Traveling with your Bike: Not for the Faint Hearted?

So your next event is a little far from home and requires a bicycle?

Sure, you could rent a bike but if you’re anything like us, you’ll bring your two wheels to that triathlon or any cycling event because that’s your baby, and you need it. No discussion, it’s going with you.

Whether your bike is traveling on the shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka or making multiple stops from Singapore to Colorado, sometimes you’ll find yourself more or less blindly entrusting your bike to strangers in a rough and tumble world…Of course, should anything happen to your bike, that kind of calamity will instantly become the source of rage, anguish and skyrocketing blood pressure. 

Maybe the writing is already on the wall, or maybe we just want a list of things to be thankful DIDN’T happen…

So without further ado, here’s our top six woes of traveling with your bike – in no particular order!

No matter how experienced you are, traveling with a bike comes with a fair amount of uncertainty and can be burdensome.

Having to disassemble, then reassemble...then disassemble and reassemble, again

We’ve done this enough times, so 15 minutes is all it takes to disassemble or reassemble our bikes (wait, is that fast or slow!?). That said, a few factors will affect time spent on dis/assembly. Faith’s 44CM Cannondale Synapse is so small she’s never had to adjust the seatpost when packing her bike. Some folks remove the rear derailleur and really take things apart – we’re not them. Finally, if you’re removing or adjusting parts that need to be returned to a specific position, you’ll want to make sure you make placement markings with a silver marker or tape.

Bike maintenance help
Hire substitute mechanics with doll-sized hands perfect for assembling bike components
Pose dramatically for one last photo with your bike - then bid adieu

Not having access to all your usual stuff, people, or local bike shop

Oh, did your rear derailleur get destroyed? Left your multi-tool on the kitchen counter? Need a spare CO2 cartridge? Yeah, good luck with that. There’s no sugarcoating that being away from home (nonetheless a foreign country) presents an unwelcoming twist to unexpected challenges. It’s a good idea to be prepared by doing some research ahead of time for bike shops and mechanic help at the race site.

Packed bike for delivery
Lightweight bike box
Trico Sports Iron Case bike box

The general bulk and weight of a bike bag or bike box

Contained within a bag or box (along with all the bells and whistles), we hardly see our bikes weigh in at more than 20KG and definitely less than 30KG. The lightest bike bags come in at around 6, 7KG (we’re looking at you Scicon Aerocomfort 2.0 TSA), soft boxes are just a smidge heavier, and hard cases generally weigh in at approximately 10-12KG. Throw in your bike, helmet, tools, shoes, maybe a pump, and you’re ready to roll with a container big enough to fit a healthy mid-sized child.

We know a woman who travels with her bike in a normal suitcase – the frame is small enough to do so with everything removed…we’re super jealous! The bottom line is, these bike bags and boxes aren’t super compact and you’ll likely elicit some looks from the NARPs (Non-Athletic Regular Person).

Excess baggage / oversize / sporting equipment fees

Do your research beforehand and brace yourself. There’s a good chance you’ll be hemorrhaging your hard-earned money for your bike to board your flight. We usually expect to be charged USD 100 for one way on an international flight. The charges you should expect depend on a multitude of factors including (but not limited to): carrier, the way you treat the counter staff, number of legs (direct or multiple stops), the counter staff’s mood, and the bike bag/box dimensions, as well as weight. It’s a huge perk when events like the Honolulu Century Ride or Honolulu Triathlon have partnerships with Japan Airlines to ensure your bike travels without extra charges.

Not always knowing where to drop off or pick up your bike

This depends on the airport. The two variations are with (1) checking in your bike; and (2) retrieving your bike. At most airports (including Narita), you’ll have to take your bike to be scanned at an oversize luggage counter after checking in. Sometimes, you just leave your bike at the check-in counter and a nice person will cart it away with other bikes, golf bags, surfboards, etc. Some airports (like Singapore Changi and Narita) will place your bike by the baggage carousel. However, many airports (such as Brisbane) have a designated carousel for oversize items, including bikes. This can be confusing if you’re used to having airport staff deliver your bike box/bag to your baggage carousel.

Not being able to fit into a regular-sized sedan

Planning on catching a cab from the airport? Make sure your bike bag/box fit – most won’t fit a regular-sized sedan. A “soccer mom” size van or a large SUV (like a Suburban) will usually fit in 2 packed bikes with up to approximately four suitcases. Or, just three packed bikes.

Of course, you want to keep in mind that in some locations, it’s going to be tremendously difficult and/or expensive to find a larger vehicle to take you to your destination. Hello, Tokyo. Basically, do your research before travelling with your bike!

Checking in bike at airport
Collecting bike from baggage carousel;

So there you have it. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine but once your bike’s put together and rides smoothly at your destination…well, it’s totally worth it. With the appropriate protective measures and barring careless handling out of your control, your two-wheeled baby will be just fine. But it doesn’t hurt to keep your fingers crossed for your bike to reach home safely in one piece.