Safely transporting your bike by car or plane holds the secret to happy riding.
Here’s our essential guide to enjoying a perfect bike trip. Your bike, Campagnolo groupset and wheels are your pride-and-joy.
It’s why when it comes to travelling with your bike, be it by car or plane, you must treat it with the utmost respect.
And that’s best achieved by following our 10 essential bike-travel tips
1) BIKE-STORAGE OPTIONS
Ensure you’ve checked in advance what bike-storage facilities await at your accommodation. The ideal is lockable, alarmed storage that’s monitored by CCTV.
If the bike-storage facilities are more rudimentary – which they could well be unless you’re riding in cycling havens like Lanzarote or the Alps – it’s worth taking a strong lock with you, ideally of gold standard. Just remember that this adds further weight.
2) RESEARCH TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance is akin to walking a maze so spend time researching, especially the small print. Some travel insurance companies, for example, will list cycling as a ‘covered’ activity but not when racing.
Some companies will insure you for races but the insurance is distance-specific. In other words, your insurance might cover you for a short event but you’ve entered a multi-day event.
Be diligent and choose wisely.
3) BOX, BAG OR CASE?
It’s common to see cyclists and triathletes roaming around airports, dragging a cardboard bike box that contains their bike.
Frankly, this is not ideal. There are reputable bike bags, which do the job.
But ultimately, a hard case is best. Yes, they’re bulkier, heavier and more expensive, but they’re better designed to deal with the erratic handling at many airports and are more resistant to the inevitable crush of bags.
It’s also worth adding further foam protection around the tubing if possible. If riding abroad is a rare thing, there’s probably a bike-box hiring company in your country of residence.
4) CHECK YOUR ALLOWANCE
If travelling by plane, please, please, please check your baggage allowance. Every airline has different baggage allocations and costs, so find out beforehand.
As an example, the majority of airlines only allow your bike and box to weigh 23kg. As a hard case weighs upwards of 11kg and your bike’s probably 7kg upwards, that leaves little wiggle room.
So, check, check, check. This is even more important if you have connecting flights.
5) A DEGREE OF DEFLATION
It’s a bit of a fallacy that if you leave your tyres fully inflated, differences in air pressure when flying will see them pop. But it’s still worth deflating slightly, albeit leaving enough air to protect your rims or, if running tubeless, to prevent the tyre unseating and sealant seeping out.
If you’re using disc brakes – for example, Campagnolo’s Bora WTO 60 – some bike boxes might require you removing the rotors first. If this is required, place plastic spacers between the brake calipers.
6) TOOLS FOR THE JOB
Ensure you’re prepped with all the tools you’ll need to ensure a smooth trip. At the very least, it’s worth taking: a pedal wrench, multitool featuring Allen keys, cleaning rags, cable ties, mini pump and, ideally, a travel floor pump.
Make a list and tick them off; in fact, make a more comprehensive list featuring all the bike-related gear you need. It’s worth the effort.
7) HAND-LUGGAGE ESSENTIALS
Unfortunately, bags and bikes do go missing. If things work out (from this point forth, of course!), you’ll receive your bike within 24 hours of landing.
That’s why it’s worth taking your cycling shoes, with pedals nestled inside, plus one set of cycle clothing in your hand luggage as you can wear this set-up on a hired bike for that first day.
8) BE METHODICAL
This might sound like overkill but print out the airline company’s bike-carrying policy and use a highlighter to mark any relevant paragraphs. It’s also worth carrying any hard copies of receipts proving that you’ve booked your bike on the flight.
And remember to give yourself plenty of time to check-in, just in case there’s any dispute.
9) TRAVELLING BY CAR
When it comes to travelling by car, your bike rack’s arguably guided by budget.
The rear-mounted strap-on style is ubiquitous and most affordable but arguably not as secure as the roof-mounted versions.
The roof-mounted versions, however, are only possible if it’s possible to fit roof bars to your car. You must also always remember that your bike’s on the roof, especially when entering car parks with vertical-space restrictors!
Tow-ball racks are the most secure but if your car doesn’t already have a tow bar, they can be pricey to install.
10) DEHYDRATION’S THE ENEMY
The last one’s about you – keep hydrated.
Several hours in an air-conditioned box is a recipe for dehydration, so keep water levels topped up. The ideal is plopping in an electrolyte tablet so minerals are covered, too.