Updated: Dec 16, 2019
I'm lucky enough to travel to a lot of races, usually finding the best gelato store is high on the agender! I love the adventure of visiting somewhere new or even going back to rediscover a previous destination. Sometimes we'll do a big road trip, drive for days deep into Europe and take a whole host of bikes and spares. It's a lifestyle that dreams are made of. Travel often isn't all that easy, one problem is luggage weight allowance, hold bags are often limited to around 20 or 23 kilograms. There's always the option of buying costly extra luggage on your ticket but with careful packaging it is possible to fly with just the bike bag and a cabin bag. The novelty of flying does wear off and so does packing up the bags week after week. Here's my tips to get the most from your travel adventures.
Airlines such as British Airways will allow you a laptop bag or handbag along with a cabin bag. You can exploit this by taking a backpack or anything that will fit under the seat in front of you. I usually pack my backpack with laptop and items you'll need for the day of travel such as headphones, camera, book, food etc. Many airlines either won't have a weight limit on the cabin bag or won't check it so it's worth putting heavy items in here such as shoes, nutrition product and bike spares. Think about how many clothes you actually need to take, do you have a washing machine where you're staying? Will you get a finishers t-shirt from the event!? In training and racing you need to think about layering, its unlikely you'll need to race in a long sleeve jersey so a baselayer, short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, gilet and waterproof packable jacket are the essentials for your top half. Bibshorts, leg warmers and a decent length sock (rules are rules) are basics. If you are going somewhere where the weather is unpredictable consider waterproof bibshorts and short sleeve jerseys such as those from the Kalas Rainmen collection, plus some waterproof overshoes and gloves.
When booking your flights it's worth considering booking business class. Airlines like British Airways will give you 2 x 32kg bags plus cabin bags in business class, if the cost of the upgrade is marginal and you're going to have to book extra luggage on your standard ticket you might find business actually works out cheaper. Consider that with a business class ticket you'll also get food and drink in the airport lounge and on the flight, this will be additional expenditure if flying on a standard ticket.
The first cycling essential you need for your next flyaway race is a portable tool kit. You can easily add extra kilograms taking tools you don't need. The Lezyne 'Port A Kit' I use comes in a handy carry case and has been to so many countries and tech zones it should have it's own passport! The tools I travel with include multitool of allen keys, multitool of torx keys, 8mm allen key for pedals, hand pump, shock pump, digital pressure gauge and valve core remover. All this fits in the 'Port A Kit'. These mechanics tools are additional to the tools i'll carry with me during the race.
At home I train with my Exposure lights on my bike year round, it should be no different abroad so I'll take some small bike lights to use. These will be particularly useful on race morning as a lot of marathons have an early start. Races like Grand Raid Cristalp and MB Race start at 6.30 in the morning and possibly before sunrise.
The most important travel essential though is friends. I've travelled to plenty of bike races alone and can assure you that becomes pretty boring very quickly. Sitting in a hotel alone you quickly begin to miss home and you question why your bothering to spend all this time and money. The social aspect of cycling is the reason why most of us began cycling so don't forget this at the most important moments. Sharing car hire and accommodation with likeminded friends and sharing that post race euthoria with them will make any race weekend a memorable one you'll not want to forget.