Flying with my bike vs. buying a bike… vs. renting a car

I need a bike during my 3-month jaunt to Claremont, CA. One big question is whether I should try to fly with my existing bike, which is a roughly $700 mountain bike, or buy some sort of bike when I get there.

Flying with my bike

US Airways / America West says that you can fly with your bike, but you have to disassemble it and box it up and it will cost $80 each way. I’ve found some tutorials on how to box your bike, but I’ve never disassembled my bike before, and I’m worried that it might be damaged in transit. Does anybody have any experience with flying with a bike?

Buying a bike

anarkystic suggests that I get a touring bike of some sort, and I’m not sure my existing bike fits the bill. My dream is actually an Xtracycle, which start at $600 fully assembled, but the problem with those is that they cannot easily fit into a bus if I want to take public transportation part of the way and bike the rest. Also it would need some extra disassembling if I wanted to take it home on the plane / in a box.

To be more realistic, I’d probably just buy a cheap, ordinary bike when I got there, if I were buying a bike. The local bike shop sells new bikes starting at $250-300. Karen sent me an ad for a student “Selling a diamondback centurion road bike late 80s early 90s. In peak condition. good components, 58 cm frame.” for $150… the internet suggests that this is a decent line of bikes. A bike shop within driving distance is selling used bikes starting at like $10 according to Craigslist. Which sounds best? I don’t know whether a cheap used bike for like $20 would be really useable without lots of fixing…. wouldn’t it come out to the same as a newer bike after repairs are done, if the tires need replacing etc.? Wouldn’t I need a higher quality bike for biking long distances?

Forget the bike and rent a car

If I’m getting a car I’ll probably skip the bike, or buy a really cheap used one, since if I’m going any distance I’ll just take the car. I can rent an economy car from the local Enterprise for 3 months for an estimated $1693.23.

For your reference, once I finish training with Kaplan I can earn $20 / hour teaching / tutoring, but I’m only expecting to work part time, maybe 20 hours a week (leaving the remaining time to work on Free Culture projects, etc.). So $400 / week means that at least a month of work will go to paying for that car. Figure another month of work pays for the rent, and I’ll have the remaining month or so to pay for my other expenses… I’ll just barely break even for the trip, if I don’t end up in the red. If I refuse to rent a car, assuming I can get cheap groceries nearby, I should be able to have some money left over to save or spend on fun things.

My roommate Glenn has offered to let me use his car on occasion to buy groceries, and I may be able to join Karen’s friend Kathleen in shopping at Costco, so there is some hope that I can get by without a car. The main problem is that I need to get to training at the Kaplan center in Riverside, even if I’ll end up working closer to Claremont… Riverside is a half-hour drive away, and a 2-hour bus ride. I guess I’ll need to check up on how long training will take, and where I will work once I’m done with training. I am also concerned about finding healthy groceries that will please me within biking distance or within the kindness of my car-owning acquaintances.

So, to recap:
* Should I fly with my existing bike or buy one when I get there?
* or, is relying on a bike + public transportation stupid in So Cal? Should I get a rental car instead?

UPDATE: deaminerva suggests that I try carpooling, which might be possible if I develop relatively regular hours (although I suspect I won’t). We’ll have to see where I end up teaching/tutoring and at what times. Wikipedia suggests emotorpool as a carpool finder, I’m open to other ideas… This might be a possibility for surviving without a car.

9 thoughts on “Flying with my bike vs. buying a bike… vs. renting a car

    • It’s not a 9-5 job, if that’s what you mean by regular hours… I’m guessing that teaching / tutoring will occur mostly at night / on weekends. I don’t know when / where I’ll be working yet, either.

      That said, I hadn’t considered carpooling! Do you have any suggestions on how to find people to carpool with?

      • I think there are groups out there you can try to join to carpool (I don’t know much about this, but it seems with ’emotorpool’ you’ve got a good start).

        I was thinking that if you or your girlfriend knew anyone in CA with a car, you could ask them if you could carpool. Also, maybe you could ask coworkers if they could carpool? You might offer up front to help out with gas, and if you’re a little out of the way for the person with the car, you might offer to buy them lunch once a week to make up for the inconvenience or something.

  1. if you want a bike, buy a cheap one. there should be plenty of used ones that cost less than the $160 RT to transport yours. if you want, you can even sell it to somebody else when you leave.

  2. Since I don’t know what your travel profile is like, these are just suggestions on things to look in to.

    Consider joining Flexcar, especially if the times when you absolutely need a car of your own are going to be small. I don’t see any pods near Claremont (nearest is in Pasadena), so getting there will require a ride on Metrolink until they open new pods farther east (which they certainly might), but it could come in handy if you need to go to, say, Costco, or IKEA, without another car available. And right now, annual membership is free. 🙂

    Speaking of Metrolink, I’ve heard it described as the most underrated commuter rail system in the country. Don’t underestimate it.

    Remember, if you buy a bike, that you don’t mess it up, you can recoup much of the cost when you sell.

    In general, driving by yourself is a terribly expensive way to commute. Either carpool, bike, or take public transit.

    • Metrolink is pretty good…when you’re going to central LA. Unfortunately, Claremont and Riverside are on entirely different lines. :p

  3. again, i’d have to suggest against a road/mountain bike if you plan on using this bike in place of a car, one of the key goals is to have an upright position.

    On a mountain bike you will placing a lot of strain on your wrists, on a road bike you will be placing a lot of strain on your back, so what you want is a bike with the handle bars that come up and curve back a bit so that you place the weight on your butt which is used to having a bunch of weight on it, basically handlebars like:

    The ideal to me would be something like a jorg&olif 3-speed but they sell those for extravagant amounts to americans.

  4. It seems awfully girly of you to use a hair dryer. I can count the number of times I have used a hair dryer on one hand. And I have mildly ridiculously long hair.

    You metro 😉 Gotta be a Northern thing.

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