bicycle is via the Indian Railways (IR). They are
- Efficient
- Reliable
- Affordable (extremely!)

I have taken my cycle on numerous journeys
1. Mumbai to Chennai
2. Goa to Bangalore
3. Kanyakumari to Chennai
4. Chennai to Bangalore
5. Bangalore to Mangalore

and a few more. The process more or less remains the same with only a few minor differences; however the experience has been pretty much great across all my previous trips using the railways. I have faced zero damage to the cycle on any of these trips. I would whole-heartedly recommend this option to all cyclists for their cycles at any price point.

Let me explain the process in more detail

------------------

Step 1: Select the mode of transport. There are two options that IR offers us - luggage and parcel
Luggage - The cycle can be booked as luggage if you are travelling by the same train
Parcel - the cycle is booked as parcel if you are not traveling by train along with the vehicle

A few additional details to remember
- 'Luggage' gets priority over 'Parcel'. Basically if you are traveling on the train, your goods have to be on that train itself. Everything else comes next
- 'Luggage' option is possible only on select scenarios; at the starting & ending stations; and at a few key / important stations that your train will stop for longer duration. As a thumb rule, avoid any train that have <5 mins halt time at your start or destination station
- For the 'Parcel' option, it's up to a combination of what train is best suited to deliver the goods/cycle to the destination station and depends on a variety of other factors (other goods being transported that day, # of trains running on that route, direct connectivity, etc.)
- Fees/charges are more or less similar for both options so it doesn't matter
- Of course if you aren't traveling, then parcel is your only option
- For any doubts, head to the luggage counter of your station or call 139

Note: I have sent my scooter via the parcel option. The vehicle reached the destination 2 days later than planned even though we were told at the source point that it would be sent the same day itself. But no other issue faced other than that.


Step 2: Select the train that you want to take your cycle with you. As a thumb rule, I look for trains that originate from my source station and end at my destination station for transporting my cycle; even if I have to overlook better/faster train options. Every train has two luggage vans; one van is usually reserved for goods from starting city to destination city and the other van is reserved for goods for all other combinations. The former luggage van door is locked/sealed at the source station and only opened at the destination so obviously it makes more sense to get your cycle in that van.


Step 3: Reach the luggage counter on the day of journey at least 4 hours in advance. Reach the day earlier if your train timing is at odd hours (e.g. early morning). I once reached ~2.5 hours prior to my evening train; and I was told that it might be tough to get a slot on the same train even though I was traveling on it. Luckily there weren't too many goods so no constraints faced.

The luggage counter is not necessarily at the parcel office (in some cities it can be). In Chennai & Mumbai, the luggage counter is inside the station near the main entrance & away from the parcel office; while at Bangalore & Goa, it is located separately outside the station as a separate building/unit adjacent to the parcel office. Ask around and you'll be shown to the correct premises.


Step 4: The official at the counter would require that your cycle has some packaging. Basically they need some covering on which they can write down the parcel number or put the tag/sticker. At most stations, you'll have guys loitering around who'll offer to do the necessary packaging for a nominal charge. Or you can carry the packaging material and do it yourself. I have paid different amounts from 50Rs to max 200Rs for this "service".

Transporting Bicycles across India-20221025_091111.jpg


Step 5: Fill up the luggage form with the key details including your ticket PNR. If you don't have a PNR, then the same form acts as a parcel form. You will also require a xerox of your ID (DL/Aadhaar/etc.) for this process. The official will book the details on the parcel system and give you a receipt. At some places this is computerized, while at other places it is manually recorded (e.g. Kanyakumari). For main stations like Chennai or Bangalore, I got a printed tag/sticker that I could stick on the cycle along with the receipt. Do not lose this receipt - it's key. Especially the PRR No. / PWB No. on your receipt is important as it allows you to track the transport status online on Indian Railways site https://parcel.indianrail.gov.in/

Transporting Bicycles across India-20220408_191200.jpg
Sample receipt for reference


Step 6: The next steps varies from city to city but in general, there'll be a counter/location where all vehicles that need to be transported (usually close to the luggage counter or on platform #1) - your cycle gets deposited there and your work is done. There would be a porter who'll keep track of all vehicles that need to be sent out as luggage/parcel and it's his job from there. Atleast, that is the process officially. At some places, I have been asked to pay a nominal charge (e.g. recently at Kanyakumari a 100Rs charge), others I just walk away and come back when the train arrives.

Transporting Bicycles across India-20220307_123611.jpg


Step 7: This is an optional step. If your train is starting from that station, you can choose to be there an hour earlier when it arrives at the station and observe the porter(s) load your cycle on to the luggage van. As a thumb rule, I always try to be there to ensure the cycle is loaded correctly - once my cycle was to be loaded on top of a lot of goods/crates as the luggage van was filled to the brim. I ensured the derailleur and other components would not get impacted and there is sufficient cushion.


