Anyone racing triathlons overseas has nightmares about months of preparation and training wasted by unwrapping a wreck at the airport. But be prepared and your bucket list event won’t start with a bucketful of tears.
Box clever: purpose-built hard case bike boxes offer the ultimate protection, but they’re expensive to buy and their weight is expensive to fly. Semi-rigid bags (such as Evoc) are a good compromise of convenience, protection and price, or you can chance it with a soft bag or a cardboard bike box from your local shop.
However they’re ‘cased’, bikes get broken when bits bang together or bend. Unbolting bars/stem, pedals and rear mech is an essential. Make sure ‘free-range’ bits are well wrapped and secured so that wires or cables don’t get pulled and snapped.
Unplug Di2 shifters so they don’t accidentally get pressed and flatten your battery. Ask your local shop for spacers that fit between the fork tips and dropouts to stop them getting crushed together when you remove the wheels.
Take the QR skewers out of the wheels to stop them punching through your bag and other luggage. Secure the wheels to make sure cassette cogs/hubs can’t clash with frame tubes or other components. Take crucial bike-specific, hard-to-find spares including items such as gear hangers with you, just in case.
Bubble wrap and foam pipe lagging are your flight-time friends but use clothing, helmets, shoes, etc. to protect vulnerable parts, especially if that means you can fly with just hand luggage and your bike.
Leave your tyres inflated unless told otherwise at check-in though. Make sure you check any specific airline, transfer or airport ‘oversize baggage’ protocol too. Turn up early to smooth any potential problems and be nice to the staff. Baggage handlers aren’t known as ‘throwers’ for nothing.
— GlobalCyclingNetwork (@gcntweet) June 23, 2014
With that in mind, be prepared for the worst. Airline baggage insurance generally works on a £ per kilo basis that often falls woefully short of actual costs, so get third party bike insurance that definitely covers you for travel. Always check your bike when you land, as any damage must be reported before you leave the airport for any claim to count.
You can’t race on a credit note though, so prepare an emergency plan. Contact organisers/local bike dealers/tri clubs/other racers to see what bikes are potentially available to borrow/hire in an emergency. OK, so you might not get a PB if you have to swap your P5 for a Post Office bike, but at least you’ll be back in the game, not seething on the sidelines.
(Images: Jonny Gawler/Scicon)
Do you fly often with your bike? Let us know in the comments below!