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What Is The Best Way To Ship A Bike | Cycling 101


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ship my bike via fedex plane

Shipping your bike across the country can be nerve-racking, especially when you’ve spent thousands on a new bike. I’m sure everyone has seen how poorly some shipping providers handle their packages. It’s hard to not worry.

There are some shipping companies that are better than others for shipping bikes across the country. However, I prefer to focus on good packaging in order to make sure my bike is safe even if it is handled poorly. You have no way of knowing how your bike is being handled so it’s better safe than sorry.

There are a couple of different shipping methods you can choose from when it comes to shipping your bike. You can go the DIY route, meaning you pack the bike up yourself and take it to FedEx or UPS. In many cases, FedEx will even come to pick up your bike. Another option is to use a bike shipping service. Regardless of which shipping method you choose, your bike will still ultimately ship through FedEx, UPS, or sometimes USPS. However, with these services, you’ll get professional packaging and disassembly, guaranteed delivery times, better insurance options, reassembly at your local bike shop, and more.

Whether you go the DIY route of packing your bike yourself, or you let a bike shipping company handle everything, your bike will ultimately end up being shipped by 1 of 3 shipping providers: FedEx, UPS, or USPS. So even if you choose to go with a bike shipping company the underlying shippers are still the same. This is why I believe proper packaging is so important.

While in most cases your bike will be safe in the cardboard boxes provided by these companies, I prefer to err on the side of caution and use hard shell bike boxes and bike bags to pack my bikes. Having a hard shell bike box gives me the peace of mind that I need.

How To Package My Bike For Shipping?

Bike Flights Medium Box

How I recommend packaging your bike differs depending on the price range of your bike. If you spent $10,000 on a nice Pinarello, S-Works, or any other top-of-the-line bikes, it’s definitely worth picking up a hard shell bike travel bag for shipping. If you pick up one of these bags and are traveling to the same destination as your bike, it may actually be cheaper to fly with your bike instead of shipping it but we’ll talk about that later. I recommend a hardshell bike bag that will be able to handle the shipping process.

Aerotech Evolution X TSA Hard Shell BIke Bag

Even with a hardshell bike bag, you’ll still need to disassemble and pack your bike with proper packing materials such as bubble wrap, padding, and/or foam. This is less for external damage and more so for protecting your bike from itself. When you pack all the different components of your bike in the bike bag/box, many different parts of your bike could rub against each other. Thus causing scrapes, scuffs, and other damage. So, even with a good bike bag, you still have to take time to properly pack your bike.

Hardshell bike bags are pretty expensive. If you want better protection but don’t want to go so far as the hard shell bike travel bag listed above, you can try a softshell travel bag. These will still be better than the cardboard boxes but not expensive as the hard shell ones. Here’s a picture of a soft shell bike travel bag.

Bike Travel Bag

If you don’t want to pack your bike yourself, you can use a bike shipping service, explained in the bike shipping service section.

Tools Needed to Disassemble Bike

  • Bike Bag or Company Provided Bike Box
  • Wrench Set
  • Allen Key Set
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Foam Padding
  • Zip Ties
  • Shipping Tape
  • Tape or Marker to mark seat height
  • Scissors
  • Pad Spacer for disc brakes

Steps For Disassembling Your Bike

bike parts

In order to properly pack your bike, you’re going to want to disassemble all parts that can be removed from the bike. This includes pedals, wheels, handlebars, derailleurs, seat & seat post, etc. Make sure you mark items such as your seat post so you know where it was previously positioned.