It's always good to see your cycle loaded in front of you

Of course, if you are opting for parcel service, there isn't anything you can do here as there isn't a guarantee on which train your cycle will be loaded. In the past, one had to bribe the porter to ensure the vehicle is loaded asap - but these days, the system is quite efficient and you can expect your vehicle/cycle to be sent asap. You can still choose to do that if you think it'll help.


Step 8: At your destination, get down and head to the parcel office (NOT the luggage counter) as all goods from the luggage vans will be sent there. Many a times, I have walked with the porter carrying the goods to the parcel office. You can also choose to come back later to pick it up at the parcel office. Show your receipt at the counter and he'll check for any pending fees (there are penalty fees if your cycle/vehicle has been at the parcel office more than the initial 6 hours). Once all aspects are cleared, he'll sign the form (or give you a delivery token or receipt) and you are good to go.

Transporting Bicycles across India-20221025_090313.jpg
Rules / fees at delivery point


Additional Points to note
1) The IR transport charges for your 10-12kg cycle will be extremely nominal (max I have been charged is 200Rs). The IR can "earn" a lot more with goods using the same space your cycle takes but they offer this amazing service so I would advise IR option over any other means of transport any day
2) In a city with multiple stations, this service could be offered at more than one station. For instance, both Bangalore SBC and Yeshwantpur offer this service.
3) Most porters/railway staff would be unaware of the cost of our cycles but they are definitely aware of cycles and are generally lenient/helpful (maybe fellow cyclists?) so some smiles (and token payment if requested) do help where needed
4) If your travel originated from a station with computerized terminal, you'll get sms alerts of your cycle/vehicle being loaded, unloaded and so on
5) The same alerts can also be tracked on the IR parcel website (for both luggage & parcel options)

Transporting Bicycles across India-screenshot_20221025122355_chrome.jpg

Last edited by ninjatalli : 16th December 2022 at 16:11.
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Old 14th December 2022, 21:19   #3
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Transportation by Air

If the Indian Railways are your VFM option for transportation, the Airways are your premium option for transportation of bikes. From a process perspective, it's pretty structured and easy to follow at any airport, for domestic and international flights.

- One lands up at the airport, books the cycle as sports luggage at your airline check-in counter, pay the additional charges and let them handle the "sports luggage" from there on
- At some airports, the airline check-in staff might ask you to deposit the cycle at a specific counter (say for sports and oversized goods); at other airports, the staff might handle this on their own
- And similarly at the destination airport's baggage claim section, head over to the special/oversized goods counter to pick up your packed cycle (box/bag)
- You can practically walk your cycle out of the arrival gates and on to the parking area; it's that simple. Even on an international trip, I wasn't stopped at customs or at any other point and literally just walked out and loaded the cycle (in a bike bag) on to the taxi.

What gets interesting is the manner how you package your cycle. And there are 3 different ways I'm aware of packaging the cycle - these are accepted globally as the means of carrying your cycle with you. Recently bhpian @papr23 showed in his thread that there's a 4th way too!


Option 1. Cardboard bike boxes
This would be my default / preferred option to transport cycles via Air. Simply for the reason, you are not aware of how the package will be handled by the airport staff at two airports, the airline staff and at even more points if your travel requires you to change flights. In such a situation, the box is a familiar piece of luggage that is and will be handled well by all staff throughout the process. To procure the box, I'd recommend heading to a premium cycle seller in your city (even Decathlon might be able to help) to get your cycle boxed. Or at least procure the box and do it yourself at home (there are enough videos online to help you).

Transporting Bicycles across India-cardboardbikeboxes.jpg

Transporting Bicycles across India-bikeboxdimensionsfi2.jpg
one would have to remove the handle, tires and pedals to fit the cycle frame and components inside the box


Option 2. Bike Bag (Premium)
The next best option is to procure a premium bike bag from brands like EVOC or Scicon which are used by cyclists around the world. However a bag from these guys do not come cheap and would make sense only if you intend to travel with your cycle frequently over time. Suggestive product options link.

Transporting Bicycles across India-bike-bag-1.jpg

Transporting Bicycles across India-bike-bag-2.jpg
images are taken from above product website


Option 3. Bike Bag (VFM)
Similar to the products from Evoc and others, there are several copy-cat versions available locally. When Decathlon opened shop, they had a bike bag option that wasn't too heavy on the pocket which I had used for an international trip and it worked pretty well (but didn't hold up well over time). There are options available on Amazon and other sites that one can check and use it. I would assume that these wouldn't be as durable as the premium options and that should be kept in mind. @goandude has/had a bike bag (ref post) that he used a while ago.

