Improve The Way You Pack Your Bike In 5 Steps

Lee Parish, 10th March 2014

Let's face it, we've all been there, standing helplessly by the huge glass windows of the departure gate, watching in horror at the way in which our precious bikes are picked up and hurled on to the plane. We then spend the entire journey wondering what damage has been done to our pride and joy. On arrival at our destination, we tentatively open our bike box anticipating the worst.

A little care taken packing your bike could be the difference between riding your bike or driving to local bike shops in search of that elusive part kindly broken by baggage handlers. Follow our handy hints below to minimise the chances of your bike being damaged in transit.

man dismantling bike

1. Assume the worst then prepare for it.

Remove the rear derallieur from the frame so that this otherwise proud component does not bend or snap either the frame or derallieur hanger if it gets hit. Oh, and lets assume it's going to get hit. Either wrap and tape the loose hanging derallieur or place it in a recycled padded envelope to prevent it from swinging and damaging the frame.

2. Add some insurance, effortlessly within minutes.

Plumbing pipe insulation from any DIY store is a cheap, light and easy way to protect the tubes of the frame from impacts or moving parts.

3. Reduce the pressure and leave out unnecessary weight.

Don't forget to deflate your tyres - you can leave some pressure in but realise that the higher you travel, the lower the manufacturers recommended maximum tyre and rim rating should be before excessive stress or failure. We have track pumps and C02 cartridges available in our workshop. Please don't bring your own track pump, it is a waste of energy.

4. Reinforce the frame for heavy luggage stacked on top.

Having removed the wheels, you can use a plastic or homemade wooden fork dropout wedge to prevent the forks from being squashed. Do the same for the rear triangle too. Lightly inserting the quick release into the fork or frame dropouts with the wheels removed can almost do the same job.

5. Turning the problem upside down.

Having removed pedals, wheels, repositioned handlebars and saddle ( lower the saddle into the frame), insert the bike into the bike bag/ box upside down so it rests on the saddle and stem (pad stem) rather than the more delicate, and easily bendable chain ring or rear derallieur hanger (if you ignored step 1!).

Workshop Woes

As a mechanic on hand to help arriving guests, I have seen many damaged parts that could have been easily avoided, so don't worry, just get wise.

bike frame with wheel removed

Bent rear derallieur and hangers are the most common. A snapped derallieur hanger is the most frustrating because the standards are so numerous, that you're highly unlikely to find one locally without using postal services.

I'd recommend assuming that the hanger will break at least once during the lifetime of the frame, so if you travel lots, go ahead, purchase a spare hanger straight away to carry in your tool bag. It's a small 30g part that costs about 15-20 euros.

Adding Strength To Soft-Case Bags

Soft-case bike bags are very affordable and lightweight. A soft-case bike bag (especially those with square corners) can be easily reinforced by lining it with a cardboard bike box of a similar size, obtained for free from your local bike shop who normally throw these away.

One Tip For The Ultimate Hard-Case Solution

Hard-case bike boxes are robust and durable but the downside is the weight which can sometimes equal that of the bike itself. This is a rising problem with the changing baggage weight restrictions imposed by airlines.

Hard-case bike boxes do break but usually only when they are packed with extra things inside making them especially heavy. From meeting people at the airport, I understand how baggage handlers must feel. After lifting just a handful of bike boxes into the trailer, my back is getting tired and should you then pick up an especially heavy box, you feel like throwing or dropping it out of necessity. Don't pack the bike box too heavy or consider the consequences - baggage handlers are people too.

Don't Own A Bike Bag or Box Yet?

Maybe you never need to invest in an expensive, rarely used and bulky bit of kit. Some bike shops will hire bike boxes on a daily or weekly basis for a reasonable fee, taking away some of the cost and problem of storage. There are also online businesses in most countries that deliver and collect bike boxes from your workplace or home, making the whole process even easier.