  1. Remove Pedals. Don’t forget your left pedal is reverse threaded. I’ve definitely forgot this before when I first started riding and struggled for a while trying to remove my pedals. Since the left pedal is reverse threaded, you’ll be twisting toward the rear wheel on both pedals.
  2. Remove Seat Post but make sure you mark your seat height so when you reassemble your bike you have the exact same positioning.
  3. Remove Bottle Cages. Keeping the bottle cages on can make it more difficult for you to properly pad and wrap your bike. Since removing the cages is pretty easy, you should remove them to avoid any scratches on your bike. For safe keeping, you can reattach the screws that hold the cage in place, or if you have a spot for small components you can place them there.
  4. Pad The Frame and Seat Post. You’ll want to wrap your frame with bubble wrap or padding and then use zip ties to keep the padding from moving around or coming off. Padding the frame and seat post of your bike with bubble wrap or foam padding keeps your frame safe from nicks, dings, and scratches. If you don’t have bubble wrap or foam padding, you can get creative, the main goal is to avoid scratching, so you could use clothes, towels, blankets or anything else that will protect your bike.
  5. Pad and Remove Handlebars if you have aero bars you should keep the stem attached to the aerobars so that you can maintain the same position upon reassembly. After removing your bars you should wrap them and attach it to your frame with zip ties to avoid having it slide around and scrape your bike.
  6. Remove Rear Derailleur. The rear derailleur can get damaged if not removed. Once removed, you should wrap it in protective material to avoid damage.
  7. Remove and Pad Wheels. When you remove your wheels, you’ll want to wrap the cassette with a towel or something to keep it from scratching the other components of your bike. Make sure you tie rope or something around the towel so it doesn’t come off your cassette. You’ll also want to pick up hub guards or wrap your hubs with a protective material.
  8. Install Spacers for Disc Brakes. Bending your disc brakes isn’t good, it can cause annoying ride noise and poor braking, so you’ll want to make sure you space your disc brakes so they don’t get bent.
  9. Install Axle Spacers. Axle spacers are great to keep your forks from bending during transport.

After you’ve fully disassembled your bike, some important things you don’t want to forget are all the small components off your bike and any tools needed to reassemble your bike. You don’t want to get to your destination and not be able to put your bike back together.

Packing Your Bike

After fully disassembling your bike and properly padding your frame and other components, it’s time to pack your bike in your bike travel case or the provided bike box.

When packing your bike in a bike bag, you’ll typically have foam padding that is provided. Many people misuse this padding thinking it is to protect your bike from the outside. However, this padding is to separate your wheels from your frame and other components. So after you pack your frame and other components, you lay the foam padding on top of it and then pack your wheels. This keeps your cassette and wheels from scratching your frame.

When packing your bike you want to make sure you don’t exceed the weight limits that are given by your shipping company. Exceeding these weight limits can have your bike returned or it can come with an extra charge, it depends on the courier services you’re using.

What Is A Bike Shipping Service?

A bicycle shipping service is a company that specializes in shipping bikes across the country or even to different countries. Since this is their primary focus as a business, they tend to be the safest and best option for shipping your bicycle across the country.

Many of them offer insurance plans for your bikes and some partner with local bike shops to handle the disassembly, packing, and shipping. Some even partner with local bike shops so when your bike arrives at its location, a local bike shop unpacks and reassembles the bike for you.

We’ll be comparing 3 bike shipping service companies today: Bike Flights, Ship Bikes, and Overnight Bikes. For reference, I’m going to price bike delivery from San Francisco to New York City with each company.

Each bike shipping company provides different delivery options. You can have them delivered to a local bike shop so you can pick up your bike once it has been fully assembled, or you can have it delivered directly to the desired destination.

BikeFlights.com

BikeFlights.com Logo

Bike Flights is a bike shipping service that allows you to ship nearly assembled bikes or disassembled bikes. They offer 2 different bike shipping boxes, large and medium. A large bike shipping box allows you to remove the front wheel and pedals and then load your bike into the box. The medium bike shipping box requires full disassembly of your bike. Shipping in a large bike box is more expensive than the medium box, but the medium box requires more work.

Many people ask how many business days it will take for your bike to be delivered, but instead, on Bike Flights when you book your order, you choose the delivery date and they’ll tell you what day it needs to ship by in order to meet that date. BikeFlights also provides a delivery guarantee.

Insurance

With BikeFlights.com, you’re also able to ship your own bike case, which is what I recommend to minimize the chance of damage to your bike. Bike Flights utilizes UPS for shipping and if you want additional protection, they offer different levels of insurance depending on the price of your bike. Here are a couple of the different insurance options and costs. There are a lot more options for insurance at BikeFlights.com

  • $1,000 Insurance Coverage is $12.80
  • $2,500 Insurance Coverage is $36.80
  • $5,000 Insurance Coverage is $76.80
  • $10,000 Insurance Coverage is $156.80

Preferred Handling

For more expensive bikes, Bike Flights offers Preferred Handling of your bike. Preferred Handling is an option that is offered for high-value bikes that are shipped via Bike Flights. This perk allows for extra protection for your expensive bikes. Preferred Handling includes Priority Loading, Secure Storage, and Reserved Routing.

