Packing And Shipping Your Bike with BikeFlights.com

17 March, 2018

This winter I planned my great escape from the North East winter and I brought my bike along with me. Being four months away from home, I couldn't imagine living without my ride, especially where the sun is shining. On my search for the most affordable way to ship a bike, I came to a conclusion that learning how to pack and ship my own bike will give me more confidence in knowing it's secure and will save me hundreds of dollars in the future. 

While this post is about the know-how-to's of packing a bike, I also want to share with you a review of the company I prefer shipping my bike with, Bike Flights. Their platform for bike shipping is really easy to use, all you need are addresses, a few tools, packing material, a printer, and the rest is up to you to DIY pack for it's pickup at your convenience. So if you are intimidated by the thought of taking your bike apart to pack but would like to learn how to pack and ship your bike off to your next travel destination, this post is for you.

To start, if you're more of a visual learner, my favorite bike boxing tutorial is GNC's video on How To Pack A Cardboard Bike Box. It covers all you need to know and has good commentary on the little things to remember.

Supplies
-Bike Box. Usually you can pick one up from your local bike shop, just make sure it's in good shape, no holes, thinned out material or open parts. Or you can purchase material on BikeFlights.com
- Foam padding or bubble wrap. These will help keep your bike in place and help protect your bike from shipping travel.
- Masking tape, electric tape, rubber bands, or zip ties. These will help secure padding in place.
- Extra cardboard
- Bike Multi-tool
- Small bag for acessories, parts, tubes, pedals etc.
- Packing Tape
- Pedal Wrench or 6mm or 8mm Allen Key for removing your pedals.
-Shipping Label

1. FOAM AND SECURE

Wrap each tube with dense foam padding and secure it into place to prevent scratches, dings and dents with zip ties, rubber bands or tape. For bikes with external cables, add a layer of soft, smooth cloth between the frame and cables to keep cables from scratching the finish. For bikes with thin tubes, add an outer layer of foam, cardboard or hard plastic to areas likely to contact a wheel or other components. To protect your rear derailleur and hanger, shift the rear derailleur to the easiest gear and cover in bubble wrap to protect them from damaging the box.
2. WHEELS
Remove front wheel and protect axle and cassette from damaging the box or other contents. Remove skewer and thru-axles whenever possible and place in a designated parts bag to secure them. If your wheels have rotors, remove them to prevent bending. Install plastic end caps over axle ends on either side of the hubs and cover cassette with dense padding or felt secured into place. Pad wheel with  cardboard or foam or slide wheels.
3. DROPOUTS
Install spacers between frame and fork dropouts to protect ends from damaging the box and to prevent frame and fork compression. Spacer options include the following: Plastic spacers - like those used by manufacturers . Secure in place with tape. Threaded axles with nuts. ½" diameter PVC pipe cut to length and secured into place with skewer or thru-axle. Old hubs.
4. STEM, HANDLEBARS, SHIFT AND BRAKE LEVERS
With a multi-tool, remove stem and/or handlebars as necessary and prevent them from contacting the sides of the box. Wrap all parts in dense foam and secure it into place with tape, zip ties, or rubber bands. Position handlebars so that all shift and brake levers face inward, away from the sides of the box or case. 
5. Seat and SeatpostRemove, pad with foam or cardboard and secure to keep the seatpost from damaging the box or other contents.
6. Remove PEDALSBefore you remove your pedals, be sure that you have the right size Allen Key and pedal wrench. Remove pedals and place in small parts bag. Reminder: Right pedal has a regular thread (counter-clockwise to loosen), while the left pedal is reverse threaded (clockwise to loosen).
7. ACCESSORIES
Remove bottle cages, fenders and racks to protect them from contacting the side of the box or other contents and damaging themselves or the frame’s bosses. Stow all small pieces and hardware together in a sealed small parts bag and tape into box where space is available.
8. SHAKE and box
Your bike should look like this in the end. Place bike and all contents into the box, close up the box and shake it. If you hear rattling or the clinging of loose items, re-open the box and pad accordingly. You are ready to ship when shaking the box is silent. Be sure to add padding on the side of your hanger and derailleur so that it doesn't puncture the box. 
9. LABEL
On BikeFlights.com, you will see that it's a full service packing and shipping service. They have various bike boxes available depending on your bike to purchase, packing products, and their website calculates shipping with the best rates with Fedex and UPS. While the price may seem big at first, it's definitely cheaper than having your bike shop pack and ship or taking it in for shipping from Fedex or UPS. Their online services are easy to use and they offer free changes to your shipping itinerary along with full refunds if you cancel. In all, I paid $64 for one way from NY to CA ($60 from CA to FL) and $40 from FL to NY (including insurance).

All you really need to know is the weight and dimensions of the package, your shipping from and to address, and credit card details. Once you make your order and date for pickup, you'll be able to print your labels right away. I also recommend paying the little extra for insurance, just in case something goes terribly wrong. Here's what to do with your labels.

Affix and place three labels: 2 outside and 1 inside.
  1. Firmly affix two copies of the shipping label to opposite sides of box using self-adhesive pouches or packing tape. If using packing tape, cover all four edges of the label with the tape but not the barcode itself.
  2. If shipping in a bike travel case, attach your labels using shipping luggage tags, and then zip tie the tags to your case.
  3. Place a backup copy of the label inside the box or case in the event that external labels get accidentally damaged or removed.
  4. Make sure there are no other tracking labels on the outside of the box or case.
I hope this gives you a better idea about shipping your bike and using a service such as Bike Flights to put your mind at ease about the next cycling holiday you will be making. While we are all waiting for Spring riding to hurry, it's a good time to learn more about your bike and options for traveling with your bike. While I was first worried I would make a mistake, I was more at ease when I got the basics down. It's a lot easier and cheaper in reality when you know what you're doing and have the right equipment and service to make it all possible. 

Image Courtesy:  Bike Flights 

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