Traveling abroad can be one of the most memorable aspects of racing, but if you aren’t prepared, flying with a bike can make it memorable for the wrong reasons. Check out our hard-earned travel tips that’ll help make your trip worthy of the good kind of social media posts.
There are many different bike travel-case options available; some are made from hard plastic, others are padded bags—some even in ate. There are pros and cons associated with choosing any case, and all cases require you to take apart your bike in some way or another, so do your homework and figure out which case is right for you.
Andrew Yoder, professional triathlete and head coach of Yoder Performance in central Pennsylvania, stresses the importance of preserving your bike fit: “I always mark my seat post for saddle height, length of extension from arm pad to shifter, and always bring appropriate tools should something shift in travel,” he says. Yoder also suggests traveling with your shoes and pedals in a carry-on bag, and bring a full set of your bike measurements with you. That way, if your bike is lost, you can set up a rental bike to match.
Fly Under the Radar
Airlines often charge unspeakable fees for checked bike boxes compared to typical oversized luggage. The Hen House, designed by TJ Tollakson of Ruster Sports, has a case for your wheels and another for the rest of the bike, and both cases are small enough to skirt the oversized baggage issue. To avoid baggage fees, regardless of case choice, Tollakson says it is “important to know each airlines’ baggage policy before you show up at the gate, and it helps if you have a good understanding of what linear inches are,” just in case you have to prove your compliance.
Practice Makes Perfect
As your travel day nears, anxiety kicks in. Tollakson recommends doing a practice pack and rebuild about a week before the race, when stress levels are low, so you know what you are doing during the real pack-up.
Prepare for the Rubber Glove
TSA agents will likely inspect your bike case, and they won’t be as careful as you were when you packed it the first time. If you decide to put anything else inside (helmet, wetsuit, etc), be sure it is wrapped in something soft so that if everything gets rearranged, it will still arrive safe.
If you use a bike with electronic shifting, disconnect the batteries from the system before you pack it to prevent accidental battery-draining shifts. Also, don’t forget the charger and extra power-meter batteries.
- Pipe Insulation
- Available from most hardware stores, you can wrap the majority of your bike’s tubes with this dense foam and secure it with masking tape for extra protection.
- Wheel Bags
- Protect your wheels and bike from damaging each other with often-cheap wheel bags (if your case doesn’t have a special space for wheels).
- Pedal Wrench
- Removing pedals can be a pain, but it’s much easier with a dedicated pedal wrench. Pack it in your carry-on if it meets TSA guidelines.
- Torque Wrech
- There is danger in under/over tightening fasteners on carbon bits. Carry a torque wrench with you and a list of tightening specifications for each.