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what to take on a cycling holiday

Little Boxes

By in Cycling challenge, Mountain Biking, Sports & Fitness Comments Off on Little Boxes

As our programme grows we find ourselves visiting more and more new places; in 2016 we will take people cycling in over 20 countries.  Many of these trips start or end at a foreign airport and the topic of how best to transport one’s bike is a contentious one. Hard sided cases provide great protection but:

  1. They are expensive
  2. Considerable dismantling of the bike is required
  3. They are very bulky to haul in the support vehicle during the trip

Regrettably, for reason 3 above, we cannot accept hard cases on most of our trips.

Soft bike bags address most of the above problems but the protection they afford is poor.  The manufacturers response to this now seems to be the fitting of an internal cage, rendering them as bulky and unacceptable as hard cases.

The bike you purchased was almost certainly manufactured in the Far East, stacked 10 high in a container, hauled by truck to a port, loaded onto a ship, unloaded at the other end and trucked to a distributor.  From there it was removed from the container and placed in a warehouse to later be loaded onto another tuck and delivered to your Local Bike Shop.  This was all achieved using nothing more than a cardboard box and a bit of careful packing! 

Not least because I am a notorious ‘tightwad’, I am a big fan of the humble cardboard bike box to protect my pride and joy when travelling.  The key to the whole thing is the ‘careful packing’, which finally brings me to my point.  I am shortly off on a cycling adventure (more in the next blog) and I thought it might be worth sharing with you the process of converting my vulnerable and fragile collection of exotic metals into an airline proof parcel.

Step 1:  Select Your Box

Bike shops are usually delighted to give away boxes – they have loads and would otherwise have to pay for them to be disposed of.  Pop in a couple of weeks before the trip and ask them to put a suitable one aside.  If you are feeling generous slip them fiver, it is a good long-term investment.

The crucial trick is to get the optimum size and the most common mistake is to assume that bigger is better.  The BEST box is one that is JUST big enough to contain the bike when collapsed as described below.  Your bike will fit so snugly that it shouldn’t require any packing materials at all!  If necessary do a trial pack as described, measure the result and take these measurements with you to the shop.

Step 2:  Remove The Sticky Outy Bits 

If you use mudguards remove the front one (the rear should be OK) and remove any racks (you may find there is room for the rack to remain, in which case your box is probably bigger than it needs to be!).  Where possible return the removed bolts and washers to their threaded holes – you won’t lose them and you will know what goes where.

Also remove the pedals and the front wheel.  Take a moment to apply a little grease to the pedal threads – it will make removing them at the end of the trip much easier.


Take the skewer out of the front wheel and make a bag of the pedals, skewer and any other left-over bits.  Tie this bag to the crossbar.

Remove the saddle/seatpost/saddle bag as one unit.  Re-tighten the seatpost clamp so it doesn’t fall off.

NOTE:  There is absolutely no real reason to let air out of the tyres.  Most airlines now know this but some still ask.  I have found that the simplest thing is to leave them inflated and just lie when asked about it!

Step 3: Pack The Main Bit

As well as the box, your Local Bike Shop may be able to give you the bits of plastic that the manufacturer uses for shipping.  There is a plastic bar that sits in the front fork drop outs and a plastic gizmo that sits on the end of the rear skewer to protect the derailleur.  These are not essential – I never use them and have never had a problem.  

Put the bike in bottom gear (little ring front, bike cog back).  This pulls all the vulnerable bits in close to the frame.  Remove the handlebars and stem as one piece (this preserves the position of the bars on the stem):  undo the bolt/cap on the top of the fork steerer tube, loosen the bolts that clamp the stem to the steerer and pull the stem upwards. Once removed replace the bolt/cap in the top of the steerer.

Turn the forks through 90 degrees.

Suspend the handlebars from the cross bar – this is the only tricky part, see the picture.  Depending on the type of bars and frame size the best position may vary.  Usually this can be done so that the only parts in contact with the frame are those wrapped in handlebar tape but if you are worried wrap a bit of old towel round the frame first.


Pick the bike up with one hand, holding the handlebars in position with the other.  Hold the box open with a third hand….or get someone to help.

The whole thing should drop in neatly and snugly.

Step 4:  Pack The Leftover Bits

The front wheel should fit down one side – you may need to experiment with whether the handlebar hangs on the left or right and exactly where the crank arms rest to create the optimum space.

There should a nice space somewhere for the saddle/seatpost combo.  You may want to use a little bubblewrap to keep is secure and protect the frame.

