How To Fly With A Bicycle

In June, I’ll be traveling to California for nearly a week of bike riding around Lake Tahoe and the California wine country. As much as I’d love to ride to the Sunshine State from my Hoosier home, my wife would be so angry after so many weeks away, I probably wouldn’t have a home to go back to. So it looks like I’ll be taking my bike on the plane.

For touring cyclists, flying with your bike is often a necessary evil, much like airport security searches or flossing. It can be fairly expensive, costing $50 or more each way for a domestic flight and more than double that for an international trip. I’ve had friends who spent more money transporting their bike than they did on their plane ticket. Although it would have been cheaper to buy a separate ticket for their Specialized Roubaix – not to mention a quieter traveling companion than the screaming baby in 12E – in no way is it going to fit in a tiny coach seat.

I travel enough that I bought my own bike box. If you decide to go that route, expect to pay at least $400 for a hard-shell bike case. I was able to find one used at a swap meet, splitting the cost with a buddy. We’ve never needed to use the box on the same weekend, but have an arrangement in place in case we do. (Google Amok Time, then imagine two middle-aged dudes duking it out instead of Kirk and Spock.) Many bike shops will rent bike boxes, starting at about $10 a day.

Traveling with boxes can be a hassle. For most bike boxes, you need to remove the pedals, handlebars and sometimes, the rear derailleur. If you have minimal maintenance skills, it’s a fairly easy process, assuming you have the right tools. When putting the bike back together in your hotel room, double-check everything, even parts you didn’t dismantle for your journey. When it’s time to ride, slide a good multi-tool into your jersey pocket, just in case. During a recent trip to San Antonio, my stem came loose mid-way through the ride. Although I didn’t have my multi-tool with me, we were close enough to a bike shop that I was able to pick one up to fix my oversight.The boxes themselves are big and bulky, a massive pain to transport to and from the airport. I can slide my bike box into the rear of my Subaru with no problems, but if you drive anything smaller, you may need to beg a ride from someone with a truck. When you get to your destination airport, you’ll need either a larger rental or cab to get to your hotel; many airport shuttles don’t have room for a box of that size.

One more thing: before leaving baggage claim, open the box to ensure nothing was damaged in transit. Although Homeland Security agents are known for their delicate nature, they’ve been known to be fairly haphazard when repacking things. After one recent trip, I noticed the agent had closed the box lid on my wheel skewer and the tip of my cassette. Luckily, no real damage was done.

There are ways around the hassle, although not the expense. If you travel a lot, a coupler bike might be your best option. Coupler bikes break down into smaller sections, allowing you to fit a full-size bike into a regulation-sized suitcase, thereby eliminating the oversized luggage fee. A custom frame builder, like Tim O’Donnell of Shamrock Cycles, can build a steel-framed travel steed or retrofit your current steel bike. Expect to pay more than $3,000 for a fully equipped custom bike with S&S Couplers or $500-plus for a retrofit. The case will be additional $400 or more.

Renting a bike at your destination is also an option, especially if you’re headed to a major cycling destination. Just be sure to reserve the bike well in advance if you ride an uncommon size or plan to attend a popular event. My tiny wife rides an equally small bicycle, think one size bigger than a Barbie fun bike, and it can be challenging to find one the correct size. In San Antonio, we spent nearly $200 on a four-day Trek Madone rental for my wife, while my Cannondale SuperSix from home cost me $100 in total airline fees.

If you’re planning to ride just one or two days, pack your gear and pedals and rent a bike. Anything longer – or if you’re very particular about your bike fit – bite the bullet and bring your own.

[Photo by ActionSteve via Flickr]

Man Builds, Rides Gigantic Bicycle: Dumbass Or Daredevil?




The video above depicts a man riding a hand-built, 14.5-foot-tall bike that he built himself. The video, entitled “STOOPIDTALL,” indicates that the man, identified only as Richie, intends to build an even taller model to break the record of the “World’s Tallest Bike” and says he configured the monstrosity in under 12 hours.

What do you think? Is the guy a daredevil or just a dumbass who is looking to injure himself or others?

If you’re looking for more ridiculous bike news, we have this post here, too.

Cyclists Train Like Locals In Italy, Then Eat Well

cyclists

Top cyclists train daily to race, often on varied terrain and through different weather conditions. Cycling enthusiasts who might dream of racing one day, prepare one step at a time. They find the right gear, become friends with others into the sport and possibly join a cycling club or just meet on Saturday mornings for a ride. Have you seen them? Cycling in packs on a weekend morning or afternoon? Ever wonder what they might be talking about among themselves?

