The following story, is no doubt one many will have experienced and therefore can relate to, whilst others may come to experience, as we set goals wide and far within the cycling community.
Early February was set as the first of this year’s exploits to mainland Spain. With many airlines offering great deals and options, travel on this occasion would be courtesy of Easyjet using the familiar Belfast International to Alicante route. Unlike most other trips however, this trip would see me travel slightly vexed and nervous, owing to the accompaniment of my latest pride and joy, a Lapierre Aircode 600, on route to Spain to replace my weary and fatigued Willier Motorola.
Packed and awaiting the journey for several days, with forks locked by spacers and the frame beefed out as much as possible with the customary foam pipe insulation, it was time for the push off. So with car seats down and bike loaded, I left at ease, knowing, at least this part of the journey, was under my control.
Arriving at the airport and identifying the check-in, I quickly joined an already maturing, well-formed queue, for the unrelished but necessary separation. It was now almost time to put my bike in the hands of others and to trust in a somewhat invisible handling procedure and in the professionalism of many third parties. Boarding ticket checked and the guiding extension of a right hand index finger from the check-in member, I headed for the X-Ray machine at oversized baggage. It was here I would see the last of my bike bag until reunited in Alicante.
Many things can cross your mind during the travel process and one in particular constantly ebbed in and out of my thoughts. It was the concern over the vulnerabilities of carbon pushed or pulled, in any other direction other than that intended by the manufacturer. Thoughts also, like does my travel insurance cover the potential costly replacement of broken parts, or who would I apportion blame and at what point of handling, should I discover damage at a later time.
Generally I don’t worry so much in life, but cycling and my cycling stuff more specifically, well that’s a different matter.
With my pride and joy now separated, Unknown to my wife sharing the journey, I had decided to try and find somewhere in the departure lounge, I could sit by a window in the off chance of seeing my cherished package go by, on route to the aircraft hold. No luck however, Starbucks and a Skinny Latte got precedence. Well at least it wasn’t raining outside.
Whilst grateful of the use of one of the club owned bike bags, (provided by club sponsor Chain Reaction Cycles), siting on the aircraft, I revisited worrying thoughts that had occurred whilst packing. Soft bags had improved significantly and come a long way, however, did they really offer the same protection as a hard shell case. For me personally, they lack the user confidence afforded by hard shells.
After a smooth 2 hrs 40mins flight and an equally smooth touch down in Alicante, it was now time to focus on reuniting with my bike bag and the onward journey, in a hire car hopefully fit for purpose.
Having been seated centrally in the aircraft, dis-embarking would be slow, but on this occasion, secretly it suited. I would linger as much as possible while I watched and hoped desperately that my package wouldn’t be jettisoned from the airframe, onto the bed of luggage that had gone before. Unloading the on board luggage and dis-embarkation went fairly quickly and without the chance to see neither runway or baggage from the hold unloaded, we made our way onward to passport control and then the luggage carousel.
Now vexed more than ever with the stress associated with vehicle hire, now moving foremost in my mind, after some directional assistance I made my way to lonely, quiet carousel used for bikes, golf bags, prams and baby buggies Having been last out of the larger items belt meant, last in the queue for the collection of our hire car. Would you believe it a Fiat Panda.
Not quite the dimensions of Dr Who’s Tardis inside, though thankfully at a squeeze, capable of holding the required bike bag. It was now I found the benefits of the less rigid bike bag. The final leg of our journey was relatively short, at just 45mins and with little fuss, the journey rolled past, with the package delivered a little over 7hrs after check in.
Many make such journeys on an irregular and for some regular basis and to them I take my hat off. On this occasion I had chosen to travel without additional bike insurance, relying largely on a generic travel insurance. With the worry associated with mishandling and the high cost of replacement, for peace of mind, I would strongly advise those travelling with expensive equipment, to seek additional specific cover. Finally my thanks to the generosity of Chain Reaction Cycles and for a bag that performed equal to the challenge.