To and fro

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I really like riding my bike. Although I don’t think I could ever like it “too much”- I definitely have spent more money/thoughts/time with my bike than the average joe (but not the average triathlete- some of those suckers spend five times as much as I have on their bikes… and still get pwnd on the uphills).

Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to discuss how to get to-and-fro, with the bike. Whether its rubber-side-down or in a box, having your bike with you where you’re going is important. For example, in early June, I traveled to Middlebury, Connecticut for the Rev3Quassy race. It might have been a little challenging (and slow) to not have my bike when I got there.

Bike transport options:

Check your bike:

Fly Southwest, WestJet, or AirCanada— Southwest just seems to love everyone under the sun. They only charge $50 to check a bike, and they allow two checked bags for free. Practically every airline charges a fee to check a box that is oversized (eg. one that holds a bike), and some charge more than others. Slowtwitch has a great forum feed that discusses airline fees, and you can check it out here.

My favorite: “Not Good: United”- which is the only airline I can fly without having to drive 100miles. My other options (with the 100mile drive)? The “The WORSE: Delta”. So it goes in the UP.

When you check your bike– remember the importance of properly stowing the bike. You spent HOW much money on that thing? I’d hate for it to get dinged up and damaged by the ground crew. Some sweet bike bags and boxes can be found here. Depending on the bike and its size, it should be stored a particular way. For example, my Scott Plasma Contessa has a seat mast (read: cannot adjust seat height without permanently altering geometry) and an integrated fork. So, I need to be careful about how I stow my bike.

Some more tips? When you’re checking your bike, avoid any containment that screams “BIKE”. Since many airlines have bike policies, if they find out you are checking a bike they’ll be sure to charge you. American Airlines has a special policy of charging at least $100 on top of the normal baggage charges if you check a bike. So, try to be as subtle as you can. And even though it looks cool, avoid putting huge labels all over your bike box that might implicate you…

Unfortunately- not everyone can fly SW or any of the cool airlines that don’t charge an arm and a leg for checking a bike (myself included). Unless I drive to a bigger city that’s >7hours away, I am looking at spending at least $150 each way (plus any extra charges that the airline might decide I owe) to take my bike with me on the plane. And since my checked bag full of clothes didn’t make it to Connecticut when I arrived, there’s the risk that the bike might not make it either.

So what are some other options?

FedEx it– I got my local bike shop to disassemble my bike and put it in its original box with the wheels and everything, and then I sent it via FedEx to Bicycle Works, the bike shop in Connecticut right by the race location. FedEx is sweet, because stuff moves even on the weekends, and I could track my bike and I knew where it was practically all the time. It was also very convenient because the bike was assembled by Bicycle Works when it arrived (and it got tuned up, too) before I even got to town, and after the race I just dropped it off and they literally took care of everything for me. It did cost a little more money than I wanted to spend ($75 to send it from Michigan to CT, $100 to have Bicycle Works receive, assemble, and disassemble it, and $110 for them to ship it back to me) but it was still cheaper than checking it on the plane (I flew United).

TriBikeTransport I’ve never used them, because I don’t live anywhere near where a drop off would be, but dang, do I wish I did. Here’s how it works: Drop your bike off at one of the Partner Bike Shops by the drop-off date for your race (listed on their website here) and they get your bike to your race site three days before the event. They even bring it to the athlete village. Depending on the race and where you are traveling from, it can cost anywhere between $290 and $340USD with $1000 value insured (you can get additional insurance for $6/$1000value). Without having to disassemble your bike, go back to the airport later to pick it up because it didn’t make the connecting flight, or worry about it going missing off a UPS truck, you can have that much more peace-of-mind as you prepare for your big race. Again, a downside of this service is that if you don’t have a TBT anywhere near you, well- you’re S.O.L. Another downside? They don’t do a huge amount of races, mostly just M-Dot ones. But, in 2011, they will be transporting to Lavaman in Hawaii, Wildflower, and Escape from Alcatraz.

My favorite means of transporting my bike?

My trusty steed, the Chevy HHR. This 2009 station wagon can fit my bike in the back without even taking the wheels off, and the bike is protected from the weather and bugs on the drive. I even took this bad boy all the way to Knoxville from the UP, which was a much longer drive than I ever wish to do for a race again (22hours). If you’ve traveled with your bike to a race, though, you know how convenient it is to have a car that has enough room so that you don’t have to worry about whether-or-not your bike will fit. Is it bad that one of the major reasons I bought a car last summer what because I wanted to have a means for transporting my bike to and fro? … Nah.

What other ways do you transport your bike?

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About megankillian

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. I love biomechanics!

Posted on July 5, 2010, in Review, travel, triathlon. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. FYI- I tried to lie about my bike when checking it in to go to Lubbock last weekend (American). I said it was a massage table. The agent then got out his measuring tape and measured it and put the calculations in the computer (it was not over weight- just over sized) and said I owed $150! ARGH. My own fault for lying, but I couldn’t very well go back and claim it was a bike after lying… GRRRR. Lesson learned. Don’t lie.

    • megankillian

      AHH!! yikes. I would have thought that it would have been ok to say it was a massage table. i have heard that calling it “artwork” will work sometimes. I’m just too chicken to find out (besides, the airport I fly out of opens every bag to check for hazardous chemicals; no x-ray scanners here!).

  2. We have two small cars (Dodge Neons). I can actually get my bike in the back seat with the front wheel off. I have a trunk rack too, but I don’t like using that over long distances because I am always afraid it is going to fall off. My dream car is a Honda Element or possibly a Subaru, so that, like you, I can just toss it in the back.

    • megankillian

      I considered getting a Honda Element, but the price of the HHR was just too good to pass up (13K with a manual trans). As a college student, I think that having a new car is taboo, so I didn’t want it to be THAT extravagant. But the spray-out-with-a-hose-ability of the Element is pretty inviting. I do really like that the HHR has plastic flooring and the rear seats fold down (and are also plastic on the back) so that the whole floor is plastic, not carpet, making it easier to clean (especially after putting a mt bike in there!). I won’t get a bike rack unless its a ride on or walk on, because of the carbon frames… but I was thinking about getting roof racks. I don’t have a hitch, yet!

  3. Great post, traveling to certain places can be stressful and $$ with a bike so always helps to have some great tips. I generally now ask for a PT Crusier since my bike box fits perfect in it with room for more πŸ™‚

  4. Megan,

    Can you post some pics of your bike in your HHR? Do you just set it down or do you have a fork mount set up inside? I’m really interested in how it fits, as a new car may be in my future. Thanks.

    • megankillian

      Hey Zach- I just lay it down inside my car crank-side-up with a blanket underneath. The wheels stay on and it slides right in. I don’t have the fork mount set but I was thinking about getting one. I’ll take some photos and add them later πŸ™‚ As far as a “car” goes, this is the most spacious car I found when I was testing out cars. The Pontiac Vibe was smaller, as was the Dodge Caliber (I actually rented one in CT and it was a lot smaller than I thought). The back seats in the HHR fold down flat and there’s a storage compartment beneath the floor (perfect for a bike pump!).

  5. I have the Aerus bike bag. Usually nobody asks anything. it is oversize, but not obviously. And it’s light enough that I can pack a LOT of other stuff in it and then my bike bag is my only checked bag and I just have a carry on.

  6. Oh, and my bike bag fits in a compact car, so it saves $$ that way too.

    • megankillian

      Sweet! My teammates, Sonja and Michelle, rented an HHR and both of their bike boxes (I think they have Thule?) fit in the car’s trunk. Man, listen to me… blah blah blah HHR, I should be a marketing person for GM, god knows they need it.

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