Now that it's the off-season it's time to start the fun process of planning your race
calendar for next year. If you're like me, you may have dreamed of a destination race.
Take the family for a vacation and get a fun race in, two birds! But, what is the best way
to do that? How do you make sure your bike arrives and you have all of your gear for
We sat down with one of our triathletes, seasoned professional Kevin Collington, to learn
how he keeps his race travels as seamless as possible. Kevin has raced in many different
countries across five continents, (only missing Africa and Antarctica) including most
recently an overall victory at Ironman Taiwan and 70.3 Cartagena.
How do you organize your packing?
One of the most important things to have is a packing list. I would start by getting a generic packing list on what to bring to a race and add to it as you see fit. To create a list, start by googling “triathlon packing list” and add to that list. The easiest way to do this is to visualize the race and what you’ll need-starting from when you show up and rack your bike, through the swim and T1, all the way to what you may want to change into after the race. I’ve refined my packing list over the years of racing as things change.
Another important thing is to know what can’t fly. This was a hard lesson I learned in traveling to my first ITU World Championships in Europe. My bike never arrived. At 8pm the night before the race my bike was delivered! I was told that because I packed my C02 canisters in my bike box, it was held in customs - learn from my mistake! A quick google of “no fly items” will help immensely, but CO2 canisters are the main culprit of lost bikes.
Another ‘pro tip’ is to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before your flight to check your bike in. Almost every time I get to a race and another athlete didn’t have their bike, it was because they arrived at airport check in too close to the flight. Often bikes are hand checked because they don’t fit in the Xray scanner, so it takes longer to get to the plane.
Which bike case do you use?
I actually use a baby stroller bag and a bike wheel bag. The Ventum bike I ride is extremely easy to pack. I am able to completely disassemble the bike and fit it into a stroller bag which cuts down on my baggage fees! However, taking a bike apart completely isn’t for the faint of heart, so make sure to practice at home before traveling to a race like this.
For most athletes I recommend using the easiest bag possible. Some bags don’t even require you to take the seat or bars off. This can be a huge savings for someone who isn’t bike savvy. Be sure to mark your seat height and bring your tools to correct any mishap in travel. If the idea of traveling with a bike is too daunting, you can always use a bike transport service that will do the hard part for you or you can rent a bike for the race.
What bike tools do you bring?
The best way to decide what tools to pack is bring anything that you used to take the bike apart for packing. I typically bring more than the average athlete because I completely disassemble my bike and rebuild it when I get there. This usually mean an all encompassing multi-tool, a torque wrench, pedal wrench, and a few small tools.
If you think that it may be difficult to get a replacement part at the race venue then it may not be a bad idea to bring an extra. Derailleur hangers are the most common thing to break in travel, so having a spare is a good idea. However, most race expos have a bike shop that will help with these last minute needs.
What’s the best airline to travel with a bike?
I always fly United because Denver is a United hub. If you’re going to travel to races enough or have a credit card with an airline, you can get ‘status’ with them meaning you don’t pay for bags. If you don’t have status with an airline, Southwest Airlines is usually the cheapest to bring a bike box at $75.
Do you wear compression socks?
I will wear compression socks if my flight is longer than a few hours. If you can get an exit row you will have a bit more leg room, and putting your bag under the seat in front of you can act as a footrest. Keeping your legs elevated like this can help avoid blood pooling in your lower leg (the dreaded cankles!). I also think it’s important to have a light workout upon arrival to get the blood flowing ASAP.
How many days before the race?
If I’m traveling to somewhere in the US, I typically plan to arrive three days before the race. If I’m traveling internationally, I tend to arrive earlier. This really depends on what time zone I’m racing in. If I am traveling to South America and am staying in the time zone I don’t need as much time as I would if I was racing in Asia or Europe and needed to adjust to the change. Arriving earlier also allows time to correct any mishaps that may occur during travel.
How do you deal with changing time zones?
The most important thing is to get outside ASAP. If you expose your body to the sun it will help you adapt. I generally try to get outside for a light jog or shakeout after the flight and will watch the sunset. It is helpful to start eating meals at the proper time in that time zone. Also try to sleep at the appropriate time even if you have a short sleep and wake up early, it is beneficial to start the process.
I always figure out what time it will be when I land and try to normalize the change. For example, If I am traveling all day to Taiwan, I will stay awake the entire flight and land in the evening, immediately adapting to their time zone and go to bed when they do. If I were to sleep the whole flight and arrive in the evening well rested, it will be hard to fall asleep at the appropriate time and will take longer to get on their time.
What are you certain ‘must-haves’ for travel?
This really depends on where I’m racing. If I’m racing internationally I always pack Starbucks via instant coffee. While it’s not my favorite cup of coffee, it’s helpful to know I will have a semi-decent cup at the very least. I also will pack as much food as possible, this way I know I always have access to trustworthy food sources. Some race venues have such different food options, and the last thing I want is to get sick and sacrifice my race. I always try to bring some entertainment: books, phone, and of course a Nintendo Switch game console so I can play MARIO Kart games.
If I am traveling to a destination where I don’t want to ride outside or I know the roads may be sketchy, I will bring a bike trainer. Feedback Sports makes a super portable trainer that will fit into a carry on bag. This allows me to ride in my room watching Netflix instead of trying to learn routes and roads and dodge local traffic.
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