Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guest Post: Bikes across State Lines

For the first time since I started writing this blog, I got an offer to do a guest post. So here we are! Minda is a recent addition to the UCR MFA program, and her first post is about moving with a bike. She has some great info, especially if you're dealing with a shipping service to move your baby. I'll let her introduce herself:

Hi. I’m Minda.

I recently left my gig in sales to get my MFA at UC Riverside. As a sales rep I covered a large territory, first from Santa Barbara to San Diego and all of the Inland Empire and then after a promotion and a move to Denver, half of the state of Colorado. I was averaging 500 miles per week behind the wheel! Fortunately, I was provided a company car and my gas and insurance were both covered. Unfortunately, when I left my job, that meant also leaving the car behind too. After crunching the numbers over and over I came to the conclusion that I would be better off financially during grad school if I did not wipe out my savings to buy a car. So, for the first time since I turned 16, I’m going carless. Please join me in my journey as I learn how to navigate Riverside on two wheels and public trans. I’m looking forward to sharing with you what I learn along the way and any tips you can share with me will be much appreciated :).

(J: And here's her first post. I'm bad at segues.)

Ok, so I totally brought this headache upon myself. In March, I received a quite nice gift card from my company for being the top sales rep in the region last year. At the time, I knew there was a move in my future, but I had priced out PODS type moving options and figured I would throw everything in my small one bedroom apartment into a POD with plenty of room for a bike too. This way, I could enjoy riding my bike around Denver all summer. I bought a cutsie Retrospec Ladies’ Sidd 7: Flash forward a couple of months later. I’m ready to throw some money down to reserve a POD and the prices have TRIPLED! Waaaaaay out of my price range. It quickly became apparent that the cheapest way to do this move would be to get rid of or sell as much as possible and replace what I needed on the other end. That left one issue though: my bike. I had just bought my bike, so I really didn’t want to sell it for half price and have to buy another bike at full price once in Riverside. So what were my options?

Amtrak 
Amtrak is probably one of the lesser known options. If you’re taking Amtrak for your move, then you’ll pay $15 for the bike box and another $10-20 to carry your bike on-board. If you just want to ship your bike via Amtrak, you can call to get a quote for Amtrak Express, which you will tack another $15 on for the bike box. The boxes, I hear, I very large, so typically you only need to take the pedals off your bike to fit it in the box. This is one of the most affordable ways to ship your bike if there’s an Amtrak station convenient to you on both ends.

While there is an Amtrak station in Denver, the closest (J: staffed) one to Riverside is in Fullerton. I wasn’t exactly sure how to get my bike from Fullerton to Riverside (and I wasn’t sure how long I would need to leave my bike at the station since I didn’t have a place picked out in Riverside yet) and just simply was not up for one more logistical problem to solve. (J: The Fullerton Amtrak is also the Fullerton Metrolink, so if you want to ship your bike there, you can simply take the 91 line back to Riverside with it. They'll hold it up to 3 days.)

Bike Rack 
Since a friend and I would be road tripping to Cali another friend suggested I buy a bike rack and then Craig’s List it at the end of my road trip. This seemed like a super affordable option. I’ve never used a bike rack (my company car was a minivan, so transporting large things was not an issue), so I had some concerns about whether or not the rack would scuff up the trunk of the rental car over however many miles we would be driving. I was also concerned about not installing the rack correctly and causing damage to my bike, I was concerned about causing damage to the rental car any time I took my bike on and off the trunk, I was worried about my bike getting stolen and I was worried about how it would fare in the parking garage during the Vegas leg of our trip. Just a lot of worrying! I was also having a difficult time finding a Saris Solo rack in town and didn’t really have time to order one in. I also had the challenge of not knowing what car the rental company would give me. There just seemed to be a lot of variables involved. But still a worthwhile option for someone else to look into.

Shipping 
Ultimately, I decided to ship my bike, which was the mostly costly option, but was not as costly as I was led to believe it would be and it was also the option that I had to worry the least about, especially since I was shipping all of my other stuff and having it held at the local FedEx anyhow (it’s cheaper to ship from a FedEx to a FedEx and most FedEx locations will hold your items for 5-days).

My local bike shop boxed my bike for $50. You can Google how to do it yourself if you’re handy like that, but I’m a biking newbie, so I decided to let the experts do their thing. My bike shop told me shipping can be tough on your bike, so you really want it packaged well. The bike shop that reassembled my bike said my bike was packed great and to definitely ship wit FedEx over UPS as they receive brand new bikes all the time via UPS and the boxes are all torn up or upside down, just not well cared for. Bike boxing services vary from shop to shop, so definitely call around. Give your shop at least a week’s notice that you’ll be bringing your bike into have it boxed, so they can save the box from a bike they’ve sold that will fit your bike. It’s crucial that they box your bike in the smallest box that will work. I had my bike box measured at one FedEx location and was quoted $46. When I brought it to another FedEx location to ship it that was on my work route, the guy measured an inch more in width and height and the price jumped to $162! Over two inches! Size DOES matter.

There are also discount bike shipping services like shipbikes.com and bikeflights.com. These sites give you discounted shipping prices and track your package for you to make sure it arrives safely. You can also buy a box from their site to box your bike in. It’s really easy to get a quote on the site as well (Ship Bikes quote process is a bit more thorough than Bike Flights). Ultimately, since I didn’t need one of their boxes and had a small discount on my own FedEx account, the few dollars difference wasn’t worth it to me to use either site.

Once my bike arrived in Riverside, I was able to lay the seats down in the back of my rental car and drive it over to Neighborhood Cyclery in Moreno Valley to be assembled (they were the closest bike shop to my new apartment complex). They charged me $60, prices vary, I think fixies are cheaper because you don’t have to deal with the gears and it just depends on how broken down your bike is. It’s a husband and wife ran shop and they were both super kind and friendly over the phone as well as in person. It only took a day until my bike was ready! I caught the bus to their shop and then rode my bike home… in the scorching heat. Welcome to the Inland Empire!

In total, I spent $50 to have my bike boxed, $42 for shipping via FedEx and $60 to have it reassembled for a total of $152. One bike shop in Denver told me it would cost $160 on shipping alone, so I feel like I got off lucky. Getting my bike to Riverside was definitely one of the biggest logistical issues I faced and was ⅓ of my overall shipping costs. Hopefully this breakdown helps anyone that’s not in a position to sell their bike and needs some ideas on how to get it from point A to point B.

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