It was with some trepidation that I left my apartment in Docklands, with my bike in one hand and a large suitcase in the other. I had found a cheap deal for a villa in the Algarve during late September and, having visited before, I knew that it would be perfect for some cycling. But what was it like to take the bike on the plane? And, with only some amateur knowledge of bike maintenance, would I be able to put my bike back together once I arrive in Portugal?
I bought the cheapest bike bag I could find and begged an old cardboard bike box from my local bike shop. I had taken wheels off before to repair punctures but I had never dismantled a bike to this extent. My first mistake was not to remove the pedals before starting on anything else. Pedals are very difficult to get off if you leave them until last. And so I would find out.
The wheels came off easily enough – anybody can do that. I removed the seatpost and saddle. I placed my new Selle Italia saddle to one side to pack in my suitcase. I undid the handlebar bolts and taped the bars to the frame. I struggled with the pedals like a 10 year old child. I did not even have the right tools. However, after yet another trip to my local bike shop, I had the right tool and they came off easily enoough.
I flew with easyjet. It cost just under £20 each way to take my bike on the plane. There is no weight limit on bikes on easyjet, unlike other sporting equipment. Once I had deposited my bike and suitcase at check-in, I felt like a free man. Lugging nearly 50kgs of equipment on the train to Gatwick is not much fun.
When I arrived at Faro airport, I found my suitcase easily enough but my bike bag was nowhere to be seen. Other passengers from the flight disappeared through customs whilst I stood there alone waiting for my bike. Where on earth was it? I stood alone with noone to ask.
In a distant side of the terminal, I spotted a large fire door that was open. Maybe I could find a baggage handler to ask there? As I approached it, I saw that my bike bag had been left to one side. We were reunited. Instant relief.
Having been advised to check the bike at the airport, I cast a quick glance over my equipment. The bike frame had been scratched in a limited area heavily on the flight but otherwise it looked alright.
I took a taxi to the villa. It was quite a dark little house but clean and comfortable. For £81, one could hardly find fault. I assembled my bike within half an hour and quickly set off to find the nearest supermarket. Six hours earlier, I had been in my apartment in London. But now I was cycling in the Algarve. Perhaps not in the prettiest part – Vale de Parra – but I could feel the warm air brush against my body and the sound of siccadas in the distance. Olive and fruit trees lined every garden and my route. This had been a good decision.