Bicycle Shipping Procedures

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Anonymous's picture

I'm getting ready for a vacation in Florida and am wanting to bring my bike with me. Can anyone give me some tips on what the best way send bicycles to your destination is? Currently I plan on finding a bike box from a shop (hopefully....),packing it up and send it FedEx Ground Service.

I'd really appreciate it if anyone could point me in the right direction here. Thanks....

Anonymous's picture
Jonathan Goodman (not verified)
try a real bike case

You might try a real bike case (about $300 from a shop).
I've been happy with mine, and stopped worrying.

Anonymous's picture
jk (not verified)
bike shipping to FL

I have shipped my bike many times in the course of touring trips. I've always packed it myself in a regular bike box and even thrown in tools, racks, helmet, clothes, etc. I've shipped it UPS ground, insured. Since it goes as an oversized box the rate is the same even if the weight is up to 70#, hence putting in all the extras. Pack it well, with all kinds of padding, bubble wrap, air cushions, extra cardboard on the inside walls, etc. I've had no problems, the package went coast to coast in 5 days for about $40. Check the UPS site for exact cost to FL. Fed Ex ground is fine too and is cheaper in some cases. Check their website for costs. This will be cheaper and just as secure as taking it on the plane. If you're rich and will be shipping your bike many times go ahead with a fancy case. But if you want to do it easily and with minimum cost, pack it yourself in cardboard. Afterall, that's how all the bikes make it to the bike shop in the first place. I'm sure you can get instructions on how to pack the bike on the web. Try for starters.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
shipping a bike

I have heard that many bike shops will pack and ship a bike for you (for a fee, of course). Could save a lot of hassle.

With regard to insurance, I have heard that collecting for damages en route can be protracted and difficult, and that the best thing to do is to insure your bike for $3,000 or more--in which case it gets special treatment.

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
Shipping your bike

If you are planning on going to the trouble of packing your bike in a proper bike box, you might just as well take it with you, as opposed to shipping it, unless you're planning on taking stacks of other luggage.

Admittedly my experience is only with transatlantic flights and I have yet to take a bike on a US domestic flight, but I have found that most airlines take a bike in a box free of charge and count it as one piece of checked baggage, even though it is classed as 'outsize baggage'. At least that way, you won't have to pay a fee to have it fixed and get extra insurance for special treatment. But you should note that the airlines will only pay out up to a certain level if they wreck the bike. If you have a top-notch road bike with Campag Record or Shimano Durace, what the airline pays out will come nowhere near the cost of replacing the bike. Having said that, if you pack the bike properly, the airline would have to go some to really wreck the bike and would probably have to drop the thing from the hold of a 747, 20ft or so, straight onto the tarmac to achieve that level of damage. Accidents do happen, and I have seen some rough handling by baggage handlers, but I have never seen anyone drop an item of baggage straight onto the tarmac from an aircraft hold.

If you are planning on travelling to Florida by train, Amtrak does take bicycles that are packed in boxes. I believe the same applies to bus companies.

Of course, if you have the time, you could always take a touring bike and load it up with paniers and cycle to Florida - should only take 10-12 days or so.

Enjoy the trip.

Anonymous's picture
candice (not verified)
Bicycle shipping

I just came back from Florida, and brought my bicycle with me on the plane in a bike box. The airline charged me $80/way, but would have charged more had my bicycle and the box been over a certain weight. Additionally, the airline LOST my bicycle on the way home, and when it did arrive it was evident that they had opened the box and couldn't repack my bicycle and I believe ripped my cycle computer wires because of their poor repacking job.

I recommend Federal Express - this way you can track it, and it should only cost about $85/way. I think it's worth the pain you will save trying to deal with the airline yourself.

Anonymous's picture
jon (not verified)
My bike shipping experience

I have my own hard case for my bike, and I have padlocks for it. I have never FedEx'ed it, I have, however, flown with it a few times: to Texas for the LAF Ride for the Roses, and to Europe this past summer. I have been charged $80 each way by the airlines (Anthony: What airline do you use!?!?) But I never had any problems otherwise. These were all non-stop flights, though.

