Garage Files – How to Pack Your Bike


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How to Pack Your Bike for Summertime Fun

When it comes to seeing the best riding destinations in the world, there’s always a big question: How the heck are you going to get your bike there? Sure, you could rent one when you make it to your destination, but riding the slopes of Whistler on a borrowed bike seems like sacrilege. Imagine arriving home after a week of shredding only to find your trusty steed staring you down from the garage, asking where you’ve been and why there are chainring tattoos on your calf from a different bike (like the lipstick stains on the collar of a man who has cheated on his wife). Well, we’re here to help. We’ll show you the best ways to pack your bike to minimize the chances of damage in shipping so that you and your one and only can enjoy an intimate weekend shredding the dirt.

Garage-11. The most important thing you’ll need for this job is a proper bike box. They come in many sizes, so be sure to choose one that works for your bike. Downhill bikes, 29ers and fat bikes will require the largest boxes. Be sure not to try this with a road bike box, as most mountain bikes will not fit.

Garage-22. Bike boxes and packing material can usually be found at a local bike shop. Be sure to ask nicely, and leave a tip if they float you the packing materials. We like a combination of extra cardboard, bubble wrap, packing paper and any bit of foam tubing you can find.

Garage-33. Before you begin packing your bike, take the time to clean it. Not only will you have a polished bike when you arrive at your riding destination, but you will avoid extra wear and tear from the grit grinding against your bike’s vital parts. It’s always best to ship a clean bike.

Garage-44. Begin by deflating the tires. This will give you a precious extra couple inches of clearance when you put them in the box. If you’re running a tubeless setup, be careful not to break the bead seal, as it could leak sealant all over the inside of the box.

Garage-55. Some bike boxes require both wheels to be removed to fit, while others are made to only require the front to be removed. Our long and skinny box will work best with only the front wheel removed.

Garage-66. Use the frame’s axles to keep the fork and frame dropouts from being damaged. If you are using a quick-release system, the bike shop you got the box from will be able to kick you plastic spacers to do the same job, as long as you ask nicely for them.

Garage-77. Disc brakes come shipped with plastic spacers to keep the pads from creeping in. If you’re lucky enough to have them, place them in now. If not, a folded piece of clean cardboard can be used to keep the pads apart during shipment.

Garage-88. Remove both pedals and set them aside to go in the box at the end. Nothing is worse than getting to your destination only to realize you left your pedals on the workbench.

Garage-99. Shift your chain into one of the larger cogs. This will narrow the profile of the bike and make it less likely the derailleur will be bent during shipping.

Garage-1010. Now we’re ready to prep the box. Start by lining the bottom and corners with some packing material to prevent the fork or dropouts from poking through the cardboard.

Garage-1111. Use the foam and/or cardboard tubes to protect as many tubes as possible. Taping these in place with either masking or packing tape will keep them in place.

Garage-1212. Remove the stem and handlebars. Depending on your box and bike size, you may or may not need to disconnect the stem from the bar. Our box is big enough that we can leave it.

Garage-1313. Most bikes can be boxed without removing the fork. However, some may require it be removed. If you’re leaving the fork on, replace the top cap to keep the headset in place. If you have to remove the fork, be sure to place the headset parts in a bag to keep them all together.

Garage-1414. Dropper posts are a pain when it comes to shipping bikes. If you find a big enough box, though, you can simply drop them to their lowest setting and toss them in the box. If your box isn’t big enough, you will be forced to remove the saddle and possibly even the post to make the bike fit.

Garage-1515. Carefully drop the bike in the box, being sure to ensure the fork, frame and wheel are not damaging the cardboard.

Garage-1616. Our Specialized Stumpjumper fits perfectly in this box with the fork and seatpost still installed. Nice! We’ll put the handlebar outside the box for now.

Garage-1717. Carefully place the front wheel on the non-drive side of the bike inside the box. This side will have slightly more room than the other and will be less likely to interfere with the cranks and rest of the drivetrain.

Garage-1818. Slide a big piece of cardboard between the front wheel and the rest of the bike. This will prevent the wheel and hub from contacting and damaging the frame.

Garage-1919. We like to use old, small boxes cut down for extra protection. They would have been discarded anyway, and provide a great (usually free) solution for packing protection.

Garage-2020. Slide those extra pieces of cardboard into any spot the bike makes contact with the inside of the box. The goal here is to keep any part of the bike from rubbing against another for the journey, and also to prevent parts like the axles, hubs or fork legs from poking through the box.

Garage-2121. This is one well-protected bike in a box. All the contact points are reinforced, and the wheel is completely secured without worry of contacting the frame.

Garage-2222. Next, put all the packing material you have to secure the rest of the bike. The goal is to keep the bike as stable as possible in the box and keep parts from vibrating loose. Anything not secured inside the box could potentially do damage to your bike during shipping.

Garage-2323. Now, carefully secure the bar on top of the packing materials, and pack it carefully to keep it in place. Occasionally, the shifters or brakes may be too short to do this properly. It’s always better to remove one or both of these components rather than force them into place.

Garage-2424. Take a careful look around your workbench to ensure everything is in the box. Things like pedals, saddles and seatposts have a way of staying on the bench even for the most experienced bike packer. Bag and tape up any components you may have and place them securely in the box.

Garage-2525. Use a liberal amount of packing tape to close the box up. If you’re doing a round trip, it’s best to include an extra roll of tape in the box as well, so you don’t have to make an emergency run to the store to buy some the day of your return trip.

Garage-2626. Finally, take this small step to ensure that even if your bike is lost, it will be easy to find its rightful home. Take a big magic marker and write your name, address and phone number in several different places on the box.


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