How to pack a bike 101
It was brought up that someone should do a write up on packaging a bike.
When I pack a bike I try to mimic how manufacturers pack them. Manufacturers have professional packaging engineers to design the most optimal method of packaging in regards to efficeincy, cost and safety of the product. what most people dont realize is how little packaging material is actualy used to pack a bike from the factory.
Tube protection is nothing more than very thin cardboard held in place by the smallest amount of tape. wheels are zip tied to the side of the frame and all of the small parts are packaged in a smaller box which is found in the big box. when a bike leaves the factory in may only leave a pallet once or twice.
On a pallet a bike box is bound togehter with dozens of other boxes and the pallets are moved by fork lifts. Depending on the size of a dealers order they may be delivered on a pallet or delivered as an individual unit. Delivery as an individual unit is how most damage will occur. drivers will toss boxes around as needed so they can finish their route as quickly as possible.
As an individual whos into bikes as a hobby I have to be very carefull when packaging. I dont have the funds of a big store behind me to absord the cost of a damaged bike. Therefore, I have to ake extra steps when packaging.
How easy it is to package dpends on the style of bike.
Old road bikes: Theses bike have conventional diamond frames versus frames with sloping top tubes. In general, the highest point of a conventioal diamond frame when packaged is the top of the seat tube.
Sloping top tube bikes: dpending on the size of the frame the highest point could be the front wheel or rear wheel. These are my favorite to package because you can leave the seat and seatpost installed.
Mtn. bikes: Similar to sloping top tube bikes.
Boxes can be no bigger than 130: of combines length and girth. Girth is Width + width + height + height. DO NOT measure the variables individualy!!!. Measure the length and hold your tape measure at that measurement. While holding the tape measure at the previous length measurement wrap it around the box like a string to get your combined length plus girth measurement. this technique, which FedEx and the USPS uses can save you upto 2". While 2" doesnt sound like much thats an extra inch of 'height' which in turns is an extra 1" of protection for a seat tube.
So...here we go. I'm shipping this beautiful Cannondale to California. Cannondales have extended seat tubes which need extra protection. My biggest fear with this bike would be the seat tube extension snapping off or cracking due to an impact. A steel frame, without and extended seat tube, would have reduced the gith measurement by almost 4"!!!!
Bike needs to go in box:
Remove the pedal, handlebars, front brakw and front wheel. Turn the fork backwards and do dry fit:
Everything looked good until I eyed up the seat tube.....I guess I need a taller box!!! Box #2 was considerably bigger and gave me anout 4" of clearance above the seat tube and 6" on the end. Unfortuantely this box measured 139", 9" over the limit. :( I guess i'm cutting it down.
Now its time to prep the frame an fork. I use foam pipe insualtion from Home Depot held in place by zip ties. ITs available in 3 or 4 sizes. I use the biggest for the main tubes and a middle size for the stays and fork. For the fork ends I use an old hub secured in place with front skewer.
Fork is reinforced!!
Wrap every tube and the crankarms with the pipe insulation!!!!
If you ship UPS they do not measure girth as you suggest. They require you to measure width, round and double, measure length, round and double, and then add the two together. This quadruples your rounding error. If you don't do it this way and they do and come up with a girth that is too large you will incur an oversize package fee. I know because the same thing happened to me and I had to contest the charge. Don't count on any shipper to do you any favors. Here is their measurement policy page.
Pay particular attention to the front of the head tube. (I'll get to this later!!) I have 2 layers of foam zip tied in place!!!
now we move onto the front wheel and handlebars. Postion the crankarm inside the rim.spokes and rest the wheel against the frame. If this is done properly the wheel will reat on the in 3 positions with ZERO stress on the wheel. Notice that the front wheel is positioned bleow the shiftlever. On smaller frames **** may not be possible!! Zip tie it onto place:
Drop bars are simply rested on the top tube (dont say it!!) and zip tied to the top tube and down tube. You may need to loosen the stem. In this particuar instance the lower drop is on the outside of the front wheel. Front brake is tied to the downtube.
Time for a test fit!!!! Looks good!!!
At each end of the box I add additional layers of carboard for protection. Pay particular attention to the front cutaway. If this box is dropped on its end the headtube will take most of the impact force. If its dropped on the lower corner there's a void which takes up the force. If the fork was turned forwards it would take the force on the impact regardless of how the box was dropped.
Seapost is zip tied to the seat tube:
Box is reinforced where the front axle will rest:
Seat and pedal go in smaller box. smaller box is dropped into big box:
Seat tube is reinforced with a cut off seatpost. I wrapped 4 layers of cardboard aruond the exposed post and zip tied it inot place. This is the first time i used this method. Usualy I pad it with 2 layers of pipe insulation and4-6 layers of cardboard.
The RD is coming off, correct?
Well thats it.
Some misc. thoughts:
1. While I didnt tkae a specific picture, if you look at some of htose posted, you can see that the handlbars are resting at least 4 inches below the top of the box.
2. Materials. I have ~$10 worth of materials into this. Zip ties cost $2.50 for a pack of 50. I used about 35. 6 sections of pipe insulation cost $10. I have some leftover. Packaging tape costs $16 ofr a package 6 at Sams. I used half a roll.
3. Shipping expences. I charge a flat rate of $75 for any bike I ship. This particular bike cost $65 to ship to California via FedEx plus my $10 in expences. I broke even on shipping.
USPS would have charged $120 to ship this bike to the west coast!!!!!
4. Time. 2 hours because I had to cut down a the box. If this were a 21" steel frame I could have done it an hour to an hour and a half.
