Bike Month: Tips for Traveling with a Bike
Sometimes you need a little more adventure on your bike than what’s right outside your door. Perhaps you’re seeking different scenery, better weather, a specific event you’ve been eyeing, or a meet-up with friends. Whatever the reason, make the trip with your bike smoother with these helpful tips.
Plan Your Trip
Taking to the skies? Airlines have different fees for bikes. JetBlue and Southwest charge $75 each way, whereas some airlines—like Alaska—have no additional charge other than a checked bag. Meanwhile, major domestic carriers like American Airlines and United can charge upwards of $200 each way. Be sure to take the extra fees into account when planning; you may be surprised when you find out the big name domestic carriers might not be the cheapest option by the end of your trip.
Once you’ve booked your flight, be sure to reserve your Zipcar. Lots of airports have them close by—sometimes even at the terminal parking lot—making it convenient to go on your way without waiting in line for standard rental companies. Find your car and zip off!
Keeping your bike in the bike bag will make it easier to load into the car (more on bags later). It also generally takes up less space, so you can put more friends and bikes in the car than usual. And if you’re traveling with teammates or friends with their own bikes, look into including a collapsible bike rack into either your bike bag or checked baggage.
Pack Your Bike
Speaking of baggage, there are lots of bike bag options to choose from. Why a bag and not box? Here’s why. (If you’re the TL;DR sort: hard cases fall off of ramps and break bikes.) Some bags are smaller and require more breakdown of your bike, but that also increases the likelihood that you can skate past the bike fee.
Follow the instructions that come with your bag. The people who designed it know best. Getting some pipe insulation to wrap around the frame and fork goes a long way towards protecting everything in the bag. You can also pack some clothing (in bags, to keep everything clean!) to further protect your bike. And if you can fit your helmet and shoes in the bike bag, too, that’s less you’ll have to worry about squeezing into a carry-on or another checked bag.
When disassembling your bike, take some photos of the key adjustable pieces to make note of their position: seatpost height, seat angle, stem spacers, and handlebar tilt. They will come in handy for reassembly later. Let some air out of your tires; sudden pressure changes on the aircraft could cause a tube to burst if inflated fully. Leave your spare CO2 cartridges at home, though—they’re not allowed on the plane, and TSA will know to search any bike bag for them. Be sure to pack a couple of spare tubes and a mini-pump, as well.
What goes up must come down. So don’t forget to bring any tools you’ll need once you arrive, so you can rebuild your bike. The bare essentials include a set of hex wrenches. If you own a carbon bicycle or if it has any carbon components on it, a torque wrench is a requirement so you don’t damage bolts and frame parts. Find a small one that packs easily; most newer parts will have a torque spec printed near the bolt or clamp area. If you are going for a multi-day adventure, your favorite lubes and cleaning supplies will also come in handy!
You Made It!
You’re on your way to new roads or trails. But before you can get out there, you need to put your bike back together. Pay close attention to see if there was any damage from travel. Hopefully, if you were dilgent when packing, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Plus, with all the necessary tools you packed, reassembling the bike will be a breeze.
Beyond the bike, there are other essentials before you hit a race or trail. Give yourself plenty of time to get your bearings, get your bike together, and put out the vibe at the event/race venue. (If you’re going for training or pleasure, this still applies, but with slightly more flexible time constraints.)
Have your ride routes ready to go—whether it’s a GPS file loaded onto your computer or a paper map—so you can spend more time on the bike enjoying the new terrain and less time navigating. You’ll have a convenient rolling base in your Zipcar to get you to however many destinations you choose, so plan away!
Time to Go
After all the fun of new adventures, at some point you have to return to the real world. When the times comes, you’ll do everything in reverse: pack your bike carefully (this time with stinky clothes; sorry, TSA!), put everything in the Zipcar, go back to the airport, return the car, get on the shuttle, fly home, reassemble your bike, and then…there’s one new step: long for the adventure that you had, and start to plan the next one.