Tips for Traveling with Your Mountain Bike

by Robb Sutton

Traveling with your bike can really open up the opportunities to ride new trails and see things you wouldn’t have otherwise. For those of us that travel a lot for work it also helps break up trips with something we like to do and and sure beats the hotel gym. However, traveling with your bike for non-biking specific adventures can prove to be a hassle and stressful at times. Here are some tips I use to make things a little bit easier with transport and trying out new trails.

Traveling with your bike

One of the greatest fears when traveling with your bike is keeping it secure. We all know bikes are not cheap these days so it is a real investment we have hanging off the back of our cars. There are also some other little headaches that can come along the way. Here is how I try to minimize that as much as possible.

Bring your bike in the hotel whenever possible – Especially in areas that are used to having mountain bikers, is is relatively easy to just bring your bike into your hotel room. You know exactly where it is and you’ll sleep better at night with you bike being the last thing you see at night.

Store your bike in your car – If you can’t bring your bike into the hotel (believe it or not some hotels don’t like mud in their lobby’s and rooms), lock your bike in your car. This can be easy with SUV’s but difficult with smaller cars and trucks. It also helps if you have tinted windows to keep onlookers from seeing what you have inside.

Redundant locking – If I can’t get it in the hotel room or my vehicle for some reason, I lock it up outside of the car but not in the same fashion that I would if I was just stopping to get something to eat. The cable locks included with racks (like the Kuat I am using currently) are great for opportunistic, “grab and go” thieves. If your bike is going to be out an secluded for awhile…there is more time to get a cable cutter and lift the bike right off. Here is what I do to secure a bike outside at night.

  • Run the regular cable through the frame and both wheels.
  • Use the heavy duty Kryptonite lock (The New York Fahgettaboudit Chain that actually carries a $5k bike insurance with it) through the main frame and then locked to the car or locked to the rack in a way it can’t be taken out. The reality is that if you have it through the frame…they won’t be able to get it out without cutting the frame itself.
  • Have the rack securely locked to the vehicle.
  • Park as close as you can get to the front door and under a light.
  • Bring all keys inside with you. Do not leave them locked in the vehicle.

One more thing to think about – Whenever possible, try to have your bike on the rear of your car instead of a roof rack. While roof racks are great for around town, they create a tremendous amount of drag and on longer drives that means your gas mileage will be affected more than if your bike is on the back. It also makes it a lot easier for drive throughs as well as more secure for locking if you are using a hitch mounted rack.

Locking your Mountain Bike

Planning your trip – Where to ride

When we aren’t planning our trips around riding but around some other activity like meetings, shows and other work related or family events, it takes a little bit more planning to find places to ride. Here is how I usually lay everything out on my trips.

What is near or in route to where you are headed? – My trips are always planned in routes based on where I have to be that week. I usually will pull up Google Maps and see what is either in route or close to each destination. A simple “mountain bike trails near” usually works really well. Another great avenue is asking your friends on Facebook for recommendations or going to the mountain biking organization’s website for the state or local area.

Visit a bike shop that is close by – Almost every trail has a bike shop that is close by. They will have any and all information you need regarding that trail. What should you try first? Which areas better suit the kinds of trail you like to ride? Anything you need to watch out for or where you should park? All of this is incredibly valuable information that is often very difficult to find online. You can also pick up a map of the trails here if they are available.

Check Strava – No this is not to set a bar on the segments you need to try to take. One of the byproducts of the wide adoption of Strava by riders is that almost every trail on the planet is now mapped. This will help you when you are out on the trail alone from getting lost.

Must have items – 99% of the time when I am riding during travel I am riding alone. That makes it so that I am in an unfamiliar place, with people that don’t know me and often times during non peak riding hours for the trail. Here are some items you have to have with you.

  • ID Bracelet – If you get knocked out by a tree, these bracelets will tell other riders/first responders who you are, who to contact and how to best take care  of you
  • Phone (fully charged)
  • Extra water – This is important. You might not need much on your local trails but you are now somewhere you don’t know as well. Extra is always better.
  • Someone that knows where you are – I always text my wife before I start and when I finish riding.
  • Tubes, tools and anything else you need in case of a breakdown – Since you are riding in off peak hours, you might not have the luxury of someone just riding by. Have everything with you.

I have had the oppotunity to ride some new trails in places I would never travel to for riding by bringing my bike with me on trips. It’s extra mileage and really breaks up trips that would be boring otherwise. By keeping a few things in mind, you can really reduce the stress of traveling with your bike and get to ride some incredible trails.

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