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Traveling With Your Bike

By Brian Metzler

Unless you can rent a bike at your destination, traveling to a multi-sport race usually means packing your own bike. That can be cumbersome, both to your bike and your wallet. Here are a few tips that make traveling with your bike a tad easier.

Regulations about bringing your bike with you on an airplane have changed several times since the events of 9/11. Airlines have yet to forbid bikes in checked baggage, but it has gotten much pricier ($75 to $90 each way) to ship them. If you accidentally exceed the new weight restrictions (50 to 70 pounds, depending on the airline) by overstuffing your bike box, you'll pay even more.

If you're flying with a bike, you need to pack it in a hard-sided or soft-sided bicycle travel case with dimensions that meet airline standards. If you can't cough up the $300 or so for a new box, try renting one or borrowing one from a friend.

Travel cases vary, but generally you'll need to remove the pedals, gooseneck, one or both wheels, the seat post and the seat. Leave your brake and derailleur cables intact but deflate the tires to about 50 percent capacity. As you're packing it, wrap old towels over fragile components or any place where metal meets metal to keep damage to a minimum. Be sure to pack the parts you removed, as well as the tools you'll need to reassemble it at your destination. Also, mark the position of your seat post with a piece of duct tape before disassembling it.

Many cycling and triathlon organizations have eliminated vouchers (at the airlines behest) that allow bikes to fly free. A few still offer a limited number of vouchers as a perk for a one-year membership or license, including USA Cycling, International Mountain Bike Association, Adventure Cycling Association or National Bicycle League. But most of those voucher programs are tied to specific airlines, usually Frontier, America West or Northwest Airlines, and often require you to make reservations through Adventure Travel (800-274-4567, www.bikesfly.com). That's great if one of those airlines flies from your home city to your race destination; if not, you're out of luck.

Many athletes have taken to shipping the bike to a bike shop a week before a race via UPS. You can ship a dissembled bike in a cardboard bike box (like those used by bike manufacturers) or a bike travel case that meets UPS standards (like the UPS Velo Safe Pro-Series from Tri All 3 Sports) for about $30 to $75 each way. While it could wind up costing the same as flying with the bike, it definitely saves hassles at the airport and assures your bike can be reassembled by a trained professional at the receiving bike shop as opposed to a tired, stressed out athlete like you. Visit www.triall3sports.com and www.ups.com for details.

-- Brian Metzler

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