With a lot of the A1 Coaching crew basking in the sunshine on their winter training camp, it’s safe to say I’m writing this blog with extreme jealousy. A winter training camp is an amazing experience. Getting away to the sun in the depth of the winter is an invaluable break from the freezing cold conditions back home and can reignite your drive to train for next season.
By the way, my name is Sean McKenna. I’m a professional cyclist for the An Post CRC cycling team. While Aaron is away, they’ve drafted in a cooler and all around better guy for the job. I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world the past few years to race my bike. Travelling abroad to ride your bike is undoubtedly one of the best experiences you can have in cycling, exploring new roads, witnessing amazing scenery and experiencing the silky smooth roads (in comparison to Irish roads).
However, there is one down side when it comes to riding your bike abroad, getting there. Travelling with a bike and all the other inconveniences that comes with it can be stressful. Having travelled abroad a countless number of times over the last few years, I have developed a few tips and tricks that I would like to share with you to make your cycling trip a bit less stressful.
- An expensive, hard shell bike box isn’t essential. Often the cheaper bags are the lightest meaning you can bring more with you without having to worry about weight limits. One feature I would recommend on your bike bag to have is wheels. Having trekked across Paris with a 30kg bike bag on my shoulder, I cannot stress enough how convenient wheels are on a bike bag.
- Ensure your name is written on your bag and sometimes even a picture of it can be a good idea as bike bags tend to be the first things that airlines leave out if the cargo hold is full. This will ensure your bike makes it to you as quick as possible if it is left behind and will not go missing.
- Have your bike running smooth and recently serviced. Taking the time to pack your bike properly will pay dividends. Bikes are easily damaged in transport and can lead to the first number of days of your trip being wasted. Ensure you take your pedals, rear derailleur and handlebars off to avoid damage during transport. Use foam tubing and spare clothes to protect your bike also.
- Ensure you pack all the tools you require to rebuild your bike and also pack essential spares that may be difficult to purchase abroad e.g derailleur hangers. Also ensure someone in your group brings a track pump. Avoid bringing Co2 cartridges as these can be banned by some airlines.
- Find out before travelling if your hotel has a washing machine available or one nearby. Otherwise prepare for the sink washing method.
- In terms of what to bring, the old saying “it’s better to be looking at it than for it” applies. Two sets of kit (Jersey, shorts, arm and leg warmers, long sleeve and different base layers) along with rain gear at a minimum should do the trick.
- One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to bring your cycling shoes in your hand luggage. As these are so personal i.e fit and cleat position they are almost impossible to replace if your luggage doesn’t arrive. Everything else can be borrowed or rented at your destination.
- One other thing I always bring attached to my hand luggage is my helmet. These are so delicate and easily cracked in a bike bag. I always bring it on the outside of my hand luggage.
Minimise the effects of travelling
Travelling can take its toll on the body. When you arrive you want to minimise the effects of travelling and be in good condition before you start racing or training.
- Minimise training on a travel day. Travelling is hard enough on the body. Don’t put the body under more stress by making it recover from a training session too. At a maximum do one hour to loosen out your legs and get some fresh air.
- Compression socks or tights are good for improving blood flow and keeping your legs fresh while travelling.
- Hydration is essential when travelling. Be sure to stay hydrated as the body often demands more liquid when travelling as you are often stuck in warm confined spaces.
- Avoiding illness is one of the most important parts of travelling. You are in contact with thousands of people and your immune system may already be low as you deal with the stress of travelling. Hand sanitiser and antibacterial mouth and nasal sprays will help avoid illness spoiling your trip.
- Finally, give yourself plenty of time. Hauling a bike bag around, checking in oversized luggage etc takes time. Get to the airport at least an hour and half before your flight.
When it comes to training on a foreign trip, avoid the urge to do six hours a day every day. Keep your training in line with what you have been doing. There is no point in training 10hrs a week at home and then doing 30hrs abroad. It will only lead to exhaustion. It will take you weeks to recover from the huge training load with minimal benefits.
Take the extra time off to give yourself a mental break from everything at home. Regain your motivation and relax so that when you return home you have a renewed drive to get training again.
If you haven’t been on a cycling trip abroad, put it on your bucket list !
That’s all folks, until next time.