Are you bored with racing local triathlons? Tired of the same nasty pond water that geese regularly poop in, resulting in high bacteria counts? Ready to hit the open road or friendly skies in search of that ultimate destination race? So was I. My target was Ironman Boulder 70.3 and I was freaked out. Not about running a half ironman, I knew I could at least finish, but getting me and my stuff there.
These days airlines hit you wherever they can. Bag fees, bike fees and ridiculous flight prices are just a few. Some airlines charge you upwards of $200 EACH WAY to bring your tri bike and treat it like a caber toss in the cargo bay.
Stay thirsty, my friends. If you are ever vigilant you can find a way. Frontier airlines went bike feeless and all you pay for is the regular $25 fee as long as you stay under 50 pounds. Find a bike bag, pack my tri stuff and I'm off!
My venture is your gain. Here's a few tips about traveling to a triathlon with your gear and the bike bag I used.
PROS of using the Scicon AeroComfort Plus bike bag
- The side flaps had a zippered pocket for wheels and extra padding. I took no chances and wrapped the hubs with Styrofoam and they slipped right in and fit perfect!
- The bag has ample padding without becoming too bulky or clunky.
- Sturdy zippers.
- Sturdy handle straps to carry the bag by if needed.
- Ample space for the bike and some of your gear if you want to stow it in the bag and free up room in your carry on (but remember to stay under 50 pounds).
- The bottom is tied to a metal frame that has adjustable supports for the fork and rear wheel bracket. In the end if you didn’t want to use it, you could take it out but I know I felt more comfortable knowing my bike was secured and the fork would not be flopping around.
- Material appeared to be pretty sturdy.
- There’s a nice strap on the inside that connects the flaps together for extra support after you zip the bag shut.
- Wheels on the bottom and a pull strap on the front! Need I say more?
- It’s a nice looking bag.
- It comes with a handy cinch bag to place the empty bag in when storing to keep it nice and tidy.
CONS of using the Scicon AeroComfort Plus bike bag
- It’s a nice bag and they like to advertise what they provide. WARNING : BIKE INSIDE : HANDLE WITH CARE was pasted on both sides plain as day. To a ticket counter, that says “charge me a huge fee!”. I ended up creatively applying some black permanent marker to the BIKE INSIDE portion as to not tip off eager ticket agents.
- The bag is designed so that you could leave your handlebars on in place. I don’t know about most of you, but there’s no way I’m leaving handlebars on for a flight. It’s a little bit of wasted space and makes the bag a little larger than it needs to be.
- I wish it had straps on the outside to cinch it up on the exterior to avoid any slack in the bag. Smaller the better for traveling.
- It could have used a few more pockets on the inside for stuff like pedals, seat and post, misc gear, etc. They had one, but I’m greedy and wanted more.
- Scicon is based in Italy. You can buy direct from them but shipping will be a killer. There are several retailers in the US that carries them, but they are pricey. Always remember, though, you get what you pay for.
TIPS for traveling
- Packing list. I didn't have time to make one (do as I say, not as I do), but I treated packing my gear as if I was packing the night before for a race. Laid it all out and packed it in the transition bag. I then laid it by the bike bag as I needed to distribute some items to the bike bag in order to get non-tri gear into the bag so I only had 3 bags. Bike bag less than 50 pounds. Transition bag. Small backpack for personal carry on.
- Padding. Add more padding. Then, add some more padding. Have you seen what happens to suitcase on airplanes? Imagine that being done to your carbon fiber triathlon bike. I especially was fond of using pipe insulation from the hardware store and velcro strip roles that you can cut to whatever length you want. Using tape would have been a MESS, especially to take a part later. I covered every part of the frame I could find.
- Don't take your tools in carry ons. I didn't, but I could have easily spaced that out. I'm sure TSA would not hesitate to gank your pedal wrench and allen wrenches. They go through your checked luggage and they have no problem trashing your stuff.
- Count on TSA rifling through your bike bag. It's large, it sticks out like a sore thumb and you have some funky shaped metal objects in there. They may even take some stuff out and the best part is YOU WON'T KNOW WHAT THEY TOOK! You just get a post card in your bag. I guess that's what we have to accept this day and age and it's better they take anything that looks like a bomb than the alternative.
- Don't count on making it with your CO2 refills for your flat repair stash. Somehow they did not take mine, but others I ran in to were not so lucky.
- Deflate your bike tires. What happens to your tooth paste or shampoo in checked bags? Did they blow up? Think about your tires. They are already at 100psi or higher... BOOM. I deflated and left the valves open, no problems.
- Take your derailleur off. IT WILL GET BENT if you don't. Trust me. I took mine off and glad I did.
- Take your break pads off. On the rear of the frame the break pads are the furthest out and make a nice hook to grab stuff and bend the breaks and who knows what else.
- Get there in advance. I got there two days before the race and leading up to it I was collected and cool. No frantic running around and I was rested.
- Don't fly back the day of the event. I did and it sucked. There was no regaling my accomplishments or kicking back. It was PACK PACK PACK and GO GO GO to pack the bike, check the car in, get through security and get to the terminal. It was just as stressful as running the half ironman.
- Make sure rentals are big enough. I just barely fit my bike bag in the ford focus I had. JUST BARELY. rental car places get you with "you can get upgrade for $10 more now, but if you come back in afterwards it will be $20 more a day". Nice.
- Find someone you know in the area. You could score a free "hotel" and a tour guide that knows the area so you don't have to waste time and spend money being a total tourist.
In the end, my gear and I survived. The AeroComfort bag worked great for me and I came away from the race a much more educated endurance traveler.
*Writer’s note, Scicon provided the AeroComfort plus at no charge for review and did not influence the writer for a positive or negative review.
You can also see my Examiner write up HERE.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans. Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at www.Triathlon-Reviews.blogspot.com. Contact Ryan at: email@example.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.