How to Prevent your Bike Box from Looking Like This: Tips for Cycle Tourist

I have been a cyclist my whole life, and have been travelling the world with my bike for the past 15 years. So I clearly know that the worst part of any cycling adventure abroad is getting your bike there.

Boxing your bike, and lugging it around airports is like just about the complete opposite to the joys of cycling touring. So I thought I should create a How-to style video to help my fellow world cycle tourists get this done so they can focus on riding their bikes.

The video breaks bike boxing down into 3 simple steps that anyone could follow: disassemble, protect, and pack. Then, I got carried away and wrote a blog explaining each step in greater detail.

Tips from my Instructional Video

Over my many years of boxing bikes, and getting frustrated with it, I slowly learned a handful of tricks that really helped ease the pain. Here are my top tips from the video and blog.

1. Change the gears first

Change gears in both the front and back so that the chain and derailleur is at its closest position to the frame. This will keep everything further from the outside of the bike box and potential damage.

2. Rotating the stem and/or fork

If the stem (the piece that attaches the handlebar to the frame and fork) gets in the way, you may need to loosen it and turn it 180 degrees. Just remember to tighten it again so it doesn’t slip off and adjust when reassembling your bike. Alternatively, you could rotate the fork and stem together without loosening any bolts. Just be aware that this might expose the disc brakes to more potential damage in transit. So if you do this make sure the disc brake gets lots of padding.

3. Don’t forget the small parts

A common mistake I’ve made is to remove all these pieces (pedals, handlebar, front wheel, etc) and forget to reload them into the bike box afterwards. So as soon as these are removed set them somewhere in your workspace where you can’t possibly forget them. And for the small parts (pedals, skewers, etc) pack them immediately into a small box to eventually be loaded in the bike box.

4. It doesn’t have to be fancy

If you don’t have fancy foam tubing or zipties, then tape some pieces of cardboard or wrap old clothing around your bike or use anything else to create a protective layer. Inner tubes, bubble wrap, even rolled up newspapers/magazines work well too.

5. Padding the bottom of the box

Before loading the bike in the box, you might consider laying down a few more piece of cardboard at the bottom to create a thicker layer at the front of the box where the fork sits. This will prevent the fork from pushing through the box.

6. Don’t pack any banned items

Check with your airlines baggage restrictions. Things like CO2 inflation cartridges and chain cleaner / chain lube are not permitted on most airlines.

7. Every bike is different

Every single bike packs a little different and bike boxes vary in size and shape, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t go as smoothly as you hoped on the first try. Just keep experimenting and follow the steps as they apply to your situation and modify where necessary.

8. No Duct Tape

What? Yes, I know, we all love the stuff but I only use strong packing tape for the outside of the bike box. Duct (gaffers) tape is intentionally meant to tear when pulled at across its width. Packing tape is both strong and it flexes to maintain strength when the box is jostled and carried.

9. Bring tape to the airport

Bring a roll of packing tape with you to the airport. It’s quite common for security to want to have a peak inside the box, and occasionally your box may not fit in the oversized baggage x-ray machine and in that case each piece may need to be sent through individually (this happens very rarely).

10. Don’t panic

I have done some extremely half-assed packing jobs in my time. It’s definitely not advisable, but don’t fret if you don’t cover all these points. Your bike will arrive, and chances are it’ll be intact and a little worse for wear, but you are certainly going to put it thru the passes on your cycle tour anyway aren’t you?

Watch the Video, Read the Blog

If any of that made sense and was useful, check out the full details here. I wrote about it and posted a video on our company’s blog.

Or if you have questions, please leave a note here or hit me up on Twitter.