2. Racing Abroad: The Traveling

This is the second in the series of four blog articles on traveling to an International World Championship event or abroad to any other event. This article follows on from 1. An Introduction.

This article discusses the elements you should aim to factor in to allow yourself to race to the best of your ability without allowing events outside of your control (on race day) to jeopardise your result.

When you should travel

These are the four things that you should consider when you decide on when you should travel to an event.

   1)  Time zone difference
a.     How many hours difference is there between the home and destination locations? If the time difference is greater than 5 hours then this is likely to have an effect on how well you can perform if you don’t get the timings of travel right. We would recommend that you follow one of these two suggestions. Firstly a general recommendation is one day per hour of time difference allowance to let your body adjust to the time zone before a race. If this is not possible then fly out to arrive the day before the event takes place. SO that the short period of time between landing and the race is not enough for the body to be affected by jet lag and change in time zones.
b.    In terms of the effects of jet lag and being ready to race, you need to think about how many hours/days it will take you to get over it. This is an area where you can use past experience of the travelling you have done. To reduce jet lag you may want to speak with you GP about any supplements or medication such as sleeping pills which may help reduce the effects of jet lag however, make sure you check WADA list of banned substances before taking anything. 

    2)  Time to travel to race destination
a.  Remember to consider flight time and time difference between your location and the time at your destination. You need to think about the amount of time that this ‘eats’ into the days leading up to the race.
b.    Sufficient hydration and correct nutrition is vital in the lead up to your race and therefore the use of hydration/salt tablets and not consuming alcohol on your flights is a general rule of thumb if you want to arrive in the best possible form. This is particularly important if it takes you 8-24 hours to reach your destination. It is also worth travelling with your own nutrition snacks etc so that you know that you can consume the foods you need.  Speaking to a nutritionist before you travel is always a good option if you want the expertise.

    3) From past experience how long does it take you to adjust to a new environment
a.    This is an important area which most people neglect or fail to think about and will be discussed in more depth in the second article in this series, but considering the length of time that it might take you to settle into your new environment is of great importance if you are looking to perform well.

    4) What is the change in climate like
a.     Altitude – If you are competing in a location where you are going to have to deal with an altitude difference to that which you are used to then you may need to travel a 7-10 days earlier than you had planned to allow for this adjustment.
b.    Temperature/climate – Is the country hotter, cooler, more humid, has a drier heat prone to high winds, a rainy climate to that which you are used to competing in? If there is a difference, it can take between 3-14 days to feel comfortable racing in those conditions

Choosing your air carrier

If you are taking your bike away with you then considering your air carrier carefully before making your flight booking is essential. There are too many tales of air carriers refusing to take bike boxes, charging extortionate fees and just generally appearing to ‘attack’ athletes with bikes at all angles. However, there are also companies out there such as British Airways and EasyJet that actually provide very satisfactory carriage allowances for bike boxes so choose carefully.

Things to consider;
  •           - Bike Box size restrictions
  •           - Bike Luggage weight restrictions
  •           - Extra cost for bike carriage
  •           - Charges for being overweight

Most importantly, physically ring the air carrier and confirm with them that you bike has been booked on for both the outbound and return leg of your journey and then get that in writing.

How to pack a bike and rebuild it

We would recommend a hard case box rather than a bike bag for added security from your bike being damaged. If you have traveled with the bike box before, make sure that you remove all flight ticket barcodes from it - the last thing you want is for it to end up in a different location to you!

If you have a bike stand then the process of breaking down and rebuilding your bike is slightly easier but if not then the best thing to do is to take the pedals and seat post off, undo the headset before taking the wheels off. Then place the bike in the box to take the derailleur off and finish off by putting the wheels in the bike box last. For rebuild, reverse this process. Remember that if you have a carbon headset and/or seat post you should use a torque wrench to ensure that you do not over tighten it and crack or crush any vital components.

Step 1: Place bike on bike stand and remove the wheels. Deflate the tyres completely, take off one end of the skewer and set the wheels into the box. Top tip: use different skewers to those which you are going to race with in case they get damaged in transit.

Step 2: Take the seat post off and place to the side. An Allen key is the common tool used to do this and you will need to turn it left to loose and right to tighten.

Step 3: Undo the headset and take off the main frame of the bike. By taking the headset off at this place rather than from the front of the headset you will not have to worry about your bike fit not being the same as it was before as you won’t alter anything. Be careful to not put too much strain on the brake and gear cables when removing the head set.

Step 4: Take your pedals off usually an Allen key or wrench will do the trick depending on your model/brand of pedal. Remember to turn the Allen key/wrench the opposite way to that which you would pedal the stroke when riding. (Top tip: when the Allen key/wrench is in place and pointing upwards, to loosen the pedal, push the Allen key/wrench towards the back of the bike. This works for both pedals) Then take the derailleur off to avoid any undue strain being placed on it during travel.

Step 5: Place the bike into the box chainset face down in the box. Use bubble wrap or other packaging to ensure that parts of the bike that have been detached do not rub against other parts of the bike.

Step 6: Put some final protective wrapping in where needed, then close the box and you are ready to go!

What not to pack in your bike box

Bike boxes are fantastic, they are large and you can pack a lot of stuff into them if you have the weight allowance to do so. One thing to not pack in your bike box however, are CO2 canisters. Make sure you remove these as airport security often check bike boxes for these. In some countries within Europe they allow you to take CO2 cartridges in your hand luggage whilst in other countries they must be in your hold luggage or, you are not allowed to carry them at all. For the avoidance of doubt, don’t travel with CO2 cartridges and just buy them at the expo or local bike shop at your destination.

Packing your race essentials

Ever been that person who ends up wearing the same shorts and t-shirt for the entirety of your trip whilst airport customs try to locate your bag? Not exactly the situation you would ever want but particularly not before a race so save yourself the worry and don’t go packing your race essentials in your hold luggage. If you can, pack the following in your hand luggage;
    • - Race day clothing
    • - Helmet
    • - Race belt
    • - Goggles
    • - Nutrition
    • - Trainers
    • - Bike shoes
    • - Wetsuit/swimskin
    • - Sunglasses
    • - Anything personal to you that you cannot easily find on location where size/comfort matters.

      That is it, all set and ready to go now!

      Look out for the next article in this series on 'Racing Abroad, the details'.