How to pack your bike for travel or shipping

By Georgia Gould, Four-time elite mountain bike national champion
You will need:
  • A cardboard bike box (you can usually get these free from a bike shop, but make sure you call in advance to make sure they have one available. Also, make sure you get a BIKE box and not a FRAME box. You might also ask at the bike shop for extra packaging materials like the plastic fork mount and the red plastic tabs that go in the brake calipers.)
  • Bubble wrap or plenty of rags for wrapping/protecting the frame and parts
  • Packaging tape
  • Zip ties
  • Masking tape (optional)
  • Wheel bag (optional)
  • Extra cardboard (optional)

Step 1: Remove the pedals. Wrap these well in bubble wrap or a rag and place in the box

Step 2: Wrap the main tubes of the bike in rags or bubble wrap. I like to use masking tape because it is easier to remove without a knife.

Step 3: Remove the rear derailleur and wrap it in a rag or bubble wrap.

Step 4: Remove the seat post and zip-tie the seat and seat post to your frame, making sure that there are no points where anything is going to rub or chip your frame.

Step 5: Remove the front wheel and take out the skewer. This can be placed in a water bottle, a wheel bag, or anywhere else you think it will be safe. If you have a wheel bag, put your front wheel in it. (If you have the red plastic tabs from the bike shop, put one in your front brake caliper if you're packing a mountain bike).

Step 6: Wrap your shifters/levers in a rag or bubble wrap.

Step 7: Remove your handlebar stem. After taking off your stem, replace any spacers and tighten the headset bolt. Wrap the end of your stem.

Step 8: Place your bike in the bike box. You might need to let some air out of the rear tire to give yourself extra room. Now you will need to experiment with how to fit your bars in; I am usually able to turn them so they are almost parallel to the top tube. If possible, zip-tie your bars to the top tube. Again, make sure there are no spots where your frame could be scratched or otherwise damaged by the handlebars or stem.

Step 9: Slide your front wheel into the box next to the frame, with the brake rotor facing in (if you have the tools and are comfortable removing the rotors, go ahead and remove them, making sure to wrap them carefully before placing them in the box). If you have any extra pieces of cardboard, you can slide pieces in where the bike is pressing against the box, to give the box more support.  

Step 10: Tape up the box and hope that the shipping folks appreciate cycling!

*Follow the same steps for packing a road bike (easier than packing a mountain bike). Skip the bits on rotors and brake calipers since they apply only to mountain bikes.