If you ship your bike ground, it will be out of your hands for up to a week, depending on where you are going. If you FedEx it overnight, it's probably more expensive than the $80 you may have to pay the airline. But I do recommend spending the $300 to buy yourself a hard case on which you can install your own padlocks.

Cmoore's picture
Joined: Nov 4 2010
2011 A-Classic Grad

United won't charge you extra unless your loaded bike box is heavier than 50lbs. Jet Blue charges $50 (and counts it as a checked bag) and allows up to 99.9 lbs in said bike box.

Anonymous's picture
Bob Hancock (not verified)
A Case for A Hard Case

I shipped my old cyclocross bike in a box three times and the last time the box took quite a beating and was, in fact, punctured. It only resulted in a scratch on the frame, but it could easily have been much worse.

I've always shipped my road bike in a hard case whether via UPS or in a airplane. Last time I came back from Maine, I ended up in New York, but not my bike. After two days of investigation, they found that it had been shipped to Caracas. I received it intact two days after that. The case had scratches and dirt all over it. I'm glad I didn't use a box.

If at all possible, buy the hard case. It will last for years, and if you ever give up riding you can sell it.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Domestic vs. international

"Getting to the airport with a boxed (or cased) bike will cost you a bundle each way. If someone knows how to do this cheaply, please post.

The two times I shipped a bike internationally I was not charged for it by the (foreign) airline. And I took mass transit to the airport.

Air France allowed me to ship my road bike unboxed on a JFK-CDG flight; on the return flight, they provided the box.

Nor did Aer Lingus require me to box my Swift Folder. Turn the handlebars, deflate the tires, and remove the pedals is all that was required in both cases. Undamaged both trips.

I think the American airlines are greedy and bikeaphobic.

For domestic travel not involving ""serious"" biking, I throw my Swift Folder in a 32"" hardshell suitcase and check it like regular baggage. For bus or car trips I put it in a duffel bag. This is liberating.
Bike Friday is also good.

For ""serious"" biking one probably needs to invest in a case and spend even more getting to the airport. ($75 each way is what various car services quoted me!) Then the airline's fee on top of that. I'd rather spend the money on a trip to Europe.

At any rate, if you're touring, what to do with the case when you get to your destination?"

Anonymous's picture
Carol Waaser (not verified)
Getting to Airport

I use a Bike Pro Race Case, which is a soft-sided, padded case (very good protection). The case fits in the trunk of a standard car service sedan (as long as there's nothing else in the trunk), so I pay only the regular car service rate to get to the airport. (I've also taken it in a taxi.)

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
Flying with bikes

In answer to [email protected], I have used British Airways and Virgin Atlantic between London and New York on several occassions. When I moved to New York I even carried two bikes on that flight without a problem with Virgin Atlantic and didn't get charged excess baggage, because they were looking for volunteers to come off a flight and and they ended up upgrading me to Upper Class, but that was pure luck.

Anyway, both BA and Virgin do not charge for bikes in a box and include them as part of your baggage allowance. A bike box counts as one bag. I have not taken bikes with US flag carriers on transatlantic routes, but I'm told by people that have that United Airlines and American Airlines do not charge for them on the London/New York route. I've no knowledge of what the other airlines charge. As I said in my initial response, I have had no experience taking bikes on US internal flights, but padlocking a case is certainly a good idea.

I suspect the person that had their bike box opened may have been the victim of a an attempted theft.

Given that most of the US flag carriers are losing money hand-over-fist at the moment it would not surprise me if they charge for bikes on domestic routes. I was horrified to discover that Continental charges for alcoholic drinks ($4 a go) on domestic flights, when I took a non-stop flight from Newark to Honolulu a couple of weeks ago. Not one of the British flag carriers charges for such things on any of its rotues - domestic or international.

Anonymous's picture
fred steinberg (not verified)
Using FEDEX business saver within USA

I recommend a shippable hard-case and opening a FEDEX account (via the www.)
Bring your case to a local FEDEX office, NOT an MBE or other mailbox business, they bump the cost 200%. Get a bunch of shipping forms too.
For example I shipped a 70 pound hard case (w bike, helmet, shoes, energy stuff, etc), from NYC to Billings Montanta- The cost was $86.00 using the 3 day business saver. San Diego is 96 I tink. It takes 3-4 days and you can track it on-line.
When ready to return pack the bike, fill out the FEDEX from w/account number and find someone to drop it off. Or call FEDEX and request pickup at the hotel/motel- this will cost you more, find out in advance.

