How to prepare for a road bike cycling holiday

This article outlines how to prepare for a road bike cycling holiday and includes a handy checklist you can download. We undertook our first cycling holiday back in 2013 when we travelled from Australia to France for a month of cycling in the French Alps and the Pyrenees. Thankfully we had friends who had been on these sorts of trips before and were able to help us with what we should take, but we still learned a lot on that trip and on the many other trips we have been on since. In this article, we share our learned experiences on how to prepare for a road cycling holiday where you take your bike with you. Included is a checklist that you can download and use to get ready. The list not only includes the items you should take but also some of the tasks you need to do before you head off.

This article is intended for those heading off on a trip or holiday where you will be basing yourself in a location and undertaking day rides. If you are planning on a cycle touring or bike packing holiday where you will travel point to point on a daily basis we have a separate checklist and information which will be available shortly.

Our top 11 tips on how to prepare for a road cycling holiday

Here is our list of 11 things we think you need to do before you head off on your road cycling adventure. It will help ensure that your holiday goes as smoothly as possible and you don’t run into any problems that could have been avoided with some preparation upfront. The list is based on our own experience and the things we learned over the years of travelling with a bike.

Our focus here is on the things you need to pack and the jobs you need to do before you head off on your adventure. These tips do not cover getting your body and fitness ready for your holiday which will be the subject of a future article.

Bike travel bag with bike packed inside

1. Make sure your bike is serviced before you go

The last thing you want on your road cycling holiday is a mechanical problem with your bike, especially problems that could have been avoided had you serviced your bike before you left home. Whether you have your bike serviced by your local bike store or do it yourself make sure it is thoroughly checked and serviced well before you leave home. We also suggest that you complete any service at least a couple of weeks before you travel so that you have time to ride the bike and double-check everything is running smoothly post-service. Depending on where you are heading for your holiday you may have limited access to a bike shop and service staff.

2. Check the luggage allowances for bike travel cases on planes and trains

If your holiday involves catching planes or trains, make sure you check the luggage allowances for bike travel cases. The last thing you want is to be turned away from a flight or train service because your bike travel case is outside the allowable limits or find you are subject to large fees. Airlines have limits on both weight and dimensions, whereas trains generally have limits on dimensions only. While nearly every single airline will allow a bike to be checked in, the same cannot be said of trains so it is important to check them early.

3. Don’t leave packing to the last minute

Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to get everything together and ready for your trip. Typically the weeks leading up to a holiday are a mad rush around getting everything ready before you go. Set aside a day at least a week before you leave where you can get everything you need together and make sure you have everything you need. It also gives you time to make sure everything you want to bring fits into the travel cases you have available.

4. Practice packing your bike in its travel case

Following on from the previous tip, make sure you practice packing your bike in the travel case. It will take longer than you think the first time you do it. While we can get our bikes into our own travel cases within 30 minutes now, the first time we did it took over an hour by the time we worked out what needed to go where and what needed to be taken off the bike, and what could stay on. It is also an opportunity to work out how you will protect the frame and other components within the travel case which again takes time.

5. Practice packing all your luggage to ensure it fits and is within airline allowances

With the bike packed in the travel case, now make sure that you can fit all your other luggage in the bags that you have available. We have had to change the configuration of the bags we have taken a number of times once we tried getting everything packed. Again, if you are flying make sure the number of bags you propose to take is allowed by the airlines without attracting excess luggage fees. Avoid the temptation of overfilling your bike travel case with other luggage as it can make the case much heavier than it needs to be. Many airlines actually state that the bike travel case should only contain the bike, although ours have never been checked.

6. Weigh your luggage before you get to the airport

Knowing that your luggage is all within your allowances is great peace of mind when you get to the check-in counter at the airport. We always aim to be just under the airline’s limit which allows for any error in our scales compared to those used at the airport. This has always served us well and we have never encountered any problems at the airport. Excess baggage fees get very expensive if you are over the limit so it is important to stay within the limits. Giving yourself plenty of time to practice packing and weighing also allows you to purchase additional luggage allowance with some airlines which is much cheaper if done before the day you fly.

7. Measure seat height and distance between handlebars and seat nose

Depending on the model of the bike travel case you are using, you may need to remove or lower the seat or remove the handlebars. Our travel cases require us to lower the seat and remove the handlebars in order for the bike to fit. We know our seat height and seat distance from nose to handlebars which makes it nice and easy to have everything in exactly the same position it was before it went into the case.

8. Research your destination for weather and bike facilities

Make sure you know what the weather at your intended destination is likely to be as this can impact the gear you need to bring with you. There is no point in packing lots of clothes for cool weather if it is likely to be hot while you are there. Similarly, have a look to see if there are bike shops in the area should you have any problems with your bike while you are there. This can also help with decisions about what spares you might need to bring.

9. Ensure your bike is covered in your travel insurance

Taking some time to research travel insurance that covers your bike is important as well. We found that our contents insurance included our bikes overseas but only in transit and not while we were riding them. Some of the things we have come across when looking at insurance on our bikes include:

  • Limits on the type of riding being undertaken, for example, you are not covered if riding your bike in an event or race
  • Limits of coverage above a certain altitude above sea level. If you are planning a trip to the high mountains this one could impact you.
  • Limits on the age of the bikes that can be covered.
  • Limits on the value of the bikes that can be covered.

10. Consider your bike travel case when hiring a car at your destination

If you are hiring a car at your destination make sure that your bike travel case or cases will fit in the type of car that you are hiring. This can be a little tricky at times as you don’t necessarily get the model that was displayed. We have found that hatchback cars with the seats folded down work well as do station wagons and SUV’s. Consider also the passengers and other luggage you will need to accommodate.

11. Pack spares appropriate to the destination and length of the holiday

Whether you pack spares such as gear cables, brake pads, etc will really depend on where you are going and how long you plan on going. Our first tip is to get your bike serviced which is the best insurance against things going wrong with your bike on holiday. If we know that our destination has bike shops that are easily accessible we would not tend to bring spare parts other than tubes for the tires. However, if we were going somewhere with less access to bike shops we might be inclined to bring a few bits and pieces.

The checklist

We have put together a checklist of both items that you will need to consider bringing for your road bike cycling holiday and tasks that you need to carry out before you leave. The checklist is based on our own experience of travelling with a bike over the years and advice we have been given by other people. We do not expect that you will bring every single item on the list. Rather it is designed as a list of things that you can modify to your own requirements depending on the circumstances of your holiday. Click on the link below to download the list in Excel.

More bike travel information

We have a range of articles aimed at providing information and advice about travelling with a bike based on what we have learned over the years of travel we have undertaken.

  1. Bike box basics helping you select the best type – an article all about bike boxes designed to help make sure you source the right one for you.
  2. What you need to know about taking your bike on a plane – lots of helpful information about traveling with your bike on a plane based on our own experience. Make sure you are well prepared for your journey and know what to expect at the airport.
  3. Airline fees and charges for bikes – see our list of over 115 airlines and what each charge to bring your bike as luggage.
  4. Useful tips about using a cardboard bike box for air travel – lots of handy information about using a cardboard bike box for the first time including where to get one, how to prepare it, and how to pack your bike.
  5. Shipping a bike: learn how to get the best deal – you may decide that shipping your bike is a better option for you. Learn about how the whole process works and make sure you get the best deal in the process.