I get asked about this alot- what is the best way to pack a unicycle when flying overseas? The great thing about unicycles is that they are virtually bombproof. Unlike bikes, there are no derailleurs, suspension forks, or other sticky outy bits that get tangled up in transit. At least until we started adding complexities like geared hubs and hydraulic brakes!
I have seen people walk into an airport check-in counter with their unicycle and hand it over with no packing, and it usually arrives on the other side in one piece. For those of you who want a bit more protection, get yourself a Uni bag.
Avoid these at all costs, unless you’re the type who likes travelling heavy, having bit’s falling out, soggy cardboard, and unicycle parts strewn all over the airport. They are horrible, and not very practical if you want get around after getting to your destination (even when broken down flat, they are unwieldy).
These work great for protecting your unicycle, but are only practical for smaller unicycles, and you have to pack your clothes and other stuff around the unicycle. They’re also heavy and bulky. Once you get to your destination, you have this big suitcase to lug around.
The advantage of a bag is that you can line it with cardboard, then throw it away at your destination and it will fold down into a very small package. You can sew it yourself, or in my case, I had it made by a canvas shop which specialises in outfitting trucks and caravans.
The idea is to keep it simple. You can make it in all manner of shapes and sizes. The best is still a square bag with a zip on top. Round bags don’t sit upright, are more difficult to make, and they often only fit one size snugly-other wheel sizes tend to flop around inside.
This particular bag is made from ripstop PVC and has a heavy duty zip. It has been several times around the world with only minor scuffmarks. It’s heavier than it should be….I would use lighter material next time.
5 minute packing guide:
1. The Bag, with obligatory Unicycle.com sticker!
2. A Handle is useful
3. Heavy duty zips are a must. If possible, make your bag with a double zip so you can lock it with a padlock
4. Folding down the bag into an A4 sized package
5. Corrugated plastic is more robust than cardboard, but harder to come by. There is always cardboard available- so just throw it away when you get to your desitnation, and on the way back, you can usually get some more cardboard at the airport (eg ask McDonalds for their fry boxes)
6. My Schlumpf 36″ with T7 handlebar, ready for packing!
7. Line the bag with the corrugated plastic or cardboard
8. You need two layers to sandwich the unicycle between
9. Wrap your unicycle up in bubblewrap or cloth. This protects the paintwork
10. Stick it in between the two layers of cardboard/corrugated plastic
11. Make sure the seat tube is covered so it does not poke a hole in your bag
12. Other parts like the seat should be packed separately. If you’re lazy, just wrap it up in newspaper and stick it in a plastic bag, being careful to cover all the sharp bits
13. All wrapped up. Throw this in with the unicycle
14. The pedals should be wrapped up well so they don’t scratch the unicycle. I wrap it in newspaper
15. And then throw the pedals into an old bubble wrap lined courier bag
16. And this keeps all the little bits in one place. Courier bags are useful!
17. Throw it in with your unicycle, I try to pack as much into the Unicycle bag as possible to get a snug fit. Remember the more snugly it’s packed, the more padding around your unicycle. So throw your shoes and camelbak etc in there as well. Remember that every item that goes in should be in little bags (keeps them from falling out). Zip it up and you’re done!
When travelling through airports, many customs/checkin officials will make you deflate your tyre. Now, even in the event of cabin depressurisation, it is pretty unlikely your tyre will explode, but you have to do what they tell you.
Word of caution….if you run an inner tube in the tyre, NEVER let down your pressure entirely. Make the tyre squishy enough to satisfy checkin people, but if you deflate it completely, there is a risk that when your bag gets dropped, you will end up with a rim pinch puncture in your inner tube.