Name:  Bike Bag 3.JPG
Views: 334
Size:  32.2 KB
Suggestive product: link


Option 4. Temporary / Makeshift Arrangement
In his recent cycling trip to the Konkan, @papr23 showcased how he and his wife cycled to the airport, packed up the cycle at the Hyderabad airport and took their cycles to Goa for a fun riding trip across the Konkan - thread link. This seems to be a simpler and VFM packaging option for short domestic flights. No idea if other airports or airlines offer this service but it surely wouldn't be too much expensive for a one-time short travel requirement.




Additional Points to note
1) The above process is for carrying your cycle on a passenger flight and has been tried & tested on domestic & international flights. However I am not aware if there is and what is the process of transporting your cycle on a cargo flight
2) One can also choose to put "fragile" sticker on your bike bag/box; no idea if it really makes a difference. Honestly most airline/airport staff should be able to recognize the cycle and take care but then there are always ways to screw up
3) The premium bike bags from EVOC or other brands might be available on rental basis in some cycle shops in metro cities or online (no info at my end for available options)

Last edited by ninjatalli : 16th December 2022 at 16:00.
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Old 14th December 2022, 21:28   #4
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Transportation by / in Car

For an automobile forum, carrying the cycle on/in your vehicle should seem the most logical option.

However, it can be a messy affair (say if you are carrying the dirty cycle after completing a cycling event), you'll have to drive carefully over bad roads or keep an eye when stopping for breaks or at signals; loading & unloading the cycle on your carrier will take some efforts every time. And there could be government officials on the lookout for vehicles like yours (e.g. Bangalore RTO troubles - ref thread) to fine you or just plainly harass you for a quick buck. Also there is one significant downside of the rear rack option - your rear door/boot will eventually be subject to minor dents and scratches over time.

But on the other hand, there are several benefits too - exactly the reason why a lot of cycling event organizers (& support vehicles) prefer to carry cycles on racks behind their cars. You can carry more than one (upto 3 cycles IIRC) on your cycle rack; and you can opt to load & unload at any moment or location as per your need. And most racks can be interchanged from one vehicle to another (if the rack model supports the car/van type).


1. Bike on the car (using rear racks)
There's an existing thread on bike carrier racks for cars so I won't really expand too much on this. It's a VFM option that works extremely well for short trips; and even some longer intercity trips if one is ready to take care every time s/he stops and drives carefully. As I mentioned earlier, this is the default option leveraged during most cycling events for support vehicles and there are enough brands/models available in the market for prices starting from 7k INR.

Transporting Bicycles across India-specialized-4.jpg
The carrier I had to carry my cycle(s) in the US


A popular model available in today's market (generic product image)


Example of another bhpian's carrier with multiple cycles being carried


2. Bike on the car (using roof racks)
Roof racks are a much more premium alternative that I haven't had the benefit of trying but bhpian @graaja has had this installed on his Jetta (previously) and his current BMW (reference thread) leveraging a product from the brand Thule (suggestive product link). If anyone is interested in getting to know more about the benefits and pitfalls of this product, I'd suggest reaching out to @graaja for more information.


@graaja's Jetta with the Thule roof carrier


3. Bike inside the car
And the third option (what I currently use to carry my cycle for short trips in & out of Bangalore) is to carry the cycle inside the car after folding down your rear seats. It removes the constraint of the above two options being stopped by any RTO officials (especially if your city officials already have a rule for it) and makes an easy 'solution' for generally carrying a single cycle; or even two cycles if one goes by @ebonho's experiences of carrying his cycles in his Storme (reference thread). The larger the vehicle (preferably an SUV or MUV), the more easier it is to "fit" your cycle(s) inside the vehicle. Also one doesn't have to worry about the cycle's safety when stopping for breaks or even overnight halts.




Easy means for large SUV like @ebonho's Storme

Last edited by ninjatalli : 16th December 2022 at 12:07.
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Old 16th December 2022, 17:55   #5
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th December 2022, 20:19   #6
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

What a coincidence it is - me thinking of procuring two bicycles to augment car tours for the past couple of weeks, coming to tbhp to look at the cycle recommendation threads multiple times, coming to tbhp today to check options to carry cycles and this thread has been approved just today! Thank you for this!!

I will (conveniently) take this as a sign from the stars and decide to fall from the fence towards the cycles

Given my travels are usually two-person and light load, looks like the best option is to get quick release front wheel models and carry them inside the car. Quickest, cheapest, most convenient.. but maybe the dirtiest as well?
Any ideas on how to save the interior trims from nicks and smudges? I was thinking simple gunny bags at requisite points, but maybe there is a more elegant solution?
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Old 17th December 2022, 15:30   #7
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

Great job of consolidating all options @ninjatalli! The detailed steps for transporting via Indian Railways is really helpful.

