Ah, how to ship a bike. Shipping a bicycle is an annoying, but occasionally necessary task, that requires a surprising amount of preparation, and a not-as-surprising amount of disassembly and a good ability to do jigsaw puzzles. It's also a kind of messy task, and it requires many different tools.
Find a box to ship your bike in
Obviously, in order to ship your bicycle, you will need a cardboard box to ship it in. Your first reaction is probably:
I'm going to need a fucking large box!
You'll be totally disassembling your bike, so, the box won't be as large as you think it is. However, a box that size is still hard to find. Your best bet is to call a bike shop. Most bike shops are willing to give you the boxes that they receive bike parts in for free. Some will charge a small fee. Once you have the box, there are a few more necessities that you need to obtain. You should obtain some soft packing materials (bubble wrap, possibly styrofoam peanuts) to use in packing to protect the bike during shipping. Also, old towels and blankets work handsomely for this purpose. Finally, you also need packing tape. Sadly, scotch tape just won't hold the package closed! You also need at least one bag. Either plastic or paper will do.
Get the tools you need
Hopefully, you have a toolkit sitting around. Depending on the size and make of your bike, you will need various tools. You will need wrenches and allen wrenches of various sizes, and you may need some screwdrivers. It'd also be a good idea to have a moderate-sized monkey wrench on hand.
Get ready to disassemble and pack the bike
Most importantly, you'll need a good deal of space to disassemble the bike. If you have a garage, it'd be best to do it in there, as it'd be hardest to lose any small screws in there. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to disassemble and pack a bike, so give yourself a good amount of time.
Disassembling the Bicycle
Removing the Wheels
I recommend that you do this first, as wheels are kind of just annoying. The front wheel should be easy to take off. You should just pop the quick release and then, all you have to do is shimmy it out through the brakes. If you have security skewers, you probably know what you're doing. The back wheel is a bit more difficult, as you have the chain going to it. If you have multiple gears on the back, you should have something that looks like a leg that comes out from the gears. You should be able to press this, which will give the chain more slack, making it easy to take off. From here, you just follow the same steps as the front wheel. If you are shipping the bike via airmail, you should let some air out of the tires at this point in time, as otherwise the tires might pop while on the plane. Take the axles, whether they be security skewers or quick releasees and put them in a bag. You do not want to lose them.
Removing the Pedals
Removing the pedals may be a good use for the previously mentioned monkey wrench. The pedals should have a little area near the levers that connect them to the gears that you can grip with a wrench and turn. You will need to find a way to stop the gears from turning, as that makes loosening the pedals substantially harder. Once you loosen the pedals, you just need to unscrew them. Note: Your hands will get dirty. When done, put the pedals in the bag along with the bike axles.
Many bike seats have a quick release similar to that of the wheels. If so, pop that and take the seat out of the tube. If it has a screw/bolt of some sort holding the tube closed, loosen that, remove the seat, and either re-tighten that, or put the fastener in the same bag as the pedals. After you have done this, using the packaging tape, tape the bike seat to the frame, pointing forward, as usual. Note: Bike seats have oil on the part of them that goes into the frame. It is messy.
Most handlebars are kept attached to the frame using a bolt that goes straight down the middle of the handlebars. On some bikes, this may be exposed, but on other bikes, there may be a rubber/plastic cap over it. Loosen this screw to the point that the handlebars move vertically. Take the handlebars out, and put them alongside the frame. Tape them to the frame in a way that they point 90° away from their normal direction, and try to stress brake and shifter wires as little as possible.Note: Handlebars also have oil on the part of them that goes into the frame. It is messy too.
Fitting the Bike into the Box
First, fit the frame (with handlebars and seat attached) into the box. After this, your objective is to fit the wheels in, as they are the second bulkiest objects that need to be packed. Try to refrain from having to force anything in. Try rearranging the contents. It should fit. Make sure that these are well padded. Here comes something important: Will you have tools to reassemble the bike at its destination? Are the tools you have expendable? If so, put the tools you used in the bag with the pedals and the axels, and put this in the box.
Closing the Box
Here is where the packing tape comes in handy. You are going to tape that box up as much as possible, in every direction. It is crucial that the box stays together in transit, else, you might lose parts.
How to Ship the Bike?
Depending on why/where you are shipping the bike, you have a few options:
- If flying with the bike: Some commercial carriers will let you check your bike for a fee. Always call ahead to make sure. You may have to get to the airport earlier.
- If you need to ship it cheap and you have a week: Ship it via ground freight. Any of the major freight carriers should do. As always, call ahead, as you will face extra fees for outsize and possibly overweight shipping.
- If you need the bike very shortly: Ship it using air freight. Note: You will pay through the nose.
Dropping Off or Picking Up the Bike
Depending on the carrier, some carriers will pick up the package for you. If this is the case, you are lucky, as taking the packaged bike to a UPS Store, Post Office, FedExKinkos, or other courier service is a pain. If you do need to take it to a shipping center, enlist the aid of a second person. It is extremely hard to carry the packaged bike by oneself. Note: Make certain to get the tracking number.
Bravo! If you have followed all the directions, your bike will survive the shipping process well, and arrive in its next location ready to be assembled!