How to Travel with a Bike

Ready for a fun bike vacation or destination bike race? Let’s go!

If your trip is too far to drive, the first thing you’ll need to figure out is how to transport your bike. The thought of flying with your bike or shipping it to your destination can be a little overwhelming. But don’t worry, we’ve got the tips you need to get you (and your bike) there!

Bike Transport Options

Shipping your Bike

BikeFlights offers specific service and rates for people shipping bikes using UPS. The advantage to shipping your bike is that you don’t have to lug it through airports or in ride share transportation. You can also ship your bike to a local shop and pay them to build it for you. The disadvantages of shipping a bike are that you will have to part with it for longer, sometimes a week or more. Also, it more expensive than flying with your bike.

Flying with your Bike

Bike fees and policies will depend on your airline and your route. Certain airlines such as American, Delta, and United will treat a bike case as a normal checked bag if it weighs 50 lbs or less. Some airlines charge a bit more or allow a bit more weight. For certain airlines, Lufthansa for example, you are required to reserve a spot for your bike in advance, so definitely read that fine print! However, there are many benefits to flying with your bike. Flying with your bike means that you have it with you from start to finish and don’t miss any training days on your bike. Also, it is far cheaper to pay the $30-50 average checked bag fee than to pay to ship your bike.

Supplies Needed to Pack Your Bike

  • Bike case (EVOC, Thule, Dakine, Scicon are just some of the brands who make quality bike cases).
  • Bike box (For shipping, this is a suitable option and cheaper if you don’t own a bike case. I don’t recommend this for flying because it will likely not meet the dimension requirements for your airline, it is very unwieldy to get through an airport, and it is more susceptible to damage)
  • Allen wrench set, rotor tool, scissors, any other proprietary tools
  • Packing material (Foam pipe insulation, extra packing materials from your local bike shop, bubble wrap, towels, etc.)
  • Extra cardboard
  • Tape/ zip ties
  • Plastic bags
supplies for packing a bike

How to Pack Your Bike in a Bike Case

1. Before you disassemble:

  • Mark your seat height or measure and record your seat height in your phone.
  • Let a little air out of the tires (no need to completely deflate them).
  • Remove any CO2 cartridges from your saddle bag.
  • Take note of how many spacers are on either side of your stem if it needs to be removed.

2. You will then need to disassemble the following:

  • Pedals (place in a plastic bag)
  • Handlebars (and stem, if necessary)
  • Rear derailleur
  • Seat post (you could also lower your seat into the seat tube. For mountain bikes, you can simply lower the dropper post and usually fit it in the bag without removing the seat post)
  • Chain (this is optional, and if you do so, remember to bring extra quick links to reassemble)
  • Wheels (be sure to screw the thru axles back into the frame)
  • Rotors (place these in between two pieces of cardboard)
  • Batteries (remove any batteries, place the covers on the battery mounts, and put them in a secure location in your carryon luggage)

3. Protect your bike

  • Wrap each part of the frame with foam or bubble wrap and tape it in place.
  • Wrap the derailleur in bubble wrap and tape securely.
  • For disc brakes: place brake caliper spacers (or a piece of cardboard) between the brake pads.

4. Final travel-ready checklist

  • Weigh your case/box to ensure it meets weight requirements (max 50lbs for most airlines).
  • Make sure your name and address are on the case.
  • Remove any other travel tags from the case.

Pro Tips!

  • Apple Air Tags in your bike case can help you keep track of where your bike is during travel.
  • Carry pedals, helmet and shoes in your luggage in case your bike gets lost. That way you can borrow a bike while you wait for yours.
  • If your bike weighs too much, remove any saddle bags or frame bags first and place them in another checked bag or carryon. If your bike case is still overweight, you can remove your cassette (this can save quite a bit of weight, particularly on a mountain bike – just make sure you remember to bring a tool to remove and reinstall the cassette).
  • If you have weight to spare, you can put ride food, bottles, tools, and other items in the bike case. Just be sure to put any additional items into a secure bag and don’t throw anything in the bike case loose.
  • Bikes do not usually come out on the normal baggage carousel, so be sure to ask where the "Oversized Baggage" area is located to retreive your bike at your destination.

Meet Crystal!

I am an endurance mountain bike and gravel athlete as well as a professional cycling coach. I travel all over the United States (and the world!) with my bike for races and for recreation. I hope these tips help you on your next bike trip!

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