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So you're going on a mountain bike holiday? To the Alps, Spain or the Basque Country? Are you going to take your own bike or hire one when you get out there? Well, hiring sometimes looks like the easy option, but it can be very expensive, at up to EUR400 a week, and then there's the time it takes you to get used to a new bike which can put a damper on your first few days. Taking your own bike might seem like a hassle but it's not really that hard, especially if you follow the guide below.

I always totally over pack my bike. People laugh but I've never had a scratch on it. It takes a bit longer and you end up carrying a bit more weight but this is how I do it, you can always decide where you want to cut the corners when you're doing it yourself.

So, what you'll need:
1. A good quality bike bag, including wheel bags. I really recommend getting one with little wheels because you're bike's going to be heavy once it's all packed up!
2. Some pipe insulation, which you can get from B & Q or similar. It's a bit expensive but you can use it again and again.
3. Tape.
4. Some wood.

Step by Step:
1. Clean your bike and put it in a work stand. The workstand obviously is not essential but it makes it so much easier. Cleaning your bike is a good time to inspect everything to make sure you're going to be sorted for your holiday. Do your brake pads need replaced? Is your BB and headset working nicely. No frame damage?

2. Remove your cranks. Remove your pedals, wrap in bubble wrap and put into your bike bag. Wrap your cranks and the axle in bubble wrap and put into your bike bag. Now is a good time to grease your BB and service your pedals!

3. Take your wheels off. Remove the QR's and put into your bike bag. Remove the disks, put each one in a poly bag and tape together for strength. I put the bolts in tinfoil and stuff into the center of the disks. Put discs into bike bag and wheels into wheel bag.

4. Remove your rear brake caliper, save the bolts somewhere safe in your bike bag! You can either disconnect your rear mech and tape the cables to the frame or you can do what I've done and just disconnect it and we'll tape it somewhere safe later. Remove your mech hanger and put it somewhere safe.

5. Turn your front mech so it sits safely. If this can not be done remove it. You can draw round the outline of the mech with a non-permanent pen to make it easier to put back in the same place if you want!

6. Remove the front caliper. If you have a maxel like me then you can just put it in to stop the fork legs being squeezed together, make sure that the lift lines up with the fork leg to stop it being damaged. If you have a front QR then you'll need to cut a wooden spacer as for the rear dropouts and tape it in place.

7. Remove the handlebars leaving the stem on the steerer tube. We're going to tape these to the downtube later. I slacken all my clamps and this gives enough slack to do this. If you do not have enough slack to do this then you'll need to remove the clamps from the bars.

8. Use the pipe insulation to cover the frame and forks. You'll need to cut it to length and shape it to fit around the disc mounts etc. Tape the protection into place to stop it moving about.

9. Fix the handlebars to the downtube, outside the insulation. Make sure that the brake levers and shifters are in a position that ensures they're protected; If you're not sure take them off because a broken brake lever is going to be expensive!

10. Tape the front calliper in between the fork legs. Make sure that the tape is not going to touch your disc pads. Put a spacer between your pads to stop them being compressed, some brakes come with spacers but a couple of 50p's taped together works for me!

11. Fit a spacer between the rear dropouts to prevent them being crushed. I use a section of wood which I cut to shape and tape in place. I'm going to drill a hole through it next time and use my QR's to keep it in place.

12. Add your pipe insulation to the rest of the bike. Tape the rear mech and brake calliper into the rear triangle so that they're protected. Remember to fit your pad spacers, I always forget.

13. My bike looks a bit like this at the moment! The dropouts are spaced, all the main bits of frame are covered, nothing sticks out to get caught and damaged and all the insulation is fixed in place.

14. Cover the rest of the bike in the bubblewrap. I've only shown the forks here but I wrap it all over the frame too so that it's totally enclosed. Now fit it into your bike bag. Make sure that it's all quite even spacious and that there's nothing sticking out too much that is likely to get damaged. The test for me was would I be prepared to throw it about and stand on it, because that's what the baggage handlers might do.

All that takes me about 45 minutes the first time and about 30 minutes on the way back. A beer helps.

Good luck. If anything does go wrong and you're traveling with a good bike company then they'll help you fix it when you get there. In fact a really good bike company should help you unpack your bikes, or at the least offer you a beer when you're doing it!

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Source by Doug McDonald