I am not really a big fan of ‘how to’ blog posts to be honest, but with sweet FA going down as I am in semi transit mode, I thought perhaps I could share some tips and tricks on traveling with your bike! If you have before, then this may seem boring, but if you aspire to, then some of this may be helpful.
I am sure that reading about me telling you how to pack your bags will make you gag to travel with a bike… (I didn’t mean for this to be a long post… But…):
Key items to secure
- A bike box – Obvious really. For the roadies, don’t fuck about, just buy a hard case. If you are traveling more than once a year with your bike, then harden up. If you have class and style, go Italian with a Scicon case, but if you are brutal and don’t care about style, then Bike Box Allen will fit the bill. As long as it rolls well, tick. For the MTBers, the Evoc bike case is hard to go past to be honest and it does 29ers as well. Do it once, do it RIGHT
- BIG Allen keys – Put away those shitty little swiss army allen keys things and get a real set of long allen keys, leverage motherfucker, do you speak it?! This is critical for pedals, as they are the worst thing about traveling with you bike
- Torque wrench – Yes, its expensive, but we all roll with expensive carbon gear these days and its a Doc hulk turn of an allen key away from cracking, so get into this action. Don’t moan, do you really want to fly to France, get there and then over torque your stem bolts to crack your bar so it collapses halfway down the Galibier at 80kph? “Yes darling, I needed to spend $500 on a torque wrench to keep me safe”. Get involved
- Padding – I recommend getting a cheap mattress and ripping the insides out for extra padding, works a treat and its light
- Bags – 3 is the ideal number, Bike Box, day bag and main bag. Sure, if you are full hippy, you can jam everything in the bike box, but on a lot of these trips you can stash the bike box at one location and so its not practical, so think about those logistics before you try and BOX it alone
Before you go…
When it comes to packing I am an OCD control freak and I want to come to your house and get everything out 2 days before you leave, then add 20% volume to it, then pack it for you, then add more… Then repack it. I won’t do that here, instead I will call out some key items I always forget or can’t do without, some are a little obscure:
- Travel laundry detergent (clothes) and dishwashing liquid (for drink bottles), I always forget this shit and then it drives me nuts the whole trip
- If you are going for a race – Take your own safety pins that are decent for race numbers
- Shammy cream and sunscreen – Not to be confused, both critical, both easily overlooked
- Decent plastic bags for wet/stinky items, throw a few in
- Chain lube!! Don’t take a whole lot of maintenance gear, but FFS, chain lube is key
- Some rags, for a wipe down and to assist with the above point incase you over LUBE
- Insulation tape – So many uses, from securing bar tape to light bondage
- If you are taking recovery drink/powder/sports drink, break it down into smaller containers based on just what you need instead of taking a big (heavy) tub
- 3 sets of riding kit – this is the optimal number for continuous riding in terms of traveling and drying timeframe: 1 set and you are a smelly fucker, 2 you’re riding wet, 3 is the sweet spot
- Travel track/floor pump – Ok, you may not need one, but do think about this problem when you arrive at your destination “How do I get my tires pumped up to 120 PSI?” More of an issue for the roadies, but something to consider
- A spare tire (and tubes) – Yes, always pack a spare tire for your bike, be it road or MTB. Can be excessive, but its the most likely victim of an issue on your trip, so have a spare. Minimum 3 spare tubes if you are going for more than a week
- Spares – No matter what bike you have, take a spare Rear D hanger and seatpost clamp for your machine, these are two points of failure that can fuck your holiday/ride trip, so have them in your kit at all times
- Mark off with a pen or tape all your measurements on the bike and then have a list on your phone as to key measurements – Best done before you start to unbolt shit
- Pack for location – This may seem obvious, but make sure you fully scope out the exact weather where you are heading and don’t forget that shit can get real in the backcountry or at the top of mountains, so always throw in a thermal and some back up kit for rain etc, VERY easy to forget that stuff and suffer accordingly…
- Always, always take your pedals off FIRST when you go to pack the bike. Pedals are c*nts and will cause the most rage when packing. Also, pack the bike a day before the trip, it can be weird and tricky at times and you want to have it sorted, also if you break anything whilst unbolting/packing then you have time to sort it before leaving.
- Travel insurance – Specifically check that they cover ‘extreme sports’ for MTB or even racing, this can be a catch, so ask about the policy. Direct Asia have a specific policy addition for extreme sports (yes, cycling is considered to be one…), so good to know you’re well sorted and no surprises will pop up
- Check your country – If you are taking a bike to NZ or Strayla for example, it has to be SUPER clean for customs, so save yourself pain and make sure your steed is super MF tip top, like it SHOULD be anyway. Respect the bike.
So, you have jammed as much extra padding in your bike box/bag as it will take, you’ve packed all the shit listed above and its time to roll! If your shit looks like this, you are about to strike trouble:
Yes – Airlines, they are getting greedier than a spliffed out cookie monster these days and will want to HURT you, so some advice:
- Check the airline website before you leave – If the airline has a bike/sports equipment policy then print out the details and take them with you as the check in staff won’t have a scooby, this tip actually works and saves a lot of time
- Get there earlier, there can be fucking around with bikes, so pays to leave some margin
- Pick a bike friendly airline, such as Singapore Airlines or Air NZ. Don’t pick a c*nt airline such as Emirates, they basically want to ram you massively for any overlimit action
- At the airport its all about who you get on the desk… So try and pick out an easy target (I am not condoning flirting to get through, honest) and preferably the least pissed off looking person.
- If you get fingered, a faux tantrum is your best bet, throw in the most valuable line: “I have travelled all over the world with my bike on all airlines and I have never seen a charge like this, you must be wrong, I can’t believe this” despair, etc etc, they want you to go away, so you’re trying to guide them into their ‘discretion zone‘, where they waive or cut the cost. Comparison to another airline seems to work well…
- Work out your plan for getting to accom point 1 well in advance of leaving – Arriving in a foreign land lugging a bike box is a little stressful at times, so make sure you have your airport exit logistics well rehearsed!
When you get there
- Build the bike ASAP! Yes, partly because you have fever for being in a new destination and wanting to ride, but mainly due to the fact that you want to check the bike and find out if there are any travel induced issues to get them sorted quick
- Take the time while building it, be methodical and use your handy torque wrench to make sure shit is done correctly, you don’t want to fuck a part or break a bolt while in a remote location
- Take it for a quick ride, linked to point 1
- Supplies – Chance are you couldn’t travel with gas bottles or riding food, so make sure you get out on day one and resupply with anything you need to hit the road/trails
- When in a foreign land – Always ride with a hand pump, credit card, phone and local currency. Don’t be an arse and head out with ‘stranded’ tattooed on your forehead. Wearing one of those road ID things also a plan if you have one
OMFG – This has turned into a massively long post… Apologies, it didn’t mean to be… But, if you have any bike related travel coming up, hopefully this is useful!!