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Packing up a bike

By daveh - Posted on 08 December 2010

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.

I'm going over to visit my better half's family in South Africa for a few weeks in the new year. Where they are (Western Cape - winelands) there are awesome trails. I am weighing up taking my own bike or just hiring one over there. I'm not overly concerned about the extra weight or extra bag more just is it worth it for the whole having to pull the bike apart and put it back together factor?

I am probably only going to get a few days on the trails maximum and I guess if I have my own bike there I will probably have a bit of a ride around where we are staying but it is not a riding holiday as such. How much would I need to pull my bike apart and is there are a likely chance that it will get damaged so does it really need to be worth making the effort?

I brought my flat bar roady back from the US in a spare bike box from the LBS and it's not too hard to take them apart. Just take out the front wheel, pedals off, seat off and take the stem off with the bars intact. A bit of bubble-wrap and you're good to go.

Or you could drop $220 and get one of these

I will probably buy a bag to put it all in. I have heard others talking about removing and wrapping brakes, cranks, derailleurs, etc. as they can break if things are put on top. Is this overkill or should really be going to this effort?

T7 have their padded bag on special this week too:

While it's nice to have your own bike, lots of luggage is a PITA. I hired something in Bali earlier in the year and it worked just fine for the day. Not sure what the cutoff for take your own 'v' hire would be. 2 days? 3? Guess it's down to personal choice. For a week in UnZud you certainly take your own bike Laughing out loud

I have one and they are great value for the money. They come with padded wheel bags and are really easy to pack and wheel around.

When I took my bike to NZ I took out the wheel skewers, removed the pedals, rear derailleaur (which I wrapped in bubble wrap), lowered the seat post and undid the headset to remove the bars and stem. I also packed a bit of cardboard around the bike and chainring and ensured nothing would scratch the frame.

It took about 15 minutes to do this and then the same amount of time to rebuild at the other end but it was worth it as some of the other guys found their derailleurs got bent on the flight. Be careful not to take any CO2 canisters, flammable lube with you and also make sure that any tools etc are packed with the bike bag as I got all these confiscated at security.

Removal of tools… That is a surprise. These days you would have thought they would be happy to have some on board to help tighten things up mid flight…

Rear derailleur removal is a must (even if it is the only thing you do – other than those required to fit it in the bag). Stem? I just take the bars off. I also do the peddles to ‘flatten it out’. As Nick says Cardboard is good for packing up and wedging stuff to avoid movement/sctratches/etc.

I have heard that you have to deflate your tyres as the low pressure in the cargo hold could cause them to explode. Not sure if this is true

I took my bike from the UK to the Alps before in a bike bag and came back with no damage, I took the peddles off and bars, then used cable ties to tie everything down flush etc. I deflated the tyres as well. Also brought my bike over from the UK and the mech hanger got bent but that was it.

Its pretty easy, also another trick is chuck a ton of other stuff into the bag as well, I found that my bag wasnt weighed at Heathrow (well it was, but you had to take it to one place to get it weighed and then walk back to the check in counter and tell them the weight so I just lied and told them it was 20kg's it was infact 27kg's) if you put heaps of other stuff in the bag as well the baggage handlers will struggle to throw it around cause its so heavy.

Why can't you lot spell correctly? Surely it's not that hard. Pedal and its plural, pedals, is spelt as I've shown. And before you all go birko at me for being so brazen as to point this out, stop for a moment and ask yourself "Do I really want to continually spell words incorrectly when I can simply spell them correctly?" It's really not all that hard. I'm not going to be apologetic for being so anal about this. I'm not really asking for all that much. Just put in a little more effort. I'm not asking for mathematical equations or source code. Also, try to use British English rather than American English. Thus a bike will have disc ( not disk ) brakes. Oh, that reminds me. Brakes on a bike is most certainly not spelt 'breaks'!
While I'm here, the word 'definitely' is, far and away, the most commonly missppelt word on any forum I happen to read, be it cycling related or otherwise. Amazing! C'mon people. It's just 'definite'with 'ly' tacked on the end.
Righto, the best, simplest and cheapest way to pack a bike is to get a bike box from a bike shop. The box that new bikes come in. Also, get all the packing that the new bike is wrapped in which is a mix of cardboard and foam, little plastic bungs to protect frame tips and rotors and the like. And yes, take your pedals out. Bike shops ought to give all this away for free as it just gets disposed of anyway. These boxes, in particular the type used for DH/freeride type machines are very tough indeed.
Happy travels.

