You’re about to purchase your travel case, and you’re ready to set off on roads unknown. Do you just throw your bike into the case and drop it off at the airline ticket counter? Do you break down the bike into more pieces than it originally arrived at the bike shop? Let’s go through the process of packing and travelling with (or shipping) your bike.
The cost of flying with your bike varies wildly from “This is large and awkward, so I’m going to charge you more,” to “This is the most lethal item on the face of the planet and I’m going to charge you so much you’ll never want to fly with it again.”
From what I can tell, most airlines will count the bike as your first checked back (or second, if you’re checking one already) regardless of size, though only a couple explicitly state this. They all require a hard or soft bike case, and soft cases are considered “fragile” (i.e. “we’re going to charge you a @#$%load more, even if we break it”). Also, if your bike case is smaller than 62 linear inches (L+H+W) and less than 50 lbs (total), then most airlines treat this as a regular checked bag.
As an example, I use the Trico Iron Case, which on it’s own weighs 31 lbs (~55-60 packed) and is ~88 linear inches.
I remember when I had a bike in college. It was… not a good bike. It was old, but it usually worked. It did have a bad habit locking up the front brake whenever I used it, but hey, what bike doesn’t? Maintenance just wasn’t something I thought about. The bike just… worked. Even after I bought my first real road bike (which I barely rode for the first 9 years I owned it), the only thing that I thought about wearing down were the tires (not that I ever came close to wearing them down) and the inner-tubes when I had flats.
It wasn’t until I started really riding a few years ago that I thought, “Hey, you know, this bike isn’t working very well anymore. Maybe there’s something I should do about it?” Thus began my road to enlightenment – and the subsequent lightening of my wallet. The first time I took my bike in for maintenance and heard what they recommended, it went a little like this:
- New handlebar tape: Yeah, that’s pretty thrashed.
- New tires: Well, I guess dry rot is a bad thing for rubber.
- New Chain: Huh… that wears down?
- New Cassette: Wait, what? That’s not supposed to come off.
- New Cables: But, um… they’re still attached. I need new ones?
- Rims are cracked: But they’re mostly round and still work right?
Thanks to Bicycles of Tulsa, I was able to try out two sets of wheels that gave me insight into the overlapping worlds of aerodynamics, weight, and cost (in some cases stupidly-high costs). First, I’ll go into the “why” of a wheel upgrade followed by factors to consider. Then I’ll review the two wheels I tested (use these links to jump straight to the reviews): the Giant P-SLR1 Aero and HED Ardennes SL.
Why upgrade wheels?
Simple: other than the frame, the wheels are the largest component of the bike. Just take a step back and look: they’re big. They almost match the size of your frame. Along with the frame, the wheels account for the majority of the ride characteristics of a bike – and in some ways, even moreso than the frame itself. Consequently, the two most expensive pieces of a bike? The frame and the wheels.
Signaling at night isn’t useful if people can’t see what you’re signaling.
Usage Time/Distance: 5 months (and lots of night rides)
Purchased From: Amazon
- Reflective material is highly visible both day and night
- Light weight and compacts well
- Breathable material
- Fits over both cycling and winter gloves
- Reflective panels are almost too large for the size of the fingers/palm (they can get int he way)
- Panels are sewn and glued on, but the glue around the edges doesn’t really hold
- Cheap feel (but what do you want for $15?).
Some people don’t like shoving their jersey pockets full of tubes, CO2 cartridges, and tools. I am one of those people.
Usage Time/Distance: Approx. 6 mo. / 2,000 miles
Purchased From: Amazon (six color options)
- Super-secure straps with added buckle at the end (just in case the hook-and-loops fail)
- Seat-post strap is padded on both sides to prevent scratching the post or yourself
- Internal zippered pocket and side-pouch
- Virtually no sway
- Holds a lot without being overly large
- The reflective strip on the back panel is sewn in the middle of the panel, making tail light positioning awkward
A good light goes a long way to extending your ride, and keeping you alive.
Usage Time/Distance: Approx. 2+ years
Purchased From: Amazon
- One-piece design (no external battery)
- Quick USB recharge (700 takes longer)
- Very light (no pun intended); weighs about 150-200g (the 700 weighs 240g)
- Great visibility
- Good battery life
- Fits in a jersey pocket
- Some (350) don’t come with helmet strap (250 did, 350 did not, 700 does)
- Heats up if you’re stationary or in hot weather
If you want to build something great, you gotta start from the ground up.
Usage Time/Distance: approx. 4,000 miles (a little over a year)
Purchased From: Tom’s Bicycles
- Solid construction
- Good ventilation
- Quick drying
- Low entry price (and associated SPD-style pedals are relatively cheap too)
- Heavy (very heavy compared to carbon fiber-base shoes)
- Laces and velcro strap combo are slow to put on (not good for our triathlete brethren)
- Only SPD-compatible
You’ve heard it over and over: there’s no substitute for the road. But indoor training doesn’t need to be a substitute. It can be a valuable add-on to your outdoor training.
Usage Time/Distance: approx. 2 years, 1-4 times per week.
Purchased From: Amazon.com
- Sturdy, quality construction.
- Bike is very stable when mounted.
- Relatively low noise level (in comparison to wind and magnetic trainers).
- Large flywheel and progressive resistance provides excellent road-like feel and great resistance range.
- Heavy construction makes this unit less portable than lighter-weight units.
- Can take a bit to properly position the locking mechanism width to hold your bike in place.
- Requires a round hub skewer cap (provided with the trainer), but this means you’ll probably have to switch out your rear skewer.
You can have a $50 blue-light special all the way up to a $15k ultimate racer, but no matter what you ride, the tires are where the rubber literally meets the road.
Usage Time/Distance: approx. 1,500 miles on the first set, 3,100 miles on the second set before being replaced
Purchased From: Bicycles of Tulsa
Size: 700 x 25C
- Excellent road feel
- Handling on both dry and wet roads is good
- High TPI (threads-per-inch) count and wide size (25C) add to comfort and handling
- Decent puncture resistance
- Several small gouges/breaks that could have lead to failure (but this may be true of other tires)
- Tight fitting; rather hard to put on / take off at first (after about 1,000 miles, they come on/off like any other tire)
- Front/Rear specific means places can charge different prices for each (though I haven’t seen this much), and you have to buy the right one