Have bike, will travel

Can a collapsible road bike cut it for everyday use?

Travel can be a major hassle these days, and it's even more frustrating if you're a cyclist. All of those days spent on the road usually mean days off the bike. But what if the situation changed from being stuck without your bike, to that of a new place to ride? Yes, I’m suggesting you travel with your bike, and it’s something I’ve vowed to do more this year.

I won't deny that as technical editor for BikeRadar and Cyclingnews I've got a great job, but between work and personal travel, I was gone from home 111 days in 2011. Most of those days fell right in the heart of the best riding season in Colorado and ironically, there was usually no bike in sight – at least not one that I could ride.

I've long entertained the notion of traveling with a bike but with airline fees being what they are (with notable exceptions such as Frontier), and the hassles of lugging a case around, it's usually not practical. Full-sized travel bikes such as Ritchey's clever Breakaway design, various S&S incarnations, and even the Ibis Tranny, neatly get around the oversized baggage rules but even with a budget build, they're still an expensive luxury item for most people.

That got me thinking: what if your favorite everyday bike was your travel bike? What if the bike you traveled with wasn't some niche machine but the same one you happily rode at home? In that case, a travel bike wouldn't be a pricey extra bike, it would just be your bike.

I told myself just before the winter holidays that I was going to spend more time on my bike than I do in airports and on planes in 2012. Looking back at last year's calendar, I could potentially have added upwards of 30 days in the saddle if I had a bike with me (and that's not including days covering races when it's not realistic).

So in light of that, I'm about to take delivery of a Ritchey Breakaway Ti/Carbon road frameset, and dammit, I plan on using it – both at and away from home. It's light, the paint-free finish won't chip and the geometry looks well suited to "any place, any time" road rides, with plenty of tire clearance. I'm hopeful the titanium front triangle and carbon fiber stays and fork will deliver overall performance and ride quality that I won't want to reserve only for days away from home.

The build will be high-end but not over-the-top: a SRAM Red group, all-alloy Ritchey cockpit components (this bike will be disassembled and reassembled a lot) and for now, a set of Bontrager Race X Lite aluminum clinchers shod with 25mm-wide tires (or maybe even 28s). Ultimately I plan on switching to something more conventional with easier-to-find replacement parts since a busted spoke or slipping proprietary freehub body is no way to start a trip.

Since I'll invariably be riding somewhere unfamiliar, I'll also rely on a Garmin Edge 800 computer or my iPhone housed in a Wahoo Fitness case so I'll have GPS tracking, full mapping capabilities and downloaded routes at the ready. 

I'll keep you updated here and on Twitter @angryasian with where this bike and I are headed, recent rides and periodic performance updates on not only the bike but also whatever travel-friendly accessories I toss in along the way. It'll also be interesting to see how quickly I can learn to pack and unpack the thing.

I'll keep track of airline fees, too. Travel cases like the Ritchey Breakaway may not be classified as oversize but in the eyes of many airlines, a bike is a bike no matter the size or weight so – pardon the pun – we'll see how regularly I can fly under the radar.

Though the Breakaway packs small, we'll see how successful I am at avoiding airline 'bike' charges this season

If all goes well, the frameset will arrive and I'll have enough time to build it up before heading off to Las Vegas to visit some family this weekend. All-you-can-eat buffets, cheesy shows and slot machines may be the standard fare in those parts but I hear Red Rocks is awfully pretty this time of year...

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