Other than “that guy in the Honda just about hit me,” the conversation might trend in the direction of unique places they have cycled. One such place, and the stuff of dreams for cyclists, would be up and into mountains. Doing so has become so popular that tour operators are offering package deals that come with cycling experts, mountain guides and more.

In their “Train Like A Local” tour, Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine takes cyclists on a six-night bike tour into the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy.cyclistsClimbs on their “Train Like A Local” tour range between 900 and 1700 meters and provide an ideal introduction to riding at higher elevations. Held from May 26 to June 1 and June 16-22, the tour attracts adventure travelers that share a passion for cycling. But cycling is just one focus of the all-inclusive package, which is priced at $3,695 per person.

Along for the ride are cyclist and mountain guide Vernon McClure and cooking instructor/chef/biker Kathy Bechtel. They bring cycling routes unknown to mainstream tour companies, sharing their expertise and passion for cycling. But their programming has more than other tour operators.

Participants also get an in-depth introduction to magnificent Italian regional cuisine and local wines. On a seven-day Bike and Wine tour, they cycle through wine regions in Alto Adige, Trentino and the Veneto. Starting in Bolzano, (also in the Dolomite Mountains) they travel downhill to Lake Garda and the iconic city of Verona.

Really into food? Italiaoutdoors also has cycling and cooking tours in Italy. This one, at the foot of the Dolomites, cycles through a diverse region located along the shores of the Adriatic sea and highlights another element of the Italiaoutdoors programming: history. This tour follows one of the old trade routes used to distribute spices and goods from the east throughout Western Europe.

Boasting personal service and a custom plan for every trip, Vernon McClure and Kathy Bechtel, the owners and operators of Italiaoutdoors offer a variety of ideas for biking, hiking and skiing tours via their ItaliaOutdoors Food and Wine website.

Want to know more about cooking and biking tours in Italy? Check this video:


International Adventure Guide 2013: Paris, France

An adventure guide to Paris? Yes.

At first glance, Paris probably isn’t the go-to city for outdoor enthusiasts. Metros, brasseries and the Champs Elysées don’t really make the top of the list of an adventurer’s itinerary. But being the diverse and ever-changing big city that it is, there are plenty of opportunities for those travelers that like to blend their urban tours with a little bit of adventure. There are parks to explore, bike paths to navigate and even a beach to walk on barefoot in the summertime. If you thought Paris was only for the urbanite, think again.

The other benefit to exploring the City of Light through the adventure lens is that in a city that’s known for being fairly expensive, Paris’ outdoor options are actually all very budget friendly, meaning that you end up with a city visit that’s both fun and also easy on the wallet.

Ready to explore a Paris that goes beyond croissants and red wine? Allons-y!

Activities

Bike
There’s no better way to explore Paris than by bicycle. It’s not for the faint of heart though; navigating between pedestrians, Parisian traffic and adrenaline-seeking inline skaters, the urban biker has to pay sharp attention. You can plan your own route and rent a bike through the now-famous Parisian bikeshare system Vélib (read our guide on How to Ride Bike in Paris for more details, including payment options as the Vélib automated machines can be tricky with American debit and credit cards), or your can get on a guided tour. Check out the following operators, which offer a variety of tour options, as well as bike rentals if you want a more long-term bike rental than Velib allows for as the bikeshare system is intended for short distance trips.

Fat Bike Tours– American owned and operated, Fat Bike Tours was created with the English speaker in mind. If you are looking to get outside of Paris you can take them up on their Monet Garden tour. Tours start at 30€. http://fattirebiketours.com/paris

Blue Bike Tours – Blue Bike Tours is run by a French-American family, and their Hidden Paris tour will take you to all the places locals go in the neighborhoods of Saint Germain and the Marais. A true insider’s guide to the city. Tours start at 29€. http://www.bluebiketours-paris.com/

Paris Bike Tour – Paris Bike Tour offers a Seine-specific guided tour, learning about monuments and bridges along the way. Tours start at 32€.
http://www.parisbiketour.net/uk/

Run
Running has become the sport of active minded urbanites, and if you’re the kind of traveler that always packs a pair of running shoes, Paris will have plenty of options for you. A couple of tips for running in the city:

  1. Get up early. You’ll find that morning runs around 6 or 7 can be relatively quiet compared with the hustle and bustle of the rest of the day. Parisians aren’t crazy enough to get up at the crack of dawn, so if you enjoy morning runs, the city is yours.
  2. Find a park. There are plenty of parks in the city that are great for running. Don’t be afraid to get out of the city center: parks like Parc Monceau, Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes are excellent for running adventures.
  3. Hit the Seine. There’s nothing quite like a long run along the iconic Seine. Plus it makes that dinner of wine and cheese later in the day so well deserved. On Sundays some of the quays are completely closed off to cars, which attracts a lot of locals out for walks, runs and roller blading. The city has put a lot of effort into making more and more of the riverside pathways car-free, so expect to see more of this in the future.

