Gut Wrenching Mechanical Mondays: Bike Packing!

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6. Bubble Wrap Frame/Fork. © Daimeon Shanks

Proper bike packing can save you money in broken gear and headaches on race day. © Daimeon Shanks

Daimeon Shanks, pro mechanic and co-owner of The Service Course repair shop in Boulder, Colorado, shares his wisdom this week on how to pack your bike like a pro. Missed the last article on pit etiquette? Go back and check it out. Now that you’re licking your – and your bike’s wounds from this past weekend, prepare for the races ahead with a pro setup that’s sure to see you through to glory.

by Daimeon Shanks

Packing a Bicycle

With Cyclocross Nationals right around the bend (pun intended), I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the proper way to pack your bike for travel. While it may be a boon for many of the local shops, improperly packing your bike can result in costly damage. You may not be able to compete at all in an event that you’ve spent most of the season preparing for and have traveled to at great cost.

Whether you’re using a bike box, bag, or fancy polycarbonate shell, the procedure for packing your bike essentially stays the same. Sometimes the dropout savers are built into the bag, sometimes you may need to leave the rear wheel on, but those are small variations on the technique.

I recently picked up all of my supplies from the good folks at Sunnyside Sports here in Bend, OR where I’m preparing for this year’s Nationals with the Rapha-Focus team. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

Supplies Needed

  • A bicycle box or bag
  • Bubble wrap, or other protective wrap
  • Zip Ties, various sizes
  • Dropout Savers
  • Hub Plugs
  • Packing Tape (if using cardboard box)


  1. Remove your wheels from your bike. Set them aside.
  2. Remove your pedals. Zip-tie them to the top tube.
  3. Zip-tie chain to large chain ring. This is to protect your chain ring teeth from being bent or broken in the box.
  4. Remove rear derailleur. Place a zip-tie through the rear derailleur cage and attach it to the inside of the chainstay. This is to protect your rear derailleur hanger if the bike takes a whack from the side.
  5. Place dropout savers in frame. Plastic dropout savers can be acquired easily from any bike shop. Always, always use dropout savers to protect your frame!
  6. Bubble wrap frame/fork. Use your packing material (bubble wrap, pipe insulation, cardboard tubes, etc.) and wrap around the down tube and non-drive side of your fork. Zip-tie in place. Tape can be used, but use masking tape so it won’t stick to the bike and ruin the paint job.
  7. Remove handlebar. Make sure to reattach and tighten your headset cap.
  8. Zip-Tie stem. Place stem next to down tube and attach with a zip-tie. Notice how the shifter threads through the fork legs—that’s the reason for the non-drive side packing material.
  9. Install Plugs in Hubs. Remove the skewers and set aside. Install plugs in both sides of both hubs.
  10. Remove seatpost. Remove your saddle and seatpost and wrap in packing material. Re-tighten your seatpost clamp. I usually zip-tie the skewers to the seatpost so they never get lost.
  11. Slide your bike in the box. Wedge you saddle/seatpost in so that it won’t flop around and damage your bike. Slide your wheels in on each side of the bike. Use packing material or a couple of pieces of cardboard to keep the wheels from scratching anything.

That’s it! Make sure to bring the proper tools with you to rebuild your bike once you get there, or you’ll still be running to the bike shop at the last minute!



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As a mechanic, the way we get bikes in boxes is as follows and I have tried it and it is a good method.

1. Rear wheel on, tied through crank hole and frame.
2. Pedals off, front wheel off, handlebars (not stem) off.
3. Wheel zip tied to non drive side of frame, with packing foam in between.
4. All tubes covered in some sort of protection.
5. Front plastic dropout savers in fork.
6. Pedals, QR, small accessories in smaller box.
7. Seatpost dry, covered, as well as saddle packed next to bike.

This works for 90% of road/cross bikes, save for ISP and unusual frames/bikes. It will fit in any standard size cardboard bike box that a new bike comes in, and any good shop will have packing materials/boxes for you to use.

dave beals
dave beals

Instead of zip ties, i use string or old shoe laces. These work just as well if tied tight, can be re-used on the return trip, and do not require a pair of cutters to cut them off like the zip ties require.

Josh snead
Josh snead

Always bring pedals, shoes, helmet and skinsuit in your carry-on: if the bike doesn't make it, you can borrow one but finding loaner kit is more of a challenge.


I have a few tips to add if you guys don't mind:
1. Cross specific: High-profile cantis don't pack so well in clamshell-type boxes. If you need to remove the brakes from the bike, put the front brake pieces and rear brake pieces in their own individual bags. This will help you reassemble the parts and have everything quickly back in adjustment upon arrival.
2. I find it easier to have a separate small box for parts like pedals and qr skewers. Put all these misc parts in a little box along with an extra packet of carbon prep and small spare bits like brake pads. This eliminates the need to zip-tie anything to the frame and you can have a checklist of everything that should be in the box.
3. It helps if you have a quick-link on your chain and can remove the chain and therefore the rear derailleur easily. Wrap these in bubble wrap and put them in the box with your pedals and skewers.
3. Somewhat common sense but make sure the cassette is facing away from the frame if you're using a clamshell box.
4. This is not relevant to Nationals but if you are taking a long trip, it saves a lot of time and energy to just cut and remove your brake and derailleur cables prior to transporting the bike and install new ones upon arrival.
5. Sometimes it is easier to remove only the handlebar and to leave the stem on the steerer tube but make sure that it is angled away from the top tube to prevent contact.
6. Shipping large ISP/seat mast bikes is a major pain. Before you give up or resort to using an enormous box, try removing the fork from the frame. This is how I took my Ridley to Europe this summer in an incredibly small box.
7. Lastly - if you are your own mechanic and will have to pack your own bike for the return trip, take your time packing the bike well on the outbound trip, then take photos to keep on your smartphone or iPad to reference for when you are packing your bike for the return trip. You will be tired and you don't want to make the kind of mistake that ends up in broken stuff.
Happy travels and good luck to all!

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