How to ship your bike
If you need to pack up a bike, that’s probably good news: you’ve either sold it or you’re about to take it on a rad adventure somewhere afar. Either way, the downside is that now you have to pack your bike.
We’ll say first things first: you can totally pay your neighborhood bike shop to do this for you. Call a few shops, ask what they charge, and make sure you feel good about their commitment to doing it properly. If the price is right and they’re trustworthy, you may choose to run with it.
Speaking of paying a little money to make a problem go away, bike shipping services exist, too—you can research them online and, if it’s worth the effort saved, have them pack and transport your bike to wherever it needs to go.
If you’re committed to the D.I.Y. approach, just follow the steps below! It’s important to tend to every detail so your bike doesn’t get banged up in transit. Baggage handlers and delivery truck drivers have a way of jostling things around.
1. Do a little research.
If you’re ground-shipping your bike via a service like UPS or FedEx, do a little comparison-shopping on rates and shipping times.
If you’re flying on a plane and checking the bike as baggage, learn the airline’s requirements. Do they want you to use a box, hard bike case, or soft bag? What are their oversized baggage fees? Do you need to keep your bike box under a certain size (or is there a reduced fee if you get it into a smaller box)?
Find out what their procedures are, whether you need special insurance, and whether they intend to throw your poor steed onto the luggage carousel, where it might get caught and damaged. If the airline fees are too expensive or too much of a pain in the booty, you may just want to pay a bike shipping company and be done with it.
2. Gather the materials.
You’ll need a few items, all of which are pretty simple and inexpensive to come by:
- Bubble wrap (and lots of it!)
- Zip ties
- Foam tubing (a.k.a. plumbing insulation, available on the cheap at the hardware store)
- Packing tape
- A large super-sturdy box (which you can probably get from a local bike shop for free or cheap, which gives you a box actually made for a bike)
3. Place foam tubing along the top and bottom tube of your bike frame.
Secure these in place with packing tape or zip ties.
4. Remove your handlebars.
Make sure you replace the head set so you don’t lose any of the smaller pieces—tape the parts together in order and place them in a small bag. Then, wrap your handlebars with bubble wrap and stick them to the bike frame with a zip tie.
5. Remove your pedals.
Easy peasy—wrap them in bubble wrap and place in the box.
6. Remove your front wheel.
Bubble wrap the axles to prevent them from pushing out of the box during transit.
7. If needed, remove the seat and seat post.
Do this if you need to for the box to close. And if you remove them, wrap them in bubble wrap.
8. Put the bike in the box.
First, inspect your work to make sure there aren’t any edge-y metal parts that are going to dig into the box and cut it, or get damaged by the jostle of shipping. If you’re all good, place the frame (with the rear wheel still attached) in the box and make sure it fits securely before adding the front wheel, pedals, and seat. Then, use your extra bubble wrap and foam tubing to secure everything with tons of padding.
Once your bike is snug as a bug, you’re good to go. Seal that box up with lots of tape, and consider adding a tool kit inside for bike reassembly if you need to put it back together at its destination. Don’t forget to toss in a bike lock if you’re taking the bike on a trip.
Have fun if you’re heading off to pedal in far-flung places, and don’t forget to tag us in your pics. We love to watch.
Beth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.