There’s an air of excitement as mountain bikers converge to enjoy the festivities of a local mountain biking festival…a major cycling event that’s scheduled to last for several days. Many are registered to race, and many have invited their family and friends, further bolstering the crowd size and the promotion of the sport. As festival-goers revel in a diversity of food, brews, and live music, they browse through bargains in the latest accessories, equipment, and bike gear scattered among the rows of vendor display booths. Stunt shows, kid’s areas, and bike clinics add to the variety of offerings. It’s a mountain biking community coming together… like-minded enthusiasts co-mingling, sharing their passion, and having a good time.
Sea Otter Classic, Monterey CA
It’s not unusual to find mountain bikers from other parts of the country or even the world at these events. Undeniably, good reasons exist for journeying to distant festivals. What better way to ride new trails while immersing in the mountain biking culture of an unfamiliar region? By our very nature, exploration is something we crave; it’s an integral part of our mountain biking and is one of the reasons we love the sport.
For the avid rider, the urge to explore means that eventually every nearby trail will be experienced. It’s a finite situation, even when they’re ridden backwards for a different feel. To switch things up, long drives are made to increasingly distant parks in search of the elusive new trail system. But that too is finite. Curiosity will start to build over the distant places that have only been seen in pictures…magnificent parks from around the world with completely different landscapes just waiting to be experienced. And when some of these places have annual cycling festivals, it adds a whole other dimension.
Mountain bike festivals are usually placed where there’s a network of quality, world-class trails. To help riders learn the (often extensive) trail system, it’s common to find scheduled guided tours and group rides that are being led by the event staff or the local bike club. If racing is your thing, there are typically several types to choose from during the course of the festival. If you want to demo bikes, various manufacturers will set up booths to promote their line-up of different models. It’s a great opportunity to hit the trails while trying out new bikes. In addition to great singletrack, some festivals will have a pump track and/or a freeride park for pleasure or competition.
If the festival’s distance requires you to travel by air to get there, you’ll need to consider the options if you want to do some riding (beyond just sampling the demos). One such option is renting/ hiring a bike. It’s just a matter of reserving and picking up a bike from a shop that’s near your destination. This can be fairly simple and convenient. On the other hand, an unfamiliar bike might take some time to get used to. Or maybe all the good ones were reserved before you called. Your preference may be to ride the bike that you have dialed in perfectly, you’re intimately familiar with, and is readily available. One that you know is good…your bike.
There’s a couple of ways to get your bike to the destination. One of them is to check it in on your flight as luggage. For this, you’ll need a specifically designed metal, plastic, or fabric padded bicycle case. These can be purchased online or in some bike shops. Getting your bike into the case will require some degree of disassembly to make it fit: the smaller the case, the more disassembly that will be required. Its size will also determine if it will fit into the vehicle at your destination. Check the airlines policies and pricing for shipping this kind of container so that you avoid running into problems.
An alternate method is to have it shipped to your destination. BikeFlights.com, based in Portland, Oregon, is the leading bicycle shipping service for cyclists. Having never used this service, I set out to learn a few things via an interview with Sue George, BikeFlights.com Director of Communications. I found her to be an expert in the business with some great explanations about their service:
What are the advantages of using BikeFlights.com service in lieu of checking my bike in as luggage on a flight?
“You’ll have the convenience of traveling without your bike bag at the airports; you won’t have to worry about the TSA improperly repacking it after a security check; and you can use any size vehicle when travelling to and from the airport. The safety of your bike is another issue. Statistics show that bikes get damaged less often when you ship them compared with taking them on the plane. Furthermore, when shipping domestically, our service will typically have a lower cost than baggage fees.”
If I’m in a race, my bike has to be there. How do I know it will arrive on time and intact?
“We have what’s called the Best Way Guarantee, which is our guarantee for the best service, the best price, and on-time deliveries. If your bike doesn’t get to your event or trip on schedule, we will give you up to $100 per day for up to five days to rent a bike, until yours arrives. We also automatically provide shipping protection coverage of $100 for repair or replacement of goods that are damaged or lost, and you have the option of purchasing more to cover any amount up to a maximum of $15,000.”
*Courtesy of BikeFlights.com
What if I don’t have my own bike travel case?
“If needed, a cardboard bike shipping box can be purchased from our online store. You can also check with your local shop to see if they have any free leftover boxes from the new bikes they get and assemble.”
Who packs and unpacks my bike?
“Many of our customers prefer to disassemble, pack, and reassemble it themselves, but if you need to, you can take it to a local bike shop and hire them to do it for you. In a directory on our website, we have a network of bike shops that have signed up as willing to be hired to pack, unpack, and/or ship & receive bikes.”
*Courtesy of BikeFlights.com
Do you ship internationally?
“We do, but keep in mind that international shipping can be more costly. Because it highly varies by country, we recommend checking the rates to see if it’s cheaper to ship it or take it on the plane with you. If you need help with this, you can contact us for assistance”
So what is the process for shipping my bike with BikeFlights.com?
“Start by visiting our website at www.bikeflights.com. Using our online form, fill out where you’re shipping from and where you’re shipping to. It could be a residence, a hotel, a bike shop, or a Federal Express location, and is customizable for either direction. You’ll also enter when you want it to ship it or when you want it to be delivered, which will then bring up price quotes for different shipping speed options: ground speed or one-, two-, or three-day express. After that, you’ll enter your shipping details, the description of what you’re shipping, and the declared value (which is additional shipping protection). Once you’ve entered your payment information, we’ll provide your shipping labels by email within a few minutes, or you can access and print them directly via your BikeFlights.com account. With your bike packed and your labels affixed to the container, you’ll be all set for your pickup/ dropoff.”
Clearly, how you ultimately end up with a bike to ride while visiting a festival will in part be determined by the method used to get there. Driving, flying domestically, or flying internationally each pose unique considerations that must be factored in to the decision. Fortunately, there are many locations to choose from. The link below contains a list of festivals that were selected based on a combination of factors including attendance, spectator and family friendliness, vendor attendance, world class trails, races, and the food, adult beverage, and entertainment options. Some are larger than others, and what they have to offer varies. Check out their websites and decide which ones appeal to you and fits your schedule and your budget. The listed airports were chosen for their commercial airline service and are two or less hour’s drive from the festival location. Most of the airports have international service, but regional airports are listed when the larger ones are too far away.
Traveling to a new place to attend a festival, ride trails, and immerse in the area’s mountain biking lifestyle will leave you with indelible memories. Whether you’re there to spectate, ride, or shop, it’s sure to be a positive experience that’s well worth the time, effort, and money that it takes to get there. You may want to visit more than one of these great festivals, or you may want to visit as many as possible. How many will you check off your bucket list?