We all yearn to fuse our passion for bikes with travel. There’s certainly no shortage of places to go, and if you jump off the beaten path, you can do so quite affordably. But unlike going to a highly visited mountain bike destination like Whistler, Alps, BC or New Zealand, you have to be prepared because the infrastructure won’t provide for you otherwise. Here are a few tips to making your international MTB travel run as smoothly as possible.
FIND THE RIGHT PLACE
Ask fellow MTB friends, search for international race locations, check out blogs, reach out to foreign MTB athletes…whatever it takes to find the right, undiscovered place.
GET IN TOUCH WITH THE LOCAL
Every undiscovered MTB destination has a small and tight network of locals who shred. Find out who they are, get in touch, and offer to pay cash for an informal guided day so they can show you the goods. Chances are, they’ll be stoked to show you more, and cost-wise, it’ll be a win-win for both. There’s little to no beta in undiscovered third world places, so worst case, find some .gpx files, a good GPS device, and get ready for an adventure. Or there’s likely a tour company that’s ready to rip you off.
BUY, RENT OR BORROW A BIKE BAG
Make sure you have a good travel case. If you don’t own one, you can likely rent from a local shop. Dakine, Thule and Evoc make great bike bags. Pack everything safely (remove rotors, remove or heavily pad derailleur, pad frame with pool noodles, etc.). Generally, put as much padding around your bike as you can fit in the case. *Tip: depending on the bike case sometimes you can get the airlines into thinking it’s music equipment or just a standard oversized bag so you’re not paying $100-$150 each way.
Third world and developing countries DO NOT have parts for your fancy American bike (Guatemala was completely oblivious to the existence of 27.5”), so in addition to the standard must-haves, it’s critical that you pack extra; brake pads, derailleur hanger, tires, sealant, lube, tubes, plugs, shock pump, tools, and a floor pump.
EXPECT RUGGED TRAILS
In developing countries, trails aren’t maintained and certainly not for bikes, so expect the most rugged, loose, raw conditions imaginable. That’s what makes it so fun! You’ll often find yourself on old native footpaths, riding through 10” deep water ruts, drifting down shale, or fending off jungle vines. Don’t expect flowy, bermy, or smooth.
YOUR CREW IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE
As with most things in life, your crew makes all the difference in the world. Choose a crew that’s fun, cohesive, positive, and very flexible. If things don’t work out as intended, hopefully, you’re surrounded by people that are ready to crack a beer and laugh it off.