First up, why take the bike at all? NZ is well setup for hire bikes, esp. around Rotorua, and I did consider this as an option. However, I’ve hired bikes twice in the past and have found them to be lacking (low quality and in lower states of repair than I’m comfortable with). I also have a reasonably high spec bike (a Specialized Epic Carbon Comp) and I wanted to take advantage of that. Especially as some good MTB mates, who are a lot fitter than I am, warned me about the climbs in NZ.
Lastly, I was planning on riding unfamiliar trails, and expecting to do a lot of climbing and spending a lot of time in the saddle (riding at least a couple of hours 7 out of the 10 days of the trip) so wanted something I could be confident on, that climbed well, and that I knew would be comfortable.
Speaking to the folks at PlanetBike while I was over there, they made that point that if you’re travelling to do MTB, take your bike. If you’re travelling to do holidays, and happen to want to do a ride or two while over there, hire. I think this is wise advice. I the end I’m glad I made the decision—having my own ride made the whole experience more enjoyable and I definitely benefited from taking my own ride.
Some time ago, I spotted my good friend Ashley had been using a flight bag for transporting his bike when travelling between Perth and Brisbane (and overseas). He recommended I check out the Evoc bike travel bag and after I’d checked out a few (positive) reviews, I managed to picked up a good deal through Wiggle (unfortunately it seems Wiggle aren’t currently stocking them).
I also estimated the combined weight of bike and bag to work out luggage costs etc. I used the old trick first weighing myself on a set of scales, then weighing myself holding the bike. I added this to the weight noted in the specs for the bike bag. It was close to the 23kg limit for standard luggage, so I was hopeful the specs weren’t out by too much. In the end, all packed the bike+bag came in 500g under the 23kg limit.
The bag was easy to assemble and quite robust. You have to disassemble parts of your bike—taking the wheels and pedals off, and releasing the handlebars from the stem—which took me a little while the first time around. But I was a lot quicker repacking the bike on my return.
This meant I chose to take some grease for screw threads and the like, and also a torque wrench (mine is very similar to this) as I was concerned about cracking the Thomson X4 stem. (I’d read reports/horror stories and wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same mistake).
Even though the airline had indicated a $120 oversize luggage fee would apply, in the end I wasn’t charged that for either outbound or return flights. I’m not sure if that would be the case had I come in over the 23kg mark.
The wheels and well designed handles on the bag made it relatively easy to transport around trains, cabs and the airport.
Taking a bike through customs
Another good friend and regular MTB co-rider, Mark, had travelled with their bike recently and reminded me that you need to clean up any dirt and mud off your bike and shoes before travelling to clear customs.
The Evoc bag made it really easy to show the wheels of the bike, which is mainly what the customs officers was interested in (these are packed to the side of the bag, and have their own access zips/pockets. (This design also provides additional protection to the frame.) The customs officer also wanted to check my shoes as well—and I realised after I got there I’d packed them at the bottom of my bag… Lesson learnt and on the return trip I made sure they were more accessible.