Mechanical Services & Maintenance

Packing and Travel:

Packing Your Bicycle For Shipping in a Clamshell Style Case

This article discusses the procedure for packing a bicycle in a clamshell style case for shipment. Although disassembly is an inconvenience, it makes for a well-protected bicycle during transport. The safe transport of the bike relies heavily upon the effort and care put into packing.

Some general notes for regarding packing and traveling with a bike include:

  • Contacting the airline or your transportation company for limitations on weight and size.
  • If flying, do not pack air cartridges, solvents, oils, etc. and assume that the bike box will be opened and inspected.
  • When dismantling the bike, use care not to lose parts. If there is any doubt where a bolt or part is to go upon assembly, tag and note the part and/or take a picture. If a component is taken apart, it can be useful to return the bolt securely in the threads it was removed. Assume a loose bolt lightly threaded will rattle out and potentially be lost.

Tools Needed:

  • 15mm pedal wrench or 6mm or 8mm hex wrench (depending on brand/model of pedal)
  • 4, 5 and 6mm hex wrenches
  • Zip Loc bag for small parts
  • Rags for cleaning
  • Zip ties
  • Packing material and tape to wrap around frame and parts. Foam pipe insulation can work well.
  • White-out pen and electrical tape to mark saddle and handlebar position
  • Plastic axle spacers for fork and frame
Bike Shipping 3 While upright hard case designs require less effort and removal of parts, we will focus on the clamshell style as they are the most common and the most challenging to pack. If you would like to make traveling with your bicycle as easy as possible, it is worth considering an upright hard case for safety and ease of use.  However, be aware that the upright cases are bigger, more difficult to transport and cost more to ship.
Bike Shipping 4 Begin by marking the position of the saddle and the handlebar with a White-out pen or electrical tape. The picture to the left gives you an idea of how to mark the handlebars to reposition them correctly when you get to your destination. 

It is recommended that you bring a copy of your riding position numbers (laminate a copy and leave it in your carry case or have  it on a computer flash drive) with you whenever you travel as a  back-up.

Bike Shipping 5 Taking off the pedals is required for the clamshell boxes but not the upright travel case. Some pedals use a 6mm or 8mm hex wrench from the backside of the crank arm for removal. Most pedals can be taken off with the 15mm pedal wrench.  Using a cone wrench for removing the pedals is not recommended.
Bike Shipping 6 The easiest way to take the pedals off is to point the crank arm towards the front wheel and align the wrench with the crank arm and push down to remove the pedal. Follow this procedure for both sides and remember that the non-drive side pedal is reverse threaded.
Bike Shipping 7 Next, remove the handlebars from the stem with a hex wrench.
Bike Shipping 8 Remove the wheels. Start by removing the front wheel, just as you would if you had a flat tire. The rear wheel is next, start by shifting the bicycle to the small chainring in front and the smallest gear in the rear. This will make removal of the wheel easiest. After the wheels have been removed, take the quick release skewer out of each wheel and place it in the bag for small parts. Installing a plastic axle cap is a great idea to keep from damaging your wheels and frame when they are tightly packed in the box.
Bike Shipping 9 Once you have the wheels out you will want to place the plastic frame spacer in the front and rear dropouts to keep the frame from being compressed during shipping. Let a little air out of the tires, the drop in pressure from the airplane travel will add about 15psi to the tires, so keeping them around 80 psi will be safe.
Bike Shipping 10 Now we need to carefully wrap the frame to keep it from being damaged. Foam pipe insulation works well and can be found at virtually any hardware store. Bubble wrap also works well and can be used to get into smaller places and for wrapping components. 

Remove the seatpost (with the saddle attached) saddle so you can fit the bicycle in the travel case. Use your hex wrench to loosen the seatpost clamp and remove the seatpost and saddle as a unit.

Bike Shipping 11 Putting all the parts into the box can be a challenge but with a good plan everything will fit and travel safely. I always start by placing the wheels in the bottom of the case first. The wheels will be staggered and be sure to place the cassette on the rear wheel on the bottom side.
Bike Shipping 12 Once the wheels are in the box, cover them with a layer of foam to protect the frame from sitting directly on them. When you place the frame in the box, be careful not to place any of the frame’s tubes over the wheel axles as this could damage the frame tubing. Since the handlebars only have a limited range of motion because of the cables holding them close to the frame, you will have to find a safe spot for them so the frame and handlebars fit in the box without being damaged. Once the frame is in the box place the saddle and post, small parts bag, and any other items you want around the frame in the open spots. Be sure all items are protected with bubble wrap to prevent damage (you can’t use too much). Cover the frame with one more layer or foam and then place the top on the box. The cover will be hard to press down but you can use a little force to get it closed. Once the box is all secure give it a good shake to make sure nothing is loose in the box. Now you are ready to go. Have a safe trip and a great event/ride!