Special Delivery: How to Ensure Your Bike Arrives Safe
Training for a race takes dedication and effort. But come race day, all that work can be undone by something like a bike damaged in transit or a poorly rebuilt bike at the race course. It can happen more often than you think. Making sure your bike arrives safe and sound and ready to ride is often one of the last things you?re going to think about in the chaos of packing for and traveling to a race. It shouldn?t.
Training for a race takes dedication and effort. But come race day, all that work can be undone by something like a bike damaged in transit or a poorly rebuilt bike at the race course. It can happen more often than you think. Making sure your bike arrives safe and sound and ready to ride is often one of the last things you?re going to think about in the chaos of packing for and traveling to a race. It shouldn?t. In fact, it has to be a priority right up there with getting adequate rest and staying hydrated and fueled-up. So whether you?re flying out to a criterium or a stage race, here is some helpful advice to follow to ensure your most critical piece of gear arrives ready to race. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
The first thing to consider is the type of bike case will you will be using to haul your bike. There are basically three types available: a hard case made of plastic, a soft case usually made of tear and scuff-resistant nylon, or a cardboard bike box.
Hard cases offer you the reassurance that your bike is protected by a hard plastic shell. At worst, only minimal damage may occur (mostly scratches). However, I?ve personally seen airline baggage handlers throw bikes in plastic cases all over the tarmac. The handlers must assume that because it?s a hard case, it doesn?t require much care. Another downside to using a hard case is that the bike has to be virtually disassembled to fit inside. This process requires a substantial amount of time to take the bike apart at home and then reassemble at the race. It means carrying more tools, and since your bike is now separated into various parts, more opportunities to lose critical nuts and bolts when you can least afford to.
Personally, I?m a fan of today?s soft cases. They offer a lighter and easier alternative for traveling with a bike than a hard case. By virtue of their strategic padding and plastic reinforced corners, most soft cases offer virtually the same protection as a hard case, but without the need to cram your bike in-between the sides of a hardcover box. Another unspoken benefit of using a soft case is that airline check-in personnel often don?t realize that you?re checking a bike and don?t charge the extra handling fee (often $50 or more) for traveling with a bike. I had one ask me once, ?Oh, is that a massage table?? To which I responded, ?Why yes it is.? And guess what, that airline didn?t charge a handling fee for massage tables.
Cardboard Bike Box
The final choice is the good old cardboard bike box that you can pick up from a bike shop?usually for free. By all means try to avoid this option. Most bike boxes shipped from the factory with new bikes inside are designed for onetime use. The structural integrity of cardboard breaks down with each use, thus providing less protection each time the box is used. I