15 tips for travelling with your bike

BikeRadar readers reveal their top tips for travelling with a bike

If you love riding your bike and going on holiday it's becoming increasingly easy to combine the two by taking your bike with you, wherever you go. The proliferation of bike designs means there's a bike for any road, trail, mountain or beach going. 

  • This feature was inspired by the Ritchey Breakaway Carbon, one of BikeRadar's Headline Bikes for 2018. We've collated eleven bikes that we believe you should know about in the coming year. Some are super bikes, while others might display great value for money, but they all have one thing in common — they're all important bikes that show how incredibly varied road and mountain biking is today.

Travelling with a bicycle can be a daunting prospect though, so we've asked our readers, worldwide, to gather together a range of top tips for jetting off with a your bike.

Before you go

Tip 1: Pre-book your accommodation

So you're going on an unsupported tour, but aren't sure what to do with your bike bag/box? If you're travelling in and out of the same station or airport, pre-book your first and last nights' accommodation at the same place.

During booking ask the proprietors nicely whether they'd be happy to store your bike bag/box while you're away, leaving you unencumbered and unstressed while you ride. In our experience, small independent hotels are usually pretty flexible!

Go on, treat yourself to a nice hotel now and again!
Go on, treat yourself to a nice hotel now and again!

Tip 2: Check your accommodation's facilities

With more and more of us going away for long and short breaks, hotels, B&Bs, lodges and hostels are increasingly aware of the needs of the cyclist. Key for all riders is secure bike storage — lockable, alarmed and even CCTV covered facilities.

Search around when you're looking for accommodation, as the places that advertise it will also likely love to have cyclists come and stay (and, if so, will probably be full of useful cycling-specific local info).

Tip 3: Research, research, research

If you want to get the most out of your trip, start researching your intended location long before you go. While destinations such as Mallorca or Morzine have popular routes, there could be little-known locals trails or loops that could give you a fresh perspective on a well known area.

Alternatively, if you're heading into a lesser-known place, then finding information before you go means you're less likely to miss out on the best bits.

Check resources such as Strava Heatmaps for an impression of where the locals frequently head or search out the routes used for local races — we found some GPS logs from a French enduro race that directed us down some incredible trails.

A short flight away and you could be riding some amazing roads
A short flight away and you could be riding some amazing roads

It's also worth checking out Google Earth and Street View to get a real impression of what an area or even a particular road will be like to ride — does it look like it has a rough, poor surface or is it actually a multi-lane arterial route popular with commuters?

Finally, have a search for local shops before you go as they can often provide useful information and maybe even guiding (along with spare parts and maintenance if things go wrong).

Packing

Tip 4: Make a list

Making a packing list might seem a bit nerdy, but in the days before you leave it's worth having a think about all the things you're going to need and making a quick list. It'll help you avoid that last-minute rush around the house trying to find your plug adaptor and means you're less likely to leave home without a toothbrush.

Nerdy it might be, but a list saves packing woes
Nerdy it might be, but a list saves packing woes

Tip 5: Box, bag or cardboard?

Debate rages on as to whether you're better off with the simplicity of a cardboard box nabbed from your local bike shop, a lightweight but soft carry bag or the full-on protection of a hardshell cycle case. What's best for you depends on budget, frequency of travel and storage.

Think carefully about what you go for, and research soft and hard cases (particularly their internal dimensions) before you buy — some larger bikes can be hard or impossible to fit in smaller cases.

If you're lucky enough to have one, Ritchey's Break-Away bike can be split in two to fit inside it's normal-sized bike 'suitcase'.

Tip 6: Packing your bike

Getting your bike there safely is key to enjoying your holiday, so pack it well. We've a number of guides on how best to pack your bike, so check them out!

Packing a bike properly adds protection and peace of mind
Packing a bike properly adds protection and peace of mind

Tip 7: Wrapping it up

Packing materials, such as bubble wrap or pipe insulation, provide extra protection for your bike while it's in transit without adding too much extra weight. Although many airlines stipulate that only a bike can be in a bike box, some people will use clothing or even knee pads to protect their bike in its bag/case.

Dropout spacers and, if you're not removing the mech, mech protectors also provide lightweight protection for some crucial parts of your bike. Ask nicely and you might be able to nab some from these packaging materials that your local bike shop receives on a daily basis.

A broken mech wouldn't be a good start to your holiday
A broken mech wouldn't be a good start to your holiday

Tip 8: It's the little bits that count

Little bits and pieces, such as mech hangers, can be easy to damage in transit, so think ahead and either remove them for the journey or prepare for the worst by buying a spare in advance. Mech hangers, in particular, can be difficult to find while you're away, so bring a replacement, just in case.

Tip 9: Zip ties and duct tape

You can never have too many zip ties with you and it's never a bad idea to bring duct tape — a few wraps around a pump mean it's always there when you need it, and we reckon it's vital to take on any extended bike tour.

Tip 10: Fail to prepare… prepare to fail

Depending on where you're heading, don't forget that easily accessible spares at home might not be so common abroad. Got a plus-tyred mountain bike? Take a few spare tubes with you. Do you have those fancy Mavic wheels with the special nipples? Pack some in advance.

If you can research ahead, check how good local shops are and remember that in popular riding destinations, prices might be inflated.

A semi-soft bag like this offers protection and is easy to transport
A semi-soft bag like this offers protection and is easy to transport

Tip 11: De-Di2

One of our readers suggests disconnecting Di2 batteries if possible — although apparently it took some explaining at the airport as to why there was a battery with a load of wires coming out of it in their luggage. 

Travelling

Tip 12: Keep the essentials close

Sometimes baggage goes missing, which can put a massive downer on your holiday. With this in mind, pack your helmet, shoes, pedals and maybe a set of kit in your hand luggage.

If your bike or main luggage does get lost, at least you'll have the basics with you, meaning you could hire a bike for a day or two and not miss out on too much cycling while you wait for your kit to arrive.

Tip 13: Don't be late!

It's an obvious one, but if you're lugging a bike around with you at a station or airport, get there in plenty of time. Just getting about with a massive bike box/bag is difficult enough, but checking it in often means going to out-sized baggage areas, which adds more time and effort to getting through the terminal.

Getting to the airport early for a holiday also means less stress… and more time in the departure lounge bar.

Tip 14: Keep hydrated

If you're off for an active holiday it's worth getting ahead with your hydration before you arrive (although not necessarily the sort of hydration you might find at the previously mentioned bar). A few hours in a sealed, air-conditioned plane cabin can leave you more dehydrated than you might think, and that's before you arrive in what's likely to be a hot climate.

Keeping your water levels topped up on the journey means you'll arrive in a better state and won't be on the back foot when you start sweating on the bike.

Tip 15: Is it all too much?

If all the above sounds like a bit too much faff, then have a search for the growing number of bike-transfer companies, some of whom will pick up your bike from home and deliver it to your destination in time for your arrival. Your bike will have to leave before you, but it should make the whole journey much less stressful.

Hopefully this gives all you budding holidaymakers a few key pointers on how to successfully get away. But have you got any more tips? Let us know in the comments!

BikeRadar would like to thank Brittany Ferries, the Commune of Peille, France, and Kieran Page at La Maison des Activities de Pleine Nature de Peille for their help and support during our Headline Bikes test.

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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