Packing Your Bike

Kiwivelo recommends using a standard cardboard bike box for packing your bike for international flights. Based on our own experience a cardboard bike box is the best method, it is enough to protect the bike, it is relatively light (around 3-4kg for the box) and they are usually free.

There are many brands of hard case bike boxes available which will do a better job of protecting the bike. However their disadvantages are that they are expensive to buy, they add a lot of weight (often more than 10kg for the empty box, and they are bulky to transport and store.

Before you begin you should check your airlines policy for bikes because nearly every airline has a different set of rules. Some give a free allowance of up to 15kg for bikes, some just count the bike as normal baggage, and others have a flat fee for a bike.

Flights through Asia have a total checked baggage allowance which is usually between 25 and 30kg, plus 5 to 7kg of carry on baggage. Flights via North America are usually more expensive but have a bigger baggage allowance, usually two items of baggage up to 32kg each.

What you need

Cardboard bike box

Usually free from bike shops but don't wait until two days before you leave to get one because many bike shops throw them away as soon as they have built the bike that came in it. You may need to call them a few weeks in advance and ask them to save one for you.

Allen keys

(4mm and 5mm) to remove your rear derailleur, handle bar and seat post.

Pedal spanner

to remove your pedals (sometimes a 6mm or 8mm Allen key)

Packing tape

to close the box,

Large zip ties

to secure the handlebars and front wheel to the bike (packing tape works here too but may leave marks on your bike).

Protective foam

as comes in the box with many new bikes (or cardboard will work too).

Disc brake spacer, fork spacer

Not essential but recommended. Available from bike shops.

How to pack you bike

First make sure your bike, the tyres and your bike shoes are very clean. When you arrive in NZ Quarantine Officers will check you bike for dirt that can carry plant diseases. If it is dirty they will take it off you and heat treat it or spray it. That means some time without your bike, and you may have to pay for it and shipping your bike to you afterwards

Let your tire pressure down by about 1 bar (15 psi). You may need to let mountain bike back tire down more to help fit the bike in the box. Some airline staff will tell you that you need to let all the air out because of the altitude the plane flys at. That isn't necessary, even if the plane flew into space the relative pressure in the tire would only go up by 1 atmosphere (1 bar, or about 15 psi).

Start by removing your front wheel. You can now stand your bike beside the bike box, check the size. Remove the seat post if you need to, but it may be possible just to put the seat right down.

Now remove the rear derailleur with a 5mm Allen key. Just let the derailleur hang free, or zip tie or tape it to the chainstay.


Image 1 - Remove Derailleur

Remove the pedals. Note that the left pedal has a reverse thread. The best way to remove pedals is to have the pedal at the lowest point, and the spanner behind the pedal. You may need to back pedal up to of a turn until the pedal spanner is horizontal. This rule works on both sides. Then press down on the spanner. If it is really stiff you can use your foot. Place you toe on the pedal to stops the crank from turning and use your heel to loosen the pedal.

Attach some protecting foam or cardboard to the right of the top tube and down tube near the headset. Then remove the handlebars from the stem by undoing the bolts. Put the stem back together and do up the bolts completely so that you don't lose any parts. Turn the forks backwards. Use zip ties or packing tape to attach one end of the handle bar to the top tube and the other to the bottom of the fork. Check that the gear and brake levers are in a position where they aren't going to be damaged. Road bike handle bars can be fitted in a similar position to that shown. Fit the fork spacer and disc brake spacer if you have them.


Image 2 - Handle Bar

Now take the quick release out of the front wheel and fit it beside the bike. Find the position that allows the wheel to fit closest to the frame.

Watch where the axle fits, it may be best in front of the down tube but behind the forks, in the main triangle, or in the rear triangle as shown in the photo. But be careful that it will not scratch the frame and that there will be no pressure on the disc. Use some cardboard to protect the frame if necessary. You can place the crank between the spokes to get a really good fit. Now zip tie or tape the wheel firmly to the frame in three or four places.


Image 3 - Front Wheel

Now lift up the whole bike and slide it into the box. If it is a really tight fit you may need to let the back tire down completely.

Put bike into box

Image 4 - Put Bike Into Box

Once the bike is in the box you can put the seat in. Be sure that you attach it at at least two points so that it doesn't rattle around. Also be aware that cardboard bike boxes can be torn and anything not attached can fall out and be lost.

To close the box use packing tape in at least five places including the very ends. Check that the bottom is well closed too, the original glue or staples should be strong enough.

Now wrap an inner tube around each end of the box (see image at top). They provide a backup method of keeping the box closed, and can be easily removed and re-applied in the case security or customs inspection.

Finally, you should take the packing tape to the airport with you because you may have to open the box for a security check.