In case you haven’t caught on yet, I really like riding my bike. Although I don’t think I could ever like it “too much”- I definitely have spent more money/thoughts/time with my bike than the average joe (but not the average triathlete- some of those suckers spend five times as much as I have on their bikes… and still get pwnd on the uphills).
Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to discuss how to get to-and-fro, with the bike. Whether its rubber-side-down or in a box, having your bike with you where you’re going is important. For example, in early June, I traveled to Middlebury, Connecticut for the Rev3Quassy race. It might have been a little challenging (and slow) to not have my bike when I got there.
Bike transport options:
Check your bike:
Fly Southwest, WestJet, or AirCanada— Southwest just seems to love everyone under the sun. They only charge $50 to check a bike, and they allow two checked bags for free. Practically every airline charges a fee to check a box that is oversized (eg. one that holds a bike), and some charge more than others. Slowtwitch has a great forum feed that discusses airline fees, and you can check it out here.
My favorite: “Not Good: United”- which is the only airline I can fly without having to drive 100miles. My other options (with the 100mile drive)? The “The WORSE: Delta”. So it goes in the UP.
When you check your bike– remember the importance of properly stowing the bike. You spent HOW much money on that thing? I’d hate for it to get dinged up and damaged by the ground crew. Some sweet bike bags and boxes can be found here. Depending on the bike and its size, it should be stored a particular way. For example, my Scott Plasma Contessa has a seat mast (read: cannot adjust seat height without permanently altering geometry) and an integrated fork. So, I need to be careful about how I stow my bike.
Some more tips? When you’re checking your bike, avoid any containment that screams “BIKE”. Since many airlines have bike policies, if they find out you are checking a bike they’ll be sure to charge you. American Airlines has a special policy of charging at least $100 on top of the normal baggage charges if you check a bike. So, try to be as subtle as you can. And even though it looks cool, avoid putting huge labels all over your bike box that might implicate you…
Unfortunately- not everyone can fly SW or any of the cool airlines that don’t charge an arm and a leg for checking a bike (myself included). Unless I drive to a bigger city that’s >7hours away, I am looking at spending at least $150 each way (plus any extra charges that the airline might decide I owe) to take my bike with me on the plane. And since my checked bag full of clothes didn’t make it to Connecticut when I arrived, there’s the risk that the bike might not make it either.
So what are some other options?
FedEx it– I got my local bike shop to disassemble my bike and put it in its original box with the wheels and everything, and then I sent it via FedEx to Bicycle Works, the bike shop in Connecticut right by the race location. FedEx is sweet, because stuff moves even on the weekends, and I could track my bike and I knew where it was practically all the time. It was also very convenient because the bike was assembled by Bicycle Works when it arrived (and it got tuned up, too) before I even got to town, and after the race I just dropped it off and they literally took care of everything for me. It did cost a little more money than I wanted to spend ($75 to send it from Michigan to CT, $100 to have Bicycle Works receive, assemble, and disassemble it, and $110 for them to ship it back to me) but it was still cheaper than checking it on the plane (I flew United).
TriBikeTransport— I’ve never used them, because I don’t live anywhere near where a drop off would be, but dang, do I wish I did. Here’s how it works: Drop your bike off at one of the Partner Bike Shops by the drop-off date for your race (listed on their website here) and they get your bike to your race site three days before the event. They even bring it to the athlete village. Depending on the race and where you are traveling from, it can cost anywhere between $290 and $340USD with $1000 value insured (you can get additional insurance for $6/$1000value). Without having to disassemble your bike, go back to the airport later to pick it up because it didn’t make the connecting flight, or worry about it going missing off a UPS truck, you can have that much more peace-of-mind as you prepare for your big race. Again, a downside of this service is that if you don’t have a TBT anywhere near you, well- you’re S.O.L. Another downside? They don’t do a huge amount of races, mostly just M-Dot ones. But, in 2011, they will be transporting to Lavaman in Hawaii, Wildflower, and Escape from Alcatraz.
My favorite means of transporting my bike?
My trusty steed, the Chevy HHR. This 2009 station wagon can fit my bike in the back without even taking the wheels off, and the bike is protected from the weather and bugs on the drive. I even took this bad boy all the way to Knoxville from the UP, which was a much longer drive than I ever wish to do for a race again (22hours). If you’ve traveled with your bike to a race, though, you know how convenient it is to have a car that has enough room so that you don’t have to worry about whether-or-not your bike will fit. Is it bad that one of the major reasons I bought a car last summer what because I wanted to have a means for transporting my bike to and fro? … Nah.
What other ways do you transport your bike?