Tips on packing your bike for holiday travel

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Tips & Hints
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For parents new to the sport, the process of packing bikes up for travel can be quite confronting.  It’s taken me six-years to have any confidence at all in packing/unpacking my bikes.  One thing to remember…. there really isn’t much you can screw up BUT if it won’t go, don’t force it (unless you know what you’re doing)!

I’ll explain how I pack the track bike (being track season) and then add in elements specifically relevant to a roadie after that.

What to pack it in?

I’ve bought a you-beaut, inflatable, wheelable, light bike case and used it maybe twice.  Before that, on recommendation from my LBS, I just used cardboard bike boxes – that is, the boxes that new bikes come packed in!  And now I’ve gone back to them.  I’m sure you’re LBS will give you one.  When choosing a cardboard box, try and get one from an XL sized bike or, even better, an XL sized MTB!  Give the bottom some extra reinforcement of packing tape as sometimes the stapes do become lose.  They should also be happy to give you some foam tube protectors (pictured) and even some cardboard fork protectors that come with all their new bikes that they usually throw out.

This is how a bike arrives at a bike shop.  Try and replicate this when packing your own road bike. Notice the box as protection against the rear derailleur being squashed!

This is how a bike arrives at a bike shop. Try and replicate this when packing your own bike. Notice the box used as protection against the rear derailleur being squashed!

How to pack your track bike:

  1. Before taking out your seat post, mark the height with a piece of tape.
  2. Take your handlebars off from the steerer tube – that way, you don’t need to undo/redo the bars themselves, just reattach the stem to the steerer.  If you do for some reason need to take the bars off the stem, make a mark on the bars that lines-up with the where the stem plate joins the stem – so you can easily put it back in the right position.
  3. If you haven’t got an integrated head stem, you can use cable ties or extra spaces to help stop your forks from falling out.
  4. Take off the pedals.  A lot of people reverse these, but I usually add them to a small bag.
  5. I also like to put a fork protector in – a plastic guard that stops the forks from being able to be pushed together and potentially breaking.  Ask you LBS for one of these.
  6. Your track bike should fit in the XL box without removing the rear wheel.
  7. Add padding and/or bubble wrap to taste – although good packing should mean you don’t need a lot of protection as there won’t be a lot of moving bits!
  8. Put your front wheel in a wheel bag and slide it down beside the frame.
  9. Your bars and stem should be the perfect width to sit on top of the back wheel.  Add some tape to keep them from moving around if its not a snug fit.
  10. You helmet, kit, shoes, tools, a roll of tape (so you can repack) should all comfortably fit into the box.  Use a soft shoe or helmet bag to put them in.
  11. Don’t put small lose bits in as they could fall out the handle holes.  If you’ve got anything lose – tape to the inside of the box.
  12. Use your kit for additional padding.  Throw in a towel as well – good padding but also good for wiping up sweat or drying rain!
  13. Shut the flaps and tape well.

It’s pretty easy really and this method should work for all but the largest of track bikes or track bikes with long integrated seat masts.  In those cases, you’ll need to remove the rear wheel and use extra padding to ensure there is minimal movement inside the box.

With your pedals, remember which way they tighten and loosen; each is opposite to the other.  Both loosen by pulling up when the crank is pointing forward.  Don’t over tighten or they can be a bitch to get off.  And if it doesn’t feel right going on, don’t just keep tightening… there’s a big chance you’re cross threading them!

What differences for your road bike?

In terms of your road bike, again depending on the size, you should be able to leave your back wheel in.  Probably taking the skewer out though so the wheel is just being held in by the chain.  If you want to be extra cautious, remove the rear derailleur.  You can just keep it hanging on the chain, but wrapped in a rag to stop grease from going everywhere!  Take some photos of it before taking it off so you remember how it is meant to sit as it can be confusing.

With your bars on the roadie, take the them off at the end of the stem (remembering to mark their position) and, obviously with the cables still connected, tape one bar to the to the top-tube and the other to the forks (similar to photo #1) – so they’re the same width as your bike.  Give you frame some protection against rubbing.

It should look something like this...

It should look something like this…

Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as for the track bike.

Other tips:

  1. Pack rollers taped up in a cardboard box.  You should be able to find something the right size at your LBS.
  2. You shouldn’t need a pump.  Rely on locals if you’re going to a competition and on LBS’s if your riding for fun.  Obviously take a hand-pump for emergencies + CO2 etc.  Also, don’t worry about deflating your tyres for the plane, that they’ll explode is a myth.  Keep them inflated to whatever you usually ride on.  You don’t see the plane’s tyres exploding do you?

I know a lot of you will have done this a thousand times, but remember this blog is to help the parent new to the sport.  Please feel free to add your own tips in the comments below.

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