Anonymous's picture
halukural (not verified)
Keeping my fingers crossed.......

Everybody seemed to be in agreement on the hard case thing. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to get one so I shipped it double-boxed in a couple of new bike boxes I got from the shop around the corner.

I packed it extremely well and insured it for $3000. I have faith that FedEx will deliver the box in perfect condition. If not, oh well....

Anonymous's picture
Julie Bray (not verified)
traveler's insurance

i'm taking my bike in a padded case from NYC to CA on American. They assured me a bike under 70 pounds and less than 62 inches is considered a piece of luggage. My bike shop is packing it.

My question is, can I buy some kind of traveler's insurance in case something happens to my bike?

Anonymous's picture
halukural (not verified)
Credit Card Insured

If you bought your bike with a credit card, you might want to check if they cover it. I know that American Express insures items purchased with the card in cases of theft, loss or breakage.

Anonymous's picture
Julie Bray (not verified)
cc insured

Unfortunately I paid cash for my bike and it was earlier in the year. Are there any other options for insurance?

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
Homeowners/Renters *might* cover you

Policies vary - maybe you're covered.

Did you charge your airline tickets? Check your credit card policy.

You should have a receipt for the bike no matter how you paid. Take photos of the bike before you go ... something to remember it by if all else fails.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Be careful w/homeowners policy

I submitted two small claims (under $500, one involving my bike) to my homeowners policy over a period of about three years. Why not--my deductible was only $100. And the company seemed almost eager to pay.

This year, I received a letter saying that the insurer regarded number of claims submitted--not amounts claimed--as an indicator of who they likely insurance risks were, and that I may end up seeing my coverage changed or cancelled, or at least the deductible raised.

If your bike costs $5,000 it might be worth it to submit a claim under this policy. But otherwise I wouldn't do it again.

Anonymous's picture
Let's End This Thread (not verified)
Rent a BIKE


SRodetis's picture
Active member
Joined: Nov 4 2010
50+ Ride Leader
take care with the kind of padlocks for locking checked baggage

TPS has the right to look into any checked baggage. So get a TPS-capable lock.  Those have an extra slot which allows TPS folks to unlock your combination or keyed locks, w/o breaking the whole dang thing from having to crack thru the lock to view the baggage contents.

Sonny's picture
Joined: May 5 2011
My $.02

I highly recommend the soft bike case and taking the bike with you on the airline.  My soft case has done 14 trips including Australia, Canary Islands, Italy, Belgium and half a dozen trips to California without incident.  On all those trips, I believe I have been charged a bike fee twice.

Anyone will have difficulty getting a hard case packed under 50lbs.  My soft case is typically 31lbs. First thing I do when getting to the ticket counter is put the bag on the scale.  When the ticket agent sees that while a bit bulky the bag is not heavy, often the ticket agent will not even bother asking what's in the bag and if it is oversize (plus the bag is trapazoid shape so the dimensions are not immediately obvious).  With a hard case, you will be over 50lbs. (which is an overweight charge) and the dimensions of the case are obviously oversized.

Finally, in the U.S., airports do not have oversize luggage x-ray machines meaning that the bike case or bag will be opened by TSA.  With the bag, you open the zippers on the top, the TSA agent swabs the edges with a wand for explosives and re-zips the bag.  With a hard case, the agent opens the entire case and you pray that the agent closes the case properly again.  So the stories I have heard of damage are not from the baggage handlers but from TSA.  One example, TSA agent improperly closed a hard case and cracked a carbon fiber frame because the agent just jammed the case closed when the case resisted.  Another example, case is not closed properly and during flight the seat clamp bolt comes loose and exits the case.  Seat clamp is of course an odd size on a european bike and next day is spent going from bike shop to bike shop to find a replacement.

cycling trips