Bringing the Batavus Home

There is a beautiful bike in my living room today and it’s all due to my fabulous parents.

You may recall my riding the Batavus in England and then heading off to Russia. Since I wasn’t going back via the UK, there was no way I could bring the bike home myself. Luckily, my brother and I had bought tickets for my parents to visit Prague and London last fall, for their upcoming 30th anniversary — and they generously offered to take the bike back for me. I arranged to have it delivered to their hotel, and they would simply take it to the airport on a shuttle, check it, and take it to Alabama. Easy peasy? Not so much, when you’re talking about a fully assembled Dutch Bike. Anyone who thinks they might be traveling with a bike in future, read on!

Mom and Dad decided to take the bike from the box and transport it in the cardboard sleeve, since the box was so unwieldy.

A Batavus packed for transport.

A Batavus packed in a cardboard sleeve for transport.

When they came rolling up to the check-in counter, the United Airlines people at Heathrow looked at them like they were aliens. The woman at the counter asked my dad what she was supposed to do with it…he said, “Well, I was hoping you’d put it on the plane.” They made them deflate the tires because they were worried they’d explode. Luckily, they were too taken aback to realize they could have charged $200 for transporting the bike. Score one for my budget!

But Mom and Dad’s trials weren’t over: When they got to security at Dulles they had to reclaim the bike (along with all their other checked baggage) and recheck it for their flight to Atlanta. As they strolled nonchalantly through the “nothing to declare” aisle at customs, the officials gave a questioning look but didn’t comment (since you are allowed to bring $800 worth of goods back with you from overseas without paying customs, they weren’t actually doing anything wrong). Enter another set of flummoxed airport employees. (My mom, when telling the story: “Hon, I don’t think many people travel with bikes.”) Of course, it wouldn’t fit through the scanning device they put suitcases through. They tried shoving it in and eventually swabbed it down with cotton and then tested the swabs for explosives or something. Note to Al-Qaida, bikes as terrorist instruments will not be tolerated!

Once my parents and the bike arrived in Atlanta, they had to get it on the shuttle to the parking area. Let’s just say the Parking Spot shuttle driver and passengers hadn’t seen anyone traveling with a bike, either. It was the topic of much conversation (“That must be one special bike! What kind of bike is that?” etc.), especially when the shuttle stopped to drop off my parents in front of my mom’s white Mustang. Dad, who had been regaling the passengers with the story of the bike’s trip so far, looked at them and said “Now, for my next trick, I will fit this bike into the trunk of that Mustang,” while having no clue whether or not it was actually going to happen. Being a master of packing, he did it (luckily the rear seats fold down to access the trunk)! He said they rode with their knees in the dash all the way to Anniston.

And now I have a beautiful bike in my living room! Thanks Mom and Dad. We’re off on our first (American) ride. :)

Home at last

Home at last

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20 thoughts on “Bringing the Batavus Home

  1. dottie says:

    How exciting! Your parents must really love you ;)

  2. Doohickie says:

    Yeah…. those are some special parents you got there. Don’t let ‘em get away!

  3. anna says:

    What a story! Glad you finally received your bike without any big trouble.

  4. Shelly says:

    So looking forward to hearing more stories about your new Batavus. Congrats!

  5. Jessica says:

    I remember Sten taking his bike to Germany- which involved taking off pedals and handlebars, rushing to the airport after oversleeping, looking for a bike box at every airline desk in Nashville (while I was trying to avoid being yelled at by the guy who wants you to only stop at the curb for 10 minutes), still catching the flight, having to pay a lot at customs in Germany, coming up one pedal short, only for Sten to be asking at the desk if anyone had found a pedal when the guy cleaning the plane called to ask if anyone was missing one. Strange combo of good luck in chaos!

  6. 2whls3spds says:

    I guess the advantages of using innocents to do the “dirty work” :-D If I tried that I would get locked up and the bike sent to where ever TSA sends stuff the impound. FWIW I do buy bits and pieces on UK Ebay, have the sent to my son in Leeds and he brings them home in his checked baggage, so far the largest piece was a 16″ wheel with a dyno hub…now if I could just figure out how to get a Gazelle Tandem in his bag…

    Aaron

  7. Cyclin Missy says:

    That’s awesome! Congrats and props to your parents!

  8. Trisha says:

    Thanks Missy! @aaron, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s pulled a family member to the dark side…

  9. jj says:

    it’s so pretty! and what awesome parents you have, to go through all that!

    but what was the reason you got one from london instead of just ordering one from the canadian distributor? was it cheaper to get it in london, even if they had charged your parents $200 to bring it on the plane?

  10. Trisha says:

    JJ, it was nearly half the price since the bike was on an end-of-year clearance (it’s an 08) and the exchange rate from dollars to pounds when I bought was at an all-time low. I think US/North American importers have to pay higher taxes on the Batavus bikes than retailers in the UK, so between that and the strong Euro, the bikes just cost a lot more here.

  11. Dean Peddle says:

    That is quite a horror story about travelling with a bike but I can give you some good stories as well. I’ve travelled with my bikes many times and I’ve never had an issue. It’s all due to the packing of the bike and I noticed from the above picture it wasn’t packed like the airlines like it. It needs to be fully in the box. I’ve travelled with the original bike box many times with a racing bike. I also have a bike bag and last year I packed my Dutch Breezer Uptown bike in it successfully and travelled to Holland. I had to take almost everything off. Wheels, Fenders, full chain guard and rack but it fit completly in the bag (except for the rack I think). So if you pack the bike properly you probably won’t have any issues.

    But remember they will charge you if you travel domestically. They won’t charge if it’s international and this opens up a whole nother can of worms not worth discussing :)

    Happy biking!! The Batavus is great….I just wish they had them here in North America when I bought my Dutch bike but the Breezer Uptown 8 that I own is a very good Dutch copy. But I will be getting a Batavus for my wife and the smaller 24 inch Batavus for my kids as they need a bike just like Daddy :)

  12. Trisha says:

    Dean, actually United just revised their policy last fall and according to their site, it costs $200 to check a bike even if you’re traveling internationally. As far as I know, Southwest is the only airline who has yet to impose a charge for transporting bikes. Of course, like everything with the airlines, it all depends on who you get behind the counter. I’m glad to hear you guys are a Batavus family! I love love LOVE mine so far.

    • Dean Peddle says:

      Holly smokes!!!! Time for a Bike Friday !!!!! Actually I did just buy a Dahon folding bike so it may be with me next trip….thanks for the info.

  13. Sox says:

    I guess I am lucky where I live. AirCanada charges $50 for a bike if you claim it as your second piece of luggage on an international flight.

  14. Donette Mckenrick says:

    Hey. I couldn’t get through to this page the other day. Anyone else had the problem?

  15. […] off and tyres down. I’ve already started saving all our Wiggle packaging… I liked this bloggers recent experience getting their parents to act as bike couriers – looks like they got through customs and airport baggage systems by simply […]

  16. Ro says:

    I like especially like your wheelable box… Shocking all the airline staff onto letting them through seems like a nice strategy too…

    In researching this topic lately before booking our flights I’ve read lots of horror stories of people being charge thousands for excess baggage – you’ve done well to avoid any costs – and your beautiful bike arrived intact!

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