Bicycle shipping is easy once you know the basics. What’s the best way to ship a bike? How much does it cost to ship a bike? And where do you get a bicycle shipping box? In this article, we’ll answer each of these questions and cover the most common bike shipping blunders we see.
So, whether you’re gearing up for a group ride in the Ozarks or planning a vacation in Hawaii, The Complete Bicycle Shipping Guide for 2021 is guaranteed to help you coordinate a successful shipment.
Choose a topic below. We recommend starting with Bike Shipping Basics.
- Bike Shipping Basics
- Shipping Insurance
- Boxes and Packing
- Shipping to Triathlons and Events
- Bike Shipping Blunders
Bike Shipping Basics
The 3 basics of bicycle shipping include: bicycle shipping methods, bicycle shipping services and bicycle shipping costs. So, let’s briefly discuss each one of these starting with bicycle shipping methods.
FedEx and UPS both offer bicycle shipping. If you’re traveling, you can also choose to bring your bike on the plane. That said, most cyclists and triathletes ship their bike even though they’re flying to the same destination because lugging a bike box through a busy airport is hard work and baggage fees are expensive. If that weren’t reason enough, TSA inspections often result in bike damage due to poor repacking. All things considered, the cost, convenience and relatively low-risk makes UPS or FedEx bicycle shipping the best method.
A bicycle shipping service will be able to offer you a significant discount on FedEx or UPS. As outline below, some services offer 3 to 6 day ground delivery while others offer 1 to 2 day express delivery. You may prefer one service over another depending on your needs and budget.
Express (1 Day Delivery)
Industry professionals, like custom bike makers, prefer 1 day shipping for the simple reason that fewer days in transit translates into less risk that damage will occur.
Ground (5-6 Day Delivery)
Ground shipping is an economical way to ship a bike when you’re on a tight budget. Bicycle shipping services like BikeFlights and ShipBikes have a solid reputation and offer the best rates on FedEx and UPS ground shipping. However, an inherent risk of ground shipping is damage, delay or loss which can happen when your bike is on a truck for several days at a time.
Airlines (Same Day Delivery)
Bike boxes are bulky and heavy, which makes it hard to move quickly through busy airports. But, the bigger issue is the likelihood of TSA inspection. Keep in mind, a bike doesn’t go with you through security like a carry-on bag. Therefore, TSA inspections occur behind the scenes. Needless to say, TSA isn’t preoccupied with securely repacking a bicycle. So, if you fly with your bike you should expect that security personnel will open, unpack and examine your package. Unfortunately, when flying there’s no way to be confident of your bike’s condition until you arrive and open your box.
Again, a bicycle shipping service typically offers the best rate on UPS or FedEx shipping. When it comes to price, package size is the most important consideration. For example, your package shouldn’t be greater than 130-inches length plus girth. If it is, both FedEx and UPS will apply a hefty oversize surcharge.
Below, we’ve provided a cost estimate for each of the major bike shipping services, including airlines.
Overnight Bikes offers flat rate, next day bike shipping. The membership model is popular among cyclists, triathletes and custom bike builders. Members pay $250 to join and receive unlimited $99 flat rate shipping with FedEx Priority Overnight service. The service includes next day delivery within the U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska. International shipping is not currently available.
BikeFlights offers competitive rates on UPS ground shipping. Plan at least 3 to 6 days for delivery, not including the weekend, depending on your destination. In terms of price, shipping a bike from Seattle, WA to Panama City Beach, FL costs between $80-$90, not including pickup. International shipping is available.
Most airlines charge additional fees to check a bicycle on board. Size and weight restrictions vary widely across airlines so do your homework in advance. In general, the cost of flying with your bike ranges from $100-$300 each way.
Bike Shipping Insurance
It’s always a smart idea to get insurance for your bicycle shipment. Neither FedEx nor UPS offer shipping insurance. So, regardless of the declared value, their liability for loss or damage will not exceed the repair cost, depreciated value or replacement cost, whichever is less.
