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Riding Away From Home - How to Find the Right Bike When You Travel

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bike rack car unloading
Karl Weatherly/Stockbyte - Getty Images

Let's face it. Trying to take a bike with you on a plane is a major pain in the you-know-where. First there's the disassembly. Get a thrill out of taking off your handlebars, wheels and pedals? Ugh. Then you have to hunt around for a case or study box to actually ship it in. Then, the airlines are going to sock it to you for as much extra charges as they can due to the oversized shape and the weight of the package, etc. So, obviously, if you are going to travel and want to ride a bike when you get there, you need to find some options other than packing up your bike and taking it with you as checked baggage on a plane.

So what are your choices? Actually, there's a few. Let's review them now - what you can do to find a way to ride when you're away from home.

1. Take Your Bike By Car

The most simple option, if it's feasible, is to drive wherever you're going instead of flying and take your bike with you. And it can work more often than you might think.

A six hour drive and a one hour flight to the same city will end up taking the same amount of time door-to-door when you think of the time you chew up driving to the airport, parking, taking a shuttle, going through security, waiting for your plane, actually flying and then securing transportation on the other end. Then repeat all that jazz on the return trip.

Instead, why not take your car so you can also take your bike. That saves you money and allows you to ride something familiar on the other end. It can work out really well.

2. Rent a Bike at Your Destination

The next most convenient option for getting a bike when you travel is to find a place to rent one from. Most major cities and tourist destinations will have places where you can rent bikes, and often for very reasonable prices. A simple websearch is the best way to turn up options, and you can contact the staff by phone or by email even before you arrive to find out about their bikes and what they have to say about what you're trying to do.

Most have a fleet of hybrids, mountain bikes and road bikes in a variety of sizes, so you should be able to find one that is right for you. Plus, many times locks and helmets will come included, as well as suggestions from the staff for nice places to ride. You can get a bike by the hour, by the day or the week.

3. Borrow a Bike From Somebody

Are you going somewhere that you know people already -- friends, relatives or business contacts? All of these are potential sources for loaner bikes. Don't be afraid to tell them specifically that you're looking to borrow a bike when you're in town. Lots of times people are proud to show off their city to visitors, and loaning out a bike is something that they'd love to help you with in order to make your visit that much better.

If you're really bold, you can get on an email list or discussion board of a local bike group and try asking around there. Sometimes if you tell people there that you're coming to town and would like to find a bike, you can get an offer of a nice bike to borrow for a couple of days without even having to come right out and ask. Plus, you may well get an invitation to go on a guided tour or take part in a regularly scheduled ride. Of course, put your safety first and be cautious. Be wary and don't go anywhere that you don't feel completely safe. But this can be a tremendous opportunity to make new friends and have rich new experiences, so don't be afraid to at least ask around and see where it takes you.

4. Buy a Bike at Your Destination

If you've got a place you travel to routinely for work or fun, consider buying a bike and keeping it there just for you when you want to ride. A guy I know travels regularly to Philadelphia for work - usually once every three or four weeks to visit branch offices of his company. He keeps a basic road bike and a helmet with a coworker who lives near one of the branches. Whenever he's in town, he's got a bike handy that fits him well, and he's ridden there often enough that he knows the good roads and routes for biking.

It may seem crazy to consider just buying a bike outright to keep somewhere else, but in truth it really makes sense, especially if you plan to stay for an extended period or else will return regularly. Great deals can be found on a used bike via craigslist or other online sources that you can also check out from home, and especially if you're looking at a multi-day visit, buying a bike can be as cheap as renting.

And when you're done with the bike, depending on the situation, you can either just give the bike away or try to sell it, depending on your situation, your preferences and your financial situation.

Biking Away From Home

So in conclusion, even though traveling can disrupt your cycling, just because you're on the road for work or pleasure doesn't mean you can't ride. It just means you've got to figure out the best way to get into a good bike for you on the other end. Think through these options and see which one will work for you.

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