Quote:
2. Bike on the car (using roof racks)
Another variant of roof racks are the suction cup based ones. A popular model is the SeaSucker Talon:



They are expensive as one would imagine but there are cheaper (relatively speaking) Chinese models available from the likes of Rockbros.

Quote:
Option 3. Bike Bag (VFM)
A good option here is the bike bag from the Bangalore based Vinod Plastic House :

They are the makers of the popular v-three brand of laptop bags (I own a laptop bag that is more than a decade old). Their bike bag is priced at around INR 9k.
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Old 17th December 2022, 18:03   #8
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Re: Transportation by Air

Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjatalli View Post
If the Indian Railways are your VFM option for transportation, the Airways are your premium option for transportation of bikes. From a process perspective, it's pretty structured and easy to follow at any airport, for domestic and international flights.

- One lands up at the airport, books the cycle as sports luggage at your airline check-in counter, pay the additional charges and let them handle the "sports luggage" from there on
- At some airports, the airline check-in staff might ask you to deposit the cycle at a specific counter (say for sports and oversized goods); at other airports, the staff might handle this on their own
Quite detailed share on bike transportation options. Very informative.

Got me thinking if I can send my sonís bike to him at college. Do you have a rough idea of air luggage costs from Bengaluru to Delhi. Post which I can use IR from Delhi to Loharu.
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Old 17th December 2022, 20:02   #9
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

Excellent information. Wondering if someone has considered sending a cycle on a bus? Most private operators do operate courier services as well.

With some decent packaging/cushioning, that mode should also be cost effective and open up many more source/destination combinations.
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Old 18th December 2022, 15:28   #10
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

Thanks, @ninjatalli, for the comprehensive treatise on transporting bicycles!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dust-n-bones View Post
... Wondering if someone has considered sending a cycle on a bus?
Had carried my bicycle- a Hercules 5 speed on a bus, from Bangalore to Dindigul, sometime in late 2012
Had called up the KPN travels, Shantinagar, to check if I could carry my bike in the same bus, by which I was travelling, to which they said yes
Rode down to their office, the bike frame was wrapped little bit with cardboard and tied. Paid a luggage fees of Rs 200
The bike was loaded into the bus- a Leyland with Prakash body, into trunk, which was in the rear, sharing space with their other regular cargo boxes etc.
Reached Dindigul bypass about 5:30am, next morning, got the bike out, rode to our guesthouse

Later on, rode with few guys to Munnar, from Bodimettu
We started from Nilakottai, carried our bikes in a Tempo Traveller + Tata Xenon

Cheers!
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Old 18th December 2022, 18:09   #11
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

Thanks for the detailed info ninjatalli.

Back in 1985, we took the townbus on its final trip at 10 PM to transfer our bicycle from Coimbatore to our college premises, which was located 30 kilometres outside of the city.

We secured the bicycle inside the bus (as it was the last trip) and made a single passenger fare payment for the cost of the luggage.
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Old 19th December 2022, 08:09   #12
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Re: Transportation by Air

Quote:
Originally Posted by Haldian View Post
Quite detailed share on bike transportation options. Very informative.

Got me thinking if I can send my sonís bike to him at college. Do you have a rough idea of air luggage costs from Bengaluru to Delhi. Post which I can use IR from Delhi to Loharu.
It'll depend on the specific airline you intend to use and their policies. Check their T&C for sports goods (or if they mention cycle specifically) charges.

A better means would be to send it via railway (IR) as parcel luggage from Bangalore to Loharu. The IR staff are better equipped to figure out the ideal route and intermediate transfers required. You can track it via the website and courier the receipt directly to your son for him to pick up the cycle.
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Old 19th December 2022, 23:39   #13
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Re: Transportation by / in Car

An absolutely eye-opening thread. Thanks for sharing @ninjatalli. I was always curious as to the purpose behind the carefully packaged bicycles and motorcycles at railway stations. Now I know the reason behind the same. I pray we get a system where we can carry our cycles with us to work on the metro. I recall some international metro rail providers allowing citizens to travel with their cycles. Pray it can happen in India too. Will make last-mile commuting a breeze.
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Old 20th December 2022, 16:02   #14
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

As a budding cyclist, I thank you for this thread. Lots of important info here which I myself have tried searching for on the web. Thanks @mods for using my bike's pic in the thumbnail
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Old 20th December 2022, 22:50   #15
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Re: Transporting Bicycles across India

Regarding carrying cycles using rear racks, I have heard of multiple stories wherein the passengers were stopped by the police due to violations, essentially because the rear number plate being obscured and the cycle extending beyond the widths of the car body.

Not sure how legit such incidents are but maybe its something to be aware of.
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