If you have a folding bike, there is no problem. A folding bike, so common in Poland in the 1970s, folds down easily into a small package in just about a minute. The next few minutes you have to spend on covering the protruding elements with bubble wrap and placing the bike into a cardboard box sized approximately 90 x 60 x 40 cm. Then you have to seal the box with packing tape and that’s it. Bikes that cannot be folded down, i.e. having a one-piece frame, are slightly more difficult to pack. Learn a few simple rules that will allow you to pack every single bike in such a way that it can get to the recipient without any damage.
Although when you pack a bike for shipment for the first time it may seem to you a little bit complicated, shipping bikes is now one of the standard courier services.
Bike box and it’s done
The simplest and safest form of packaging for a bicycle is a special box made of durable plastics. It resembles a big suitcase sized approximately 140 x 40 x 100 cm.
The whole bike, after the wheels, saddle and handlebars are detached and placed separately, may be put into the box. There is a fastening system that prevents the contents from moving and makes the usage of fillers redundant. The box may also be accompanied by a special cover. The whole bike is perfectly protected, packing is so quick, and moving the box is very convenient and requires no more effort than moving around with a suitcase on wheels.
Where is the catch? Of course, it is the price – a special box for transporting bicycles costs as much as a good bike at the supermarket. If you are not the lucky owner of a premium bike, for example S-Works or Cannondale, you may keep on reading.
Packing limited by size
Before you start to resolve the dilemma of which option to choose – putting a bike into a cardboard box or wrapping it like a mummy (protecting all elements with bubble wrap and stretch foil) – check the dimensions of the standard package with your courier. If you comply with a courier’s standard sizes (“How much does a ton of styrofoam weigh?…”), you will avoid additional charges for exceeding the limits.
Usually, the sum of the three dimensions (length x height x width) amounts to approximately 300 cm. However, as the proportions may vary, you should check the details on the courier’s website. Knowing the limits of the dimensions to be fitted in, you should measure the bike to be shipped. You should add 10-15 cm to each of your measurements for space for the fillers and the thickness of the cardboard box itself (if you choose to pack the bike in a cardboard box).
In many cases, it will turn out that the partial disassembly of the bike is necessary to comply with a courier’s standard parcel size.
Should you remove everything which you can?
Definitely not. It makes no sense to dismantle the items which do not affect the dimensions of the package, or which, when removed from the bike, do not increase the safety of transport.
Elements that can be dismantled and are worth dismantling:
- handlebars – you always remove them or at least set them in a position parallel to the frame,
- pedals – you always take them off, pack separately and securely attach to the frame,
- saddle – you remove the saddle only if it protrudes beyond the edge of the package; if it fits into the cardboard box, you should lift it to such a height that it will support the cardboard box and strengthen the construction of the package,
- wheels – there are two different approaches: some people always remove both wheels, while others advise leaving them attached as long as it does not significantly increase the price of the shipment.
It’s worth remembering that the bike will have to be assembled once it reaches its destination, so breaking the bike into bits and pieces means unnecessary work for us (or someone else). A bike delivered in too many parts may be too difficult for self-assembly if the customer is not mechanically minded. Such a situation may result in the customer’s negative review of the seller. The same applies to covers and fillers.
Do not exaggerate with tape
Bubble wrap is the most convenient and effective method of protection for both protruding or sharp elements like gears, forks, or wheel axles, or easy to damage components like shifters or a rear derailleur. You can also successfully use covers made of corrugated cardboard, sponge, foam or styrofoam. Crumpled paper is not useful for that and air cushions even less so.
You should attach the protective covers to the bike with adhesive tape in such a way that the adhesive does not touch the bike itself, especially its lacquered elements. In this way, you avoid a mess on the bike which is difficult to remove. You should not use too much adhesive tape as the more you use, the bigger the irritation for the person who has to unpack the bike.
After the covers are attached, the whole bike should be thoroughly wrapped with stretch foil, which will connect the individual elements to the bike, stabilise them, and at the same time will provide additional protection against rain or mechanical damage. If you use a cardboard box to pack the bike, you can use different types of fillers for void spaces. The packed box, sealed with packing tape, may additionally be wrapped with stretch foil.
Safety extras, or holders and insurance
When you prepare a package with a bike for courier shipment, you should make holes in the box or attach a holder which will enable easy handling of the package. The box is narrow, relatively long and high, so if it is difficult to be grabbed or attached, it will most likely tip over many times during the journey, or it will be dragged instead of being carried. Of course, this increases the risk of the bike being damaged.
In the case of bikes of considerable value, it is mandatory to put a label on the package “handle with care” or “this side up” (usually additionally priced).
The most reliable protective measure against losses is insurance. It basically always pays off, as even the insurance of precious items with a value amounting to thousands of euros costs less than a dozen or so zlotys.