Now that it’s summer, you might be thinking about your first bicycling trip of the year. This trip could be for a big event ride you’ve always wanted to do, something a little more serious like a training camp, or even a vacation with a bicycling travel company.
Any of these options will influence the gear you’ll choose to take along, especially in terms of how you will pack your bike. If you have the room in your car, you may choose to pack your bike in the trunk by pulling off the wheels and, if necessary, uninstalling your saddle and seat post. If you are venturing overseas for a bike trip, then there are many more things to think about.
Planning Your Bike Trip
As with planning for any kind of trip, you should consider how much time you might need to do your bike trip. Will you need to fly or can you just drive to your destination?
If you’re new to vacationing with your bike, a weekend trip of 2-3 days is a good way to build some travel experience. If you’re already a veteran of weekend trips with your bike, a week-long trip of 7-10 days might be next.
Once you’ve determined the amount of time you’ll have available, you’ll next want to find where you want to go and the costs involved. If you are traveling by car, then it is matter of gas, food, hotels, and other miscellaneous expenses, including event registrations and paid entry fees if you plan to travel for an event. If you’re traveling overseas, then plane fares, hotels, trains (to get to an event location), passport all have to be considered.
Choosing a Vacation Destination
But maybe you’ve already determined the destination for your bicycling vacation. But If you still are unsure where, why, and when you want to go, there are a lot of options to choose from that can help you in making that decision.
Check-In with Your Local Bike Shop
The easiest option, of course, would be to check at your local bike shop, which might be able to point you to some good places. Sometimes the LBS might even have a bulletin board or a table with brochures about event rides throughout your state or even out of state. But if you’re thinking about something more exotic, then the best place to seek out places is the Internet. In addition to bicycling specific sites, travel sites, such as Fodor’s, offer a list of places around the United States and Europe that are great for road cycling.
Great Places to Ride in the United States
If you’re close enough to a national park, this option is excellent since in the United States, the National Park Service allows bikes free of charge on their roads, which are always in much better condition than any public road, and they are usually subjected to lower traffic patterns and speed limits. That’s also in addition to the epic scenery. Places like Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, the Natchez Trace, which starts outside Franklin, Tennessee, are just a few excellent places to ride.
Overseas Bicycle Travel: Europe and Beyond
If your penchant is to ride overseas for a specific event or as just a different way to experience a certain country, the list is pretty endless. You could even book a trip to traverse roads used in the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and other major pro stage races. If you’ve never done overseas bicycle travel, booking a trip through a bicycle specific travel company is the way to go.
These type companies offer trips through Europe and other locales, such as Vietnam, Australia, etc. They will supply guides who know the routes, hotels with great food, towns to visit, and you can even rent a road bike if you believe it’s too much of a hassle and too expensive to pack your own bike.
If you choose to do a trip through a bicycle travel company, it’s best to book in advance as their trips fill-up fast. Trek Travel, Backroads, Duvine Cycling, and Thomson Bike Tours are reputable companies to travel. Just keep in mind that while using a bicycle travel/ touring company is an excellent way to introduce yourself to international bike travel, it can be expensive based on the trip, type of accommodations you choose, when you decide to take your trip, and if you rent a bike. If you want to do a more in depth analysis of bicycle travel and touring companies, here’s a very extensive list at Travel Stride of almost 150 trip operators.
Choosing a Bike Rack
Unless you plan to travel overseas for your cycling trip, you might decide to drive to your destination. In that case, a quality bike rack is essential. While removing your wheels and placing the bike in your car is economical (and if your vehicle is large enough to accommodate it), it also limits the amount of space available for tools, a bike stand, and other gear you may need to bring as well as your suitcase.
Thule, Saris, and Yakima, the big names in bike rack technology, offer roof racks and hitch-mounted racks as well as trunk racks. Thule and Yakima even make roof-fitting systems for whatever car you might have. To find the one that is right for your car, visit the Thule or Yakima web sites and search by the year, make, and model of your car. You’ll not only find the kind of racks that can be mounted on your vehicle, you will also find any accessories you might need.
Staying with Your Bike at Hotels
If you are traveling by car with your bike in tow, most hotels won’t care if you decide to keep your bike in the room as opposed to leaving locked in a bike rack where the chance of theft is possible. However, if you are looking for something beyond basic lodging for you and your two-wheeled companion, then a specialty bike hotel like former pro cyclist George Hincapie’s Hotel Domestique might be the ticket. They offer amenities to their guests like bike storage areas, on-call mechanics, and other services along with top-notch dining and elegant rooms.
A lot of these hotels can be found in the western United States where it’s possible to ride all year round and avoid most inclement weather. But there are bicycling hotels all throughout the country and even in Canada. In fact, in this list on bikabout.com, every region in North America is covered. If you decide to trek overseas for a cycling vacation and not use a touring group for your trip, there are listings for bike hotels in Japan, New Zealand, Europe, and other place in the world.
Bike Shipping Options
For some, the thought of attaching a bike rack to their cars is out of the question. There’s a chance the car could incur some damage, that the bike might fly off the rack, etc. If that’s you, then there are other options beyond driving or trying to pack your bike yourself for a flight domestically or overseas.
One option is to purchase a bicycle travel case. A lot of bicycle shops carry them, or you might find one online at REI or another online bicycle retailer. Another possibility is to obtain a bike box from your local bike shop. For a charge, they might even pack your bike for you.
A bike case can run anywhere from $60.00 – $300.00 for a softshell or hardshell case, depending on the level of protection you’re seeking. Make sure if you are flying that the airline you use will allow you to bring it onboard and what the charge will be, which can sometimes be $80.00 and up. Some airlines are okay with it while others are not. But if buying a case or obtaining a bike box from a bike shop, then disassembling your bike seems too intimidating, checkout the links below for options on how to fly your bike.
http://www.shipbikes.com/ — Online bike shipper that sells containers for bike and delivery to anywhere in the world. Uses FedEx or UPS as a transport system.
http://www.bikeflights.com/ — This site also ships bikes and offers the purchase of a box or cases. Bikeflights also offers insurance for your shipment.
http://www.bikerentusa.com/ — This Internet site provides a listing of online merchants and shops that rent all kinds of bikes in the USA and internationally with web sites, email addresses and phone numbers for each one.