“There is nothing mundane about travel. Done well, it is one of life’s most consequential acts. And doing it well…is an art we can all aspire to. There is indeed plenty of heaven to be found on this earth.”
—Klara Glowczewksa, Editor in Chief
Condé Naste Traveler, New York City, 2007
Combining a vacation with a bike redefines just what it means to travel. Having a bike in a new locale gives you license to explore and enjoy a new place in your favorite way. To head off any challenges, we offer our Top 12 Bike Travel Tips to you this season as you explore by pedal. If a vacation is free time perfected, then taking a bike to some distant land is the vacation perfected.
Packing a bike for travel takes a bit of time and transporting the case usually requires renting a slightly larger vehicle than you might otherwise require, but the increase in enjoyment and freedom make the investment worth it.
These days, with the way airlines are increasing fees for transporting bikes, we’ve come to appreciate travel bikes, like the ones Seven Cycles offers with S&S couplers. But if you’re not in the market for a travel bike, we have a few tips that will help your bike arrive no worse for wear.
Top 12 Bike Travel Tips
1. Invest in a good travel case, such as the ones from Trico. Our experience is that the soft-sided cases are helpful because baggage handlers can’t stack anything on them.
2. In disassembling your bike, take each pedal and wrap it in a cloth before putting it in a zip-lock bag. Same goes for your stem and quick releases.
3. Tape your levers to the bar. A little Scotch tape will do. This makes the bar a little less cumbersome when it comes time to pack it and decreases the likelihood of an impact breaking a carbon fiber lever.
4. Wrap the entire bar in a clean cloth to prevent your bar tape from rubbing up against something dirty and greasy. We’re fond of old race T-shirts for this duty.
5. Remove the rear derailleur from the derailleur hanger. The post-travel damage we see most often relates to the rear derailleur, be it a bent derailleur hanger or a broken derailleur. Do not remove the cable unless you know how to dial in the proper cable tension for shifting. Wrap the derailleur in some padding and then put it in a zip-lock baggie with the chain running out.
6. Wrap the drive-side chainstay in an old cloth and then tape the chain to it.
7. Wrap an old T-shirt around the cassette on your rear wheel and tape it into place.
8. You needn’t let the air out of your tires. Though cargo holds are unpressurized, the air pressure doesn’t decrease so much as to pose a blow-off problem. Leaving air in your tires will help protect the rims from impact damage.
9. Go to a hardware store and buy a dozen feet of foam pipe insulation. Cut these to length for each tube on your bike’s frame and then label each section for easy use next time.
10. The final step of putting the bike and wheels into the box or case will vary from box to box (or carrier to carrier) and according to the frame size. Smaller bikes are always easier to pack. The big thing to check for is that there is no metal-to-metal or metal-to-carbon contact. Also check to make sure that the cables have a relatively smooth flow from the bar to the frame. Any kinks in the cable could cause shifting problems at your destination.
11. Ditch your C02 and pack a frame pump and tire gauge. Make sure your tools are packed with padding before going into a durable bag. Tape the container for your tools to the box or the frame to keep it from banging into the bike during travel.
12. If you’re running a carbon bar or stem, make sure you have a torque wrench among your tools. An ear-splitting “crack” as you assemble your bike would be a bummer.
Leave yourself plenty of time for the reassembly. Getting in a rush to get in a ride before the sun goes down the day of your arrival is a good way to find out mid-ride that you forgot to tighten the stem.
Don’t forget the most important part of all…Have fun!
Planning a trip with your bike this summer? Stop by Velosmith: We have various sized pumps, travel cases to rent or purchase, torque wrenches, and other small tools you will need for the road.
Top Image: Riding in the Santa Monica Mountains, above Santa Monica, CA, one of our favorite travel destinations.
Here at Velosmith, we’re big believers in embrocating before rides. The benefits that come from using embro go further than the obvious one everyone mentions—just keeping your legs warm on a cold day. Done right, applying embro is a chance to give your legs a pre-ride massage, helping to wake the muscles up even before you’re out on the road. Good embrocations like Mad Alchemy use all-natural ingredients and will help keep your skin moisturized, keeping you more comfortable and speeding healing in the case of scratches, cuts or even road rash—though we don’t suggest applying it to an open wound … yikes!
Embro is famous for helping keep your legs warm on a cold day and for that reason, we always keep a few different varieties around so we have something ready no matter how cool the day may start.
A few tips for happy (and comfortable) usage:
- Put your bibs on first.
- Latex gloves can help prevent you from applying embro to things that shouldn’t be embrocated.
- Roll up your shorts slightly to make sure you get all of your thigh.
- Dab some embro at various points on your legs. Start massaging at your ankle and massage your way up, blending those spots together.
- Be aware that consistent usage of a warming embro will cause you to build up a resistance to it; don’t be surprised if you need to graduate to a medium to get the effect you once experienced with a mellow.
- Post-ride, wipe your legs off with paper towels or baby wipes to prevent the grime and embro from sliming your kit.
- Use some Dawn dishwashing liquid to wash the remaining embro off your legs when showering.
- Enjoy the afterglow.
For as long as bicycles have had more than one cog, riders have been looking for ways make gear changes with greater speed and precision. Electronic shifting systems, whether we’re discussing Shimano or Campagnolo, offer the fastest, most foolproof shifting available to a rider.
Practically speaking, what that means for you as a rider is that you can shift any time you want—while standing on a climb, when seated and overgeared, even while stopped at a stoplight. Both Shimano’s Di2 and Campagnolo’s EPS systems feature powerful motors that execute slight overshifts to make sure the chain always moves from one cog to the next. With electronic shifting you’ll never experience the occasional lag that can come from downshifting while pedaling under full power at a low cadence.
Initial concern about battery life has proven not to be a problem. Riders are reporting going months without needing to recharge. And with electronic shifting, you need never worry that road grime will foul your cables and degrade shifting performance. Those of you who race will notice a distinct competitive advantage thanks to near-silent shifts; often, your competitors will never hear you shift, giving you the opportunity to get a jump on them.
With Shimano’s Di2 riders can add additional shifters so that you can shift with your thumb while sprinting in the drops or while sitting up with your hands on the top of the handlebar. The advantages to electronic shifting are so compelling, many industry experts believe that all shifting systems will be electronic by the end of the decade.
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