The acquisition of the bike box and packing almost rivaled an Indiana Jones script.
The information desk sent me to the long term luggage storage. The helpful gentleman there wrote the initials FGS on a post-it note, and pointed me back in the opposite direction and I was told I would find it in 30 metres. (Much later this fact was proved almost true)
So I wandered around, looking for FGS, with no success. After lining up with my bicycle at a parcel/postage store, still no success or even hint of success.
I had plenty of time, so was not worried at this point, and back tracked to my soon to be new friend at the luggage storage. He was amazed how stupid I was, and gave me more directions, writing on the ever expanding post-it notes, that it was the "Welcome Centre" that would be the next clue to success.
I had booked my first night's accommodation in Frankfurt at the "Welcome Centre" (information), so found it easily and lined up again.
From there, I was given the next clue that I had to go through to the baggage claim. So off I walked, thinking success was near.
There was no obvious way to go back into baggage claims area, as it is a one direction route for arriving passengers. So I headed along until I ran out of arriving terminal. As the saying goes "when in Rome do as the Romans do", so joined the cycling terminal staff and pedalled back through the terminal pedestrian traffic to the "Welcome Centre".
Once again, I was developing another new friend, and with more explicit instructions, I had to find a button to push and be buzzed through.
Five minutes later I was in the baggage claim area and only 30m from where the luggage storage guy had explained 40 minutes before. It was so simple!
The lost luggage guy pointed me to Belt 11 at the other end of this area. My last cycling experience in Germany was inside a baggage collection terminal!
At last I found FGS. It is where travellers with luggage damage due travelling put through their replacement luggage claim. As I was not in a position to bargain, I pull out a crisp 50 euro note and was pointed to a flat pack box. This guy became my next new friend as he threw in exclusive use of his packing tape dispenser for the next one hour and forty minutes. He refilled the dispenser and also provided some plastic bags (to hold pedals, quick release skewers and cover the greasy rear cluster)
If you have read this far you may be interested in how I packed it:
1. Removed pedals, remembering the left pedal is left hand thread.
2. Put dérailleur to smallest cog and remove both wheels.
3. Remove rear derailleur and put it in a bag. Leaving it on it the highest likelihood of damage.
4. Loosen handlebars at stem and rotate. I had to remove the Garmin GPS holder as it stuck out a bit.
5. Remove seat post with seat attached. Practice at home as a seized seat post can take hours to extract. (See preparation blog). Hint - use an aluminium seat post if possible, as carbon is prone to crushing when using a seat post rack.
6. By now there should be bike bits everywhere. Grab the lose bits and bag them in preparation for attaching then to frame or wheels in the box. There is less chance of losing bits if the box box burst open, as happened on the way over.
7. Building the box- this box was a standard issue airline box, which means it is longer and slightly narrower then the one from the local bike shop. I think they are longer so that the rear wheel can be left on.
Knowing that Air China does not specifically mention allowing bicycle boxes, and has an overall limit for luggage of 154cm, I thought the box looked way too long so shortened it by about 600mm - hence the excessive tape usage.
Also I tapped the stapled joint as it had burst on the way over.
8. It's almost time to package the bicycle. This time I turned the frame over and the wheels fitted ok. It's best to pull the handlebars right off to make the package as narrow as possible, but rotating left it with 1 cm bulge.
9. Deflate the tires and wipe off all the dirt from tyres and frame, as customs in Australia hate dirt being brought in and will charge to clean it to their standards. I found a street cleaner in Frankfurt who kindly high pressure hosed my bicycle, but it still needed a full wipe over.
10. Once packed, I borrowed a big, fat marker pen and put 4 large upright arrows and wrote my name, address and phone on the box.
11. After cutting out two carry holes and reinforcing them with tape, I was ready to check in.
The box was manageable to carry, but getting a trolley made that easier. The check-in guy at first suggested that excess luggage charges would apply. After he checked, no excess was applied and my luggage was taken away to be checked through to Sydney.