Packing Tips for Traveling With a Bike

If you are flying to a race and plan to bring your bike with you, a few tricks when packing it on the front end of the trip can save your bike's paint and minimize reassembly errors.

A bicycle is a big investment for most people. Keeping your paint looking like new and your frame chip-free for as long as possible is great for resale purposes, or for your own personal use. I always protect the paint when I ship my bike by air in a bike box, or pack it inside a car where there is a chance something will rub or bump against it.

To get started, all you need are a few simple supplies: pipe insulation purchased from a hardware store and elastic (usually called Ace) bandages.

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Cut the pipe insulation to lengths that will cover each section of your frame. You can custom cut each piece to fit your frame perfectly. Use a marker to label each section of insulation so the next time you pack your bike for travel, it is fast and easy to cover each part of your frame.

In the photo above, I used a blue paint pen to write "Front" on the fork covers. You can use a wide, black marker as well. Notice in the photo how I used one long section of insulation for the bottom of the down tube, under the water bottle cages, then put two shorter sections on top of the down tube. You can be creative when cutting and overlap insulation sections to protect nearly every part of your frame.

Once you have the insulation in place, wrap it with Ace bandages. The bandages can be used multiple times for bike packing. Additionally, they can be used to hold on ice packs for any post-race injuries. The bike, pre- and post-wrap can be seen below.

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Marking Your Measurements

My second top tip for bike transport comes from Peloton Cycles manager Roy Gatesman. He suggests putting a simple tic mark or small line across on any two parts that need to be loosened or removed for shipment.

For example, I have to rotate my handlebars down in order for the bike to fit into the box. I used a light blue paint pen to put a very small line from the stem to the handlebar. When I was reassembling the bike at my destination, I simply lined up the two blue dots.

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You can keep the paint tics on your bike to be sure your bike parts do not get loose and migrate, or you can remove them with a little rubbing when you return home. If you expect to easily remove the tics, be sure to use the paint or any other marker in small quantities.

With a little planning and forethought, you can keep your bike in great shape when you travel. Additionally, after you've done the preparation once, it is easier and faster the next time you travel.


Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

Photos by Jesse Hammond/Active.com

Related Links:

How to Race in a Faraway Place

Airline Baggage Regulations for Bikes

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