This article will discuss the procedure for packing and boxing a bicycle for shipment. This often means taking apart various parts of the bicycle. Although disassembly is an inconvenience for re-assembly, it makes for a well-protected bicycle during transport. The safe transport of the bike relies heavily upon the effort put into packing.
Begin by securing a good box. The best boxes for shipping are actually the plastic shipping crates made specifically for the purpose. These are available from several different manufacturers, and vary in quality and price.
It is also possible to use a cardboard box. These are typically the boxes used by bicycle manufacturers when a new bicycle is shipped to a retailer. The cardboard box material will vary in strength and thickness depending upon brand. Inspect the box to see if the box feels heavy, and the material is thick. It is worth a few dollars to pay for a good quality cardboard box, rather than to get a free box of suspect quality.
Contact airline or other transportation companies for limitations on weight and size. Currently, for international air travel, there is a 70-pound (33 kilogram) limit per checked item before extra charges are applied. Again, double check with your transporter for details and limitations. If flying, do not pack air cartridges, solvents, oils, etc. Assume the bike box will be opened and inspected.
When dismantling the bike, use care not to loose parts. If there is any doubt where a bolt or odd part is to go upon assembly, tag and note the part. If a component is taken apart, it can be useful to return bolt to bike. Gently snug removed bolts back in place. Assume a loose bolt placed in a thread will rattle out, fall off the bike, and fall out of the box.
Tools and Supplies
A variety of tools and supplies are typically required to dismantle and then assemble the bicycle.
- Pedal wrench, such as RW-1. This is a short simple wrench perfect for the traveling athlete. (Note: never use a cone wrench as a pedal wrench).
- Hex Wrenches of various sizes
- Padding material, such as bubble wrap and foam.
- Packing tape (good quality)
- Zip ties and or cord
- Plastic bags for small parts
- Tape to mark position references, such as seat post height
- Clean and lubricate bicycle. Arriving with a clean bike and tuned bicycle will make the transition day much easier.
- Remove pedals. Apply grease to threads for re-assembly, and store in plastic bag.
- Remove front wheel and remove front skewer. Store skewer in plastic parts bag.
- Remove any rotors from wheels. Wrap rotors to protect and store with parts bag.
- NOTE: Unless the tire is a high-pressure road tire, do not deflate for air travel. The additional pressure from air travel will be less than 14 psi (1 atm).
- OPTIONAL: Removing the front fork will generally insure safer shipping. This requires more effort in disassembly as well as assembly. If the fork is removed, begin by disconnecting any computer wire. Secure all headset parts such as bearings and races.
- It is often necessary to remove bars from stem. Another option is to remove stem from fork, but this will require headset bearing adjustment upon arrival. Bars will need to be padded and secure to bike frame. Use care not to twist or damage housings or cables. If bars cannot be secured without damage to housing, remove cable from levers. NOTE: if bars are removed from stem, mark bar rotation with tape.
- Remove rear derailleur. Wrap derailleur in padding and zip tie to frame. Arrange and secure chain so it will not become tangled or twisted.
- Mark seat post with tape, and remove seat post from frame. Wrap post with padding.
- Install fork block in fork legs. If rear wheel was removed, install rear block.
- Place small parts bags inside box. Make sure the parts bags cannot fall out the handle holes. Secure bags to frame if necessary.
- Double check work area for any parts that should be in the box. Pack assembly tools and extra packing tape in a bag and store in box.
- Pad or cover all exposed tubing and paint.
- As a test, shake box side to side and note any movement or rattling. Secure any parts that rattle.
Remove any old plastic tape from box top, if possible. Fold box top shut and tape along seams.
When the bicycle is re-assembled, save plastic bags and padding material for re-packing.