Bottom line, I hate TSA. Rarely do I ever use the H word, but I really do hate TSA. Once a year I can always plan on a flight plan from hell, and once a year it always happens.
From the time I started flying with my bike I have learned to leave my home an extra hour earlier regardless of flying domestic or international: First and last time I ever flew Spirit Airlines. Destination – Tampa, Race – St. Anthony’s, Problem – Held up by TSA for full on luggage search with me present. I arrived 2.5 hours before my flight thinking it was good enough, but little did I know I was going to be pulled aside with my bike, contents thoroughly searched and be held up 90 minutes without having gone through security yet. As my plane was boarding, I was refused request to go through the line, simply being told I needed to arrive earlier. To make matters worse, Spirit Air told me at the gate I missed my flight and I had to go back outside to check in to change my flight. After arriving back to the check in, I was rushed to the gate to board my flight…my original flight. But before boarding the head flight attendant and pilot meet me to yell at me (no joke) on how I have held up the plane for an hour. Once boarding, the attendant continued to make a scene and yell at me on the plane in front of everyone. WORST FLIGHT EVER, all because of TSA strip searching my bike. *I was the first in line for check-in, when they opened the line.
Throughout the past 7 years of flying, I have had 3 bike cases completely ruined due to the carelessness of TSA not closing my bike case properly after search. I understand the need to search bags and cases for security reasons, but seriously, a little more respect to traveler’s items need to be taken into consideration. I have even requested to be present during searches to ensure my case be closed properly afterwards, and after many arguments I was allowed…only to have them open it again while I was not present and damage my case and frame further.
After almost giving up traveling to races last year, I decided to try one more bike case that might not get damaged as much or damage my frame during searches – a Ruster Sports Case. Best luck ever for the past year until last week. This case is AMAZING (with the exception of me buying the original version #1 week before the wheeled version #2 was released – I have to lug a case the size of me around); you can check the case in as luggage! That’s right – FREE CHECK-IN!!!! No more $300 round trip flights for my bike. The catch…you have to fully disassemble your bike. So if you are willing to be a little grease monkey and learn to be a bike mechanic, this case is worth it! However, I hate TSA.
With this case I have reduced the amount of luggage I have with me during travel. But beware, you MUST have every little piece secure with this case. Last week when traveling I suffered my worst bike-travel experience ever when my bike was searched a bearing fell from my Cervelo S2 frame and I arrived to a week-long trip in the Alpes without a very valuable bearing; the size no one in a 2 hour mountain drive radius carries.
So as my bike case gets smaller, my travel list of supplies gets longer – NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT SPARE BEARINGS FOR YOUR BIKE. Lesson learned, after having to rent a bike from the Trek Store for 2 days, until I could strip my friend’s bike of her bearings.
Will we ever be able to travel again without having to worry about pieces being lost from our valuable bikes? TSA -is it that difficult to be able to properly close cases the way that they were when you received them? TSA needs to be held responsible for the damage they cause for the opening and closing of bags and cases. I have made claims in the past for the damage they have caused, without any good resolution. For those who are so careless with our gear and luggage, are they really doing their job of “security”? It makes me doubt it.