You’re exhausted after finishing a seemingly never ending day of travel but are now exploring the outskirts of a far off town with the feeling and excitement of a little kid who just got a new 10-speed. Nothing can take that smirky grin off your face as you try and explore as much as you can before it’s pitch black even though the coming days are going to be filled with incredible riding and experiences.
Bike travel anywhere away from home, it doesn’t have to be the epic roads of Europe, although that would be sweet, can give you that incredible feel of exploration along with being the trip of a lifetime. If you haven’t done it before, or even if you have, knowing a few good tips around bike travel will go a long way to ensure that your trip doesn’t have any major hiccups and leaves you wanting more before you’ve even returned home.
Bike Travel – Planning Your Trip
The basis of any great trip starts with the planning. Sure you can just go on a whim and it can be fantastic but that’s throwing a lot to luck. Some of the homework that you should do prior to a bike travel trip includes the following:
- Where to go: You want to choose a location that has ample roads and the terrain you’re looking for whether it be mountains or coastal scenic roads. You will want to make sure that they are cycling friendly and that people go there to ride. There are a lot of cool places where people don’t ride but you’ll have to do extra work ahead of time to make sure that it meets your expectations.
- What the weather is like: Make sure you check and see what the weather is like in the place you’re looking to go for the time of year you’re traveling. Don’t assume anything unless you’re prepared for it, a bike travel holiday in the cold and rain isn’t very pleasant.
- The fitness level that you’ll have: Plan your trip along with the fitness level you will have at that time of year. You don’t want to be struggling through all your rides on your trip as you won’t enjoy it nearly as much. Make sure you have enough time to gain the fitness you need for your trip.
- Look at what else you can do in the area: When considering destinations, think about what else you want to do on your trip aside from riding. Things like ample restaurants with good food, a beer and/or wine scene, hiking and other outdoor activities, and arts and entertainment are all things to consider when choosing where you want to go.
- Where to stay: Depending on where you’re looking to go, there may be a lot of lodging options or relatively few. Considering price and quality as well as availability can be the deciding factor in where you end up going. A good thing to consider is to try and take advantage of the off-peak seasons of locations such as ski areas in summer and coastal locations in cooler months.
- Important documents and credit card authorization: Depending on where you’re traveling, make sure you have the proper visas, identification, travel insurance declarations, and any other necessary documents before you leave. Also call your credit card company to notify them where and when you’re traveling if you’re headed out of the country so you can use your card abroad and not have it put on hold.
Bring Your Bike or Rent a Bike
Another difficult bike travel decision is if you want to bring your own bike or rent one when you get to your destination. This largely depends on how many days you will be riding at your destination and how in love you are with your own bike.
If you’re driving, bring your own bike. If you’re flying, bike fees can range from a normal bag fee of $25-ish to $300 round trip. Rental bikes typically cost anywhere from $100 per week to over $300 for a nicer bike. See what bike rentals are available in your destination and do the calculations to see how much you can save.
An expert bike travel tip is to get a small bike bag such as an Oru Case and bring your own bike which can get by the airline bike baggage fees. You’ll have to be a bit mechanically inclined to take apart and put your bike back together however, but that’s any easy skill to learn and a good one to have anyway. Another expert bike travel tip is to take a small carry-on and put the rest of you clothing and anything else you may need in with your bike to cut down on the number of bags you need to bring. Just make sure you don’t go over your airline weight limit, typically fifty pounds.
What to Bring
Riding compared to other sports always requires more gear but if you plan accordingly you can bring everything you need. This brief lists gets at the important bits that aren’t always thought about:
- Extra Clothing: Even if you’re riding in the dead of summer you never know what the weather is going to do. Always bring: leg warmers, arm warmers, a base layer, a rain jacket, gloves, a vest, and a cycling cap; more if it’s going to be colder.
- Spare parts and tools: If bringing your own bike, throw in two extra tubes, a spare tire, an extra derailleur cable, and the right size spokes and nipples for both your front and rear wheel and the tools to make use of them. These are items that have a higher tendency of breaking or can be hard to find, namely the right size spokes.
- A dirty rag: Bring an old rag that you can use to wipe down your bike as when staying in accommodations you don’t want to bring in a dirty bike and make a mess. In addition, it’s always nice to ride a clean bike particularly if you’re on holiday.
Packing Ahead of Time
With any trip let alone a bike travel trip, you shouldn’t pack at the last minute as that leaves a pretty good chance that you’re going to forget something important. Start packing a few days ahead of time starting with a list of everything you’re going to want to bring down to how many pairs of underwear. Also, when packing, make an extra effort to have everything organized so you know exactly where it is and can easily access it when needed. Typically when traveling your suitcase goes from neat and organized to messy and cluttered as the trip goes on. Starting with it organized will help to keep it orderly throughout your trip.
When You Arrive
The hard part of traveling is getting everything organized and planned ahead of time. Once you arrive, hopefully you can do what you set out to do with minimal stress and maximal fun. These few bike travel tips will help you once you arrive at your destination:
- If you’re in a foreign country the first thing you should do, at the airport or after you cross the border, is to obtain the local currency. Depending on how far money goes in the country you’re in, $100 is typically enough to get you started. Then any transactions you do, whether dinners or the hotel bill, should be on your credit card to minimize the amount of cash you have to take out, carry around, and use. Cash is basically your backup should you need it. And then any leftover at the end of your trip, you can just exchange back.
- Talk to locals to find out the ins and outs of the local area. They don’t have to be bike riders but anyone as they will at least have an idea of the good roads to check out, the cool local sites to see, and restaurants and other local cultural things to explore and experience. A bike shop of course is always a good option for all of this as well.
- The first day you arrive, ideally in the evening of the first day, you should try and do an easy ride to shake out the legs from the travel and get a feel for the local area. The best way to do this is to simply just go out and explore the town or city you’re staying in. The best way to check places out is by bike as you’re going slow enough to see and experience things but fast enough to see a good chunk of the area. Also keep an eye out for places you want to check out such as restaurants or coffee shops.
Traveling with your bike can be some of the greatest holidays you go on as the amount of things you can see and the experiences gained are unlike that of any other trip. Bike travel does take some planning and know-how particularly for everything to go off without a hitch but hopefully with these few tips you’re heading in the right direction for the trip of a lifetime on the bike.