How to Ship a Bicycle Cheaply

Two Methods:Preparing Your Bike for ShippingTaking apart a Bike

Whether you're selling a bicycle online, or shipping one to yourself it helps to know how to pack and ship a bicycle in a cost effective manner. For an inexpensive bicycle, there is no reason to pay a bicycle shop for professional packing. Also, you can save by partially disassembling the bike and shipping in a smaller box.

Method 1
Preparing Your Bike for Shipping

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    Finding a box: Locate a proper cardboard bicycle box. Local bicycle shops will usually give away bicycle shipping boxes. (Occasionally they charge a nominal fee, no more than $5.) When picking up a box ask for a smaller size - this will help you save on shipping.
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    Calculating the cost: Measure the length, height and depth of your box. Plug these numbers into the shipping calculators at websites such as and along with the shipping address for the bicycle. A safe estimate for the package weight is usually around 35lbs. If you're lucky, the bicycle box measures under the "dimensional weight" restrictions of the carriers. If you notice an extra $25 or $35 dollar charge in the estimate you'll need to trim your bicycle box.
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    Bicycles can also be shipped from Amtrak Express which delivers them from station to station. They must be securely packed in boxes and boxes can also be purchased at the stations. Visit for more details.
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    Trimming the box (if needed): Cut two or three inch slots into the four corners of the open end of the box (between the flaps). Fold the flaps inward (you'll have to trim the long flaps) and take down your new measurements. The length and depth will have remained the same, but the height of your box is now less - with luck the box now comes in under the size restriction and the $25 or $35 additional charge is gone. If the box is still large try to trim it again removing an additional two or three inches from the height.
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    Test fit: It's best to conduct a few test fits. In order to fit the bicycle into a smaller box, you may need to remove one or both of the wheels, pedals, seat post, or possibly even the handlebars if by loosening the stem and turning the handlebars sideways will not work.
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Method 2
Taking apart a Bike

  1. 1
    Know that, in general, you must take apart your bike before you can ship it. There are very few services that will ship a bike whole, and they are generally expensive. Luckily, taking apart your bike is pretty easy overall, and doesn't require a lot of mechanical knowledge.
    • Wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty, as there is a good chance you'll get grease on you as you work.
    • Put the bike in a bike stand, or turn it upside down to remove everything but the handlebars.
  2. 2
    Remove the pedals with a pedal wrench. In a pinch, a normal adjustable wrench will do as well. Attach the wrench on the hexagonal bolt where pedal meets the crank arm to unscrew the pedal. However, each pedal unscrews in a different direction:
    • The drive-side pedal (by your gears) unscrews normally, counter-clockwise.
    • The opposite pedal unscrews in reverse, so you must turn clockwise.
    • Some pedals have an allen bolt on the outside edge that you can unscrew, instead of needing a pedal wrench.
  3. 3
    Remove the wheels. Most wheels have a small lever in the center that you simply lift up to unlock. From there, you may need to unscrew this part (known as the skewer) to get the wheel off. Simply hold the skewer on one side while you loosen the other side (counter-clockwise, or "lefty loosey") until the wheel is easily removed.
    • Shift your gears into the smallest ring in the back in order to easily get the chain out the way of the back wheel.
    • You may need to unhook your breaks in order to get the wheel off, or deflate your tires.
  4. 4
    Remove the faceplate on the handlebars to take them off. The faceplate is the small, square, metal piece attaching your handlebars to your stem. You can see it in the center of your handlebars when you look at the bike straight on. There are four screws that are easily removed with an Allen key.
    • Do not jerk the handlebars or let the fall rapidly, or they may stress the brake and derailleur cables that are still attached.
    • Reattach the faceplate when you are done so that you don't lose it or the screws.
  5. 5
    Pull out the seat. Most seats are attached with a quick release -- the same small lever your might find on your wheel. If not, there is a small bolt where the seat post meets the frame that you can quickly unscrew to pull the entire seat post out.
  6. 6
    Take off any extraneous features. Mudflaps, water bottle cages, lights, etc. can get in the way of a tight pack job. You can, however, simply place them back in the box with the frame, as they will fit in the many spaces you still have left in the box.


  • As of this writing, FedEx generally seems about 10% cheaper than UPS for shipping bicycle boxes. Don't forget alternative shippers with options such as an online account that discounts 10%.
  • Double check your box dimensions with the online shipping calculators before making the trip to the drop off location. "Measure twice, cut once."
  • AMTRAK will sell you a box for $15 at stations that handle baggage. You are responsible for fitting/packing/partially disassembling your bike, tape, marking/addressing box. They will weigh your box and $60-$80 should get it to most places in contiguous US. You pick up bike at baggage at destination and assemble and ride away. They will keep the box.
  • Generally bicycles can be shipped within a region for $15 to $20. Shipping across country may cost $30 to $40 or more, but shipping prices have seen a surge recently due to increases in fuel prices, leading to typical complete bike shipping price of $100 or more.
  • When buying a bicycle, shop locally first - you might be able to avoid shipping charges altogether.


  • Write with a permanent marker your shipping destination, contact, and home phone numbers on the box; include the same inside the box. If it's part of your airline checked luggage, include the ticket identifier as well.
  • Expensive, rare, or collectible bicycles should always be professionally packed by a bicycle shop.
  • Always insure your bicycle against damage (most carriers insure up to $100 automatically.)
  • UPS/FedEx do not provide insurance against damage. They provide Declared Value Protection. You must pack your shipment within their guidelines or you will lose a claim for damage. Bicycle shops do not pack to UPS/FedEx regulations, use a professional packing company. Shipping rates are based on the final size, weight and destination zip code for your shipment.
  • Checked bikes are often lost or miss connecting flights because of their size and fragility; have a backup plan if you get to your destination sans bike.

Things You'll Need

  • Bicycle box from your local bike shop
  • Tools: Allen wrenches, adjustable wrench, etc.
  • Tape, tape measure, zip ties, packing materials
  • Internet access for checking online shipping calculators

Article Info

Categories: Bicycles