How to pack your bike for the trip

Planning on flying with your bike? Here’s how to safely box your bike for travelling.

A proper bike bag is best, but expensive so cardboard bike box from your local bike shop will suffice – and in most cases it’s free. Just call in advance to make sure you can get one. Write your name and contact info on each side of the box.

The Parts Bag
Skewers, pedals, seatpost/saddle and any other small parts go into this bag (a plastic bag works, though a large, padded envelope offers added protection).

Remove, wrap with bubble wrap and place into the parts bag.

Front Wheel
Remove the wheel, deflate the tyre until it’s soft, and put the skewer into the parts bag; zip-tie the wheel to the non-drive side of your frame. If you have disc brakes, don’t let the rotor touch the frame, and put some padding around it if it will hit the side of the cardboard box.

Remove the faceplate and handlebar, then replace the faceplate so it doesn’t get lost. Loosen the top cap, turn the stem around and retighten the top cap. If you do not have a removable faceplate, loosen the top cap and slide the bar/stem off the steerer tube as one piece. To pack, angle the bar around the fork with one end at the fork legs and the other at the head tube.

Attach a fork spacer – ask the bike shop about one when you call about the box – into the dropouts (or use an old hub). Got discs? Place a spacer (a clean piece of plastic or hard cardboard) between the pads to keep them from moving.

Remove the seatpost with the seat attached. Place into the parts bag. Make sure to retighten the binder after you remove your seatpost so it doesn’t get lost. Place a piece of marking tape on the seatpost where it is meant to go for your set-up. Otherwise you will have to measure yourself again.

Rear Wheel
Deflate your tyre. Remove the rear wheel only if fit is an issue. If you have to remove the rear wheel, you’ll also have to remove the rear derailleur (but don’t detach the chain or shift cable); protect it with padding and zip-tie it to the chainstay. Put the skewer into the parts bag.

Rags, bubble wrap and foam pipe insulation are the top picks here. Protect all essential parts of the bike (frame, fork, wheels, rear derailleur, between hub ends and box, etc). Go overboard, both now and when you place the bike in the box – it’s the easiest way to protect against stupid handling mishaps.

Pack it Up
Slide your well-padded bike – with front wheel zip-tied to the non-drive side – into the box. (If you had to remove your rear wheel, pack it after the frame is in the box.) Double-check that everything’s in your parts bag before sealing it, then tuck it in. Add additional padding so nothing rattles around in the box when you give it a good shake.


Some Tips
Remember to bring along the tools to put your bike back in one piece, as well as packing materials (zip-ties, padding, parts bag, tape) to get it home. Don’t pack extra gear in the box. Most airlines have baggage weight restrictions, even for bike boxes; plus, you don’t need all the extra stuff banging into your bike.

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4 Responses to How to pack your bike for the trip

  1. Sil September 8, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    Please may I use this article in a publication – with full credit to your website?

  2. Mike KTW December 16, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    Although this is a carefully written and very informative article, I am surprised that people still travel like this and run the risk of still having their bikes badly damaged. Although they will have saved the cost of a good case, the cost of repairs and possibly wasted trip due to not being able to fix the bike in time for their tour or event, will most often be considerably more.
    Apart from this, one has almost to be a bike mechanic with specialist tools, especially for a carbon frame and seat pillar post, and it could easily take upwards of 45 minutes to disassemble and pack or unpack and reassemble.
    Rather get yourself a BikeSafe; in 3 minutes you are ready to fly or again ride your bike. No specialist tools and no fear of messing up your settings or precious frame and most importantly, no chance of having your bike damaged by airport handling staff.

  3. Austin dermatologist March 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    This packet is so much hardy and made of different materials. The packing system is easier and anyone can send it to long distance. I would like to have one for my bicycle.

  4. Vincent January 15, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Wow. What an awesome idea Mike KTW. I would never have thought about putting my bike in a specialised case. Oh, what’s that… only R3700? Bargain. Why doesn’t everyone travel this way?

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