Kipp's Five Tips

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Traveling with your Mountain Bike

Pack Light

Your bike is a large and expensive item to travel anywhere with, especially in a foreign country.  Add in a bicycle bag and you have quite the amount of gear to manage.  When traveling to other countries for an extended amount of time I’ve found that you have to be able to move everything at once, under your own power, in order to make transportation easier.  It will end up being cheaper and less of an ordeal during your travels.  One duffle/suitcase paired with a backpack for your gear should be the max amount of luggage.  It will suck at times when you have to haul your bike and gear at once, but at least it will always be within your proximity.  

Packing the right amount of gear to cover riding and casual clothes is a difficult task.  It’s easy to overpack and have clothes that you’ll rarely wear.  Personally, I try to find shorts and t-shirts that can perform double duty as riding and casual clothes.  Bike clothing is great for traveling since it is easy to wash and dries fast.   Aim to pack 5 days worth of socks and underwear, outerwear you only need 3-4 days worth.  Underwear and socks need to be replaced on a daily basis compared to outerwear.  I always buy a couple t-shirts where ever I visit so I usually only pack a shirt or two alongside a couple flannels.  Speaking of layers, it is important to layer appropriately.  One light long-sleeved shirt (that can act as a riding or base layer), two flannels (one for riding, other for the evening time), one light puffy jacket, and one rain jacket is my line up for “heavy” layers.  This covers me for colder temps and any inclement weather.  More importantly I can stack the layers all on top of each other if I really need to.  Rain jacket on top of the down jacket, down jacket on top of flannel, flannel on top of long sleeve.  No article of clothing unused.

Get creative.  I’ll pack my main luggage bag in my bike bag if I’m heading somewhere but don’t need to pack my bike.  Invest in a convertible luggage bag, their versatility is worth it if you think you’ll be traveling a lot.  The option to roll your bag or carry it as a back pack allows adaptability to where you may be traveling next.  Stuff sacks are a great way to consolidate your clothes while keeping them organized.  My last tip on packing light is to roll your clothes, they pack much more efficiently this way.

Flying with your bike

If you’re flying with your bike a lot, invest in a bike bag.  They perform their job amicable and if it is your only checked bag, you can pack a good amount of gear in them as well.  This said, a cardboard box does a pretty good job while being a heck of a lot cheaper and disposable.  A valid option for someone traveling for an extended amount of time and doesn’t want to deal with being responsible for a bike bag.  If you can find a bike shop, you can most likely snag a cardboard bike box when it is time to pack it back up.  Either option you go with to pack your bike, please just take your disc brake rotors off the wheels so they don’t get damaged in travel.

Check your airline’s website for information on the rules, regulations and costs for flying with your bike.  You’d be surprised how inconsistent pricing can be depending on your bag’s dimensions, the mood of the airline clerk, or where you’re traveling too.  Write or print out a copy of their baggage fees in case they try to over charge you.  Or keep cool when they charge you less or nothing at all.

Hire a good local guide

Yea we are a guiding service I know, but trust me it is worth it.  Finding good reputable guides can make all the difference from riding dirt roads to awesome single track.  The mountain bike community is world wide but we are a small core group of people.  All in search of awesome trails, a good local guide will recognize this and hopefully deliver the goods.  It’s no joke, a 6-pack of beer or buying lunch for your guide(s) can go a long way in securing a spot for tomorrow’s ride.  A 6-pack after the second day will make sure your guides/new friends save you a spot on the shuttle rig when they go rip their favorite trails.

Heavy duty tires

Personally, I hate flat tires.  Especially when I’m on vacation.  Do yourself a favor and go for heavier duty tires when traveling and riding somewhere new.  They’ll cover your ass when you take the wrong line down new trails.  Which means you can ride more during your trip without worrying about your tires getting ruined.  I’ve also started using a tire insert in my rear tire to further protect my tire and rim. 

Spare Parts

While there is access to bike shops almost world-wide, it does not mean they have much in terms of inventory.  Due to how many parts Shimano makes, at different price points, you will have better luck finding Shimano parts in foreign countries compared to Sram.  Having a few critical spare parts can be the difference between salvaging your trip to the end of your ride trip.  Throughout my years of traveling my spare parts list has grown quite considerable.  Parts are going to break when you are riding technical trails in new areas, having some key spare parts will hopefully keep you out on the trails.

While this list definitely does not apply to everyone, it is my list that has evolved through my years of travels and personal experiences of breaking my bike.

My Spare Parts List:

  • 3-5 tubes.  Total count depends on the duration of the trip and the terrain we are riding.

  • 2 derailleur hangers - At least have to have one, why not make it two?

  • 3 sets (6 pairs) of brake pads - When riding down big mountains for consecutive days, you’re going to burn some pads.

  • 1 spare derailleur - These are located in a pretty vulnerable spot, best to have a spare.

  • 1 spare shifter - Yea I snapped a shifter off once, now I pack one of these as well.

  • 4 shifter cables and a bikes length of cable housing - Most likely need one for your shifting and one for your dropper post.  They pack small so it’s easy to bring spares.

  • Spare tire - When traveling longer than a couple weeks a spare tire is needed.  Tires are expensive.  They may be slightly harder to pack but at least you have the tire you want and need if the time comes.

  • Chain links and master links - A few master links is a no brainer but a few spare full links is important too.  This way you can get your chain back to length if you have to shorten it out on the trail.

  • Spare rear axle.  Believe it or not 3 of us snapped our rear axles in one weekend riding down in Mexico.  In my case I had to have a machine shop down there make me one.  We named it the Mexle.

  • Couple spare spokes – Extremely hard part to find in another country, a couple of these can ensure your wheel stay’s round for the remainder of trip.

  • Crank arms - This is unnecessary for most people but I’ve been cursed with crank issues when riding in South America.  3 destroyed cranksets is my total count so far, luckily I was able to find new ones every time.

  • Pedals and rebuild kit - Spare pedals also may be unnecessary for most people, but a pedal rebuild kit is small and easy to pack if you’ve ever had pedal issues before.

  • Hydraulic brake line fittings - Haven’t pulled a brake line out yet, but if you do you’ll need a spare fitting to re-connect the hose.  They’re tiny, an easy item to throw in the parts bag.

  • Freehub/Rear hub Parts - Another part that may be unnecessary for most people, but freehub pawls/star ratchets are small and you won’t be able to source them on your travels very easily if your hub blows up.

  • Dropper post lever part – My Wolf Tooth lever has a part, in case of a crash, that will break before the actual lever snaps or bend.  It is a small cheap plastic piece that is easy to replace.

  • Tubeless valve and valve cores.  Another small part to overlook but critical nonetheless.

  • Spare bolts.  Only need a small handful of these guys.  An M4, M5 and M6 bolts can cover everything from a pivot, stem or water bottle cage bolt if one happens to jiggle out of your bike.  Cleat bolts and rotor bolts should also be in the pile.

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Jeremy Kipp