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By Plane and By Train – Travel Tips for Mountain Bikers

Flying and travelling with your bike can be a stressful business. We’ve navigated an airport or three and a train or two, lugging bike boxes, so we know the anxiety. To help reduce the stress we asked Liv Cycling’s Elizabeth Walker for her travel tips, both for navigating transit and travelling in the age of Covid.

The pre-race excitement building towards any big mountain bike race is always tainted by the nerves of getting there. Especially if you’re flying, locally or internationally, and then taking public transport to the race. It doesn’t need to be a source of anxiety however; with meticulous preparation and some sage advice you can reduce your transit stress.

Liv Racing’s Team Manager, Elizabeth Walker is a seasoned traveller. Not only is she a frequent flier with a bike herself, but she herds pro riders through airports for a living. Which is no mean feat, particularly right now with Covid travel restrictions in place.

“First stop is the Sherpa App” Walker advised as to figuring out what you need to know regarding Covid restrictions. “This app has been invaluable for me and the team as a starting point for research. Dig in, and go deeper, to make sure you fully understand the restrictions and exemptions for each country.”

“Print out all your paperwork, don’t rely on your cell phone” she advises too. “Include: negative Covid test results, mandatory exit- or entry- registration forms, accommodations confirmations, flight reservations, letters of support/invitations from promoters and team management, your vaccine card (make a copy to leave at home just in case), etc. Keep all of this, and your passport, in your carry-on luggage, so you have it for immigration.”

“Give yourself lots of extra time at the airport too, arrive 3 hours before your flight just in case there are questions about your paperwork” the American counselled. “Only give the check-in agents and immigration officers what they ask for. Overloading them with the above paperwork won’t work in your favour and will just confuse them. Have it handy, but keep it locked up until they ask for a particular piece of evidence.”

“Closely examine Covid test details, so you don’t have an expired result at the time of border entry” Walker added. “Dressing professionally, so that you look like a business traveller because you are a business traveller, helps too.”

“My final piece of advice for travelling right now is to relax!” she smiled. “There will be questions and stressful moments, check-in and immigration being the most intense, so be cool and remember you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing!”

When it comes to flying with your bike Walker is a wealth of practical advice too: “Using a bike travel case is ideal. If you can’t, use extra padding in your cardboard box, and line the edges with extra cardboard. Tape up the handle holes in an ‘A-shape’ for easy, tear-free lifting, and reinforce all corners and bottoms.”

“Make sure to remove ALL CO2 cartridges and Li-Ion batteries (e-bike, LiveValve, electronic shifting and dropper post batteries)” she reiterated. “Remember no CO2 cartridges are allowed in planes at all and that the Li-Ion batteries must stay on you in the cabin.”

Once you’ve cleared customs and the airport, you’ll need to make your way to the race. Epic Series participants are well served by public transport options in Andorra and Switzerland, but in South Africa, when heading to the Absa Cape Epic, a hired car is arguably going to provide the most hassle-free travel experience. “Do your ground transportation research at home so you aren’t blindsided when you arrive, jet-lagged and exhausted” Walker says. “Traveling by train, or other mass public transportation, is extremely easy in many spots outside of the United States. Most of the signs are very similar and easy to decipher, even if you don’t know the local language.”

“Buy a ‘flexible’ ticket ahead of time and make sure you book a spot for your bike; they are often only allowed in certain quantities in specific cars” she elaborated. “At major hubs, you can almost always find someone who speaks English to point you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to ask!”

“If traveling by hired car, print out a copy of the local road signs and their meanings so you know what to watch out for. Be particularly cautious of speed limits, as traffic cameras will snap your photo if going even 1km over the speed limit!”

Saving the most vital advice for last Walker emphasised: “Check if your cell phone will work in the country you’re traveling to. Find out if you have to activate a roaming service or print out the directions, just in case.” Google will, for example, provide details of which platform your connecting trains depart from and at what time. Save this information while you’re connected to WiFi in the hotel or airport, so that you can access it when you’re off-line on the trains, if you don’t have international data coverage.

While travelling to the race is an exciting prospect, lugging your bike with you does complicate the process, even after taking Elizabeth Walker’s advice to heart. For any riders who wish to streamline the entire process, Ship To Cycle, the new door-to-door bike courier service, has the perfect offering.

Ship To Cycle’s objective is to offer a premium service that relieves you of the stress of transporting your bike to the airport and avoids further inconvenience of the transfer to the race venue or hotel. This makes it possible to organise your trip with greater flexibility, not only for sporting purposes, but also for tourism – a factor that all should consider when travelling the world for Epic Series events.

Whether you’re travelling with your bike or entrusting the team at Ship To Cycle with your steed, boxing your bike is part of the process. Scicon, partners of the Absa Cape Epic, have prepared this handy bike boxing video that you can view to assist in ensuring your bike is safely boxed and ready to shred when you land at your destination.

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