Enough said on the spelling rant, I'm with you on that one

warning content may offend people with "spell checking posts" syndrome Smiling

When travelling, it might be worthwhile

- taking air out of shocks
- putting a spacer in the forks, should get from a LBS pretty easy as they get new bikes/forks with these
- spacer in brakes, bit of cardboard will do (if hydraulic)

Some people take off the brakes calipers and rear derailleur too.


Unfortunately, South Africa is a poor and dodgy place - you stand a very good risk that someone from the ground staff might like your bike almost as much as you. Since (unofficial) government policy is to redistribute the wealth - the ground staff/ baggage handlers might help the government in their efforts.
Basically, you risk your bike being stolen - so either don't take it or make sure it's insured for the whole journey.

I wouldn't take my bike to SA no waaay. (sorry Warthog and Daves missus if you're reading this)

If I were you I would just take my shoes and peddles pedals instead and hire a ride when I got there.

as it gets Pete on the the forum more often Smiling love your work Mr Pete.
My partner and I recently did a MTb trip to the US/Canada and we took our bikes with us. We just got some bike boxes from the bike shop and then used packing tap to cover the entire surface of the box - this does a few things, water protection and also gives more strength to the box (this was a tip from a pro rider who travels all the time - read about it in some mag)
When we got to our destination we just flat packed the boxes and put them in the back of the hire car and when it came time to fly back home we got the boxes out again. If you are worried about getting it all back together at the other end, don't be, I'm a girl and I even managed to put my bike back together (with some supervision)
A few tips from our experience:
try and get a DH bike box from the shop as this will give you a bit of space to play with
reinforce side walls with cardboard
remove rear derailleur, pedals, handlebars, seatpost, you may have to let the air out of your tyres to make room
use some of your travel gear to pack out the box, also means your travel bag has more room for shopping!
and before heading back home don't forget to clean the bike thoroughly to avoid any quarantine issues

If you are taking mountain bike overseas (especially to places like NZ and back into Oz) make sure your bike, tyres, shoes and camelback are spotless with no dirt on them as "border patrol" ie customs usually want to inspect them especially if you honestly tick the box on the declaration form that you have been in rural or forest areas recently.

Bikes boxes from a bike shop are a great way to take bikes on planes, just be aware that if you tape them closed (as most people do), you will probably have to open them at some point for customs and security inspections and then try to reseal them.

Bikes boxes from a bike shop are a great way to take bikes on planes, just be aware that if you tape them closed (as most people do), you will probably have to open them at some point for customs and security inspections and then try to reseal them.

So remember to carry extra tape in your carry on luggage

I would also recommend putting a copy of your destination and contact details inside attached to the frame as well as outside of the box too.

I am dyslexic so, you can stick your rant up where the sun dont shine. The forums are hardly business proposal documents so it doesnt matter all that much.

I have heard that you have to deflate your tyres as the low pressure in the cargo hold could cause them to explode. Not sure if this is true

It's only a few psi less unless the aircraft decompresses in which case it'd only be about 12 psi difference. If that happens I'd be more concerned with my undies exploding.

South Africa hosts a heap of cycling events that attract people from around the world with much better bikes than mine. We have also sent and received a heap of stuff from and to South Africa without any issue. There are dodgy people everywhere and whilst South Africa is obviously poorer, I reckon that they often appreciate their jobs more and therefore can be less likely to jeopardise that by stealing a beat up Giant from luggage. Famous last words that I hope I don't regret but it's worth the (small) risk, especially since travel insurance will cover it.

I have been in touch with a few websites, similar to NobMob, to ask about meeting up with people and people are very keen to show me around (gotta love the universal language of mtb). Since there are a lot of trails on wine estates (cost about $3/day to ride), access is strictly controlled, they are looked after and they are safe enough to ride on your own if you have to.

The possibilities of getting in some good riding are too good for me to pass up! I purchased one of those bags from Torpedo7 and have a heap of foam and thick cardboard at home so will pack it up nice and tight in that.

