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Different kinds of bike touring trips
Bike touring means travelling using your bike as your main mode of transport. Naturally, there are many ways to do this depending on the distance, type of bikes and amount of luggage you are willing to carry. Generally speaking you can distinguish between two basic types of bike touring:
- Supported touring trips: These are mostly organized by travel/holiday agencies, which usually take care of most of the trip planning for you. Normally your luggage is carried for you in a car and you concentrate only on covering the distance planned for the day. Accommodation is usually booked for you at every leg of the route. In some places even rental bikes are provided, so all you have to do is show up and do the distance. This mode of touring has its followers, although we are not very keen on it.
- Self-supported touring: As the name implies, this type of bike touring is done independently and without any external assistance. As with most things in life, there are different levels and varieties of self support, ranging from just carrying a small amount of lugagge and sleeping in hotels/B&Bs and such (sometimes called credit-card touring) to full blown self supported trips where you bring everyhing you need to sleep and eat with you on the bike.
Packing your bike
Chances are that to get to the start of your route you will need to travel by plane, bus, train, etc… This means that you will need to unassemble and to pack your bike. There are two options for this: buy a bike case/luggage or make your own with carton boxes and plastic bags. We have tried both, and each has its benefits and drawbacks, although now we tend to use carton boxes for the reasons outlined below.
Using bike luggage
You can buy purposely designed luggage to carry your bike. These come in either hard case or soft bag versions. Hard case luggage, like the one pictured above, protects your bike better but are more expensive. Soft padded bags, like this one are lighter and cheaper, but obviously your bike is more exposed.
We have used bike luggage in the past and although it protects the bike alright, we found it to be an inconvenience. You obviously cannot take it with you on the trip, so unless you are doing a circular route you will have to arrange to ship the luggage from your starting point to the end of your route. We have also found that since it looks more like normal luggage, it tends to be treated worse by the luggage handling staff at airports. We have two Revolution transit hard cases (pictured above) and over the years the handles, latches and wheels have been broken during transit. Nowadays we just use them to store the bikes at home.
Using carton boxes and bags
Our preferred solution is to use bike carton boxes for our outward journey and plastic bags when coming back. You can get bike carton boxes for free from any bike shop.
To pack the bike on your way out, take out the wheels and flatten the handlebar and pack each component inside the carton box with plenty of bubble wrap. So far we haven’t had any damage in our bikes packing them this way. Upon arrival to your starting point, assemble the bike and throw away the carton boxes. Done!
We also carry these plastic bags for our return journey. They are very light so you can take them with you on your trip. The idea is that once we arrive to our destination, we will try to find a bike shop or a 2 wheel hoverboard ebay shop to get some carton boxes to pack our bikes. If we can’t find any we just pack the bikes in these plastic bags, align the handlebar with the rest of the frame and off they go! Incredibly enough, bikes packed this way seem to survive quite well the journey; maybe because it’s clear there’s a bike inside the luggage handling staff at airports handle them with more care – who knows. Airlines seem to be OK with this way of packing a bike, but you should make sure beforehand. In any case we only use this method on our return journeys, since we are not as worried with getting the bikes damaged as in our outward journey.