The pleasure of traveling by bike is one of the great joys in life. The wind in your hair, the strain in the muscles and the pure satisfaction of self-propulsion as you traverse distances that are impossibly far on foot. No queues, no smelly random person in the seat next to you, no virus-filled air as you cram into a metal box. The titillation felt when an outsider stares wide-eyed as you recount the 100 km traveled before breakfast. Traveling by bike is beautiful, simple and relieves the stress found elsewhere in our lives. With a reported 133 million bicycles manufactured last year alone, the travel industry has reacted making it a breeze to move around with your bike, right?
Traveling “with” a bike is a somewhat complicated story. Especially when the bike in question is a Carbon masterpiece that you have named and treat better than some members of the family. It can be like traveling with an antique vase except with the bike it can actually damage itself if not properly placed. Sometimes it feels as though the bike has a self-harm problem verging on suicidal tendencies. This is made worse by the often complicated laws and rules applied to transporting what is essentially a large piece of luggage just because it has wheels.
As expats, we travel internationally more frequently than most people so have to perfect our bike packing skills to account for this. I see individuals daily whose bike has more miles in the air than on the ground! Packing is an art form which can have expensive and complicated ramifications if completed badly. We cyclists carefully insert the bike into specific cases wrapping each component with the same love and care afforded to fine china. Airlines have carefully written new laws (to remove all responsibility for their actions) when dealing with your bike so care must be taken to allow the package to survive a direct missile strike if necessary.
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On my recent trip to the UK, I enjoyed the great freedom of moving everywhere by bicycle. On my own time, I could travel freely and quickly between towns with relative ease and filled with enjoyment. Until that is, I tried to board a train for a further destination. The enjoyment quickly drained as I was forced to miss countless empty trains as I waited for one whose space had been pre-booked before the train had left the starting point 100 miles away. The ensuing argument with rail staff over the new rules associated with moving such a dangerous piece of machinery leads me down a dark path, one filled with tiny wheels and folding frames.
Are the stresses of traveling “with” bike counteracted by the joy of traveling on a bike? This is a personal question but I for one am seriously considering buying a bike in every country just in case.