Travelling as an athlete: 5 tips to make your journey easier

Travelling as an athlete adds another dimension of complexity to your travel planning, especially if you’re travelling with a bicycle. Whether you’re a serious athlete who is travelling with your sport or simply a cycling enthusiast heading overseas with your bike, there are a few simple tips that can make your trip as hassle and stress-free as possible.

As an athlete and cyclist you want to arrive at your destination as rested as possible and with a bike that is fully intact and not missing any key essentials. Over my years of travelling, I have seen many a bike come off a flight in pieces or not arrive at all. Here are some of my suggestions to ensure you and your valuables arrive in one piece.


As with all domestic or overseas business trips or holidays, a lot of planning goes into establishing an itinerary. Be sure to consider your bike at all stages of your trip.

If you are a cyclist or triathlete, you will more than likely be travelling with a bike box. When travelling with a bike box it is important to organise everything from additional luggage to maxi-taxis to ensure your box will fit throughout your transfers. You also need to make sure that the dimensions are within each airline’s specifications or else you may find yourself without a bike. All these added expenses should be considered in your budget before finalising your travel expenses – there’s nothing worse than unexpected fees.

If your trip does not require you to use your own bike, it might be worthwhile investigating other options, such as hiring a bike at your destination. There are many local bike stores that accommodate this, however be warned that often hire bikes are lower-range bikes and shouldn’t be relied upon as a substitute for a race bike. With all this said, I believe that if you take the time to prepare for travel with a bike, then you shouldn’t run into any trouble.

Bike box

The cheaper option: If you do decide to take your bike with you, you will require a bike box. These come in all shapes and forms and can vary drastically in price. If you are on a very tight budget then you can simply go and pick up a ‘bike cardboard box’ from your local bike store.  However, this will require you to almost completely disassemble your bike in order to fit it into the box. It also will leave you slugging around a box with no wheels or handles through over crowded and sometimes enormous airports.

Practical option: The next cheapest option would be to purchase a soft case. These can vary in quality and price, though a good quality Scicon bike bag will usually be around $500 and can be purchased from most online or local bicycle retailers. This is the option that most pros will use as it is the most cost effective and saves on weight. Additionally, there is space to stuff extra clothes into the bag along with the bike which serves as extra luggage room as well as some extra padding for your bike.

The hard case option: I personally only use a hard case. If you have ever seen plane cargo being loaded, you will know that the baggage handlers are not exactly gentle with how they load the luggage. I have witnessed a number of bikes be returned in pieces even when protected by a bike bag and for this reason would and have only ever used a hard case.

The perks are that they will last a lifetime, and you will never have to worry about your bike being damaged and ruining your holiday or race plans. However, they do come at a cost. A quality hard case will retail at around $900 and also adds extra weight, which means less clothes and luggage or additional overweight fees. Weigh your bags and purchase extra luggage in advance if necessary!


Often it is difficult to know what to take with you in terms of tools. Generally if you are travelling to a race, there will be a bike mechanic or shop that you can visit at your destination. However, I would recommend that you always pack a few essentials including the following:

         A torque wrench, this will make building your bike up upon arrival much easier and ensure you do not over tighten and risk cracking carbon bars or seat posts etc.

         Spare tubes.

         Levers and a general repair kit.

          Bike multi tool and a pump – it is important to always take a pump no matter how large or small. There is nothing worse than arriving with a bike but no pump to inflate your tyres.

Airport and in-flight

Focus on comfort, hydration and rest. Travel in comfy clothes that are easily interchangeable between temperatures and conditions. I will usually travel with shorts as I am a very hot-blooded person and tend to be hot rather than cold. However, I will always pack a pair of pants in my carry-on in case I get cold during the flight or there is an unexpected temperature change at my destination. Additionally, shorts allow me to easily change in and out of my compression wear.

Compression – This seems to be very individual. I personally cannot travel on a flight over 3 hours without my compression socks, or I will have feet that look like marshmallows and the best cankles you have ever seen. Trial and error is the best way to work out what is best for you, though as a general rule, if travelling over 3 hours, wear compression socks or tights or at least take them with you.

Hydration – Hydration at any time is very important, however, during a flight you must be extra vigilant with your hydration. The dry air and nature of a long flight will be extremely dehydrating. You can fall asleep and before you know it 5 hours have passed and all you have had to drink is the small cup of water or juice that came with your inflight meal.

Take your own drink bottle and refill it at every opportunity you have. Note, use bottled water when traveling to foreign countries as even the smallest change in a water quality can drastically increase the chances of getting a stomach bug.

Also be sure to use an electrolyte to help replace those lost in sweat and reduce the risk of flushing your body’s salts and electrolytes out with the use of only water. Shotz nutrition produce an electrolyte tab which is sugar and calorie free, which is great for long flights. Try to stay away from drinks such as Gatorade inflight, as these contain large amounts of calories and sugar which will only make you gain extra kilos and crave more food.  

Lastly, stay away from sugar during flights! Sugar will always make you crave more sugar and more food which can make you forget to drink, and eat more than you need, leaving you feeling bloated, heavy and lethargic.

Recovering from a flight

If you have been on a long haul flight, readjusting your body clock needs to be your priority for the next week. Don’t just fall asleep when you feel like it, aim to get to bed within the new time zone pattern as if you were at home. A general rule of thumb for training post long flights is to have one recovery day per time zone crossed before beginning any hard training.


  1. Hard cases don’t last a lifetime. I travel with a bike every other week, and I’m on my third hard case. I’ve had wheels ripped off, and the case totally pushed in on one corner (takes some effort to do!) At least each time the bike inside has been completely undamaged. Whereas I’ve had a frame snapped in a soft case. Its a lot easier to claim a broken case with the airlines than a broken bike. However I would say that the new aero bikes with bars that are unable to be loosened at the stem will not go in a solid case…

  2. Hi IJ,
    Sorry to hear about your experiences with your case. You are very right, they do not last forever. As with everything there will always come a time that it will eventually fail no matter the quality.
    However, after 7 years of travel my case is still intact and working well so if I could recommend anything I’d say perhaps try a different brand of case?
    You also raise a very good point with regard to modern TT bikes. Most bikes to date will be able to loosen the bars and if not remove the stem entirely for travel. Although this can be a little tiresome, I’d say it is worth the hassle to ensure a safe bike.

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