Before starting with the how to’s and how not to travel with your road bike, you must understand that it is a huge pain to travel with your bike. There is honestly no way around it. Hauling around a 30 pound bike bag, no matter how well designed it is, is just plain frustrating. Once you accept this fact, you are ready to travel the world with your bike in tow.
To Bring, or Not to Bring Your Bike
If your main purpose of your trip is to ride your bike, and you are completely in love with it, then absolutely travel with your bike! There’s nothing better than touring a new place on your trusty steed. In this case, you are probably logging a lot of kilometers and even the smallest discomfort on a rental bike can lead to more serious aches and pains later in your vacation.
Type of Travel
If you are planning on staying in one location for the majority of the trip, this also bodes well when considering bringing your bike. The fewer location changes, the fewer times you will need to assemble and reassemble your bike. If you are visiting a number of different cities, think about renting. Constant packing and unpacking, assembling and disassembling can be a drag.
Are you planning on using a bike for exploring, visiting tourist attractions and as your main form of transportation? Consider renting a bike. Locking up your favorite bike outside in areas you are unfamiliar with is asking for trouble.
If you are traveling with your family, and you are the only one riding, you might want to rent. Having your bike in the corner of the condo or timeshare will have you feeling guilty. It might also tempt you to take it out for a rip when you should be joining the rest of your family for breakfast.
Every airline is different, but with more people traveling with bikes, airlines are taking note and applying surcharges for bikes. Certain airlines are fantastic to fly with, while others apply a heavy tariff as a disincentive. Expect to pay anywhere from $25 on the low-end to up to $200 on the high-end.
Are you traveling somewhere with a discount airline? These discount airlines are often tempting, but be sure to investigate how much it will cost you to travel with your bike. It is frequently more economical to fly with a major airline who charge less for bikes rather than a discount airline who might charge up to $20/kg when you find yourself over the allotted weight limit.
A Smile Goes a Long Way
When checking your bike bag, any use of the word bike will likely end up in a surcharge. Stating that you are: “checking oversize luggage” instead of “checking my bike bag” will often save you an added charge. When prompted, the contents of your luggage is better referred to as “sporting goods” instead of “a bike.” As always, you are at the mercy of the airline staff, so being patient and starting the conversation with a big smile can go a long way.
As previously mentioned, because more people are flying with bikes, always expect to pay as per the airline’s policy and be pleasantly surprised when you get through uncharged.
Bring Your Backup Bike
Consider bringing your backup bike. People in the Pacific North West tend to have “winter bikes” and as tempting as it is to pack up your summer “race” bike, consider bringing your backup bike instead. A forklift through a rear triangle or cracked carbon wheel is a sure way to start your vacation in tears.
If you plan on bringing your bike and riding it from the airport, consider packing your bike in a robust cardboard box (many bike shops will have old boxes that they are giving away). Once arrived at your destination, assemble your bike at the airport, recycle the cardboard box and begin your adventure!
Travel With Your Bike
Getting to and From the Airport
If you are traveling on your own there may be less of an issue but if you are traveling with a partner or a friend, you will need a van to get you from the airport. This can be difficult in some cities, so plan ahead. Some large taxis charge extra for the van; take this into account. There are very few options which allow you to ride to and from the airport with bike bag in hand. Orucase is your best bet if you are a light packer and have the wrenching skills and patience to sit around at the airport assembling a bike.
Storing Your Bike Bag
Bike bags are big, so you will want to think about where you will be storing these behemoths during your stay. Most softshell cases pack down fairly small, but hardshell cases are awkward and might find themselves parked in the corner of the motel room.
Assembling Your Bike
In most cases, you will need to have basic maintenance skills in order to reassemble your bike. If you are particularly intimidated by tearing your bike apart, high-end bike bags like Scicon will have the least amount of reassembly required. At the other extreme, the Orucase has the user remove the wheels, stem, fork, adjust seat height and remove rear derailleur. Most other travel bags, such as the ever popular EVOC, will be in between these two extremes. Remove the pedals, the handlebars and you’re off to the races!
What To Pack
- Set of allen keys (make sure you have one large enough for your pedals)
- Torque wrench if possible
- Spare tubes
- Tire levers
- Patch kit
Enjoy your trip!