Getting the Bikes Sorted

It’s Indian summer (a term I was surprised to hear our Ukrainian hostess use, since I thought it was an Americanism–google it for lots of controversy on its meaning and origin) here in the Czech Republic, so I am feeling a bit wistful about the fact that our bikes are on their way back to Colorado. From a practical perspective, I know we fly to Greece in less than a week, so letting the bikes go was necessary, but there’s nothing like riding your bike on a sunny autumn day.
Park in Brno
The transition from biking to not biking was, so far, the most stressful part of this adventure. We had a tentative plan in mind (get the bikes boxed, box up gear, ship all to England, take it home on the plane) based upon the research I did before we left home, but we were not at all sure how the plan would be executed. We decided to do the transition in Vienna, since being able to communicate to some extent in the local language would still be possible there. We allotted six nights and five days for making the transition.
When we arrived in Vienna Friday afternoon, we started looking for a bike shop to box the bikes up right away. Our first stop was promising–yeah, sure, our other shop can do that for 25€/bike and they’re open 7 days/week and we can shuttle you to the airport (where the only FedEx office is located) for a fee. We stopped by a couple other places Friday night that were not as promising, but felt good about the first shop. We planned to visit their main location the next day.
A little internet research had revealed that boxes of stuff (panniers, etc.) could most economically be shipped (all the way home!) by using the local post office. So we began Saturday by picking up one of their XL paket boxes and some tape. After grocery shopping (remember that this is not possible on Saturday night or all day Sunday in Austria), we were off to visit the first shop. We pedaled across town and found them. They were friendly enough, but it turned out that the reason it was only 25€ was that the boxes they used were huge! At this point, we were still planning to ship the boxes to England and take them home on the plane, so we knew the huge boxes would not work. Also, all the shipping companies use something called dimensional weight for large boxes, which means that they really charge based on size not weight for bicycles. So, back to square one. This shop recommended a couple other places that might have smaller boxes, but they were of course closed since it was already after noon on Saturday. We consoled ourselves later with dinner at the Irish pub watching English football.
Sunday was a forced (and welcome) day of rest from chores. We made the most of it with a visit to Schonbrunn and a nice home-cooked dinner.
Our first destination Monday morning was the Trek shop within Vienna’s inner ring. I explained our goal to the mechanic in German and then he thankfully was able to switch to English. He immediately understood what we needed. His estimate was 40€/bike; much closer to what I’m accustomed to paying in the US. He asked when we needed them, collected our contact information, gave us a receipt, and took the bikes off our hands. Whew. Big step. After a little tourist activity (see the other posts) we commenced shopping. As bike travelers, we didn’t carry as much casual clothing or warm clothing as we’ll need for the rest of the trip. We also needed a suitcase, since our panniers would be going home too. We finished the day by picking up another box from the post office, since their definition of XL differed a bit from ours. We also determined that UPS was cheaper than FedEx (and much cheaper than DHL) and potentially cheap enough to send the bikes all the way to Colorado. The next question was could Mail Boxes Etc. (MBE) in the Inner ring handle boxed bikes or would we still have to get a big taxi to the airport?
Boxes ready to go!

Tuesday’s successes included shipping two XL paket boxes to Colorado, confirming that Stefan at MBE could accept our bike boxes and ship them all the way home, and purchasing a new suitcase, which we took for a long walk in Vienna 🙂 Almost there.
“I don’t always walk around in Vienna, but when I do I like to take my big suitcase along.”

Wednesday was our final full day in Vienna. After a quick run to the grocery and another load of laundry, we headed off to the bike shop (I should note that our flat was located 2 km from the edge of the inner ring, so we were getting plenty of exercise). They had our bikes ready and compactly packed and came in under the estimate they had given me Monday. The boxes had the typical bike box handles, so we each took one and set off to cover the three blocks to MBE. We probably stopped at least 10 times, but that sure beats paying 100€ and spending half the day taking a taxi to the airport. The shipping bill also came in under the estimate (note: these numbers are still ridiculous) so we went for a coffee to celebrate. I think this was the first time we actually fully relaxed since we arrived in Vienna–or maybe before that.

So, what have we learned? If you are doing an extended trip and not returning with the bikes to your starting location, it’s just going to be expensive. I consoled myself by thinking about it as two weeks worth of summer pay, which somehow made it seem not so bad. If you know you can get rental bikes that meet your needs (key point) everywhere that you want to ride, then that would definitely be simpler, but you would still need to take them back to where you acquired them and it might cost just as much. Making sure the bikes travel with you from beginning to end would also be simpler, but was not an option for us unless we were to use ferries to get to Greece and back. In the end, as always, you make your choices and you live with the costs and consequences.

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