Shipping a bike is a challenging task unless you know what you’re doing.
In my career as an endurance cyclist, I’ve competed in races all across the world, everywhere from South America to the Transcontinental Race, as well as buying and selling bikes internationally.
As a result, I have become an expert in bike transportation, with plenty of insider knowledge and tricks of the trade to share.
Although it’s something many cyclists avoid, learning how to ship a bike properly comes with many advantages and is a great skill to learn, which will improve your experience as a cyclist.
In this article, we are going to be discussing:
- Why Is It Essential To Learn How To Ship A Bike Properly?
- What Equipment Do You Need To Ship A Bike?
- How To Ship A Bike: Step-By-Step Guide
- My Top Tips When Finding A Bike Shipping Courier
- How much does it cost to ship a bike?
- Robbie’s Video Guide: How To Pack & Ship A Bike
Let’s jump into how to ship a bike!
Why Is It Essential To Learn How To Ship A Bike Properly?
It Teaches You How To Pack A Bike
When you learn how to ship a bicycle, you’ll first need to pack it up.
Packing a bike is something that you need to do when flying, traveling by train in certain countries, and also if you ever need to put the bike into storage.
It Hugely Benefits Resale Opportunities
When it comes to selling a bike, if you can offer shipping, this will attract a lot more buyers.
In my years of buying and selling bikes, offering shipping is the easiest way to sell one quickly for top dollar.
For Major Repairs
Sometimes, you might not be able to fix your bike yourself, and you might need to send it back to the manufacturer for warranty work. This could be a cracked frame or something wrong with your bike’s electric motor.
In this case, it needs boxing and shipping back properly.
What Equipment Do You Need To Ship A Bike?
Before we look at how to ship a bicycle, let’s look at what gear you’re going to need. When it comes to shipping a bike, you are not going to need a lot.
Here’s what we recommend you have:
- Bike Box: Typically free from a bike shop if you ask politely.
- Packaging: You can use old cardboard or ask a bike shop for leftovers.
- Tape: Proper parcel tape is the best way to go, as it has to be strong.
- Scissors: Make the process a lot easier and cleaner.
- Marker Pen: For making warnings on the box.
We recommend checking if the box is going to be big enough if you are sending a bike that is a large frame size.
How To Ship A Bike in 5 Steps
Now, for the fun bit; let’s learn how to pack a bike for shipping!
We recommend allowing for around an hour to do this task properly, particularly if it’s your first time.
Step #1. Break The Bike Down
This step sounds scary, but you’re not going to have to do much!
When we speak about “breaking down” the bike, we are simply trying to make the bike as small as possible so it will fit in the box while still keeping as much on as possible.
We do this because if we were to dismantle it completely, it would rattle around the box, parts would break, and building it again would be a pain. The more we can keep it together, the easier it will be and the more protected the bike will be.
First, undo the stem plate via the four bolts on the front, and remove the handlebars. Once out, put the plate back on the stem again without the handlebar.
If you’re using hydraulic disc brakes, put a small piece of card or brake block where the front wheel’s rotor normally sits to stop the pistons from self-adjusting.
I have shipped many bikes down the years and never had an issue with a bent rear derailleur – but if you’re particularly protective of your bike, then there’s no harm in taking the extra precaution.
Step #2. Protect the Frame and Pack The Bike In The Box
Next, you will need to put the bike into the box to check it fits.
Wrapping the handlebars on the inside of the frame (as in the picture above) is the best bet if using road bike bars or mountain bike bars straight across the forks.
Now it’s in the box, look at the bike and identify where you might need to put some padding, then take the bike out again.
It’s now time to start covering the bike in padding. We recommend focusing heavily on the corners and center of the frame.
Don’t forget to let the air out of the tires if you plan to fly with it. The change in pressure could effectively cause your inner tubes to become over-inflated, with the potential to cause damage.
When all packed up, place the bike back in the box and then use some pieces of cardboard to cover it all before we start putting anything else in. If you have an old cloth or sheet you no longer need, it’s not a bad idea to cover the bike with it.
Step #3. Add The Bike’s Accessories to the box
Now, it’s time to add the accessories to the box.
If you want to package these up, you can, but you don’t have to, providing the bike is well protected. It’s worth considering that too much packing will add extra weight, which should be considered if sending with a courier.
Take the front wheel and pop it in the center of the frame, ensuring the hub or disc sits in between the frame corners where it can’t scratch anything or make any mess. Then, I recommend dropping the seat post on the top and the pedals taped together.
Step #4. Tape And Warnings
So, how to pack a bike for shipping? Get the tape and start securing it thoroughly.
I recommend not being shy when it comes to keeping it secure. Wrap loads on, as the last thing you want is parts falling out, such as your pedals.
Next, we need to put some markings on the box. I find this helps, and don’t be shy to lay it on. Things like “This way up, please look after my bike, and fragile.” It might not make any difference, but it gets listened to.
Step #5. Organize A Courier
Let’s go into a bit more detail on this step below!
My Top Tips For Finding A Reliable Bike Shipping Courier
When it comes to finding a courier for a bicycle, it’s not always as simple as you might think.
Some companies don’t understand the size of the boxes and undercharge only to chase you later, and specialist services charge a fortune.
Here are my top tips based on my experience:
Ensure The Company Knows It’s A Bike
In my experience, one thing I have found over many years is to try to avoid companies who don’t acknowledge that it’s a bike box as an option and ask only for dimensions.
You either get charged later, or they ask for lots of money upfront.
Use a well-known company If You Can
Bigger companies not only tend to ship a lot more bikes, but they often have much better options when it comes to customer service.
Always Aim For the Next Day
I always send my bikes for the next day.
However, this is not really just for the sake of speed, but because keeping it out of storage for as long as possible is important.
When large boxes are stored for extended periods in shipping centers, they’re moved around a lot and I find they generally arrive in much worse condition.
How much does it cost to ship a bike?
It’s so easy when it comes to sending a bike to end up overpaying. Some companies want up to $100, while others are as little as $30.
So, how much does it cost to ship a bike if you’re looking for a combination of quality and value?
I recommend going to a well-known company and spending roughly $40 for domestic shipping. That’s about right and a safe bet.
If you’re shipping internationally, it’s likely to be more expensive.
If You Can Insure Your Bike, Do It
Some companies offer great insurance deals, which are worth considering. Although you might have the bike packed perfectly, don’t be shy about putting that extra $5 across for insurance just in case something happens.
To learn more about bike insurance, check out our Bicycle Insurance Buyer’s Guide here!
Robbie’s Video Guide: How To Pack & Ship A Bike
Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!