Every woman’s guide to pack your bike for air travel

packing bike for travelAt this time of year if you live in Australia you’ll notice that road cyclists are all talking about who’s going to the Tour Down Under. I’m going this year and I’ve lost count of how many other Sydney-siders are heading to South Australia for the annual festival of cycling. Most people have done it a few times so they’ve got the bike packing thing all sorted, but there’s always a few new people going along.

If you’re not really confident about packing your own bike then make a quick call to your local bike shop and ask them to assist. They’ll probably charge you a modest fee so check that when you make the call to them, and make sure you allow plenty of time before your trip. If you want to give it a go yourself then keep reading.

My partner and I have been travelling with our bikes for about six years and for the first four or so of those we carried our bikes in cardboard boxes. We have now moved up a step and bought ourselves some purpose-built bike bags but for many trips we were content with the humble box. Here’s some of what we learned in a step-by-step guide:

To disassemble your bike you need to do the following:

  • You’ll need a few tools like a pedal spanner, allen keys and if you have a carbon-frame bike you might also need a torque wrench. A torque wrench is a tool used to precisely apply a specific torque to a fastener such as a nut or bolt. On your near the seat post and other parts there’ll be sticker indicating the recommended torque for the bolts.
  • Gather up some packaging materials like bubble wrap, foam packaging or even visit your local Clark Rubber Store for some off-cuts.
  • Contact your local bike shop and ask them to supply a box suitable to transport your bike. Most will happily give these away because they have to dispose of them anyway.
  • Take the pedals off which is best done with a pedal spanner. The right-sided pedal unscrews anti-clockwise and the left-sided pedal goes clockwise. Pedals can be very hard to remove. When you go to the bike shop to pick up the box you could ask them to loosen them off for you so you can more easily remove them.
  • Remove your handlebars but make sure you mark or note the angle/position of the bars first. To remove the bars unscrew the bolts that hold the clamp holding them in place, allowing the handlebars and all the attached brake and gear cables to be slipped neatly into the box, inside the triangle of your frame. Then put the bolts back in place so you don’t lose them or the clamp that holds the handlebars on.
  • Take the wheels off (an easy job if you have quick-release wheels) and let the tyres down. Depending on your bike and size of the box you may be able to leave the rear wheel on and only take off the front one. Most airlines will ask if you have deflated the tyres when you’re checking your bike in at the airport.
  • Remove the seat which is done by loosening the seat post clamp usually with an allen key. Make sure you note the position of your seat or mark it with a pen or electrical tape. When you put it back in place, make sure it’s straight before you tighten it up. This is where you may need a torque wrench.
  • Make sure you use plenty of packaging and protective materials around the delicate parts of the bike and secure anything loose with cable ties. Plus, make sure you pack some spare cable tyres for the return journey and some scissors/cutters to cut them off.
  • Close the box up with a healthy dose of packing tape and string and write your name and contact details on the box. You can even use luggage straps to make sure it’s really secure and put some extra tape around the carrying holes/handles where the box can easily tear.
  • When putting it back together at the other end of your journey, do the same steps in reverse. If you’re not confident about this process then find a friend who is, and ask them in advance to assist, or failing that, find a local bike shop at your destination and once again pre-arrange to have them assist.

Happy travelling.

2 comments

  1. Great info and v timely. I’m going to SA too, but we drive over with bikes in car. Still it’s a, timely reminder of the bits n pieces you need to pack. Will we see you in the 6500plus riders on the BUPPA ride? I’ve been training hard for the big one, 151kms. Not bad for a 48yro woman who only started riding distances 5yrs ago. I love the whole festival in adelaide

  2. Thanks Nicola, this is a great article. Nice simple step by step instructions which make it look pretty straight forward.

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