01 January 2012

Packing Tips for Cyclists

Packing Tips
A new year beckons, and I can write about anything I fancy. This freedom is like being in a candy store for me: bikes, 15% climb profiles, cobbles, news from the teams - what should I write about for my first post of 2012? And may I add that I am loving 2012 so far.
I have decided today's post will be about traveling, inspired by this quote: "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a narrow field." 
I am laughing of course. Because I would like to say I am an expert, but I fear there remains many more mistakes to be made. In fact, when I look at things through the eyes of this quote, I am not sure I am yet an expert at any one field, but by the number of traveling blunders I have experienced, I have been working hard to get there. 
Alrighty - I am going to give you some Pedal Dancer travel tips, most of these tips I (or my family members) have learned - through mistake.

Pedal Dancer's packing tips

power strip
Count these on one hand: phone, camera, laptop, ipad, shuffle ... oops we already need another hand, and so we will also likely need to reserve another hotel room because our room only has 2 outlets to charge all of our devices. This is the life of a modern traveler. Trying to keep track of where we plugged in our devices scattered around the room, and trying even harder to remember to pull the adapter out of the wall before we vacate. I say leave the hairdryer at home, but bring the power strip. The compatibility has mostly do with your devices, but you can purchase multi-country universal power strips or multiple power strips or standard US strip. Do a little research and find the one that suits your needs for your destination.
headlamp or small flashlight
The uses are countless: hotels with after hour gates or doors, searching for something in your luggage at night. You never know when you will need it, but chances are you will use it, so bring it. 

When packing your suitcase, place a couple lightweight cloth musettes, drawstring bags, or tote bags in the bottom of your suitcase. They are very handy when repacking for a day trip in a car, or organizing what you will need before of after cycling, without accessing your entire suitcase. I also use these bags to carry extra clothing to a mountain top stage finish, easier than bringing an extra backpack.
wine opener
When in Rome ... drink the local wine! Picnics and wine (or beer) with appetizers on a tailgate (back of the car) or at a table outside your hotel room after a hard ride can be some of the fondest memories of any trip. Bring a wine opener or bottle opener so you will never be delayed from indulging (and celebrating the day's adventures). 

