Laptop, suit, mobile phone, work notebook and bicycle – not the average bag contents of a business traveller. If you love your cycling, then being without your bike can make working away from home a nightmare.
There are however ways around this tricky problem. MTB racer Rachel Fenton shares her experience of taking her bike away on business via planes, trains and hotel lifts.
Whether you are a racer, or someone who just likes to ride their bike to keep fit, being sent away for work is something we all dread. I have become something of an expert over the last few weeks on how to make sure working away from home impacts my cycling as little as possible.
For me it is about being in racing form for the last National XC race on the Hadleigh Farm Olympic course, but even without that thought to terrify me I would still be keen to get out on my bike into the countryside; it keeps me sane!
Travelling by plane and train
Over the last few weeks I have tried out travelling both by train and plane to get to work here in Scotland. I have come down firmly on the side of rail travel as my preferred way of getting around.
From London the sleeper train means I get to Scotland whilst sleeping and so, as I see it, not wasting any riding time. My bike just about fits into my cabin with me when it’s packed in a bike bag, and since I’m only going to fall asleep rather than move about, this works out perfectly!
Some of the ins and outs of rail travel with a bike have been covered on Total Women’s Cycling already, and my experience of it in the UK is very positive. You can book your bike in to travel on the long distance trains in the guard carriage, or carry it in a bag as a piece of luggage as I do.
Flying can be slightly quicker within the UK but is slightly faffier. With some airlines, like British Airways, you can put your bike bag in as your checked luggage and still carry a suitcase and smaller bag into the cabin at no extra cost.
Other airlines charge extra for bikes, so you would therefore have to discuss who would cover this additional cost with your employer, if they pay for your travel. My work gives us the option within a price range and for this reason I have stuck to British Airways.
You are required to remove your pedals, and I always take off brake rotors and the rear derailleur from my mountain bike as they are delicate and can get broken inadvertently by baggage handlers. I also try and put as much padding into the bag as I can to protect the frame.
I have found hotels to be absolutely fine with me keeping my bike (in it’s bike bag) in my hotel room, although I do always check. I’ve also seen other cyclists store their bikes in the left luggage rooms at both the hotels I have stayed in recently.
One new discovery I’m trying to get hold of are the ‘pocket bags’ from Scicon. This will make rail travel and hotels even easier as the bags fold up and can be stored in my rucksack whilst I cycle between places – even for business travel I pack light.
I am obviously careful not to make a mess of my rooms. For example, if it’s raining and I know I won’t be able to wash my bike, I’ll ride my MTB on the road for training rather than off road. I also carry the bike on my shoulder into and out of the hotel to make sure I don’t mark the carpets.
I’m pretty sure the other guests are not bothered by it, but they do look confused.
Where to ride?
The most challenging thing for me is working out where to ride when I’m staying somewhere unfamiliar. I am lucky at the moment, as I’m going to be based in Glasgow.
Even in the 90 minutes riding window I can squeeze in after work has finished for the day, I can get to a pretty good country park, and have once ridden out to the Commonwealth Games course at Cathkin Braes.
One of the best ways to work out places to ride is to look on cycle mapping websites for routes that other people have taken. I also always make sure I have my smart phone fully charged up so that if I get confused, which is a surprisingly common occurrence, I can check where I am. If in doubt, I tend to follow blue cycling signs since the Sustrans routes are made with cyclists in mind.
The very best way to find out where to ride, though, is to be shown around by a local. I am lucky enough to have met people through racing from all around the UK and have been able to find a local guide most places I visit.
So, whilst travelling with my bike has actually been more straightforward than I expected I have had to be quite unashamed.
Colleagues think I am slightly mad to go to all the effort of travelling with my bike and fellow hotel guests do a double take when they see me in the lift avec velo.
But once you explain the importance of it to you, they seem to be very accepting. It’s also been an amazing conversation starter – way to make friends #1 – take your bike in a hotel lift!