Priority Loading means that your bike will be loaded at the front of the container so it doesn’t get squashed by other packages.

Secure Storage means that in between routes and parts of the trip, your bike will be stored securely under lock and key. This will help prevent theft.

Reserved Routing means your bike will be routed with other high ticket items.

How Much Is It To Ship Bike From San Francisco To New York with Bike Flights

The total cost of shipping comes out to $82.95, to ship your bike from San Francisco to New York City using bike flights. This is without insurance and I used the standard medium-sized cardboard bike box that Bike Flights has. The medium size box requires full disassembly.

If you want to use the large bike box, your price would be $167.95. The large bike box doesn’t require full disassembly, you only have to remove the pedals and front wheel.

Prices will vary depending on transport distance, box size and the extra options that you choose. These prices are just for reference.

International Shipping

BikeFlights.com allows for international shipping to and from specific countries. You can check if they ship to your desired country and check pricing for international shipping orders on their website.

ShipBikes.com

Ship Bikes Logo

ShipBikes.com also/previously known as AirCaddy.com has years of experience shipping bikes. Their parent company shipped a bike in the 90s just for it to get damaged and the freight carrier not to honor their insurance due to “improper packing”. So, they mastered the art of packing and shipping bikes in order to deliver their bikes without them getting damaged. This then turned into them making a bike shipping company. So, with over 30 years of experience in shipping bikes, they will provide a safe way to ship your bike wherever you need it.

Insurance

With ShipBikes.com, you’re also able to ship your own bike case, which is what I recommend to minimize the chance of damage to your bike. ShipBikes utilizes FedEx for shipping and they offer different levels of insurance depending on the price of your bike. Here are a couple of the different insurance options and costs. There are a lot more at ShipBikes.com

  • $1,000 Insurance Coverage is $16
  • $2,000 Insurance Coverage is $32
  • $5,000 Insurance Coverage is $80
  • $10,000 Insurance Coverage is $160

How Much Is It To Ship Bike From San Francisco To New York with ShipBikes

Pricing is almost exactly the same as Bike Flights. The total cost of shipping comes out to $82.82 to ship your bike from San Francisco to New York City using ShipBikes.com. I used the measurements of the Bike Flights cardboard box that I used in the pricing for Bike Flights to make the shipping criteria as similar as possible.

However, when I use the large box measurements the prices do vary between Bike Flights and Ship Bikes. As mentioned in the previous section the large box on Bike Flights comes out to $167.95. On Ship Bikes with the same box measurements, the price comes out to $125.49.

Ship Bikes also charges additional fees for FedEx to pick up your bike. It’s not much, only about $5 but it’s still an additional fee you should consider.

Prices will vary depending on transport distance, box size and the extra options that you choose. This comparison if just for reference. 

International Shipping

Ship Bikes allows for international shipping and shipping to Hawaii and Alaska, however, prices may increase and you need to contact them for a price quote.

OvernightBikes.com

overnight bikes logo

As stated in the name Overnight Bikes specializes in next-day bike deliveries. However, their business model is different than Bike Flights and Ship Bikes. Overnight Bikes works on a membership basis. So, I’d only recommend this option if you travel a lot and want to take your bike with you whenever you travel.

You pay $250 per year and you get $99 FedEx Priority Overnight Shipping anywhere in the United States including Hawaii and Alaska. This is a great deal but if you only use it once having the subscription is a waste.

Depending on if your location is more rural or remote, there may be additional charges. Also, if you have a remote location, your delivery might be later in the day. For major cities, your bike should be delivered by 10:30 am the next business day.

A couple of things to note about Overnight Bikes are, they don’t offer packing or insurance services and some things that are included with other shipping companies are not included with this company. Some FedEx facilities will pack your bike for you, but you have to make sure that the box size doesn’t exceed their requirements or you may not fall under their $99 flat fee rate. There are more stipulations to fall under the $99 flat rate so if you want to avoid extra costs make sure you read all the rules.

