How to Ship a Bike
Picture this: you're all set for the next cycling trip with your buddies in this awesome location a long distance away from your home. You already planned your riding route, prepared all the necessary gear, and even thought of what to call your next big adventure so you have something to name your online album later on. However, there's just one problem: you can't get your bike there on your own. What's your best option?
Get your bike in a box and ship it.
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Yes, seriously. Bike in a box.
For those new to the cycling community, having your bike shipped may seem like a bad idea. Yes, we all love our bikes and we wouldn't want to part with them, but experienced cyclists know that it's actually a practical way to get bikes where you need them. Shipping a bike means you get to avoid the following.
- Spending a lot on fuel because you're driving a car with your bike on it
- Bringing less stuff along the trip because your bike added to the baggage (especially if airplane trips are involved).
- Getting your bike damaged or scratched up by something along the way
- A very high risk of your bike getting stolen or lost along the trip
With so many possible stress-inducing scenarios, I'd be surprised if you still had it in you to ride the bike once you get there. What else are you going to do? Buy a new bike then and there? You'd still have to take it back home afterward. Bike in a box it is!
Tips on Shipping Your Bike
Shipping a bike works wonders, but you have to make sure you do it properly. You have two options: have professional bike shippers do all the work for you or handle the packaging part yourself. The first one's pretty straightforward, so we're going to focus on the second option because it's a)cheaper and b) gives you more shipping options.
1. Get a box
Because most people prefer having their bike assembled at the bike shop, getting the right box size is just a matter of going to your local bike shop and asking if they have one to spare (they either sell it for cheap or just give the ones left behind). If you can't get a box for bikes, you can also use wide boxes from larger, flat screen TVs.
Found a box that's a bit too big for your bike? You can trim it down by cutting along the corner edges of the box. This will make the flaps longer (they will overlap when closed), so you may have to cut the excess away. This may not seem like much until you get to the third step in which you...
2. Estimate the cost
Most shipping companies have a calculator on their website that can help you get an idea of how much it will take to ship your bike. You'll need to figure out the size of the box and the overall weight of the packaged bike. Fortunately, bikes are relatively light for their size. Yay for aluminum and carbon frames!
3. Take Your Bike Apart
Unless you're willing to pay for a big enough box (why would you?), the best way to fit your bike in a smaller box is by disassembling it. You can either have it disassembled at a bike shop, but most bikes today are easy to disassemble even without the help of a professional.
Necessary tools depend on the bike you're shipping; you can get away with just a multi-tool and the right size of Allen wrench with most modern bikes. Older bikes may require the use of screwdrivers, but you'll rarely need a heavy tool for taking a bike apart.
Start with parts that may cause the bike to stick out. The most obvious ones are the wheels, the handlebars, the seat, and the pedals. Parts that are mounted within the frame like the bottle cage don't take up that much space, so removing those are optional unless you're using a very small box.
4. Sealing and Labeling Your Package
Now that your bike's in a box, all that's left is to seal it. Packaging tape is cheap and effective so don't feel bad about using too much. Tape everything; tape the box flaps, the edges, any seams, then tape them again just to be sure. The more tape you use, the more secure your bike is.
JUST MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING INSIDE BEFORE SEALING THE BOX. I once forgot to put the bike saddle inside and I had to cut and reseal the box a second time which is such a waste of good tape (plus the box looked ugly).
Having the details on the shipping label isn't enough since it could get detached while on the way. Use a permanent marker to write the following info on the box itself:
- Destination address
- Return address
- Your name
- Contact number
That's it! You can finally have your bike shipped to your destination and have it available by the time you need it. I'm guessing you won't be there forever, so you may want to recycle the box for the return trip. Now that everything's taken care of, all you need to do is prepare yourself for your next adventure!