Here's what I don't get, though. Why is it I can fly my fat ass, pressurized, from L.A. to Paris for $389 in the off season, yet I've got to take out a second mortgage to get my bike from here to anywhere, and it gets no peanuts, no pretzels, no pillow? Doesn't seem right.
Nowadays, it's in the neighborhood of $80 each way to take your bike, regardless of airline. This means it's conceivable your ticket might cost less than your bike's ticket.
Which begs the question, can I just buy an adjoining seat for my steed? Heck, it only weighs 20 pounds?
But no, they won't let you. Why? Because you might use a chainring to hijack the plane, I guess. So, what to do?
Necessity is the mother of invention. A variety of enterprises have come up with different ways to help you get your bike to your race of choice.
In particular, it is the Ironman races that tend to attract these services; however, I've seen it used for other races people travel to, such as USAT Nationals and Wildflower.
One such service is that offered by Inside Out Sports, Ironman North America's exclusive on-site retailer. Pack your bike and ship it to the Ironman race you're attending, and when you arrive Inside Out will have it unboxed, built, and tuned up.
When you're done with the race just drop it back off at Inside Out's expo tent and they'll box it and ship it back to your home. All this will cost your $189, and this includes the freight back home. You'll need to add the $40 or so you'd pay to have UPS or Fedex ground freight it out.
Bicycle Sports used to do this when, over the past two years, its Big Red Truck would travel from race to race. This expanded the number of races for which you could buy this service but, alas, there's no more traveling truck.
"We'd freight and build about 600 bikes a year," John Cobb told me, "Yeah, it was a good deal for everybody."
If you are fortunate enough to live in or around the Raleigh, North Carolina area, you can drop your built bike off at Inside Out Sports and they'll take it to the Ironman for you. They'll do this for $149, tune-up not included, which is less than you'd pay to have the airline take it. And, no need to tear it down and build it up. What a deal.
But what if you don't live in North Carolina? There are two entities doing this as a business out on the West Coast. One is Wheels on Wheels, a mobile bike-repair enterprise in San Diego. Its owner, Dan Plummer, delivers a truckload of San Diego based bikes to and from various races around the country for $200.
"But we may go up to $225 next year," said Plummer, "depending on what fuel prices do." San Diego- and some South Orange County-based athletes will have this service provided at many domestic Ironmans and a fair number of other races.
Bigger yet in scope and ambition is Tri Bike Transport. Its owner, Marc Lauzon, has quit his day job and jumped headfirst into the bike transport arena. You drop your bike off at your LBS (local bike shop), Lauzon comes by with the truck, picks it up and hauls it to the race.
You fetch it when you show up at Ironman Florida (the next race on the schedule), and after the race, Tri Bike Transport delivers your bike to your LBS. All this for $175, and for an additional $20 you can also drop off another bag (with wetsuits and so forth).
Tri Bike Transport is the first more-or-less nationwide bike transport system I've seen. One truck is going to Ironman Florida in November (415-806-8792 for those whose bikes need an imminent lift to the race).
Next year there will also be trucks servicing the Midwest and East Coast. Each truck follows a route, and stops at an LBS in each town, picking up and delivering to the race site (and back again) fully assembled bikes.
Here is the Tri Bike Transport schedule for the upcoming Ironman Florida race:
Transition Sports, Oakland, CA
Cupertino Bike Shop, Cupertino CA
Pacific Tri & Running, Encino, CA
Edge Cyclesport, Laguna Hills, CA
Foothill Cyclery, La Verne, CA
Nytro Multisport, Encinitas, CA
Landis Cyclery, Tempe, AZ
Sportz Outdoor, Albuquerque, NM
Richardson Bike Mart, Richardson, TX
Britton's Bicycle Shop, San Antonio, TX
Austin Tri Cyclist, Austin, TX
Bikesport, Houston, TX
What is the next evolution? Maybe for an extra $80 each way you can induce your bike to take you along.
Dan Empfield is the publisher of the online triathlon journal Slowtwitch.com, and is the founder of bike- and wetsuit-maker Quintana Roo.