5. Shipping label. i attached it directly above the seat tube. Hopefully that discourages the delivery guy from dropping it on the seat tube.
This is a great idea for a thread, thanks for putting it together for us.
Yes, I removed it.....It was actualty the last thing I did. Unfortunately I didnt get a pic off it. :(
Originally Posted by cudak888
Step X: Remove rear derailleur and zip tie it to the spokes.. Zip tie upper and lower section of chain to padded chain stay to prevent rattling in the box.
Thanks for this, miamijim. From my (somewhat limited) experience, I would say that your method is overkill - which, in this case, is a very good thing. If folks do it your way, it is highly unlikely that the bike will be damaged in transit.
As a suggestion, you might try your LBS for little plastic blocks to reinforce the front fork drop-outs. (The bikes that are shipped to them come with them, and they mostly get thrown away.) Front fork reinforcement is essential, as you point out, but not all of us have extra old front hubs we can use for this purpose.
Here's and edited pic...you can see how i wrapped the derailleur and zip tied it to the spokes. Zip tie just tight enough to keep it from moving around.
Originally Posted by cudak888
It may be overkill but I cant take chances as this is something I do as hobby. One busted up bike and I could be in the red for 6 months!!!
Originally Posted by bikingshearer
Most of those plastic blocks dont stay in place after they've been used. When I dont have spare hubs around I use old pitted axles. If I dont have any old axles I use threaded rod from The Home Depot. A length of rod is something like 5 feet long. I cut it down with a Dremel tool and secure it in place with 4 nuts and 4 washers. 1 nut and 1 washer on each side of the fork end or rear drop out. I think it was Neil (nlerner) who suggested the threaded rod method.
I respect your commitment to having something positive come from your experience with the Peugeot.
You've done us all a tremendous service.
Nice work Jim. I would add the following. For larger frames, I remove the front fork, pad it like crazy and then that gets zip-tied to the frame as well. Also, for those of us who are not wealthy in excess hubs, most local bike shops will give you an assortment of accessories to include front and rear dropout slipins to stabilize and reinforce--which I then tape into place--plastic donuts to fit onto the axles after removing the skewers and putting them in the same small box (bubble-wrapped of course) with the pedals and seat, and foam blocks for the bottom bracket and dropouts.
Most of them will give you a box for free but depending on the season I pay $5-10 at the local Trek dealer to buy the factory shipping box for Trek Madones; it's a two-piece box with a 'lid' and the main box has a cardboard stiffener with foam padding glued to the cardboard and a series of nylon web tie-downs that allow you to cinch the frame down tight once you've got it padded and ready to pack. Also there are foam blocks in place to receive the bottom bracket shell and fork dropouts and best of all, it always falls under the 130" cumulative measurement and there is more than ample room for wheels and boxes for small parts and it's ridiculously easy to add all the extra protective fill packing while it's lying on the floor--you're not trying to stuff crap down an 8" slot filled with bike and wheels--and then all you've got left to do is put the lid on it and tape it up for shipping.
Before this post, I had no idea how to properly box a bike for shipping having never shipped one myself.
That was a good read and well documented with many detailed pictures. Thanks, Jim. A very helpful thread.
Excellent info. Please make it a sticky so it becomes a readily available reference for all members.
Do you deflate the tires as well? They could expand depending on how pressurized the plane is. That is if this was being flown. Guess it doesn't matter if you use ground.
The difference between atmospheric pressure at sea level and at 30,000 feet is about 10 psi. So unless you pump the tires to within 10 psi of the pressure at which they blow off the rim this is a complete non-issue. They definitely won't expand, if they did they wouldn't work. It seems like pressure and volume are one of those things that aren't intuitive or "common sense." I've seen this same myth circulated around the internet many times. A similar example is my former roommate who was convinced that if I tried to pump up her car tire with my bike pump it would explode and hit me in the face because of the weight of the car, she couldn't come to terms with the notions of a high volume low pressure car tire and a low volume high pressure bicycle tire.
Originally Posted by Cynikal
On a related note, leaving the tires inflated can help prevent damage to the rims.
Originally Posted by 23skidoo
I know the owner of the first Trek concept store in U.S. I'm going to hit him up for some of those boxes!!!!
As time goes by I adjust how I pack a bike by incorporating new materials, methods and techniques.
For some reason that visual made me crack up :lol:
Originally Posted by purevl
Well Done MJ. That must've taken some serious time to put together and it's a truly FAQ worthy piece of work.
A BIC pen can be used in a pinch as a rear dropout spacer, if there's no extra hubs laying around (ad should yo choose to send the wheels and frame in separate boxes as I typically do). Wood blocks or a small paywood lining at the bottom of the box is a good idea because you can ziptie the whole bike to it and it'll keep the entire assemby even if the box becomes compromised. At this box size, weight is almost a nonissue.
I'm impressed Jim. That was really well done. I know I'd feel very confident in receiving a bike from you. While I can't imagine ever actually shipping a bike, ya never know. This is incredibly informing. Something like this would also be a great printout in case one of us is packing without a computer nearby, or as something to keep in a repair manual.
Thank you very much Jim, you truly have done us all a favor.
Still sorry about that PGN-10, though I think you may have avenged it with this.
Good to know and thanks for the actual numbers. I've always heard stories about wine bottle popping open in peoples luggage so I wasn't sure.
Originally Posted by purevl
Just dropped off a 3Rensho at the post office for shipping to Germany. My packing may not have been quite as thorough as Jim's example, there are notable similarities. We'll find out in a few weeks if it was sufficent.
I always keep the tires inflated to about 90% of maximum. I'd like them be able absord some impact force!!!!