Packing a bike for the first time can be challenging. A bike is a delicate, expensive piece of equipment, and its size makes it difficult to pack. It requires advance planning to get to a destination safely. Get tips on how to break down and prepare your ride for transportation, whether you're sending it in a box or a case.
You will need to do the following to prepare your bike for shipping:
- Select your shipping method
- Disassemble your bike
- Pack and ship it
Choose Your Bike Shipping Method
When it comes to shipping a bike, you have two options: a traditional shipping carrier or a bike shipping expert. Do your research before making a decision. Rates are always changing.
Check your bike if you're flying. Check with your airline for specific instructions and to see if any special fees apply. In 2019, American Airlines and Delta announced they would no longer charge oversize baggage fees for sports equipment like bikes.
Container options are also available. Shipping companies sell bike-specific boxes and packing materials. Sometimes bike shops will give away leftover shipping boxes and packing materials. Ask around. It might make sense to buy a bike bag or case if you plan to travel with your bike often.
Prepare Your Bike
Depending on the shipping method you choose, you may have to disassemble components to keep them safe. The following tips will help you secure each part of your bike.
Gather your supplies:
- Bike box or bag
- Bike tool
- Foam padding
- Bubble wrap
- Zip ties
- Shipping tape
- PVC tubing (optional, see #7)
- Extra cardboard
1. Frame and Fork
You can save your paint job by wrapping tubes with foam padding and securing them with tape or zip ties. Make thin tubes more durable by adding a layer of cardboard or additional foam.
Wrap the fork (or stanchions, for mountain bikes) in foam.
If your bike has external cables, place a soft cloth between the frame and the cables.
2. Handlebars, Stem and Levers
Remove the handlebar and wrap it in bubble wrap or foam.
To prevent contact with the sides of the container, position it parallel to the top tube so that all shift and brake levers face inward. Secure with a zip tie.
3. Seat, Seatpost and Pedals
Remove your saddle and post, and wrap them in bubble wrap or foam. After you place them in the box or bag, secure them so the seatpost does not damage other parts of the bike. Zip ties or tape can be used to secure them to the frame or the inside of the box.
Remove the pedals and store them in a small bag or box. Place the container inside the bike box and secure it with tape or cardboard so that it won't rattle around.
4. Disc Brakes
When the wheels are off, use a pad spreader to keep disc brake pads apart.
Remove calipers that extend beyond the back dropout of the bike, pad them, and secure them inside the frame. When the fork is rotated, this prevents them from being damaged or punching through the box. In addition, it provides some extra slack in the cables for the handlebar to be parallel to the top tube.
Store the caliper mount in a small parts bag or box with the pedals by wrapping it in shipping tape.
5. Rear Derailleur and Hanger
Avoid damaging the derailleur and hanger during transit by removing them if possible, wrapping them in dense padding, and securing them to the inside of the frame with tape or zip ties. If you cannot remove them, shift the rear derailleur into the easiest gear and wrap it in bubble wrap and cardboard.
Take off the front wheel. Pad the wheel with foam, secure with cardboard in the box, or use padded wheel bags. Most bike boxes can accommodate a frame with the rear wheel attached.
Cover the cassette on the rear wheel with foam or padding to prevent damage to other components.
Install end caps over the axle ends of both wheels to prevent damage to the box and other components. Remove skewers, thru-axles, and rotors, if possible.
Place a spacer between the fork dropouts to prevent damage to the box and to prevent the fork from being compressed.
Some good spacer options include:
- PVC pipe with a diameter of 12" and secured with a skewer or a thru-axle
- Manufacturers' plastic spacers secured with tape
- Used hubs
- Nutted to threaded axles
Remove all accessories, such as fenders, racks, and bottle cages. Put all small parts and hardware in a sealed small parts bag or box, and secure inside the bike box with tape or cardboard.
Packing and shipping
1. Shake, Rattle and Roll
Put your bike and all its parts in the container, close it up and shake it up. If anything rattles or rolls around, repack accordingly, adding additional padding or zip ties if necessary.
2. Choose Your Destination
When you're staying somewhere, it's a good idea to ship your bike there. Alternatively, you can take it to a local bike shop (make sure they know it's coming and get some ride beta while you're there).
3. Label It
Make three labels: two for the outside and one for the inside. Put two shipping labels on opposite sides of the box. When applying packing tape, cover all four edges of the label (don't cover the barcode).
Attach the labels to a travel case using shipping luggage tags.
If the outer labels are damaged, place a backup label inside the box.
4. Prep for Arrival
In case anything goes wrong during shipping, bring some spare supplies. We recommend bringing a tire (suitable for front or rear use), spokes, a shift cable, a quicklink, a derailleur hanger, a shock pump, and a pair of cable cutters.