Taking your bike away with you on a plane can be a nerving experience. You have invested a heap of coin into your pride and joy and lets face it we have all been sitting in a window seat watching how carefully the baggage handlers look after our luggage!
Obviously, you’ll need a bike box. These are available at bike shops. Call first to check availability. They'll need to know your bike size to select the right box, too. Another specialty item is a fork protection splitter. This is inserted into the fork to prevent damage. Shops can supply this or you can make one out of a 1- x 1-inch block of wood 100mm long with screws and washers in the ends.
Shops can also provide an axle protector, which is pressed onto the front axle to keep it from poking through the box. Or you can cover the axle with cardboard.
- 2 inch-wide packing tape
- packing material: cardboard, newspaper or bubble wrap
- string and/or zip ties
- marker to address the box and cross out old addresses
- Small cardboard box
- pedal wrench
- 4, 5, 6 mm allen keys
- Rubber mallet
Let's get started:
Before removing the seatpost, wrap a piece of tape around it right at the frame to mark your seat height so you’ll set things right during reassembly.
Remove the pedals by turning the right counterclockwise and the left clockwise (the left pedal is “reverse threaded”). Put the pedals in the parts box.
Remove the front brake. If you have a road bike with sidepull brakes, remove the front brake from the fork reattaching its nut and any hardware (photo) and wrapping it in paper (do not detach the cable). For linear-pull and cantilever brakes, remove the side of the brake that’s attached to the cable being sure to tape the parts together so they can’t get lost.
Removing the brake like this retains your adjustment and lets the brake move with the handlebars. Remove the handlebars. If you have a stem that can be opened to remove the handlebars, do so and replace the stem bolts snugging them so they won’t fall out and get lost during shipping (leave the stem in place on the bike).
Be sure to reattach the top cap and spacers noting their position for correct reassembly. Also, install a zip tie (or tape) around the top of the fork just above the top spacer (photo) so it won’t rattle or fall out of the frame.
Remove the front wheel. Unscrew the quick release, extract it from the hub and then reassemble it and place it in the parts box. Press the axle protector into both sides of the axle. Put the fork protection block in place between the dropouts.
Tie the bike/wheel together. With the bike resting on the ground, place the wheel next to the left side of the bike. You can use either string of large zipp ties for this.
Position the handlebars. If you’re packing a bike with flat bars, you can usually fit the bars on top of the top tube and wheel. Place them so they’re as narrow as possible so the bike will pass through the box opening. And make sure that no part of the bars or stem can bang into the frame or rim. Add padding if needed.
Then tie the bars in place. For dropped handlebars, try putting them under the top tube and partly inside the wheel (photo) or try resting the hooks on the top tube with the levers facing up. You may need to fine-tune the placement when the bike is in the box if the levers protrude too far.
Levers are fragile and expensive, so situate them safely, padding them if necessary. Also, pay attention to the cables and housing so you don’t kink them. Maintain loops in the housing and keep trying until you find a handlebar position that’s safe.
Now you can box it! Tape your parts box shut and place it in the bottom of the bike box (it’s a good idea to attach the box to the bike so it can’t move around). Rotate the fork 180 degrees, which will make the package a little shorter. Now, lift the bike and place it into the box so that the parts box ends up just behind the fork. Wrap the seat/seatpost, rest it on the rear wheel and tie it to the wheel so it can’t get loose and bang up your bike. Pack aero handlebars similarly or wherever they fit best. If you removed it, tie or tape the front brake so it can’t bang into anything. Then close and securely tape the box shut (don’t forget the bottom).
Don’t forget to pack the tools and materials needed to repack the bike for the return trip. At the other end if you have no where to store the box you can always pick up another from the LBS ( local bike shop) to save you from storing the box.
Remove the pedals, seat and seatpost. To prevent injury, use pliers to remove any loose large staples in the box top (often used to seal boxes at the factory). Use the small cardboard box to keep the small parts in to avoid them flying around in the box and scratching up your frame, or worse still falling out. . Shift the bicycle chain onto the small chainring and largest rear cog. This keeps the rear mech out of the road and lessens the risk of the derailleur hanger getting bent.
Follow these easy tips and your pride and joy should arrive in one piece.