That was my first experience flying to a race with my gear and a bike (Scicon bike bag review HERE). I was very nervous if I could get everything there in one piece and not pay an arm and a leg to get it all there and back. This in addition to the normal jitters of racing a half Ironman.
TIPS for traveling
- Packing list. I didn't have time to make one (do as I say, not as I do), but I treated packing my gear as if I was packing the night before for a race. Laid it all out and packed it in the transition bag. I then laid it by the bike bag as I needed to distribute some items to the bike bag in order to get non-tri gear into the bag so I only had 3 bags. Bike bag less than 50 pounds. Transition bag. Small backpack for personal carry on.
- Padding. Add more padding. Then, add some more padding. Have you seen what happens to suitcase on airplanes? Imagine that being done to your carbon fiber triathlon bike. I especially was fond of using pipe insulation from the hardware store and Velcro strip roles that you can cut to whatever length you want. Using tape would have been a MESS, especially to take a part later. I covered every part of the frame I could find.
- Don't take your tools in carry ons. I didn't, but I could have easily spaced that out. I'm sure TSA would not hesitate to gank your pedal wrench and allen wrenches. They go through your checked luggage and they have no problem trashing your stuff.
- Count on TSA rifling through your bike bag. It's large, it sticks out like a sore thumb and you have some funky shaped metal objects in there. They may even take some stuff out and the best part is YOU WON'T KNOW WHAT THEY TOOK! You just get a post card in your bag. I guess that's what we have to accept this day and age and it's better they take anything that looks like a bomb than the alternative.
- Don't count on making it with your CO2 refills for your flat repair stash. Somehow they did not take mine, but others I ran in to were not so lucky.
- Deflate your bike tires. What happens to your tooth paste or shampoo in checked bags? Did they blow up? Think about your tires. They are already at 100psi or higher... BOOM. I deflated and left the valves open, no problems.
- Take your derailleur off. IT WILL GET BENT if you don't. Trust me. I took mine off and glad I did.
- Take your break pads off. On the rear of the frame the break pads are the furthest out and make a nice hook to grab stuff and bend the breaks and who knows what else.
- Get there in advance. I got there two days before the race and leading up to it I was collected and cool. No frantic running around and I was rested.
- Don't fly back the day of the event. I did and it sucked. There was no regaling my accomplishments or kicking back. It was PACK PACK PACK and GO GO GO to pack the bike, check the car in, get through security and get to the terminal. It was just as stressful as running the half ironman.
- Make sure rentals are big enough. I just barely fit my bike bag in the ford focus I had. JUST BARELY. rental car places get you with "you can get upgrade for $10 more now, but if you come back in afterwards it will be $20 more a day". Nice.
- Find someone you know in the area. You could score a free "hotel" and a tour guide that knows the area so you don't have to waste time and spend money being a total tourist.