Spin Doctor In-Store Clinic – Traveling with your bike and gear

Spin DoctorEvery month, your local Performance Bicycle store has a free in-store clinic about an array of cycling topics, from basic bike maintenance to more advanced subjects like adjusting your derailleur.  Having just returned from a trip to France, this author was interested by the latest clinic topic, “traveling with your bike and gear”.  Our Spin Doctor in-store clinics can vary a bit according to who attends and what specifics they want to learn, but in this post I wanted to cover the topic that caused me much trepidation before I headed overseas with my bike: packing up my bike in a bike case.

Bringing your own bike on a trip is always the best, since you will be comfortable with your bike right away and all you need to worry about is enjoying the ride at your destination.  But I, like many people, was worried about packing up my bike securely for my big trip.  It turns out that it’s really not that difficult a process, and only takes a little planning once you have seen it demonstrated.  With that in mind, I headed over to our Chapel Hill, NC store this past Thursday, the night of the latest Spin Doctor clinic, to enlist the help of one of our friendly store employees, Brian, in shooting a short video on how to pack up a bike in a travel case.

Before we get to the video, though, I wanted to go over a few lessons I learned while traveling with my bike (specifically if you are traveling by plane):

  1. Be vigilant of anything that can rub together in your case–friction is your enemy and your case will undoubtedly be tossed around a bit if you are checking your bike on an airplane.  I ended up with a some scuffed up spokes when I unpacked my bike in France, as I neglected to pack my wheels in wheel bags for protection.
  2. Be aware of weight and size restrictions for checked luggage, as these vary by airline.  It’s best to know what the listed rate is for a particular airline, to avoid being overcharged, but I also found that sometimes airline personnel will simply check in your bike as a second piece of checked luggage (which is much cheaper than the bike-specific fee) as long as you are below the over-weight limit, normally 50 lbs.
  3. Put a bunch of stickers or other identifying markers all over your bike case–odds are if you are traveling to a bike-friendly locale, someone else will be too, so having a distinctive mark on your own case helps alleviate any confusion upon arrival (since big black or gray bike cases tend to look the same!)

In terms of the actual process of packing up a bike in a case, it’s actually less intimidating than you might first think.  All you need to do the job is a little patience and a set of allen/hex wrenches (plus possibly a set of open-end wrenches and/or a pedal wrench).  To disassemble your bike for packing you will need to be able to remove your:

  • seat post (don’t forget to mark your post height)
  • wheels and skewers
  • pedals
  • stem (you can leave your handlebars attached to your stem & just remove the entire stem/handlebar assembly from the fork steerer tube–just remember to screw in the headset top cap after removing the stem)

For some cases you will also need to remove the rear derailleur to avoid any damage (to the derailleur or the derailleur hanger).  Then it’s just a matter of situating the bike in the case so everything fits comfortably (which can vary from case to case).

But I find that it’s easier to actually see how the process works after reading a description, so we put together this short video that shows how to pack a Pro Bike Case for travel.  You may need to tweak these instructions for different case designs, but the basic concepts should remain the same no matter what case you use (although most cases don’t have a handy inner stabilizer frame).  And don’t worry, if you still have questions about packing up your bike, just head down to your local Performance store or give Spin Doctor Product Services a call; they’ll be happy to help!

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