Following on from Part 1, I wanted to expand more on one of the most stressful parts of travel… Luggage!
So below are my thoughts and tips as you head into the summer of racing and navigating airports and train stations around the world. Luggage is always a big topic. Let’s get straight in!
Luggage can be a huge stress when travelling, particularly with bikes. Whether you are going to be within the luggage allowance or hit with a huge $000’s per kg as you come in over the limit. Also, whether your precious bike will arrive at all, or arrive in once piece as you see the baggage handlers ‘delicately’ place the bike on the conveyors, or you wish you hadn’t seen out the window your bike bag upside down and wedged in with every other bag.
Tips for Flying
- Don’t look out the window, or try to look for your bag as it’s handled through the airports. Once you’ve checked it in, deep breath and fingers crossed but there’s nothing you can do. Seeing it ‘handled’ will only add to your stress and is out of your control as to what you can actually do at the time.
- Do pack your bike well. Whilst many bike bag companies say you shouldn’t put anything else in the bag and provide all the padding they believe is required, it doesn’t hurt to add some extra protection. Foam tubing and bubble wrap around the frame, or a towel and some clothes to protect parts of the bike. Make sure everything is strapped in as much as it can be.
- Don’t forget to pack your Di2 charger (or equivalent). Sometimes in travel, the buttons can get pressed and you don’t really want to arrive at the race or training camps with a dead battery.
- Also, can be a good idea to travel with a spare derailleur hanger. These can regularly get bent in travel, so no harm in having a spare with you and they don’t really take up much space.
- Check the airline allowances when you book your ticket. Does the ticket include baggage or like most airlines now, baggage is an extra cost. Also check the requirements for a bike. Some airlines now want you to declare a bike in advance, and book it on the flight.
- Check the baggage restrictions if flying on several flights across different countries from International to Domestic. Also, worth noting that last year Hawaiian airlines introduced a ban on ‘soft’ case bike bags. They seem to waver this for athletes travelling to Kona last year, but it may not be the case this year. I’ve not heard of other airlines making this restriction yet, but worth checking.
- Check if the weight limits are total amount across all luggage, or a limit per item.
- If you need to buy extra weight, try to do this in advance, as the airport fees are normally a lot more. There is always the gamble that you may get away with it, and if you are happy to take that risk go for it. More often than not these days though, airlines will sting you even if you are just 1kg over.
- If possible check out in advance, the local bike shops and mechanics that may be available at your destination, just in case you need to make a visit to them on arrival.
- On arrival first thing is to build and check the bike over. This gives you more time pre race if there are any issues you need to resolve.
Tips for Packing
- Consider packing a few emergency items in your hand luggage, in case your bags don’t arrive for a few days (e.g race kit, shoes, helmet etc.)
- We often take far too much, returning having never worn the three additional cycling kits we packed, just in case. To reduce what you need to take, start by lying all your kit out and then try to put half of it back in your cupboards. Challenge yourself… do I really need that?
- If you know your accommodation options too that helps. If there are washing facilities, it can also help reduce what you need to take.
- If you are travelling with others can you share some equipment (e.g. pump) to save weight and space.
Tips for Transportation
- Travelling is expensive and sometimes we try to go for the cheaper options, but it’s worth considering time and hassle against cost. For example, travelling from Girona to Barcelona airport. There is a good train network that is fast, but it requires several changes of trans and lugging your bike and bags across stations, up and down lifts etc. It may be quicker but the hassle and stress of having to carry these bags over stations to get connections is tiring and more effort than you think. An alternative is to get on the bus. It’s slower, considerable, but you get picked up in Girona, and dropped off directly at the airport, without any changes. You put your luggage on and don’t see it till you get off at the airport. Just sit back and relax.
- Also, it’s sometimes just worth biting the bullet and jumping in that taxi rather than dragging your bags and bikes the few blocks along the street.
- Try to plan this part of your journey in advance so you know the connections and routes you need to take, especially if time is tight.
- Remember if you chose to hire a car, pick the right size. I find that my bike and bags can actually fit in pretty small compact cars, if the back seats go flat and there is no fixed divide between the boot and middle. However, if you’re travelling as a group, you will need of course a bigger vehicle to fit bikes, bags and people.
- Oh, and don’t forget to take your driving licence too.
- Also, worth checking the parking restrictions or options at your accommodation. Sometimes parking isn’t available or still a walk away, or can be an extra cost per day to account for.
- If you are a group, sometimes it is more efficient to book a transfer service. There’s lots of companies that are now working with events to manage the travel and logistic for you to get there. They may also take your bike too and remove that stress for you.
Tips for Relaxing
- Give yourself extra time for travel, rushing around just adds more stress, and so just allowing for an extra hour and time, can make the travelling process less stressful and calming, allowing you to arrive at the race in a better place.
- On arrival, even though you are likely to feel rubbish, try to get out to loosen the body and get things moving again, whether been sitting on a plane or train or in a car for several hours. I always use this opportunity to build my bike and take if it for a spin to flush the legs and body and allows me to check that the bike is back in one piece and moving. This isn’t about doing a big interval session or with lots of intensity, but just flushing and getting the body moving. Mix up some loads and cadence though but nothing too deep.
- Getting out for a little bit of exercise on arrival also helps with any changes in time zones and differences there.
Plan and preparation in advance goes a long way, but try to just sit back, relax, take a deep breath and go with the flow of the journey!
Don’t Die Wondering