What is more awesome to an avid cyclist than taking a bike vacation??
You get to experience the freedom of the road and the scenery like never before. There’s nothing quite like it really. Bike vacations are amazing and I highly recommend them, even though there is a bit more logistics involved. Hauling a bike around, shipping your two-wheeled baby (or handing it over to the dubious care of airline cargo handlers), and possibly renting your steed can be a stress source. There’s the practical side of a bike vacation to consider … After all, you don’t want something to happen to your bike!
♦ Driving ♦
The easiest method to take your bike with you on vacation is by vehicle of course. If you plan to take your own bike, it’s easier to manage how you are going to get it where you need to go, your stuff, and yourself. You are the master of your own destiny! Everything is in your control…. Except traffic, the weather, random bird poop, and bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. However – this means you may need to spend hours behind the wheel so allow extra time to get where you are going. You might also want to travel somewhere you can drive to. France probably isn’t drivable – just saying.
Top Tip Part I: If you are driving, take a partner that you don’t mind sharing the drive with. Even if their main job is to keep you awake, taking turns driving can save mental and physical exhaustion.
Part II: If you are traveling long distance and have time, break up the endless miles by planning to cycle at destinations along the way. Or, avoid interstates if you can and enjoy state by-ways that have higher speed limits. Chances are, you won’t loose significant time and you will enjoy the journey much more.
Bonus tip on safety: if you are driving and your bike is mounted outside of your vehicle, take a sturdy bike lock or two. It’s peace of mind if you are traveling alone and extra caution if you aren’t.
♦ Shipping ♦
The second easiest way to make sure your bike gets where it needs to go is to ship it to your destination. This works great if you have more than one two-wheeled steed and can plan a little in advance. The best option is to ship to a friend (that has lots of room for a very big box) or to a friendly bike shop that will hold it and perhaps even build it up for you upon its arrival so you can be ready to ride!
TriBike Transport is also an option and has several services available within the US.
I’ve had good experiences with Air Caddy bike boxes. There is minimal work to be done to get your back packed down and even the mechanically inept can figure it out. The boxes are super sturdy but I recommend padding your bike with large foam pipe insulation for its journey at any place where it could rub against the sides of the box. If you are shipping overseas, you might want to consider where the box (and packing material) will live while you are out testing your legs on foreign soil.
♦ Flying ♦
The fastest way to get most places is flying of course. No long hours behind the wheel and good for someone on a time-budget. However, if you aren’t able to ship your bike in advance, the bike must fly with you, which can be costly. Unfortunately most US airlines do not treat bikes as luggage and there can be size restrictions as well. Size restrictions means that you will most likely have to take your bike apart to get it into a shipping case. Unless you are a reasonably competent wrench – you might want to arrange to have your bike dismantled for shipping at your local bike shop and rebuild by a shop at the destination.
Here are a few articles on the subject:
- Best and Worst Airlines for Cyclists
- Bike Cases: Hardshell vs. Softshell
- Cycling Shootout – Bike Travel Cases
Some potential good news that I have not personally tested… Southwest Airlines seems to allow bikes to be flown as luggage with a nominal fee for over-sized containers under a certain size. This is great for the adventurous cyclist!
Top Tip: If you are traveling overseas, many foreign airlines (like British Airways) may allow you to bring your bike along as luggage if it is under a certain size limit without additional fees at all! Check out the airline luggage parameters before booking your overseas flight.
♦ Renting ♦
I have rented bikes at vacation destinations with mixed reviews. Sometimes you end up with a decent steed that will get you where you need to go. You must, however, give up all notions of having it ‘dialed in’ perfectly for your fit. Typically the bike will not be the light-weight speed demon machine you are used to either. Most rental fleet bikes are mid-range aluminum, durable, and hopefully mechanically sound. Be prepared that the bike may need a minor tune up or some basic maintenance before you set off on your journeys.
At other times, I have rented the most uncomfortable piece of junk on the planet so a little research may save you some dissapointment.
Top Tip: Rental fees aren’t cheap and unless you are only going out for a couple hours – a couple of days rental for a quality road bike can cost as much as shipping your bike. If renting is really what you need to do, then check out the reviews on the place you are renting from first. Google or Yelp can be a good resource for reviews.
> Which Bike to Bring? <
Well, this question is really for those that have a serious N+1 issue. If you have several bikes: you might ask yourself which bike would fit the trip the best? This decision is very personal and also depends on what type of riding you will be doing. It can also be a critical decision that may make the difference between fully enjoying your trip. Consider your options wisely and don’t be afraid to splurge on a new component or two to make the trip a great experience vs. being under-prepared.
For example: you might not want to take your compact cassette on a trip to the Rockies, but you want to be sure to have your stiffest and lightest bike for the climbs. Wheels make a difference as well. If you will be doing a bit of long descents, maybe you pick the disc brake road bike over the rim-brake one… and so on.
Maybe you can’t make up your mind and toss a coin… But, whatever bike you take, get it maintained before you go!
Top Tip: a basic overhaul before you travel with your bike could save your rear later – literally. Carry a spare set of cables, brake pads, a basic mobile tool set, lube, chain, tubes, and at least one spare tire. Don’t forget a couple of nitro cartridges. Might sound like a lot, but handy bike shops are not always available during travels.
Don’t have time to get your bike to a bike shop for a maintenance check? Have the bike shop come to you! The www.BikeMinded.guru is a great mobile mechanic that will travel to your location.
Wherever you go and however you get there – enjoy yourself! Remember that plans are really just guidelines and a little flexibility can guarantee a great time!
Please don’t hesitate to post any helpful suggestions or questions about your bike travels.
Cheers and Ride On!