Packing Your Bike for Shipping

This article came about after seeing the number of mistakes made when receiving bicycles for Cycle Zydeco. I found that a number of damaged bicycles could have been easily avoided if the bike was shipped more carefully. Some of the trouble I found was:

÷ Taking the air out of tires.

Ł  Taking the air out of the tires leaves the rims vulnerable to damage from the bike box being dropped. Taking the air out might seem like a good idea but it isn't. People are scared the tires will blow up in shipping. Even if you air freight the bike, the cargo hold is pressurized, so tires blowing up wonít happen. Damaged rims and cut tubes and tires will.

÷ Leaving parts on the bike that will get damaged.

Ł  Leaving a computer or accessory on the bike will probably mean it wonít be there for your ride. Take off everything that is sticking out to the sides, front or back and is likely to get broken. You wonít be sorry.

÷ Leaving parts on the bike that tear through the bike box.

Ł  Leaving your forks naked to the cardboard, will mean getting your bike box torn open. The same thing happens when you leave pedals or quick releases with threads sticking out.

÷ Leaving loose parts in the bike box.

Ł  Your bike box is subjected to rough handling no matter which freight company you use. If you leave small parts in the bottom of the box, they will drop out along the way.

Letís look at what you need to make sure your bike makes it to the destination in rideable condition.

Call your local bike shop and ask them to set aside a bike box for you when they build new bikes. I don't agree with articles that suggest double boxing the bike (box inside a box.) The box itself would be safer, but the bike INSIDE the box is what's important. It would help if you ask for a box that is for the same size bike as the one you are packing. You need a box that fits. If you can get the right one, it will help speed up the boxing job. Taping together two boxes takes skill and a lot of time you don't need to waste. If you stand your bike next to a box with the front wheel off, you will have an idea if it will fit. That will help if you donít know how big the box should be.

Here, the bike is taller than the box and it wonít fit safely:


The fact that the frame and back wheel together is longer than the box also means the box is too short to hold the bike. Get a box that will hold your bike, but not so large that there is lots of extra room. You donít want the bike flopping around inside the box, either.

You also need the following tools:

Pedal wrench, Allen wrenches that fit your stem and wrenches or screwdrivers that fit your accessories.


You also need tie wraps, pipe insulation and the plastic bits that the bike companies have sent with new bikes. Those plastic bits fit inside the front fork to keep it from being squeezed, the part that covers the rear derailleur so it won't tear out the side of the box and the part that fits inside the front hub to keep it from tearing the side of the box with the bare axle. These include the piece fitted into the front fork that keeps the sharp fork dropouts from tearing a hole in your box, and the plug that goes into the front axle and the cover for the rear dropout. The small box that holds the pedals and small parts should be with the bike box also.

Now letís pack the bike!

Get a work area that allows you to work without anything getting covered and lost. If you have a work stand, it will make this much easier, but you can do this without one, too with more effort.

First, take the pedals off and place them in the small parts box (shown farther down.) This is done by holding the wrench on the pedal flats and turning the cranks in the same direction you pedal to ride on both sides:


Remove the front wheel, take off the quick release and set the wheel aside. Put the quick release into the small parts box.

Next, you cover the frame with packing. In this case, I use pipe insulation, since it doesnít cost much and is not likely to damage the paint, while keeping the frame from getting damaged. 1 5/8 inch pipe insulation does just fine.

Next, remove the handlebars. If your bike has a front loading stem, just remove the bolts and the handlebars, and then bolt the plate back onto the stem. If you have a quill style stem, then loosen the stem bolt about three turns and hit the wrench with a hammer to force the wedge loose. Once the bars are loose and off the stem or out of the steer tube, turn them sideways and strap them to the frame, which helps hold down the pipe insulation at the same time. Strap the front wheel on the on the left side of the frame with more tie wraps and it should look like this:


Note that the front wheel is tie wrapped just as high as the bottom of the box. When the bike is strapped together, it should actually stand up on its own like this:


The small parts box is that little box which holds all of the things you take off to keep them from getting lost or broken. It should hold your computer, pedals and front quick release, along with anything like rear view mirrors and other easily broken parts and accessories:


You should fill the box with packing to keep things inside from eating each other up. I wrap the computer head with bubble wrap and fill the box with either newspaper or leftover bubble wrap.

Now you can test fit the bike into the box. If it fits without anything getting caught or bulging out on the sides, you can place the parts box in the bottom of the box near the front, like in the second photo above. When the bike goes into the box, the parts box should be right behind the forks. The seat is inserted last before you tape up the box with the seatpost next to the rear wheel and the seat itself in the corner above the rear wheel. You can wrap the seatpost itself to keep it from banging against the spokes.

But before the box gets taped, insert ANOTHER address label inside the box. The primary address label could get torn off and if you have one inside, it will make it to the destination eventually.

Before you do the taping job, look around on the floor for anything you missed.


Taking off as few parts as necessary will make assembly go faster and you can be more relaxed knowing your bike is safe and it will be easy to assemble.