Mudguard can usually be placed around the front wheel.

There should be enough space to tuck in the rack (often just sitting on the rear wheel) and, with a bit of creativity, you will probably still find room for your helmet and cycling shoes.

Step 5: Seal

Packing tape does a good job.  Be careful not to tape over the handholds that are usually cut into the sides and end of the box.  If you are a ‘belt and braces’ sort of person add a couple of luggage straps.  A useful by product of doing this is that you can attach a shoulder strap to them giving you a means of hauling everything to check-in.


I cannot guarantee that a bike packed this way will emerge unscathed but you have given it the best possible chance. 

What to pack for a cycling holiday in the UK

By in Road Cycling Holidays Comments Off on What to pack for a cycling holiday in the UK

So, you’ve signed up to one of our tours, paid the deposit and are already lusting after the English/Scottish/Irish breakfasts promised to you every morning (or is that just me…?), now you perhaps find yourself wondering what happens next. Well, whether you’re a seasoned rider or someone looking to tackle a new challenge, you need to consider what you are going to take with you on your cycling holiday in the UK. Here are just a few things to consider:


It will come as no surprise to you to see that ‘weather’ is at the top of our list of considerations for UK tours. Our infamous and unpredictable weather is going to play a big part in your trip, and so it should also form a significant part of your kit list.

The UK has many quite country lanes to cycle

Depending on the time of year that you’ll be riding, you’ll need to pack a range of clothing that will enable you to ride comfortably and enjoy your holiday. Despite the UK’s bad reputation for poor weather, it is not uncommon to experience long periods of hot, dry weather. In these situations it is imperative you have a supply of light clothing available to you. You’ll also want to have sunglasses and sun block handy.

However, you may also experience the characteristically wet weather (sometimes in the same day as glorious sunshine!) and for these occasions, you need to be well equipped with clothing that will keep you warm and dry. For those of you who have opted for the UK Coast to Coast tour that will take you through the notoriously wet Wales, you’ll particularly want to take note!

Many of our tours will leave you riding for long periods of time in very exposed areas so pack a supply of waterproof and windproof clothing. Due to this exposure, it is advisable to carry additional clothing with you.

First aid (for you and your bike)

The need for first aid and a bike tool kit will vary according to the level of support provided on your holiday. Fully supported tours are accompanied by a support vehicle, containing a comprehensive tool kit, spare parts and a first aid kit.

However, the support vehicle doesn’t follow closely behind the group and it is still advisable to equip yourself with a basic first aid kit and tool kit.

If you are riding an independent route, then your level of supplies will naturally be much higher. Be sure to pack yourself spare parts, tools and a first aid kit.

Unsure about what is included in your holiday package? Take a look at the ‘What’s Included’ tab on your tour page or get in touch.

Transporting your bike

Depending on how you plan to reach the start of your holiday, you will need to ensure that you pack your bike to meet with airline, or train company’s guidelines. Bikes should be packed securely in a box or bag and you can expect to have to remove pedals.

For an additional fee, we can save you the hassle of transporting you bike and deliver it to the starting point of your trip. All you need to do it pack up your bike and we’ll sort the rest. At the end of your holiday, we’ll arrange to drop you bike back home to you.

Food and drink

The need to stay well hydrated during your tour goes without saying, a water bottle is a vital part of your kit list. For those of you who are on a fully supported tour, the support vehicle carries water on board for you to top your bottles up.

Breakfast is included in all our UK holiday packages and restaurants or pubs are easily found near your accommodation each night. Guides will also highlight suitable places for you to grab a bite to eat, but during some tours these places can be few and far between so it is a good idea to ensure that you have a supply of snacks and energy bars.

Safety equipment

Although helmets are not compulsory on our tours, we do highly recommend that you wear one as an added safety precaution.

Cycling with a helmet is highly recommended for our cycling tours

You might want to consider (if you haven’t already) purchasing high visibility clothing. Although you generally won’t generally be cycling in the dark, high vis clothing is useful for the days when the weather comes rolling in.

Other considerations

As well as all the equipment you need for yourself and your bike, you’ll probably want to carry some money, a mobile phone and a camera.

If you are a UK resident then taking out insurance is optional for most of our trips (excluding the Ireland, Mizen Head to Malin Head trip), however you may want to explore the cost of getting basic cover.

We hope this helps to get you started with you packing but if we’ve missed anything, please feel free to get in touch.