Don’t want to plan your own route? There are running tour operators for that. Check out the following groups who can help you coordinate a complete running tour of Paris, no matter what your running level. Because these running tours are guided by experienced athletes, you’ll find the prices a little higher than regular bike or walking tours.

Paris Running Tour: Going with a group is better as it will lower your price, so grab some friends. 55-85€ per person. http://www.parisrunningtour.com/

Paris Running Tours: Tours starting at 50€. http://parisrunningtours.com/

Wellicient: Along with running tours, Wellicient also do walking, fitness and stretching tours. http://www.wellicient.com/

Roller Blading
Make all the fun you want, but rollerblading is one of this city’s favorite pastimes, and if you want a truly Parisian experience, you’ll don a set of inline skates. There’s a popular weekly nighttime roller blade excursion hosted by Pari-Roller that takes place every Friday from 10pm to 1am. It starts at Place Raoul Dutry in Montparnasse and takes a different route every week. This gives you the chance to see the city in not only a different medium of transportation, but at night as well.

On Sundays you can take part in a group ride organized by Rollers & Coquillages. Gather close to the Bastille on Boulevard Bourbon and then take off with the hundreds of other skaters to enjoy the city. This group ride is a little better suited to beginners.

Hotspots

Bois de Boulogne
On weekends, this park of over 2,000 acres is a hotspot for locals, as there are trails to run and walk on, boats to row and horses to ride. Bois de Boulogneis on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement, so you are almost outside of Paris proper, but still have easy access via the Metro: Porte Dauphine or Porte d’Auteuil.

Promenade Plantée
This is your dose of green space right in the middle of the city. The extensive greenbelt is built on an old railway line, and is a gorgeous space of trees, plants and plenty of benches to sit down and have a picnic. At almost three miles long it makes for a good jogging route, as long as you hit it at a time of day when there aren’t too many people. Access the Promenade Plantée from the Bastille Metro station.

Bois de Vincennes
Bois de Vincennesis the largest public park in the city, with a velodrome for bike races, a horse racing track and four lakes. Bike lanes, trails for running and even a Buddhist Temple, this is the place to come when you need a break from the city. The park is to the west of the 12th arrondissement and is easily accessed by Metro: Porte-Dorée or Château de Vincennes.

Where to Stay

Paris Hostel
With shared and private rooms, Paris Hostel is a good option for those that want a budget accommodation that’s well located. The rooms are small, but breakfast is included and you are perfectly situated for a morning run up to Montmartre. From 26€/night with shared facilities, 28€/night with private facilities. 39 Rue Rodier.www.paris-hostel.biz

Hotel Campanile Bastille
A popular French budget hotel chain, Hotel Campanile puts you close to the Bastille and the Marais all with an inner courtyard in the hotel, meaning you can start every morning off with your coffee outside. You’re also within walking distance of the Promenade Plantee. From 100€/night. 9 Rue de Chemin Vert, www.campanile.com

Hi-Matic Hostel
Branded as an eco-hotel, the Hi-Matic is a clean and budget-friendly space that also serves up a 100% organic breakfast that is included in the room price. For the environmentally conscious, they also employ an eco-friendly taxi service and use natural materials whenever possible. They’re also big on health: a card with yoga poses is left in every room. From 109€/night. 71 Rue de Charonne. www.hi-matic.net

Logistics

Get Around
Paris is easy to navigate with public transportation. This easiest option is the Metro – but there are plenty of bus routes as well. You can buy a batch (carnet) of 10 one-way tickets for 13.30€ in machines in every metro station, which will get you a ride on both the Metro and buses. If you want to get yourself around, consider taking advantage of the Vélib bikeshare system. A one-day Vélib ticket runs 1.70€ or you can get a week pass for 8€ – the easiest wy to get a ticket is to buy one online and print out your subscription number that you then type in when you want to use a bike. You get the first 30 minutes of Vélib use for free, which makes the system ideal for doing short trips around the city; pick up a bike in one spot and drop it off in another.