camp towel or hotel towel
You can travel for weeks with 3 cycling kits, if you wash a kit every night or at least every other night. The trick to washing your kits is to wash in a good hand soap (we like Genie Gel Express, which we buy in France). After washing your kit, roll the shorts up tightly (like a rolled pastry) in a towel to squeeze out the excess water and hang the garment to quicken the drying time. Hotel towels work fine, but can be few in number, these camp towels are light and dry very fast.
plastic hanger, string and clothespins
I like to travel light with 3 outfits for hot weather, 3 for cold weather (including warm rain), 2 for nice city attire, 1 for hiking, 1 for lounging around the hotel or B&B, and something easy to change into if I return to the car after cycling. I have learned to dress more for purpose versus color coordination (I have no interest in wearing black every day). I wash clothing daily in the sink. The tip is to have a good means to hang your clothes to dry. I bring a 20-30 foot cord, with clothespins, plus a multiple folding plastic hanger. Just imagine how nicely socks or a pair of cycling shorts would hang dry on this hanger.
liquids are heavy
They might be more expensive, but when traveling from the USA on a 2-3 week trip, I bring small samples for the first night, and plan on buying any liquid toiletries and hand washing soap by day two of the trip. Besides, it is fun to go into a store and try to figure out which bottle is conditioner. I leave liquids behind at the last hotel, so I can bring souvenirs home and stay under my 50 pound weight limit. 
insulation tubing, zip ties
Before packing your bike, make a quick trip to your hardware store to purchase pipe insulation tubing (in the plumbing department) and plastic zip ties. The tubing may be cut and wrapped around the bike frame tubes to protect and pack a bike perfectly for travel. Zip ties can hold a chain and derailleur or handlebar in place when those pesky security agents open and slam your bike travel case closed again.
light weight sandals
Slip on sandals are perfect for those times when you take your road shoes off before getting in a car, or when waiting on a mountain top for the big stage finish. They are also nice to have inside your hotel room.
shoes built for cobbles
Forget about the light weight sandals mentioned above when it comes to cobbles, you will be begging for road shoes again. Cobbles warrant sturdy shoes. Paris, or other big cities, where you will be walking a lot, warrant 2 pairs of alternating sturdy shoes.
Road ID
If you plan to travel to Europe it is smart to purchase a special Road ID to wear which inlcudes your name, passport number, your insurance company name, and your US contact with full phone number (001-area code-phone#). Purchase a separate Road ID for riding in the USA in a different color. 
atlas pages
Just in case your GPS device is not working in a remote area, cut out the detailed pages of a country atlas and slip them into your jersey pocket. 
plastic bags
Bring two for shopping at the market (they don't give you bags in Europe for your groceries).  
zip lock bags
Bring just a few for left over picnic supplies, to carry food in your jersey pocket during rides, keep your phone dry, or any other unexpected need.
luggage locks
If you are concerned about the content of various zippered compartments on your luggage, consider using a quick loop key ring to close the zippers together (on trains, buses, etc.) but allowing airport security to access contents if required. It won't shut them out but it may deter a thief.
be safe
When you go to sleep at night in your hotel room, place your car keys, wallet, money belt, passport inside a small bag and place it in your pillow case. Take them out of the pillow case the first thing after you wake up. You can loose anything else on a trip, except for these items. [This is one of those mistakes I learned when someone robbed me, and another guest, by climbing into our second floor hotel windows in Juan-les-Pins, France, while sleeping!]
itinerary and help from home
Leave your trip itinerary, hotel contacts, personal contact list, along with your airline reservation ID and password, and a credit card with security code and expiration date, with a family member or friend at home before you leave on your trip. You never know when you may need their help in making or changing a reservation for you in the middle of your journey. (Again this is experience talking when we have had to change airline reservations for a speedy flight home, or needed to change hotels at 8:30pm while driving).
small bag or box for all electronic cords
Keep all your adapters, chargers, and cords together in one small bag or box when traveling. More than a few days of trying to find the right cord at the right time is enough to drive anyone crazy.
case for camera and phone
Keep your camera and phone sweat proof and rain proof in your jersey pocket by placing them in light weight small cases, covers, or ziplock bags. 
shower caps 
Shower caps offered by hotels can come in handy to cover the dirty soles of your shoes before repacking them into your luggage 
small umbrella 
This is one item I balk at packing, and every time I end up purchasing some overpriced tourist umbrella in a downpour. As a cycling fan, we have used umbrellas for shade in the hot sun while waiting for a mountain top finish, or in the pouring rain.
rain coat with hood
I like to walk freely in the rain, so a non-insulated rain jacket always comes in handy. 
Photo found on Glendoramtnroad.blogspot
Travel pump
Because flying with air cartridges is not allowed, buy a good pump that you can travel with to inflate your tires. I carry a small pump on my bike when riding in Europe. I admit that although Blackburn and others claim to manufacture a good pump (their rep recommended the Airstik Evo for travel), we almost always stop at a sporting store (like Decathlon) and buy a floor pump. I pump my tires daily before riding, it is worth having the confidence in proper air pressure before heading out, and carrying the smaller pump only for emergencies. 
Bring a strap for your luggage
Strap your bike box to your rolling suitcase and walk with ease as your two wheels become 4 and the weight is suddenly minimal. "Ah facile," two men called out to me as I disembarked from the train in Pau, France, and with great ease rolled my one bag and large bike case out to the curb where my brother awaited my arrival. Facile indeed!
Pack Light!
You and your travel companions will be so much happier.
If anyone else has any great packing/travel tips for cyclists - please share. (And no I don't mean my sister-in-law wanting me to bring home pouches of olives from France, or the Frites en Mayo men (FMVC) telling me which Belgian beers to bring home from the Tour of Flanders! Although these are excellent ideas and the best reason to pack light.)
Bon voyage!