Over the past 20+ years, I've spent some time packing, shipping and traveling with mountain bikes. Races, demo events, or mountain bike vacations, I do it all. I've traveled with a bike or two by plane, 9 on my truck, and 18 in the demo fleet with our trailer. During this time, I've definitely had some mishaps, learned from my mistakes and would like to share a list of 5 tips with you.
- Bring spare derailleur hangers. Cannot stress this one enough. Nothing can ruin your mountain bike vacation or add to your pre-race anxiety like unpacking your bike to a bent or broken hanger. Sure this can sometime be bent back, but they can also snap while doing so. And while a lot of shops stock some hangers, the chances of them having the exact one for your bike in stock is slim to none. It's easier and just an inexpensive peace of mind to bring an extra one with. We keep at least one for every bike we have in our garage, it is something we purchase along with every
- Security for your bike. This changes based on where you are going, how you are getting there, and where you are staying. Even places where you think your bike may be safe, like the bike park, sees quite a bit of theft. High end bikes just leaned on racks are easy pickings for thieves. We have a large selection of different locks in our house, as I am very paranoid about bike theft after living in Chicago, and working for ABUS. Here is a quick run down on what is used based and where we use it
- Bordo Mini Folding Lock - For locking up around resort towns, bike parks, mountain towns, and other low theft areas while I am on the bike. Fits in my waist pack and I don't have to worry about someone rolling off with my bike while I am in a shop or grabbing grub at the bike park. Also a great, lightweight option to fly with.
- Bordo 6000 Combo Folding Lock (not shown) Locking up my mountain bike or eMTB around town or cities with higher theft rates or longer than a few minutes.
- Armored Cable Combo - Used on my hitch and roof racks, camp grounds over night, demo events for quick stops at rest areas or over night while camping or bikes are at demo events. These locks use combos that you can set and be daisy chained together for longer length when there are multiple bikes on the hitch rack. They are also stronger than your conventional cable lock, having an extra layer of steel wrapped around the internal braided cable.
- Chains - My chains are Keyed Alike, and can be daisy chained to create a longer length of chain. They are 9mm tempered steel with hex links, and cannot be cut with bolt cutters. I used these bad boys for longer stops on the road and over night at bike demos. All the other vendors use cables to lock their bikes, so I know a thief is not going to spend the time on ours.
- Detecto RS1 Motion Sensitive Alarm Lock - This motion sensitive alarm lock comes from the Moto side at ABUS. I attach it to the chain when I need an added layer of security depending on the location. I've rented RV's and stopped in parking lots over night with bikes on the rack. I wanted to be alerted if someone was attempting to cut the chains, and this lock came in very handy. While it doesn't add another layer of chain to defeat, thieves hate noise when working on a bike, so 100db of screeching lock helps keep them at bay.
- Key Garage - I lock my keys in this when I am at bike parks, on the trail, shuttling, hiking, paddling, and pretty much anytime I am out on an adventure that I don't want to be worried about losing my truck keys somewhere.
- Use a good travel bag. I've worked in a few bike shops that shipped a lot of bikes, and have flown with bikes well over 80 times. Using a good bike travel case or travel bag can save you bike from being damaged during your adventures. I prefer the Evoc Travel Bag Pro. The removable tray makes it easy to pack, has a removable castor wheel in front for easy maneuvering, folds down nicely for storage, and best of all, I've never had a damaged bike.
- Use a bike rack that holds the bikes by the wheels, or store them on trays inside your vehicle. If you are using a bike rack that holds the bikes by the frames, it's not a matter of if, but more of when it is going to get scratched or damaged. A couple great options are 1Up USA, Kuat, and QuikrStuff. While it is not always possible, the best option is to travel with your bikes inside the vehicle. They stay safer, and cleaner. Driving through a good rain or snow storm can cake your bike and brakes with a nice layer of road grime. If you do get run through some weather, make sure to clean off your rotors prior to riding your bike. This will save you from contamination of your brake pads and a whole lot of squealing down the trail.
- Bring some basic tools. Depending on if we are flying or driving, and to what type of event, is what dictates the tools we bring.
- Flying - multi tool, compact torque wrench set, & shock pump.
- Driving - I was a Boy Scout, and our motto is, be prepared, so when we drive places, I bring a lot with. If I am pulling the trailer to a demo, everything is pretty much coming with. Including spare tires, brake pads, chains, levers, nuts & bolts, pretty much everything I need to keep the bikes running all weekend long.
This is not the definitive list, but a handy list of 5 tips for traveling with your mountain bike. If you have more tips to share with others, post them in the comments below.