Ironman Bike Shipping

This November (2010) I’ll do my first full Ironman event in Panama City, Florida. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. That means it’s more than a short drive with my bike on top of the car, so the question is what’s the best way to get my bike to Panama City, and to the venue?

I know there are shipping services, and I know there are airlines that ship bikes as checked luggage, but I’ve never used any of them and would appreciate any recommendations, horror stories, etc. I can use in making some decisions.

One issue I already know I’m going to run into is that I’ll probably arrive several days before the event, and will therefore want access to my bike prior to the event to get in a last ride or two, so having my bike shipped directly to the venue isn’t an option (I guess that also means I’ll need to rent a vehicle I can fit the bike into, since I assume most rental vehicles don’t come with bike racks on top).

  • Bill Allred

    Hey Josh,

    I used Tri Bike Transport for Lake Placid and it was awesome. Completely painless, I would highly recommend using them. Couple of thoughts:

    You don’t want to ship your bike via UPS or the airlines. They don’t know how to take care of bikes or care to learn.

    You don’t want to drive to Florida. Way too draining to drive 30 hours before a race.

    You can pick up your bike from TBT at least the day before, maybe 2? That’s plenty. You won’t build any additional fitness in the days before a race. Just stay loose, you’ll still have a chance to go for a spin the day before.

    Good luck training for Florida.

  • Te Koi

    Bill nailed it. TBT is $290 and you get about the same price or less and a lot more out of it than if you went with an airline or UPS.

    It’s so little hassle it’s sick!

  • Dave W.

    You should check to see if any bike shops in that area take care of Ironman shipping. For Ironman Canada, the local bike shop in Penticton will accept bikes shipped to them and will take care of any assembly or tune-ups necessary before you arrive.

  • Cameron

    Josh – I did IM Florida in 2008 and used Tri Bike Transport to send it down there. Easiest option available. However, as I recall a friend of mine who was also doing the event had to sweet talk TBT into putting Utah on their pickup calendar. The drop off point was at the Sports Den on Foothill in SLC. Not sure exactly how many others used TBT besides myself & 2 friends but I saw there were several bikes when I dropped off my bike. You might want to contact TBT first before banking on it. If they are making a stop (or if you can get them to if they’re not) it is definitely the way to go. You’re unlikely going to get a direct flight into Panama City so the last thing you need to worry about is your bike missing any flight.

    Any other shipping service (UPS, etc.) is going to require a breakdown of your bike. TBT takes your bike as is with no breakdown except for maybe your pedals coming off. The only concern you’ll need to consider will be to properly protect your bike from any possible rubbing against other bikes – frame, chainstays, fork, etc. One friend of mine did have one or two spots where his bike was rubbing up on someone else’s on the way to FL.

    Best of luck – email me back if you have any other questions. It’s a great race.

  • Joshua

    Thanks Cameron, I’m pretty sure I’m going the TBT route.

    I hear the biggest elevation gain at the Florida IM is on the swim, is that correct?

  • Cameron

    Yes, pretty much – there is some serious gain once you exit the water up to T1…watch out for that!