Overnight Bikes will charge extra for FedEx to pick up your bike. If you want to avoid this fee, you have to drop off your bike at a FedEx Office location.

If you travel a lot or you need next-day delivery options, Overnight Bikes may be the best way for you to ship your bike.

International Shipments

Overnight Bikes ships to all 50 states but doesn’t support international shipping.

DIY Shipping With UPS, FedEx, and USPS

If you don’t want to pay the premium price of Bike Shipping Companies, you can DIY and pack the bike yourself. When you pack the bike yourself and use FedEx, UPS, or USPS, you don’t get all the guarantees that the bicycle shipping companies provide. For example, Bike Flights will pay you if the delivery is late, (check their terms for more info). Also, insurance claims may be more difficult with the carrier rather than the bike company, since the bike company specializes in bikes.

Will UPS Ship My Bicycle?

ups logo

UPS will ship your bike, their main concern will be the size of the box that you use to pack your bike. Also, make sure if you’re shipping an e-bike, that you verify if it’s allowed with the type of shipping you decide to go with. Most e-bikes have lithium batteries and these batteries can’t go on planes so you’ll most likely need ground shipping if you’re shipping an e-bike.

Will FedEx Ship My Bicycle?

fedex logo

FedEx will ship your bike and many FedEx Office locations will even pack your bike for you. You may still have to disassemble or partially disassemble your bike for them, but this will still save you the hassle of packing it yourself.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship My Bike Across The Country?

If you’re going to use a bike shipping company, I’d estimate anywhere from $80 to $200 not including insurance for your bike. If you need overnight shipping, with OvernightBikes, you’re looking at $350 since you have to pay the $250 membership first.

If you DIY and ship through FedEx, UPS, or USPS, the bike shipping costs are currently higher than the bike shipping companies. However, that may be due to COVID and increasing gas prices. The bike shipping companies may have locked in pricing, so at the moment, shipping your bike through a bike shipping company seems like the cheapest option.

I used the same method for test pricing on FedEx and for a medium-size bike box, the price was $197 and for a large box, it was $473. You may get better pricing in person or if you speak with a rep directly. To formulate these prices I used the calculate shipping rates tool on FedEx’s website.

What’s The Cheapest Way To Ship My Bicycle?

Currently, the cheapest way to ship your bike is either BikeFlights.com or ShipBikes.com. The cheapest option for fast overnight delivery would be OvernightBikes.com but that requires a yearly subscription. So, I only recommend that if you plan on traveling a lot or you really need overnight delivery.

Can you ship an assembled bike?

shipping an assembled bike

Yes, you can ship an almost fully assembled bike and maybe even a fully assembled bike. However, the larger the dimensions of your package, the higher your pricing goes. So, taking the extra time or taking your bike to FedEx or a local bike shop to have them disassemble and pack your bike can save you hundreds of dollars.

Can You Fly With Your Bike?

a plane

You can definitely fly with your bike and if you are going to the same location as your bike and not shipping it to a buyer or friend, this may be your cheapest option. Although, bringing your bike with you on the plane may be a hassle and the convenience may be worth the extra money. Having luggage, a personal item, and then a large bike bag that you have to travel with and take to your car, taxi, or uber can be annoying. So, if you don’t mind the extra cost, it may be best to ship your bike to where you’re staying.

Alaska Airlines is one of the airlines that welcomes you to bring your bike onboard. As long as your bike meets its guidelines, they waive the extra airline fees. Normally luggage the size of a normal bike would incur an oversized luggage fee and an overweight fee but they just waive those fees. They also waive fees for other sports equipment as well such as skateboards, surfboards, skis, boogie boards, and windsurfing equipment.

How Much Is It To Fly With My Bike?

Flying with your bike can be considerably cheaper than shipping your bike. Flying with your bike can cost anywhere from $30 to $150 depending on the airline. Some airlines don’t charge any extra for a bike travel bag. They just charge you for it as if it’s a normal luggage bag. As long as it isn’t over the weight limit.

On American Airlines, it’s free to take your sporting equipment as long as it doesn’t exceed their requirements. If you pack a sports bag with other stuff, you may incur a fee.

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