Travel: Why flying can give you more riding time
Why you should seriously consider alternative transport for you and your bike on your next trip
’m writing this column on a train. My bike’s a few carriages ahead of me, strapped down on an open-sided transporter. We’re heading back from Italy, bound for Holland. Not riding back - but then I didn’t ride down either.
I flew to Nice and collected the bike, which had been shipped down a few days earlier.
I know what you’re thinking: it’s what our MD said when I mentioned I was doing this. “Isn’t riding down part of the adventure?” Well, yes it is...
but I pointed out to him that it would mean three days riding to Italy and three days riding back. He nodded, then winced as he worked out what six more hotels and six more days of fuel and food would cost.
For me, though, it’s the cost of the time that’s the issue. Six days of not riding in Italy, when actually all I want to do is ride in Italy. I’ve spent years riding about in search of great roads - and most trips start and finish with a two-day slog on motorways across the flat bits of Northern Europe. Four days of valuable hairpin-bashing, coffee-sipping, sunglass-wearing time wasted.
So on this trip, the bike was shipped out with FlyBikeFly. It means dropping the bike off at their depot and crating it up about a week-and-a-half before you mean to collect it, but you can include your luggage. Then it’s a hand-baggage-only budget flight to Nice and a cab ride to collect it from a haulage firm on an industrial estate. This isn’t Riviera glamour, but it works.
The £395 cost is, I reckon, about 25-30 per cent more than I’d have spent on hotels, food and fuel to get to Nice. The difference is that six hours after leaving home in England I was riding in the South of France. For me, that’s worth it.
The return was on the Dutch Autoslaap sleeper train from Livorno to Den Bosch in Holland. It’s an experience, all right. Loading is hot and organised in a very... Italian fashion. After getting the bike on, you wait on a hot platform before getting on the train and settling in for the long journey.
It’s a bit like travelling in the ’70s, with no wi fi and limited power sockets for phones, so you need to have something to keep you occupied (like writing a magazine column). But the food is good, the staff are friendly and the cabins are comfortable. Plus you get back to within easy reach of Calais and home in 24 hours. It’ll be a long day, but tonight I’ll sleep in my own bed rather than somewhere in Belgium.
Shipping your bike out to ride in the South of France or Italy may not be the rufty-tufty ‘real’ biker’s idea of how you do a bike trip, but I don’t care. It’s a way to reach places you otherwise couldn’t get to in the time available - or could only see briefly by spending every day on motorways. And that’s
a real waste of biking time.
For info on shipping your bike to Nice, see www.flybikefly.com.
For information about overnight trains to and from Italy, see www.railsavers.co.uk
Words Simon Weir