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Bike box packing 101

Written on: Thursday June 3rd, 2010

A journal entry from: Adriatic to Amsterdam

Packing a bike in a bike box for a bike trip is hard work. It involves a lot of pre-meditated mental willpower and a solid strategy. For a carbon-framed road bike traveling internationally, here is the best way to do it:


  • 1/2 inch and 1 inch piping foam insulation
  • L-shaped industrial cardboard corner pieces, used for packing large appliances (found at local Sears outlet)
  • fork stay spacer (optional)
  • duct tape
  • some miscellaneous foam, cardboard
  • a bike box
  • a bike


  1. Find a box. Assuming the town you live in supplies the occasional road bike and not just beefy freeride or downhill bikes, find the smallest box possible. You'll know if the box is too big if the entire bike fits without removing any parts.
  2. Disassemble the bike. Typically this involves removing the seat, handlebars, pedals, and front wheel. The handlebars will obviously not separate completely from the bike as they are attached with the brake and shifter cables.
  3. Pad the entire bike. Take the pipe insulation and cover the entire frame with foam. Use duct tape graciously where necessary to make sure it stays on during the flight. Cover the chain with a little cardboard. Insert the stay spacer between the front fork stays as an added precaution.
  4. Insert the bike into the box. Put it in. The configuration of the front stays and the handlebars is like a Chinese puzzle. It will fit at certain angles. <at this point I got ahead of myself and started packaging around the bike too. I had all these genious ideas on how to make it totally bomber, however I forgot one crucial step:>
  5. Sneak the front wheel in next to the front of the bike. Damn! I forgot the front wheel. WTF. I had to retract half an hour of hard labour and slide the wheel into the box next to the frame. I found it easier to remove the quick-release pin (a good idea since it is pointy). I padded both sides of the hub with foam so that it would not poke through the box or the into the frame.
  6. At this point it is a good idea to jiggle the box a bit and see if there is any scraping, jarring, banging, rattling and so on of sensitive items against hard objects. The rear deraileur needs some special love. It is tender.
  7. Use the L-shaped cardboard and cut it to the lateral width of the box. My box was 7.5" wide so I cut to 8". Brace the box throughout the middle so that if, perchance, Joe airplane porter loads the bike on its side and puts a heavy item on it, it will not crush the bike. In the absence of L-shaped cardboard use industrial styrofoam or something else lightweight but rigid.
  8. Remember to throw in seat, pedals, and any other items (shoes, helmet, jerseys etc.) you may need on your trip. Pad the helmet with bubble wrap and bag other items to avoid contact with greasy chains, cogs etc.
  9. Close up box and tape shut. Reinforce corners, bottom if necessary.
  10. Entrust the entire setup to your brother, Joel, who lovingly is going to carry TWO bike boxes from his appartment in North Vancouver to the airport and check all the way to Amsterdam.
  11. Make sure you let your airline know you are traveling with a bike in a box. If you can convince them you are an elite racer for some exotic foreign country, they may not charge you for it.
  12. Happy travels.

This was my project last night and provided a great deal of satisfaction once completed. Now did my bike gloves make it into the box??


From David W. on Jun 9th, 2010

Don't forget to keep the stuff once arrived in Holland for the trip back!