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How to pack your bike into a bike box

How to pack a bike box
Joseph Delves
6 May 2015

BikesEtc's tame mechanic tells us how to get your trip off to good start if you don't have access to a travel case.

The first time I heard baggage handlers referred to as ‘throwers’ was in the film Fight Club. The second time was when my friend arrived at Geneva airport to discover a large crack in the down tube of his brand new carbon bicycle. In fact, ‘throwers’ was one of the milder epithets I heard attached to baggage handlers that afternoon. Still, even with the most conscientious airside staff, transporting your bike in the hold of a plane can be a risky business. Prepping your bike properly will go a long way towards ensuring it arrives in one piece. While dedicated bike boxes offer the best protection, almost all bikes make the arduous journey from manufacturer to retailer in nothing more than a cardboard carton and very few sustain damage along the way. The main reason is the way they’re packaged. Bribe your local bike shop with a packet of biscuits in exchange for a bike box, along with as much of the original packaging as possible. Most crucially, get your hands on the plastic spacer that comes slotted between the fork ends when new bikes arrive. Once armed with these items, just follow these steps…

Remove the rear derailleur

How to pack a bike derailleur

Sitting proud of the frame, the rear derailleur is particularly susceptible to damage. Leaving the cable connected, remove it from the hanger and wrap it in bubble wrap. If this sounds too difficult, just shift it into the largest sprocket, as this will keep it tucked as close in to the frame as possible. Now is also a good time to detach the pedals.

Protect the frame

How to pack a bike frame

Pipe lagging, which you can get cheaply from most DIY shops, is ideal for protecting your frame from accidental knocks. Cut it into lengths to match all the frame’s main tubes and attach it with tape.

Remove the front wheel

How to pack a bike protect the wheels

Take out the front wheel and remove the skewer. If you’ve managed to get some plugs from the bike shop, pop them into the holes either side of the axle. If you’ve haven’t got any, tape squares of card over the ends to prevent them ripping the side of the box or accidentally damaging its contents.

Insert the fork spacer

How to pack a bike fork

Push the spacer into the base of the fork. Your bike may well end up laid flat with other baggage piled on top, so it’s especially important to make sure that the fork legs are protected against being crushed or bent by what’s lying on top of them.

Remove the handlebars

How to pack a bike remove the bars

Now you want to get the bars flush with the frame. If your bike is small, you may be able to just rotate the stem 90 degrees and turn the bars up and under the top tube. Otherwise, you’ll need to remove the stem. Take the handlebars and strap them to the top tube. Adjustable toe straps are perfect for securing the bars, otherwise tape or zip ties will do. It may be necessary to disconnect the brake cables in order to get the bars into place. 

Pack the accessories

How to pack a bike accessories

Don’t forget any of the small parts you’ve removed! These can go in a separate box or otherwise, strap them to the frame. Remember to take the tape or zip ties you’ll need to repeat the process for your return journey. Seal up the box and write your name, address, telephone, email, flight number and destination on the side. Bon voyage.

Fit in the box

How to pack a bike box

Despite what some people might tell you, depressurisation in the cargo hold won’t cause your tyres to explode, so leave them at least partially inflated as this will help protect the rims. Leave the chain on the largest chain ring as this will help protect the teeth from getting bent. Lower the bike into the box. You want to pack the front wheel alongside the front of the frame. Find a piece of cardboard to put between it and the rest of the bike. Lastly, remove the seatpost and pop it in the box.

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