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I need to get from NJ to MT for a tour...

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I need to get from NJ to MT for a tour...

Old 05-03-05, 08:48 PM
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Hello everyone. I have been dreaming of doing a section of the Great Divide trail and have decided to ride 600 miles of the route from Helena, MT to Banff, Alberta (Adv Cyc recently added a canadian section to the route).

I'm a working college student and am planning this tour to take approx. 3 weeks. I had originally planned to fly to Helena from NJ, ride up to Banff and fly back. I'm confident that I can create make shift bike boxes out of cardboard, but with adequate padding to keep the bikes safe, even if at the bottom of a pile of suitcases (several inches of foam padding should do the trick). I was further considering shipping these boxes from Helena to Banff to pick up before the flight home. Recently, I've learned that airlines charge $80 to take the bike along each way simply because ofthe size of the package. This can quite possibly make my trip unaffordable. Also, after reading countless posts on BF about airlines, it seems there are many horror stories, mostly involving the boxes being opened for inspection.

I've looked into amtrak, and they are quite bike friendly as per their bike policy. The downside of going by train is that it will cost about as much as the plane tickets and the extra baggage fees combined, and take about 2.5 days to get there.

Another option would be to ship the bike both ways. I'm not sure where I would ship it to (hotel/P.O.) and there might be some complications with sending it back from canada. I haven't had time to look into this, but it's an option for now.

It seems I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. Can anyone offer some advice? I'd love to ride out to montana, but I simply don't have the time for a cross country bike tour. I would hate to cancel this trip, but possibly someone could suggest a similar route closer to me, that stays inside parks and wildlands. I was really hoping to get into nature and away from roads. I know that many national parks will not allow bikes, let alone have something like the GD mtb trail. Thanks!

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Old 05-03-05, 10:36 PM
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Why don't you call these guys and see what advice they have to offer. https://www.greatdividecyclery.com I just got this shop by googling for bike shops in Helena. Bet you could ship your bike there or some other bike shop in town. If you are going to stay at a hotel the first night, you can ship it to them - my friend did that in Astoria last year. Talk to the bike shop / hotel personnel on the phone, rather than email.

I bet there's a shop or two in Banff too. It's a tourist town.

UPS in the USA is pretty cheap - $40 or so. Don't know about international.

Most bike shops will have a cardboard bike box you can buy for a couple of bucks or have for free. Check with your local bike shop. You can pay them to pack and ship, or pack it yourself. Search on line for packing instructions (try ken kifer or sheldon brown's sites), or lonely planet cycle guide books have instructions too. It takes a few hours the first time you pack the bike, but only about an hour to put it back together. Mountain bikes are easier than road.

Watch out about Amtrack, not all stations allow baggage on/off the train. You should check with a live human being if you can figure out how to talk to one. If the money's a wash, sounds like a waste of time.

Also, I would fully expect the box to be opened for inspection no matter how you ship it - plane, train or UPS. Especially since you are travelling internationally. Just make sure to put all the parts in sealed plastic bags, and tape the bags to the bike, so that stuff doesn't get lost. And don't overstuff the bike box with all kinds of camping crap, just put the bike in there, and maybe a few other things (thermarest, shoes) that won't have a tendency to get lost.

Sometimes international flights don't charge for the bike. investigate various airlines.

Oh yeah... if you are going to use a camp stove, check with your carriers about regulations around shipping those. No used fuel bottles on airplanes, and some carriers don't allow used stoves. You can UPS those things ahead too (not fuel).

(unwanted advice alert) Look - bike touring is all about problem solving. Don't feel like you have to quit or change your route because something is a little complicated - just think through your options, and ask folks for help, as you have done here. Most people love to help others - makes them feel good!

Your ride should be absolutely lovely. Have a great trip!
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Old 05-04-05, 02:17 AM
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Everything I could think of, and more! Perfect.
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Old 05-04-05, 05:11 AM
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Check with UPS. See if you can make arrangements to ship it to the local UPS hub where you are going. I have often picked packages up at my local hub, instead of my doorstep. Just make sure you have your package reciept, and some I.D. with you.
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Old 05-04-05, 05:58 AM
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Thanks for all the advice. I'm definitely going to look into the shipping option, as it seems to be the simplest.
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Old 05-04-05, 07:41 AM
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You might consider getting a hard shipping case for your bike. This should give you maximum protection and minimize the risk of damage in transit. When you get to your starting point, ship the empty case to the destination so it's waiting for you there.

If you go with boxes, then get an LBS at home to pack your bike for you. Find one that does this regularly and make sure they use plenty of padding. Review the UPS packing guidelines at ups.com. If you don't follow them, UPS will not pay for any shipping damages.

Call a bike shop at your starting point and ask about them receiving the package and assembling the bike for you. You'll need to pay a few bucks for them to assemble it, but it's only fair to give them some business if you want them to receive and store your bike until you arrive. You'll also have the bike ready when you get there. If you ship far enough in advance, you'll be able to confirm that the bike arrived safely (or not!) before you leave.
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