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Travelling With A Bike (Not On It)

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Conquering a local mountain bike trail is one thing, but travelling with your bike at your side is another. Taking your bike from point to point without riding it does bring up special concerns however. It’s not often as easy as jamming a bike into the back of a bus and waiting for your stop, especially if you plan to take an overseas journey. Thankfully, travelling with a bike isn’t as outrageous a thought as it may have been. This is thanks to changing attitudes and concessions made for cyclists trying to travel long distances before their ride even begins. Whether you’re trying to make space on a car rack or traveling abroad there are plenty of ways to keep your bike from meeting an untimely end at the hands of an underpaid baggage handler.

5 Useful Tips for Travelling with A Bike

1. Don’t Risk Your Best Ride

While it may sound extreme, there are quite a few upsides to having a bike meant solely for travel. This is less feasible if you simply take a short bus ride to the other side of your city to reach a trail but is much more pertinent for those who travel great distances or even overseas for mountain biking holidays. It’s hard to feel cozy and care-free on a trip where you’re left constantly worrying about the state of your multi thousand-dollar bike you’ve spent hours tweaking, tuning and maintaining.

Investing in a travel bike can assuage those fears and let you relax. What’s the point of struggling to enjoy a vacation when you could easily find affordable and reliable bikes at a small price? Mountain bikers looking for an inexpensive ride will quickly find that the best bike under 500 dollars is just as sturdy, fast and durable as other pricier rides. There are plenty of bikes that can handle strenuous trips without costing an arm and a leg, which lets you keep your expensive bikes at home, ready for your return to local trails.

travel with a bike on a train
Travelling with a bike on train

2. Pack Your Bike Properly

Traveling with a bike by plane? You can likely find an airline that will ship your bike with you no matter where you’re flying from. On the downside, you run the risk of having it damaged in transit as airlines try to move massive piles of luggage as quickly as possible. Luggage damage is fairly rare, but packing your bike properly lessens that risk even further.

Find a case that fits your box and make sure you disassemble any jutting parts that might damage its container. Consider buying a soft-shell or hard-shell case if the thought of cardboard bike boxes just doesn’t give you peace of mind. Your local bike shop may even offer a packing service if you aren’t confident in your bike disassembly skills. However doing it at home can help familiarise you with the process and you can even pack it with soft gear or spare clothes instead of fairly useless packing material.

Check out the 10 Best New Zealand Mountain Bike Trails

3. Load Your Bike with Care

Bus travel can take quite a lot of strain off of the adventurous rider with an eye on the horizon, so to speak. Many bus lines have bike racks on the front or rear of the vehicle to accommodate commuters and hobbyists alike and each line will have its own procedure, though it is not uncommon for bikes to ride free with a paid ticket. Ensure you alert the driver that you will be loading cargo. Always approach from the curb side, and ensure your bike is securely mounted before entering the bus.

For added peace of mind, try sitting as close to the door as you safely can to keep an eye on your bike, though this may not be feasible during certain hours of operation. Always notify the driver you will be taking off a bike as you depart just to ensure there are no incidents and all should be well.

bikes on a bus
Three-bike rack on Community Transit bus by SounderBrucelicense

4. When in Doubt, Ship It Safely

Not in the mood to try and pack a bike for a long car journey or cross-country trip? No problem, considering how many mountain bike shipping services exist to help cyclists in need. Avoid the urge to ship through your local FedEx office and instead look into bike-specific services.

If you have a particularly good bike shop in your area and a shop near your travel destination, you might even be able to have your ride packed and shipped without having to worry about assembling it personally after you arrive.

5. Train Cargo Space Can Be Your Worst Nightmare

Not that it’s any more dangerous than other cargo space, but trains only have so much room to stow freight and advance warning might slip your mind. Certain lines allow you to make a request for bike storage when you buy your ticket and others might require advance notice.

Always check with your local companies before assuming you’ll get away with bringing something so large and bulky along unannounced, as you would with any other long-distance travel. Don’t expect a short-commute train to have bike space, though; That’s more the realm of long-distance trips.

There’s no reason to be nervous about taking your mountain bike with you on a long trip, but peace of mind goes a long way in taking the stress out of your travel plans.

Plan ahead of time and you won’t be left scrambling with rolls of tape the night before your big trip. Don’t be afraid to seek out local help if you just don’t want to risk damaging your favourite bike.

Author: Amanda Wilks is a passionate writer, veteran MTB rider, and sports activist. She loves to travel and explore the world on a budget – always looking for new and exciting mountain biking destinations.

Main Image By Walleater [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

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