Hope it all goes well and you have an awesome time riding those trails.

By far the biggest risk is still my inability to ride and what may come out of that!

Just don't forget to smother yourself with plenty of LionOff™ before you head out for your rides.

Took mine from the UK to Fiji - New Zealad and all round Oz before going back to the UK and this was in the nineties. Pedals off, wheels off, turn handles bars and thats it, well worth the money!

I for one always prefer to read english as it was meant to be, but then I still write my text messages in full Eye-wink


or Jive if you prefer

I gots been lookin' into de same doodad fo' an downcomin' trip t'de States, I’ve all but settled on some hard case and den pullin' de bike apart and protectin' all de “bendable” bit wid bubble wrap and even puh'haps wrappin' de frame wid sump'n as well. Pullin' de bike apart and puttin' it back togeda' should be no problems and it probably sump'n dat we all should be able t'do anyhow, so cut me some slack, Jack.

"Do I really want to continually spell words incorrectly when I can simply spell them correctly?" It's really not all that hard........... what like "birko" which i can just make up?

(this is a joke , no harm intended)

The whole post was a wind up with no harm intended. All the responses received tells me that it got you all thinking. The best was the rage from Logan, pointing out his dyslexia.
Does anyone here notice the irony of the raw nerve I've touched? Deep down, the participants and contributors of this site really do care about ensuring they spell ( and thus, communicate ) correctly, all the while claiming that they don't care and I'm being unreasonable. Typos, grammatical and punctuation errors and just plain stuff ups are human, and everyone does it. Our Nobmob leader repeatedly uses the word 'quiet' when the the sentence context clearly shows that he means to use the word 'quite'. See, only human.
Well done chaps. Carry on...

Who's that then? Sounds like he needs to go back to school - using bad grammar is quiet unacceptable! Eye-wink

The problem with playing the spelling/grammer cop is that most of the time you simply p-off the person(s) you have just flagged and then run the risk of becoming scrutinised yourself... i.e.:

...the word 'quiet' when the the sentence context...

I'm all for proper English (leave the shorthand for twitter and SMS) but would rather have a quite quiet chuckle than make someone feel like a tit.

Back to the topic - I'm a little paranoid when it comes to international flights with bikes, so I tend to shy away from bike bags and the likes. Hard shell cases or reinforced airline boxes (both externally and internally) are what I have used in the past.
Another thing to consider is the schlep factor of transporting the boxed bike both in Aus and in SA. Do the SA 'rellies' have a proper 'bakkie' or large vehicle to transport everyone plus boxed bike?

MTB in the Western Cape is pretty damn spectacular! Do you know more specifically where you will be staying?

As an expat Saffa, I do find some of the comments about bike safety etc. rather amusing.

My mum was an English teacher so I grew up being told to speak and write correctly - fatt fingerws are there onylt thung thats ghet in the way of me spelreiing.

I purchased the bag and I have strong cardboard from a recent mower purchase and also some big pieces of foam from something else. I plan to do what a few people have recommended with these bags and cut nice, big pieces of foam to support the bike under the chain-stays, around the forks, etc. as well as reinforce the inside of the bag with the cardboard.

In SA, we are staying right in the heart of what look like the best tracks! The in-laws are from Wellington which has Welvenpas, Bainskllof (if I dare!) amongst others and is a stones throw from Paarl Mountain (although the profile maps look a little scary!), Eselfontein, Jonkershoek, Dirtopia and a few others. We will also be spending a few days in Cape Town and Paternoster so have Tokai, Table Mountain, Majik Forest, Contermanskloof and a bunch of others. There are a heap more that are a little further away but there is little chance that I am going to get through that! Other suggestions?

I've been in touch with a few NobMob type sites and riding groups over there and there are a bunch of people who seem keen to meet up and show me around which would be great.

I've been to South Africa more times than I can remember and have pretty much driven across the entire country a few times. It's true that you probably need to think about a few things that you don't need to in Australia but my experience has been that if you do, there is little to be concerned about. Most of the mtb trails are either on wine estates and other private land or are reasonably strongly policed forests. I have been told that access is pretty strictly controlled and they are well looked after. They have seen the economic value in providing these facilities - if only more thought that way closer to home....

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