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Unless you live in a triathlon-populated area you are likely to travel to a race. With rising gas prices, it is almost worth the price to fly to a race and enjoy a mini-vacation while you are there.
When deciding to travel for a race, the most important issue, aside from finding a hotel, is how to get your bike safely to your final destination. Secondly, how do you get your bike to the race venue, all in one piece?The first part of traveling to a race with your bike is deciding the method of shipping. The option of taking your bike to a bike shop and then having the shop ship your bike to the race venue will vary depending on the race. Another option, although costly depending on shipping method, is to send the bike via UPS. However, if you are like the majority of triathletes, you have probably formed a great relationship with your bike and being without him/her (a.k.a. the bike) for more than 3 days can be very troublesome. In a typical scenario, you will probably fly to your race site and take your bike to the airport in a bike case. Always be sure to check with the airline prior to travel so that you have an idea of the weight limits and fees for shipping a bike. Bike fees can range from $80-$200 depending on the airline requirements. With a one-time fee of paying for a bike case, it may be worth the money to fly to a race and pay the fee for your bike, rather than driving and paying for gas. If you don’t want to buy a bike case, check with your training buddies or friends at the local bike shop for a spare case. If you are planning on traveling on a few times for a race it may be practical to rent or borrow. What you need to pack a bike:
Hard bike case
Bike stand (optional, but recommended)
Remove wheels. Release tire pressure. Don’t forget to bring a pump or contact a local bike shop when you arrive to your final destination. (No CO2 on airplanes!).
Mark handlebar and seat position with tape and/or marker.
Remove handlebars from bike. Re-attach screws from head stem.
Remove rear derailleur from derailleur hanger.
Remove pedals (right pedal loosens normally. Left pedal loosens in opposite direction).
Remove all accessories (bike cages may be kept on bike, you may want to remove rear bottle cages) such as computers, CO2, aero bottles, etc.
Secure handlebars, chain and derailleur to frame with zip-ties and foam.
Wrap bike in bubble wrap, foam or cushy material.
Remove seat from bike. Re-attach screws.
Place bike in bike case on foam mat. Place bike seat and accessories (pedals, screws, wires, etc.) in bike case. You may also pack your helmet if there is room.
Attach front and rear fork spacers.
Protect bike with a sheet of foam material or bubble wrap. Be sure no parts are moving by securing all movable parts with zip-ties.
Remove wheel skewers and place in bike bag with wheels.
Place second foam mat on bike.
If packing your wheels place wheel bags on second foam mat. Do not lay wheel cassette on the frame!
Place third foam mat on wheel bags and close the bike case.
If there is room in the bike case and you can close the case with the wheels inside, pack traveling clothes and gear to cushion the bike. Be sure to pay attention to the weight of the case.
Lock bike case and secure with heavy duty tape (packing tape/duct tape).
Be sure to clearly mark your bike case with your name, final destination and contact info. Ask for fragile tape at airport and be sure to place fragile/careful stickers on all areas of the case.
*Special thanks to Karel Sumbal for his expert skills on getting a bike ready to ship. As an experienced bike mechanic, Karel competitively races on the Linder Capital cycling team based out of Jacksonville, Florida. Karel has raced since the age of 12, beginning his career on the European Junior Cycling team. Among his accomplishments, he won the Florida Point Series and Florida Cup in 2006 as a category 3 rider, placed 4th at the 2006 Road Atlanta Georgia Cup race (Pro 1,2 category), finished 2nd among Category 2 riders at the US 100K cycling classic in Atlanta, Georgia and recently finished 8th at the Georgia Cup Series race in Albany, GA. Visit http://abrt.blogspot.com/ to follow the Linder Capital cycling team and email mrakes1 [at] hotmail [dot] com with any questions.