Ask a Random Triathlete: Bike Transport and Homestay Etiquette

Just press the magic button. (Photo:

Welcome to the first installment of Ask a Random Triathlete, because who is better equipped to answer any question with a tone of vague and unfounded authority than a random triathlete. This week we’re tackling two queries from our forum: how to ship your bike to a race when someone else won’t do it for you, and what’s the best etiquette for a homestay (presumably besides being a normal human being).

Submit your own questions in the comments below, on the forum, or by emailing me, your Random Triathlete. I can guarantee that even if I don’t necessarily know all the science and stuff, I’m pretty sure I’m right.

How the hell should I get my bike to the ITU Grand Final in Cozumel if there’s no TriBike Transport option and I’m not a confident enough mechanic to take it apart and put it back together on the other end?

I feel like this is one of those questions to which you already know the answer, but you’re hoping that you’re wrong.

Cozumel World Cup ITU Triathlon

Cozumel World Cup ITU Triathlon | Men’s Elite | October 4, 2015 | ©2015 Rich Cruse ITU

You’re not wrong. You need to learn to pack your bike in a box, take it to the airport, check it in, and then take it back out of the box once you land. Even I can pack my bike in a box, and I’m so bad at bike maintenance I left Scotch tape holding things together for a whole year. (I’m not talking duct tape, which is completely acceptable. I mean regular picked-it-up-off-my-desk-and-decided-this-was-the-best-bike-tool-around Scotch tape.) Packing your bike is not complicated. Stop whining.

Here’s a YouTube video on how to pack your bike in a box. Here’s another one. Here’s one about taking your pedals off your bike, which is really easy, but it seems like odds are you probably need help with that too.

Seriously, I don’t know who you’re talking to, but everyone who’s been acting like packing a bike is complicated is lying to you. Or else trying to convince themselves that they’re intellectually fulfilled working in a bike shop. All you need to do is the following:

  • take off the pedals
  • take off the rear derailleur 
  • pull out the seat/seat post
  • take off the handlebars — I prefer to unscrew the headset and pull off the whole front-end situation in one piece
  • wrap everything in packing materials and electrical tape; pipe insulation from Home Depot (or your local, organic alternative) works best
  • pack it all in the box with your wheels

I know. You’re thinking, ‘Actually that does sound kind of complicated. Can’t I just pay someone else to do it for me?’ Yes, sure, you can. This is America; you can pay anyone to do anything. And I get it. I’m all about throwing money at problems so that they’re not your problems anymore. It’s The Dream. But have you looked at those TriBike Transport prices? (I just did, actually.) Do you know how much a set of bike tools costs instead? Maybe $60, if you get the Gucci Allen keys. Don’t you want to buy more bikes with all that money? Or race entries? 

Not to mention the pride and independence, etc. You’ll probably race faster simply from this newfound sense of self-reliance alone.

It’s time. Move up in the world. Stop acting like a slave to the corporate industrial consumerist cycle. Be a doer, not a spender. Plus, anyway, once you get to Cozumel (or wherever — this advice extends beyond Mexico), after you mostly put your bike back together, you can nearly always go to a local bike shop and/or the race on-site mechanic, twirl your hair around your finger, look confused, and ask if they could just double-check this for you real quick, kthnx, *smile winningly*.

What is appropriate etiquette for a homestay? What is considered an appropriate gift to bring?

Wine. Everyone likes wine. Except alcoholics. Don’t get your host wine if they’re in AA. In that case, you should buy them something small and kitschy and unique to where you’re from — like, the kind of things that are typically sold in airports.

(And unless you’re from Napa, you should probably purchase the wine once you arrive at your destination, instead of carrying a glass bottle in your bike box. Just saying.)

Wine Etiquette

Sure, a box is fine – if it’s a wood box with a bottle in it

I’m also not sure there’s different etiquette for being a guest in someone’s house during a race, as opposed to being a guest in someone’s house at all other times of the year. Don’t expect them to make or provide you with food. Don’t make excessive demands on their time or hospitality. Follow the house rules and schedule, as reasonably as possible. Basically, be a normal polite human person. Or just pretend you’re Canadian. Maybe the only triathlon difference would be a willingness to talk about the race as much or as little as they want to hear about it. Personally, I always find people want to hear far more about the details of how this whole triathlon thing works than I want to discuss. So my personal etiquette primarily consists of trying not to be a bitch. 

If that sounds like a lot of work, well, then maybe next time you should stop being cheap and pay for a hotel. 


About the Author

Kelly O'Mara
Kelly is a reporter and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She quit triathlon for a few years, because triathletes can be annoying, but now she's back into it and only hanging out with the non-annoying triathletes. She blogs about stuff at Sunny Running.