Travel Tips For Every Cyclist

Advice from the pros on packing, flying and traveling with a bike

We travel a lot here at the Cycling House and love that we get to bike in beautiful locations with wonderful clients. We understand that traveling for cyclists can be stressful, but over the years we have picked up a few tricks to relieve the stress. We asked our travel pros for their top travel tips:

Ben Hoffman finished second at the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kona and is a constant traveler for racing and training. When he travels he expects things to wrong so always has a contingency plan for an extra bike, bike parts, or food. Ben also wears compression socks on long flights to help keep his legs fresh. One of the biggest things Ben has learned is “to not overpack…You rarely need as much clothing as you take, and if it comes down to it, most of us have credit cards.” Ben recommends traveling as light as possible since lugging around a bike is difficult enough.

Sam Schultz is a pro-mountain biker in Missoula and travels frequently with his bike, including to the 2012 Olympics where he represented the US. When he travels, Sam always has his noise-cancelling headphones. With these he says it’s like “I’m inside a concert hall instead of a jumbo jet and my music truly is a different experience.” This helps him arrive at his destination with less stress and ready to race.

Linsey Corbin is a world class Ironman athlete and travels constantly for racing and training. Linsey likes to be prepared for anything when she travels. She travels earlier to account for unexpected delays, carries on contact solutions in case of an overnight in an airport, and looks at maps around hotels to get the lay of the land. Linsey recommends “Travel(ing) with an open-mind. Be prepared that most of the time travels don’t go 100% smoothly. This way when your trip does go smoothly, it’s a welcome surprise.”

Owen is the president of the Cycling House and former professional rider. When he travels he always makes sure he carries his bike shoes and pedals on the plane with him. If his bike doesn’t make it to his destination he can still rent a bike and ride without having to buy shoes. You will also always find Owen with a spare derailleur hanger for his bike because that is the most likely part to bend/break in a bike box.

Shaun is the enforcer in the Cycling House office and has traveled many times for bike races. He always travels with a bag of snacks, since airplane peanuts don’t provide enough calories for a finishing sprint, and he wears multiple lightweight layers so that he can always be a comfortable temperature. The worst thing is stepping off a plane in sunny Tucson and still be dressed for frigid Buffalo.

Sarah Raz is a worldwide cyclo-tourist and has flown internationally many times. When she flies she tries to sleep anytime she can, anywhere she can. She can sleep easily knowing that she has left copies of her passport with a friend in case it disappears during travel. This way she can always get back into the US.

Packing Your Bike

Just as important as getting yourself to your destination is getting your bike where it needs to be. Traveling with your bike can be worrisome when you think of a bike getting thrown around in the back of a plane. Fortunately there are some great cases out there that can handle being manhandled.

Bike cases come in many shapes and sizes, but all have one purpose: to protect your bike. When looking for a travel case pay attention to the interior padding of the case, secure bike wheel storage, light-weight or wheeled for easy maneuverability, big handles, and the possibility of added security (padlock). Here’s some of the best we have found:

1. Biknd Helium Air Cushioned Case – Soft case, cushioned by inflating the sidewalls. Lightweight and easy to store when not in use.
2. Pika EEP Travel Case – the bike case of choice for the Cycling House. Soft case with a snug fit.
3. Thule Round Trip Transition – Hard Case, comes with its own bike stand. Very secure. Every component has its exact place.
4. Trico Iron Case – Hard Case, reliable, bombproof. One of the most common styles we see at the Cycling House.
5. The Classic Cardboard Bike Box – Cheap but reliable if packed correctly. Boxes can be found at any bike shop and padding in any recycling bin.

As you can see there is a wide variety in bike travel cases. Any of these will work as long as you pack it appropriately.

Time to Fly

Now that you’ve got your case and bike packed and ready to fly, which airline do you go with? Most of us have our favorite airline, and Linsey recommends sticking to one for bonus miles and waived luggage fees, but that doesn’t mean your top choice will remain your favorite after bike fees are included. Most airlines give lip service to the 62″/50lbs rule. If your bike case is under 50 pounds and the dimensions add up to less than 62 inches then it should qualify as a checked bag. We recommend checking an airlines website for listed rates and perhaps having a copy of that to show at the check-in counter in case prices vary. Some airline fees below, but it’s always a good idea to double-check before you book:

Southwest: $75
Delta: $150, $75 to Brazil. May not accept bikes on small planes
US Air: $150 unless meets the 62/50 rule
United: $150 or more in the US and Canada, $200 elsewhere. Observes 62/50 rule
Alaska: $75 unless meets the 62/50 rule
American: $150
Jet Blue: $50 and counts as a checked bag. Observes 62/50 rule