Packing It Up
After waiting in the sweaty, nearly empty baggage claim area of the Negril Airport for more than an hour, one thing had become abundantly clear: No one hurries in Jamaica. Soon after my bag—noticeably less bulky—finally spit out onto the carousel, another fun fact emerged into my travel-weary brain: Packing my camera, Garmin and expensive race sunglasses in my suitcase instead of safely in my carry-on wasn’t the smartest idea.
Do keep your valuables on you. From suitcase theft to baggage handlers that treat your bag like a football, you’re better off bringing a little more on the plane for safe-keeping.
Don’t skimp on bike packaging. Your bike is your baby during race travel. If you aren’t going very far and you’re short on funds, a cardboard bike box (expertly packed by a trusted bike mechanic!) will suffice. However, if traveling long distances to races is something you plan on making a habit of, then invest in a high-quality bike case. I like the SciCon Travel Plus Racing Bag because it’s somewhat affordable (around $250), and you don’t have to dismantle your bike hardly at all to get it in. However, if you travel solo you’re going to want one with wheels like the Thule Round Trip Transition travel case ($600). Using a case or bag is also a great way to keep all of your race-day essentials (helmet, shoes, etc.) in one place while freeing up some room in your suitcase or omitting it altogether if you pack light enough. If the idea of assembling your bike pre-race makes you antsy, then check to see if any bike transport services such as Tri Bike Transport operate at your race—the peace of mind they provide is well worth the price tag of $399-plus for overseas transport.
Do pack everything you need for race day first so you don’t forget anything essential. The fact that you remembered 10 pairs of underwear won’t matter nearly as much to you as the fact that you forgot your wetsuit. Go old school and write out a list and check everything off as it goes into the bag. And if you’re headed to a faraway land, consider packing your preferred race-day fuel. As long as it’s in an unopened package, airport security isn’t likely to confiscate it. (I once used an obscure Italian electrolyte drink for the first time during a race because I hadn’t brought anything of my own and the results were not pretty.)
Don’t forget your favorite over-the-counter medications. I always put together a stash of small amounts of various medications I might need while traveling abroad: anti-diarrheal, anti-inflammatory and decongestant. There’s nothing worse than getting sick a few days before a race—except getting sick and having to venture out for medicine in an unfamiliar place.
Do get your bike serviced before you arrive at the race. It’s a good idea to have someone look it over once it’s reassembled, but don’t save any major adjustments or repairs for the on-site bike tech. They’re busy, and you’re just asking for trouble.