Seasonality
For those looking to spend most of their time outdoors in Paris, late spring, summer and early fall are your best bets. Paris can get very cold in the winter, which puts a damper on your outdoor experiences. A popular city, there are always visitors in Paris, but if you’re looking to avoid crowds, try for spring or fall so you can avoid the summer tourists.

Safety
Much like any big metropolis, it’s important to always be vigilant in Paris, especially in crowded tourist areas and the Metro. That being said, Paris is a safe city, so just bring along a little street sense and you’ll be in good shape.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user TerryPresley]

A Perfect Day After Landing At North America’s Best Airport

An airport with just one terminal, no tram, zero VIP lounges and woeful public transportation options is the best in North America, according to the Airport Council International. Last week, Indianapolis International Airport beat out every other large facility on the continent for the top Air Service Quality award for 2012. The results are based on passenger satisfaction, and IND won for the second time since opening in 2008.

If you’re scratching your head, that means you’ve never been to IND. The first thing you notice upon landing is that the architects didn’t stop designing at the back of the terminal. Most airports greet arrivals with a cluttered mess. IND makes a striking first impression with a towering, glassed-in terminal overlooking the tarmac.

Inside, the space is contemporary, bright and calm. The layout is so intuitive that you rarely look for signage. You can see outside from every spot except the restrooms. Many of the restaurants are satellites of better local independents. There’s none of that stale, claustrophobic, generic feeling common to airports, nor is the scale so massive that the place feels deserted.

If you’re renting a car, you don’t need to board a van or shuttle – all of the vehicles are parked in the adjacent garage. You get in and out of the airport quickly and see some bold art installations along the way.

But even gorgeous airports never transcend their function. At best, they manage not to ruin a trip. So after landing at the continent’s best airport, then what?

Indy is in the midst of an urban renaissance, and you don’t see it coming. I’m a local, and here’s how I show off my town to guests.

%Gallery-183028%Walk or bike the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a brand-new, $63 million path. While most recreation trails lead out of town, where people can exercise on a stretch unbroken for miles, Indy’s does the opposite – the pretty promenade laces through the heart of downtown, replacing 8 miles of sidewalks. It passes every major attraction and cuts through every neighborhood.

You can rent wheels at the Indy Bike Hub and spend two hours getting an overview of the city from a bike seat. The trail connects to another one that runs along the back wall of the Indianapolis Zoo, and sometimes the animals make themselves heard. Make pit stops at the Central Library for the best view of the city from the sixth floor, and at the NCAA Hall of Champions museum, kicking off the 75th anniversary celebration of March Madness this month.

Ride to Fountain Square, Indy’s hipster core, and find the special stoplight for bike traffic. Stretch your legs by getting lost inside the Murphy Building, a loveable shantytown of small art galleries and studios. Make sure to find People for Urban Progress‘s quarters and buy the best souvenir in town: tote bags, iPad cases and wallets made from either salvaged Super Bowl signs (right) or the fabric roof of the city’s former football stadium.

Have lunch on up-and-coming Virginia Avenue, which connects Fountain Square to downtown. Go locavore gourmet at Bluebeard (below), a hot new restaurant that pays tribute to native son Kurt Vonnegut, or street Mexican at Tortas Guicho Dominguez y El Cubanito.

Next, it’s on to Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500 in May. An influx of European racing teams has added a stylish subculture to the gritty town. At the new Dallara IndyCar Factory, sign up for a ride in a real open-wheel racecar – it costs only $30 for a spin through city streets, which is a bargain compared to the $499 ride on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself.

If there’s no time to tour the state-of-the-art factory and try out the racing simulators, at least get espresso at Lino’s Coffee, an Italian import inside the building. You might find yourself in line behind a former Indy 500 champ.

Not far away is the Indianapolis Museum of Art, one of the 10 largest encyclopedic art museums in the country. In the last few years, the IMA has built a significant contemporary art collection; the curator represented the U.S. at the 2011 Venice Bienniele, a huge honor in the field. A big part of the renaissance is 100 Acres (below), a new contemporary sculpture park on the museum grounds. Here, installations are integrated into woods, meadows, and lake. You’ve never seen a fishing pier like the one here. It’s hard to believe that admission to both the park and museum is free. Like I said, you don’t see it coming.

[Photo credits: Airport exterior, Graeme Sharpe via Flickr; airport window, Askpang via Flickr; bikers, courtesy Indianapolis Cultural Trail; tote bag, courtesy People for Urban Progress; restaurant, courtesy Bluebeard; 100 Acres, from top: courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art; The.Urbanophile via Flickr]