Borders are open, and people are eager to travel. Sometimes, I question my choice of sport when travelling – as bicycles are not the most convenient piece of sporting equipment to traipse around airports with – but with a bit of planning and trusty routines, travel can be less chaotic than you imagine.
Luckily, I don’t have to travel to every race with my bike; however, there do come times when I have to travel with two or even three bikes. On top of that, I am very frequently living out of my suitcase, from home to hotel, to hotel…to hotel…including many flights in different countries with different travel standards.
WITH A BIKE
- If you travel frequently, invest in a bike bag that requires minimal bike dismantling. I have been using the brands ELITE and SCICON and highly rate them both. They usually have extra pockets for wheels, an axle holder, and wheels. Typically, you can get them under 20kg.
- Bike boxes are good if you are bikepacking, as you can build your bike on arrival and recycle the cardboard. Sine boxes are also lighter than bags – you can put a few extra things in there as well before you are over the weight limit.
- Place all of your extra loose items (pedals (if you have to remove), tools et cetera) in a small bag within the bike bag every time so you know their place.
- I like to unplug my Di2 or remove batteries before travelling. This way if the shifters get bumped during transit, it won’t drain the batteries
- Furthermore, remove the derailleur altogether for extra safety and wrap it safely.
- Pack with foam or bubble wrap around the frame and pack the night before you travel!
- Upon arrival, check for any major damage to the frame BEFORE leaving the airport and report if necessary. Once you step outside the airport, usually the bike is no longer the airline’s problem.
- I recently bought an apple AirTag for my bike. Game changer.
- If you are going to a race, pack your shoes, helmet, and kit in your carry-on luggage just in case your bike doesn’t arrive. At least you can maybe borrow a bike but have your own kit.
WITHOUT A BIKE / GENERAL TRAVEL
- Packing cells
I use packing cells to organise my things in my suitcase. I have a lot of kits for all weather conditions, shoes, helmets, toiletries, normal clothes, electronics. It’s less of a headache to locate things quickly if each of these have a ‘home’.
- Embrace the chaos
Travel is chaotic, but you can take routines with you. When I’m on tour, the time I wake up, what I eat for breakfast and what time I go to bed varies. I try to create some predictability and consistency by travelling with my coffee grinder, my own coffee beans and my portable v60 pour over. I also often take my own bowl because hotel bowls can be different sizes (usually, way too small) for my breakfast so at least I can eat a similar amount out my familiar bowl each day.
- Travel essentials
I take a lightweight foldable yoga mat, eye mask, my own pillow or my own pillow case. This lends familiarity to my nighttime routine. The yoga mat means I can lie flat on the floor anywhere (even at airports) and stretch before bed.
I always have a tube of electrolyte tablets with me to stay hydrated as possible during travel and during or after training.
- Take a cut lunch
Either take a packed lunch prepared the night before to the airport or accept that you will inevitably pay hefty airport prices for a decent feed. While I often eat and buy snacks at the airport, before races I don’t want to compromise having enough good nutrition so I will cook travel-friendly things like rice or baked potatoes to take with me.
Can you travel by train?
Train travel is largely underrated and although the train might take longer in theory, by the time you factor in getting to the airport, check-in etc. the time adds up a lot. Make sure to check in advance as some trains have a fee for bikes as oversized and they must be packed into a bag. If you are travelling between countries or states, the rules can change across train companies. Otherwise, some trains have a cabin for bikes and you can roll it right in, and ride right out.
Get creative with your clothes folding.
I recently travelled back from the USA with a fair few more items of clothing than I arrived with, but somehow managed to create more space in my bag. I had come across a YouTube video on how to fold your clothes into each other to save on space. A simple YouTube search will have you find what you need.
Be packed already
Having a travel toiletries bag already packed that you don’t use at home. Then, there is never forgetting toothpaste, misplacing your shampoo or what have you.
I still make many mistakes and leave behind things in hotels but over the years these things have helped me tremendously to stay sane while on the road.