Where’s the Bike and What’s in the Box

Traveling CyclistThe Traveling Cyclist
– Bjorn Engelhardt

For most of us travel is just part of being in Singapore and whether its for business or the occasional leisure your riding doesn’t have to stop just because you have left home. As a frequent business traveller I need to find ways to keep exercising both to keep up when I get back for Saturdays rides and more importantly to ensure that output comes close to input…..basically I have to ride to stand still !!

I know most of us aren’t training for anything too serious so its not about packing bikes and gear and getting our every morning for intervals or hill repeats. Riding when travelling for me is about getting a different perspective on a new place, seeing new sights and most importantly just getting out of the hotel. I have taken my own bike too many places around the world and there is nothing quite like riding your own bike but many times that isn’t possible so I’ve been forced to look for other options including renting, city bikes, friends or occasionally using an idle bmx bike on the streets of Wellington.

This year has already been busy with travel including Christmas and New Years trips to Sydney and Melbourne, short business trips to Taiwan and Shanghai and this week back again to Sydney and Melbourne for work. The bike accompanied me for all except China and Taiwan which still offered alternatives that I will share later. On a regular basis I will share my experiences on travelling with a bike, how to work around the airlines, how to plan routes or find rides to join and what you need to pack to make sure you enjoy the rides.

Let’s start with the equipment needed if you are going to BYOB (bring your own bike). There are literally 100’s of bike travel options from super hard cases that almost look like regular luggage to soft-shell bags and of course the simple cardboard box with rolls of packing tape. Being a tech geek I’ve prone to buying the latest but not necessarily greatest in gadgets for everything. I’ve tried the soft-shell with built in frame, various iterations of hard shells however for the last two years have been using the Bike Box Alan (http://bikeboxalan.co.uk/) for two reasons. Firstly they will customise velcro frame straps to your bike ensuring it doesn’t move despite the airlines best efforts and secondly getting spares for damaged wheeled , locks etc is very easy. Having purchased or rented a bike box you are still going to need to protect your precious bike from bumping to scratching. Again too many options from air-conditioning pipe insulation to bubble wrap. Having “invested” way too much on the bike I found Albopads (http://www.albopads.com/) and for about $100 they’ve served me well for two years now and not a single scratch during transport.

Packed BoxSo what else is inside the bike box? Each time I travel with the bike its a simple three step process. First wet bag for cycling gear including ANZA jersey, shoes, socks and generally rain and wind jacket since most places are damn cold in the morning compared to Singapore. Secondly the spares bag including tool kit, tubes, CO2 (yes you can take them), track pump, measuring tape to ensure correct set-up and basic supply of energy bars and drink mix.  Lastly, safety gear including helmet and lights for the early mornings. Generally I get everything into the box at around 26 kg which doesn’t leave much for other luggage unless you have airline status but lets cover that topic in another post.

So I can hear you saying “I don’t want to travel with my bike….its too much hassle for short trips” and yes that can be true so what are the options? On my last trip to Taipei I spotted some very fashionable yellow “Hello Kitty” badged U-Bikes

ubike(http://youbike.com.tw/en/index.php). Very similar to the Boris Bikes we have seen around London. All that was needed was a credit card, a little patience to work through the 10 page online rental agreement and presto I had my bike ready. I was never going to set any speed records or for that fact add significant miles to my weekly Strava goal but after an hour I had seen many of the sights and also watched Taipei kick-start the day as wound my way up down small streets and laneways. A word of caution that there are no helmets and despite the lack of speed i would recommend asking your hotel concierge to find one. Make sure you take your mobile with you and if you don’t have data roaming then pre-load maps (google has a feature for this) so that when you do get lost you can easily get back.

Landing in Shanghai I wasn’t confident on finding any rental bikes and was ready to be relegated to the morning walk league however every smog filled city has a silver lining. Romantically named Forever Bikes ( http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/features/Around_Town-Around_Town/8739/Forever-Bike-Rental.html) are not a populous as other cities yet still can be found with a little patience. More challenging is getting to use one since you will need to register via a Chinese only website and pre-purchase special cards. Too hard, too much smog and too little motivation meant I bypassed my morning ride for a morning stroll down the Bund.

A week home from Shanghai and I’m headed off to Sydney and Melbourne this time with the bike accompanying as luggage with some planned rides through the Royal National Park to Wollongong and also a Sunday southern beaches tour. Next time I will share experiences with airlines including which are bike friendly, how to avoid paying additional luggage fees and getting your bike to and from the airports.

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