Will your bikes follow you on the plane to Bend? © Johnny Jupiter Photo on flickr

Will your bikes follow you on the plane to Bend? © Johnny Jupiter Photo on flickr

by Kenton Berg

With the 2009 USAC Cyclocross National Championships just over a month away, have you figured out how to get yourself and your bike to Bend, Oregon to contest the race for the stars and bars jersey? Flying directly may be the easiest for people coming from a long distance, but flying with your bike may be a risky proposition.

The adventures of getting to Bend for ‘Cross Nats began back in early October when the all-out frenzy of registration took center stage. With that over, if you are one of the many who live too far from Bend to drive and must fly and you haven’t booked your flights or taken care of lodging, it’s likely your adventure isn’t over.

To make your journey as smooth as possible, I did a some research into the challenges of getting to Bend, and have some thoughts, suggestions, and possible pitfalls to share with you.

Flying into Bend isn’t like going to Chicago or Atlanta.The number of airlines who fly to Bend is minimal and those flights are mostly served by regional partners who get you from larger cities to Bend. These partners fly “Regional Jets” and they have different cargo capacities than your usual 737, A320 etc. With the small airport and small planes, we were concerned about a plane’s bike capacity. If we get a few racers traveling with their bike(s) on one flight, could the plane handle the bulky cases or boxes? Will some racers’ bikes be left behind? We needed to find out.

“The planes flying into Redmond are pretty small, so you might want to send your bikes ahead of time,” Valerie Warren of VisitBend told Cyclocross Magazine.

How will you know if you’re going to be in small plane that may be limited in bike-carrying capacity? This is where a phone call and some research with the airlines will pay off. You can locate the airlines who fly into Bend on at:

What this means to you, the racer, is that getting your bike to Bend may be a problem (not definitely, but could be). We’d advise you to call the airline to find out what it will cost you ($50+ is typical each way) and whether they can guarantee your bike will be on the flight with you, and what the alternative is if you and nine other participants all get on the same flight with 10 to 20 bikes and they can’t all fit.

Think about this – are you arriving on Thursday to race on Friday? What happens if you bike doesn’t make the flight to Bend and can’t get there until Friday. Care to run for 45 minutes instead of ride? This is a very real scenario.

Ship It, Just Ship It

Thankfully there are alternatives. You can ship your bike, and Warren says several shops are offering deals to build your bike if you have it shipped to them.  Several shops are taking shipments in at no cost unless you want them to build it back up and have it ready for you. You can also contact your hotel to see if they will take the shipment for you (a definite convenience). Call UPS, FedEx, DHL etc. to see what the rates are for shipping a bike. Your LBS should have bike boxes you could use if you don’t have a nice bike box for traveling.

So once you’ve landed in Bend with your bike (hopefully at the same time) how will you get to your hotel? If you are staying near the venue, perhaps you don’t need a rental car if you can get yourself and your gear to your hotel.

But if you need to rent a vehicle, the amount of large vehicles at the Bend airport for rent is limited. I couldn’t get a figure from the rental car companies but SUV’s and vans are at a premium. Your other alternative is to fly to Portland on a regular jet and then drive to Bend. Its about 2.5-3 hours to drive there. Portland may have a bigger selection of SUV’s or vans but you need to factor in your additional drive time etc. Is it worth it?

If you are going to ship your bike, dealing with a rental car may be minimized to just getting the bike back and forth the the race venue and the shop for shipping. In this case a small car with a trunk may be sufficient for short distances, especially if you are only bringing one bike.

If flying with your bike sounds too risky, the following shops may be able to help you with shipping:

  1. Sunnyside Sports:
    Ship your bike to our friends at Sunnyside Sports and they’ll have it waiting for you in tip-top shape when you arrive!  Check out the details on their website or call them at (541)382-8018.  Also, Sunnyside Sports is offering a 10% discount on parts and clothing to anyone with a Cross Nats race bib.
  2. Sagebrush Cycles:
    Build and race prep for $40.00 (half price). Sagebrush will save your box for you and will pack to ship after the race for $30.00 (extra cost if dirty). This is normally a $50.00 fee. Also, 10% off any accessories with proof of racing (bib, license, etc). Same day service on almost all repairs.

Good luck making your final arrangements and safe travels. For more info on the event, be sure to see the official event guide.

See you (and hopefully your bike) in Bend. Thankfully, I’m driving.