It might not look like much... but the photo above caused about 3 hours of intense heart ache for one unlucky racer at IRONMAN 70.3 Haines City, FL. 4,337 Miles from her home in Santiago, Chile at a race where she didn't speak the language, and with a bike missing a critical piece, we did everything we could to take care of her. Don't let it happen to you. We walk you through the most common mistakes people make when traveling with their bike and how to avoid them.
There are few moments more nerve racking for a traveling athlete than when their bike case disappears into the void behind an airport luggage check. Those mechanical conveyors and rubber curtains do little to reassure you of a gentle and carefree trip in the cargo hold. But - that’s why you’ve got a great bike case right? It’s safe, secure, well padded, and well packed. At least, that’s the hope. And yet, we all have those moments of sitting on the luggage to close it down, strapping it ever tighter, second guessing and repacking… That’s just the nature of the beast. Well - there are a few quite simple things you can do - or not do - when packing your bike that can set you up for a bike travel disaster - or not. Let’s jump right in shall we?
Bike Packing 101 - Don't get bent!
This one is so paramount, so easy to take care of, and yet so frustratingly common that we had to list it first. Take note ladies and gentlemen: that little gear shifty thing by your rear wheel that pushes your chain around and switches gears - that little guy is not a fan of travel. But - with one quick move - you can prevent a whole lot of headache.
You see, the derailleur is bolted to a piece called the derailleur hanger. The derailleur hanger is an intermediary part between the frame and the derailleur and it’s purpose is to absorb the force of a crash or knock to the derailleur and BEND or BREAK rather than letting the frame bend or crack.
Yes, you read it right. That part is designed to bend or break. Only in emergency or extreme cases of course. It will never bend or break from normal use. Just abuse. The kind of abuse that happens on a transcontinental flight from Argentina to Florida, or New York to California, or maybe just on the way from your garage to your car trunk. It only takes one good knock in the right place to send your gears into a confusingly inconsistent clicking frenzy.
Not to worry though. All you have to do is unscrew the one bolt that holds the derailleur to the hanger, wrap the derailleur in a bit of cloth or foam, and secure it to the inside of the frame. Now, your hanger can’t be bent because there’s nothing attached to it.
Check that one off the list - you’re done with 101. Go you!
Bike Packing 202 - Crushes are for kids, not for your bike frame.
Ah yes... the young love of a bike case and the cargo hold. Crashing around, stuck beneath a dark and swarthy suitcase for lands far off, surrounded by the dark mystery of an overnight flight to places far away. A bike case could only hope for such romantic surroundings - until Joe Schmoe’s oversized Samsonite packed with 85lbs of auto parts comes down on it - WHAM. Good thing you had some protection in there. Good thing you put some supports in between the drop outs of the rear frame and the fork!
This one is simple too. Most bike shops can supply you with spacers that go inside the fork and rear triangle of the frame - the same place the axle goes when your put your wheels on. Those spacers add a much needed rigidity to a frame that is otherwise vulnerable to being crushed, bent, or cracked.
Don’t skimp on the drop out spacers - you can’t race on a broken frame! Check 202 off as well - nice!
Bike Packing 303 - Sweat the small stuff. Sweat it hard.
I can tell you a sob story. And the sad thing is, it’s really a few sob stories in one. It’s the story of a triathlete who had prepared for months to get to the race. They’d recovered from 3 surgeries, finally gotten approval to race again, trained for 9 months, ate right, put time aside, flew in their wife and kids, and upon unboxing their bike found… there was no seat clamp. Not just any missing seat clamp - a Trek Speed Concept seat clamp. And when it comes to bikes in that league - or in fact most bike with proprietary parts these days - getting a part like that on short notice on a Saturday before race day is more than a headache, it’s a nightmare.
So I’ll tell you once and you’ll remember forever: if you pack your bike, put every bolt - screw - nut - washer - cap - cable - and doodad you take off in a bag and tape that bag to the frame. Don’t put it in another bag to get lost. Tape it right to the frame so it goes where your bike goes. If someone else packs your bike - CHECK THEIR WORK. Ask them if they have all the parts in there. Maybe even have them show you the seat clamp. You can’t be too careful when you’re traveling to a race.
Race Day Prep - Your one item checklist
After taking all the time to get your bike safely to your race - it just makes sense to get it professionally assembled and tuned. At Race Day Service, we offer a Flight Package that includes Assembly, a Pro Tune Up, Travel Case Storage, and Disassembly. It’s a worry free way to make sure your bike not only be ready for race day - it will be safe and sound on the trip home as well! That's one item to check off and be sure that from that moment to the moment you step back through your door at home, your bike is safe.
Book now! Pay later, free cancellation.