As eCommerce companies find more creative ways to ship oversized and bulky items, it seems like it should be simple to ship a bike. But bike shipping is not a simple process, as you probably know if you’ve ever tried to mail a bike to yourself or a friend. And if you run a company that sells bicycles, you’ve got a bike shipping problem multiplied by thousands.
Fortunately, shipping a bike doesn’t have to be a big production, especially when you trust your eCommerce fulfillment to the experts.
How to pack a bicycle for shipping
You could just roll a bicycle into the back of a truck and send it off to the customer. In fact, at least one bicycle company is doing just that.
However, shipping fully assembled bikes presents some challenges.
- Getting a bike safely to its destination without a box to protect it can be problematic.
- If you roll your fully assembled bike into a big box, you will incur much higher shipping costs.
- Taking the time to properly pack a bicycle is the best way to prevent it from being damaged in transit.
Here are the steps to ship a bike.
Step 1: Get a bike shipping box
A bike shipping box will be narrower and shorter than the assembled bike. Bikes are usually sent in boxes measuring around 54” x 8” x 28”, though the dimensions will depend on the size and type of bike you’re shipping. Bike shipping boxes should be sturdy to protect the bicycle inside.
Step 2: Take apart the bike
This is the hardest step in packing a bike. You’ll need to remove the pedals, the saddle, and at least one of the wheels to fit your bike in the box. Next, either remove your handlebars or leave them attached but turned sideways. If your handlebars are wide and straight, turning them sideways might work well. If you have curved handlebars, you probably need to take them off to fit them into the box.
You’ll need specialized tools to disassemble the bike and also to reassemble it on the receiving end. Before you put the parts in the box, be sure to let some of the air out of your tires. If you leave them fully inflated, the tubes could pop due to pressure changes. Leaving a little air in the tires provides a buffer to keep your wheel rims from getting damaged — and an inner tube or a tire is much easier (and cheaper) to replace than a bent rim.
For more instructions on how to take your bicycle apart for shipping, you’ll find helpful videos on YouTube.
Step 3: Carefully pack the bike
Packing a bike involves more than throwing some bubble wrap or packing peanuts in the box. You need to protect the tubes from getting their paint scratched in transit. The wheels need protection, so the spokes don’t get bent. It’s a good idea to add a spacer in the front fork after you remove the front wheel, so the fork doesn’t get bent during transit. And you’ll need to carefully protect the chain, which should be left on the bike, so chain grease doesn’t rub off on other components during shipping. Packaging and infill are crucial when you ship a bike.
It’s an involved process to ship a bike. So where can you get help with sending a bike?
Who can ship a bike?
If you’re handy with a set of bike tools, you may be able to ship your bike yourself. However, most people will want to turn to a pro for bike shipping. Here are some options to help you out.
Local bike shop
An excellent choice for shipping one or two bikes is to get help from your local bike shop. A mechanic can disassemble your bike and pack it for you. You might even want to ship the bike directly to another bike shop, so a mechanic there can put it back together for you.
Another option is to work with a company that specializes in shipping heavy and bulky items. That could be a shipper that handles bulky shipping for personal items or even a moving company. Your local FedEx or UPS location can sell you a bike box, but they might not be able to help you pack the bike.
Third-party logistics company
However, if you regularly ship bikes, you’ll want to work with a company, like Red Stag Fulfillment, that specializes in packing and sending bulky and fragile products. Make sure your order fulfillment provider has the tools and the expertise to ship bikes.
The cheapest way to ship a bike
A typical bicycle weighs around 20 to 30 pounds, though larger bikes can be up to 80 pounds. For most bikes, your package won’t incur special handling charges, which are levied on parcels that weigh more than 50 or 70 pounds.
However, UPS and FedEx assess a special handling charge for parcels that have the longest dimension over 48 inches. Your bike box, with a length of 54 inches, will incur an extra charge of $16 with FedEx or UPS. You could remove both wheels and pack your bike in a shorter, wider box to avoid this charge.
However, using a shorter and wider box size might increase your shipping charge. That’s because your box will be subject to dimensional weight pricing. Dimensional, or DIM weight, pricing uses a formula to charge the greater of either the actual weight or the dimensional weight. A large but not very heavy item such as a bicycle will incur a weight/shipping charge based on the dimensions of the box.
Using Red Stag Fulfillment’s dimensional weight calculator, we can calculate the shipping charges for a hypothetical bicycle. Let’s assume that the box weighs 32 pounds, to account for the weight of the bike plus the box and infill. A 54” x 8” x 29” box has a DIM weight of 88 pounds for UPS and FedEx and 73 pounds if you ship USPS.
The cost to ship a package with a DIM weight of 88 pounds ranges from $41.79 to $75.72 via UPS or FedEx, depending on the shipping zone. Add the $16 handling fee and your price range is $57.79 to $91.72. The USPS cost ranges from $34.15 to $202.35.
Now let’s resize our box to avoid the additional handling charge. A 32-pound box that’s 48“ x 14” x 28” has a DIM weight of 136 pounds for UPS and FedEx and 114 pounds via USPS. The shipping cost starts at $79.67 for UPS and FedEx and tops out at $116.31.
So, sticking with the classic bike shipping box will save you money. If you ship a high volume of bikes, you may qualify for shipping discounts through your carrier or through your 3PL.
The difference between shipping an electric bike vs. a classic bike
So far, we’ve covered the process to ship a classic bike. However, if the bike you’re shipping includes a battery, you have additional factors to consider.
An e-bike will weigh more because of the extra weight for the motor and battery. However, since many bikes are subject to DIM weight charges, you might be able to ship it for the same price as a classic bike.
The biggest difference between shipping an e-bike and a classic bike is the storage and handling of the lithium battery. Because lithium batteries are flammable, e-bikes may be subject to additional shipping regulations. Check out our electric bike shipping guide for more information on how to safely and cheaply ship an e-bike.
What is the best fulfillment company for shipping bikes?
The best fulfillment company for shipping bikes is one with experience in packing bikes for safe delivery to customers. At Red Stag Fulfillment, we have experience shipping a variety of products that require special handling, including bicycles. We provide affordable fulfillment for hard-to-ship items and work with the carriers to save you money on shipping. If you need a 3PL to ship bicycles (or help you with other fulfillment challenges), let us know — we’re here to help.
More about oversized and bulky shipping:
- The Advent of Oversized ECommerce
- How to Ship a Car
- Package Consolidation: What It Is and How It Saves You Money