How to Ship Your Bike
If you are planning on touring away from home, starting your tour somewhere in your home country or abroad, you may need to think about how to ship your bike. How will you get your gear and your bike, and of course yourself to your starting point, and then back home.
In the case that you choose a loop, you won’t have such problems with logistics. You will be able to drive to the beginning of your tour, leaving your vehicle in a safe place for your return. But not many routes are loops, and you certainly shouldn’t limit yourself to just loops.
-Flying with your Bike
If you are going to flying to your departure point, then it may be a good idea to fly with your bike. Most airlines will accommodate bikes, although the rules do differ from one airline to the next. For a full-size bike, you will be looking at around $150 minimum to fly for your bike. Most airlines also insist that your bike is boxed up or put in a case.
Here is a list of some of the major airlines you may be considering flying with that will accept bikes as luggage:
- American Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
In the case that your bike is foldable, such as in the case of Brompton and Bike Friday, you can avoid the fees that are charged for oversized objects as your bike will fold up small enough. Great news for those of you on a budget!
Another option that you may like to consider would be the transportation of your bike, broken down and shipped into a specialized case. This is a great option for a standard frame with S&S couplers.
Depending on the manufacturer of your bike, you may be offered couplers as an option. Co-Motion Cycles is one company that currently offers this. Other frames can be retrofitted with S&S couplers.
-Traveling By Train
Traveling by train with your bike across the US is actually quite limited, especially when compared with other parts of the world such as Europe. However, it is still an option that you can look into for transporting your bike before touring.
For example, on some selected Amtrak routes, a carry-on bike service is available. On other routes that are offered by Amtrak, you may find that you can pay $10 for your bike as checked luggage when you use a bike box.
This service is only available for bike boxes that weigh up to 50 pounds and that also adhere to size requirements. If you are wondering where you can find a bike box, the great news is that they are readily available in many locations and cost just $15. Adventure Cycling is presently co-leader of the Task Force for Amtrak Bicycle, the company looking to expand the services they provide for carrying bikes on trains
If your tour takes you to Europe, then other rules will apply when it comes to transporting you bike on trains. The great news is that if you stick to local lines and lower-speed trains, you can generally take you bike on without having to dismantle it.
If you wish to take your bike on high-speed trains across Europe, you will need to make a reservation for your bike when you purchase your ticket, and you will need a bike box.
-Shipping Your Bike
Another option that you might like to consider is to ship your bike. This is a great way to avoid having to fool around with an enormous box at the train station or airport. This way, when you ship your bike ahead of time, you will be able to use it for touring instead of having to rely on bike rental when you reach your destination.
It’s by no means quick or cheap, but it is a very safe way to transport your bike to your start location. FedEx and UPS will ship your bike for you, both requiring you to use a bike box. When you choose FedEx as your courier, your bike will be insured; this is not the case when you use UPS as your carrier.
When you choose to ship your bike with FedEx or UPS, it can be shipped both domestically and internationally. Bikeflights will pick your bike up for you from your home, providing you (with an additional cost) with a box that will be used for shipping. For lots of useful tips about shipping your bike domestically or internationally, visit their website.
As an adventure cycling member, you will be eligible for a 10% discount for bike cases and boxes. When you choose Shipbikes as your carrier, you will find that they operate in a similar way to Bikeflights. You can schedule a pickup from your home and buy a box from them; alternatively, you can drop it off at your nearest FedEx location.
-Travel Cases for Your Bike
Bike cases are widely available, both soft shell and hard shell, with prices generally starting at around $300. Buying a box and spending this money however is only practical if you are going to start and end your tour in the same location and have somewhere to store it; otherwise you will be met with the problem of how to send your box to your end location!
If you are hell-bent on buying a box for your bike, a hard-shell case will offer far more protection than a soft-shell alternative. However, hard-shell boxes can be quite heavy, and this can result in more excess fees when flying with your bike or when you take it on trains across the US.
If you are looking for a way to keep your bike and box under 50 pounds, then a soft-shell case will provide you with adequate protection without the excess weight. A soft-shell case will be made of tear-resistance fabric that is durable, with extra molded plastic protection for where your bike requires the most protection. A soft-shell box for your box is obviously much easier to store when not in use than a hard-shell one.
At the end of the day, the type of box you choose for your bike should be the one that suits your needs and budget best. Remember that soft-shell boxes are more than adequate for shipping purposes and are also lightweight and easier to store.
When shipping large items, the prices always escalate when you have excess weight. This is another reason that you should avoid hard-shell boxes when shipping your box by air or train. The bike boxes provided by shipping companies are both economical and perfectly good for what you need.
-Shipping with your Local Bike Shop
If you are looking for a really hassle-free way to ship your bike, take it to your local bike shop. Here you will find an integral service that will include not just the shipping of your bike but the dismantling and packing.
Before you go to your local bike store, call ahead to check the availability of such services; a great tip here is to have them ship your bike to a bike store local to your destination that will assemble your bike for you, ready to pick up. For tours that are point-to-point, you can keep repeating the process as you travel, using the process in reverse for when it’s time to ship your bike back home.
When you are clever and choose shipping services from local bike stores, you can rest assured that your bike will only be handled by professionals who are knowledgeable in dismantling and assembling of bikes.
To ensure you can keep shipping from one point to the next, get in touch with local bike stores in all the locations you will be visiting where you may need to use this type of service.
-Box your Bike Yourself
If you prefer to dismantle and box your bike yourself, like many people do, check out this excellent resource that provides detailed instructions and videos on how to pack up your bike for the most secure and safe travel.
The same instructions apply no matter which form of shipping you will be using to get your bike from home to the location you will be starting your tour from.
When you box your bike yourself, you will have the peace of mind that everything has been packed securely and that delicate parts of your bike have been correctly protected and packed for shipping.
When you love touring with your bike, worrying about shipping should be the last thing on your mind. Your bike is a pride possession, and you cannot afford for it to be damaged during transportation. For this reason, you should know how to dismantle and pack your bike professionally as well as using a shipping company that will insure your bike.
The method of shipping you choose for your bike will depend on many factors such as whether you will be traveling abroad with your bike or not. If you will be visiting other countries whilst touring, take some time to inform yourself about regulations when transporting bikes by train. This way you will avoid extra costs, nasty surprises, and the possibility of becoming stranded with your bike abroad.