Bike Transport: Tips for Local and Long-Distance Trips
Updated: Feb 13
by Liesl Begnaud
It doesn't take long after acquiring a bike that we begin to think about how to transport our bike to new locations to explore new roads and venues. At first that might be to local rides and races, then eventually may expand to further destinations. Here are tips for personal transport as well as options for shipping or flying with your bike.
Local Transport: Bike Racks
Invest in a good bike rack that properly fits your car. Different kinds include: Hitch Mount, Trunk, Mount Roof Mount and Wheel Mount
Local Transport: Bike Inside the Vehicle
When putting your bike inside your car, take care when laying your bike in the back of your car. Always put the gearing and derailleur up. Wrap a blanket between bikes when transporting multiple bikes to prevents rubbing and scrapes to the frame.
Long Distance: Shipping Your Fully Assembled Bike
When shipping your fully assembled bike and race gear, it is transported in a custom vehicle equipped with a state of the art alarm system. Here are some advantages of this type of shipping:
Your bike is transported fully assembled. No box is necessary.
No need to remove your pedals, water bottles, CO2 cartridges or race wheels. The front wheel will be removed and securely mounted next to your bike in its own wheel rack.
Your bike is insured up to its current value. This coverage varies with different companies.
At a pre-scheduled time, drop your bike at a partner multi-sport or bike shop.
Bicycle is transported inside a custom vehicle, protected from the elements and road hazards.
When you fly to a race destination and stay a few days for vacation, there is no worry about hauling around your bike as you send it home after your race.
Companies offering fully assembled, individually mounted bicycle and gear transportation:
Premier Bike Transport: Serves Athletes from Florida
Pro Bike Express: Serves Athletes from Colorado and Utah
The Cycle Chauffeur: Serves Athletes from Texas, Oklahoma City
Sag Monkey: Serves athletes in the San Francisco Bay area
Companies offering fully-assembled truck transport as well as pack and ship options:
Race Day Transport- Contracted with USAT
Tri Bike Transport- Contracted with World Triathlon Corporation (IM)
You ship your bike with Bike Flights. You pack your bike then select ground shipping or overnight and drop at a local FedEx.
What You will Need:
A Box – Cardboard, Hard Case or Soft Case - Call your local bike shop to see if they have a cardboard box you can have or a case to borrow or rent. Bike Flights offers cardboard boxes. Ask as well for the plastic spacers which go into the empty forks and help prevent them being bent if the box does get knocked about.
Packing Materials: Have plenty of packing materials (bubble wrap, foam, newspaper, string, and packing tape) on hand to protect your bike and close the box up securely.
Tape, Markers and Tools: Torque wrench, Allen Wrench, Phillips or Flat head Wrench
Patience: Give yourself a bare minimum of 3-4 hours to pack your bicycle into the box the first time you do it.
How to disassemble:
Here's a great video on how to pack your bike: https://www.bikeflights.com/pack
Take the pedals off. Make life easier on yourself by putting a bit of lube on the pedal threads the day before you try to take them off and letting it soak in overnight. Even better, get your local bike shop to loosen the pedals for you. If you do try this at home, remember: the right-sided pedal unscrews counter-clockwise and the left-sided pedal goes clockwise.
Remove your handlebars. This is done by unscrewing the clamp that holds them in place, allowing the handlebars and all the attached brake and gear cables to be slipped neatly into the box, inside the triangle of your frame. Note that you are just taking the handlebars off. Do not play with the stem. Tri bike models vary.
Take the wheels off. (An easy job if you have quick-release wheels) and you can release a bit of air from the tires. This isn’t strictly necessary in our experience but some airlines recommend it.
Protect your bicycle. Wrap some foam or bubble wrap around the frame and use cardboard to encase our back cassette and derailleur. To protect the derailleur, we remove it from the main part of the frame and make a cardboard box to go around it. No need to take chain off.
Remove the seat. Make a mark so you remember how far to put it back in and maybe wrap a bit of foam around the tube so it doesn’t scratch anything.
Do your Research: Learn about the airline regulations, box size requirements, and cost. Note that TSA will most likely will open your box, DO NOT lock.
Tips for Flying with your Bike:
Regardless of the type of bag or case you opt for, make sure you put some padding around the most vulnerable parts of the bike, including the rear derailleur.
Keep the weight of your bike bag down, and not just so you’re inside your weight limit. Heavier bags and boxes are more difficult to maneuver and have an increased risk of being dropped or manhandled in the tight quarters of an aircraft’s hold.
If you are going to fill up the bag or box, make sure rigid items like bike pumps aren’t free to move around the bag, potentially scratching the frame or damaging the components.
If you’re using a cardboard bike box, be sure to tape up the handles as well as the top of the box. It’s common for the handles on cardboard bike boxes to tear when you go to lift up the bike, particularly if the box is quite heavy.