Read on and then decide.

Pack it! If you plan to fly or ship your bicycle, you will need to pack carefully, securing loose parts and wrapping crucial components to prevent damage. Take snapshots to remember the steps and even include notes in your bike case. We use a chronological step-by-step list for all the details to be remembered from one trip to the next.

Then, you’ll need something to carry your bike. Hard sided cases generally cost $300 to $800; lightweight cloth bags start as low as $29 and you can find other cases priced anywhere in between. You can also stop by your local bike shop and snag a “left-over” cardboard box. What you choose all depends on your budget and the safety, cushioning and protection you desire.

Fly it? If you have a bicycle with S&S couplers, either packing or re-assembling a bike takes about an hour of time – after some practice. And with a S&S case (26″x26″x10″) the 62″ linear dimensions meet most airline regulations for standard check-in luggage but these days you’ll still be paying to bring your ride as a 2nd check bag when you fly.

For example, United.com states “If the bicycle(s) are packed in a container that is less than 50 pounds and 62 total linear inches, there is no bicycle service charge, but, if applicable, the first or second baggage service charge applies.”

If you don’t have S&S couplers, you’ll need a regular size bicycle box or other container such as a cardboard box. (Video for cardboard box packing.) These cases or boxes exceed 62 total linear inches. So in this case, United says “If the bicycle(s) are packed in a container that is over 50 pounds and/or 62 total linear inches, a $100 service charge applies each way for travel between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a $200 service charge applies each way for all other travel.”  That could add an additional $800 dollars for a couple touring in Europe.  Find fees for airlines at http://www.airlinebagfees.com/bicycles/charts/ and check your airline’s policies on their site before booking your flight.

Ship it?  Maybe shipping suits your schedule. By shipping your bike, you avoid transporting large cases and multiple pieces of luggage to and from airports and/or through railway stations and other transportation hubs. Simply pack your bike and contact a shipper. Check out www.highcountryshipping.com for domestic and international destinations and rates.

PictureA reliable rental shop in Waikoloa, Hawaii

Rent it? Maybe it is still too much of a hassle to pack your bike and you’d prefer renting a bicycle at your destination. Plus it’s a great opportunity to demo a different bicycle than your current ride. First, find a shop on the internet close to the start of your tour. Determine 

  • How far the rental shop is from your tour start and finish (5-10 minutes is best)
  • Delivery options for a rental bicycle (a shop may bring it to you)
  • How you will get to the shop and back  (2 hours away by car will not suit your needs)
  • Confirm the shop has longevity and a good rental history
  • Learn shop hours to confirm they’ll be there through the duration of your travel 
  • Reserve a bicycle in your required frame size and model (road, tri, hybrid, mountain, etc.) for your tour or event
  • Ask if they have another location to return the bicycle, especially when your tour ends in a different town
  • Pack your shoes, pedals and saddle and have them with you when you pick up the rental
  • Bring all critical “fit” measurements with you (Saddle height and top tube length (or handlebar reach) are a given; the “drop” or stem length and angle measurements help dial in a rental machine for a better fit.)

When renting consider that you may want your saddle bag, handlebar bag, a lock and/or tool kit. How many water bottle cages are supplied?  How many water bottle cages do you want? Since hydration is crucial for cyclists, what will you do if the rental shop does not supply an adequate number? What about a bicycle computer or a GPS unit? Will you bring yours? How will it mount to the rental bicycle? Does the rental shop supply an alternatives? Does the rental shop supply CO2 cartridges and inflators with the bike?  Do they supply a tire pump and tube?  Check if the tube valves are compatible with the pump or inflator you’ll have before you ride off. Confirm you know how to use the pump or inflator. What emergency bike repair services are available through the rental shop? What services might you need? Review the costs, contracts and return policies before renting. 

Advantages – Disadvantages Through the years, we’ve heard numerous stories about lost bicycles, delayed bicycles, damaged bicycles and poor rental equipment; we’ve ridden rentals that didn’t fit well and those with rusted chains. We travel with our own bicycles these days and are fortunate to have had only minor damage and no delays of our S&S cases. After weighing what is important to you, make the best educated decision with the information you have …and remember to enjoy the ride!

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