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Six tips: Travel smarter on cycling vacations

If you vacation with a bike, you will definitely pay extra, probably get lost, and possibly break down far from your hotel. Improve your odds with these tricks.

If you want to skip airline fees

BikeFlights negotiates better shipping rates with FedEx than you would be able to get yourself, coordinates pickup and drop-off, and helps you track your bike. Size, weight, distance, and faster shipping options all affect price, of course, but you can usually get a road bike delivered to your destination within a week for $40.

If you can’t skip airline fees

JetBlue offers the best domestic rates for checking bikes, at $50 each way. Southwest isn’t bad either, charging $75 per flight. If you have to fly with a major carrier like United or Delta, the conversation starts at $150 each way. Travel pros have ways to deceive the gatekeepers at check-in, but your fib needs to be better than just calling it “sports equipment.” Trek Factory Racing’s Kiel Reijnen says he once skipped an exorbitant fee in China by telling the agent his bike box held a giant ant farm.

Bike sharing: Not just for townies

Peer-to-peer bike-sharing startup Spinlister —  touted (of course) as the Airbnb of cycling — allows users to rent out their bikes for hourly fees. The selection can be uneven, but you can find race-worthy road bikes like a Cannondale Synapse or Cervelo R3 — or even wheelsets like Zipp 404s. But there are also cool retro finds like a Trek Y-Foil (remember those?).

Mastering the maps

Looking to ride where reception is spotty? If you’re not packing a Garmin, try Google’s new offline maps (Android only for now). If you’re looking for singletrack, the MTB Project website offers a great smartphone app that lets you download offline trail guides with descriptions, rider-generated ratings, stats, photos, and maps for nearly 17,000 trails worldwide. You’re going to have to ask your boss for more vacation days.

The science on ticket prices

If your July travel plans include riding in Provence, book now. If you’re looking, instead, to do that month’s RAGBRAI ride through Iowa, you’ve got time. A recent study conducted by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Commission found that the cheapest times to buy flights are 176 days out for international travel and 57 days out for domestic.

Support staff

Assuming you don’t have the budget to hire a follow car, take a look at the bicycle roadside assistance offerings from AAA and Better World Club. Similar to automotive roadside assistance, these services will give members and their disabled bikes a ride to the nearest town (within certain ranges). BWC is nationwide, while AAA currently serves only Colorado and the Mid-Atlantic.