Velosurance offers a stand-alone, multi-risk cycling insurance policy that covers damage, theft or loss in transit. Bicycle insurance or a comparable rider on your homeowner’s umbrella policy is recommended. An umbrella policy is also a practical option for industry pros like custom bike makers.
Bike Shipping Boxes and Packing
There are two kinds of bike boxes: recyclable cardboard and reusable hard cases. A well-packed bike is the key to preventing damage during transit. Let’s go over bike boxes, shipping dimensions, and packing services.
Bike Shipping Boxes (Recyclable)
You can get a recyclable cardboard bike box from several sources. FedEx offers a bike box for $25 that measures 54″ x 28″ x 8″ (126-inches length plus girth). The FedEx bike box is designed for bicycle shipping and it is large enough to fit most bikes.
Additional options for cardboard bike boxes include the xBikeShipper™ from ShipBikes ($40) and the Medium bike box from BikeFlights ($120). Both are suitable for safe, reliable bike shipping.
If you’re hoping to get your hands on a free bicycle box we recommend asking your local bike shop. Just ask if they have a cardboard box that meets FedEx and UPS shipment size restrictions of 130-inches length plus girth, or less. If your bike box exceeds 130-inches length plus girth (including bulges) your shipment will incur an oversize surcharge.
Bike Shipping Cases (Reusable)
The Thule® RoundTrip Sport and Trico® Iron Case are both durable, reusable hard cases that fit most road, triathlon, mountain and cyclocross bikes. These reusable hard cases also meet FedEx and UPS shipment size restrictions and will not incur an oversize surcharge.
Bike Packing Services
Your local bike shop, FedEx Office or UPS Store are happy to pack your bicycle for you. If you have a Velofix mobile bike shop in your area that’s also a good option because they’ll come to you. The benefit of having a professional pack your bike is the confidence and peace of mind that comes with knowing it’s been done well.
Contact your local bike shop, FedEx Office or UPS Store a week or two before your bike needs to be shipped to inquire about packing services. If you’re using a bike shipping service, like Overnight Bikes, you can print your shipping label online and provide it when you drop off your bike. Remember, the key to affordable bike shipping is avoiding oversize fees. Be sure to discuss this in advance with your packing service to ensure that your package doesn’t exceed standard shipment size restrictions.
As a convenience, Overnight Bikes, BikeFlights and ShipBikes each allow you to schedule a pickup for an additional $10-$15 fee. This is useful if you’ve packed your own bike and you need assistance getting it to FedEx or UPS.
Bike Shipping to Triathlons and Events
Successful shipping to and from an event depends on how you prioritize cost, convenience, speed and risk. These are the four main considerations for bicycle shipping to an event or competition.
For competition, there are obvious benefits to next day delivery. For instance, keeping your bike in your possession up till the race will impact your ability to train; a strategy that allows you to peak at just the right time. To get a concise, objective review of prices, highlights and trade-offs between the major services for cycling races and triathlons, read The Ultimate Guide to Triathlon Bike Shipping.
One thing to keep in mind if you’re shipping to an event: ask the event organizer if they have a suggested ‘ship-to’ location. If not, you can always ship to your hotel, a FedEx or UPS holding location, or a local bike shop. Shipping to a local bike shop is especially handy because they can assemble your bike for you. When shipping to yourself in care of a hotel, carrier location or local bike shop, remember to have your ID present at pick up.
Bike Shipping Blunders
The most common mistakes we see are poor packing and incorrect measurements. If you’re going to pack your own bike take the time to learn how to do it properly. There’s no shortage of videos on YouTube that teach you how to pack your bike for shipping. Otherwise, it’s well worth the cost to have a professional do the packing for you.
When measuring, always round up to the next whole inch. And remember, packages over 130-inches length plus girth will incur an oversize fee. Should FedEx or UPS audit your package dimensions they will include any bulges in your box in the total measurement so it’s important to start with the proper box size.
Steer clear of these blunders to avoid unexpected fees, unwanted damage, and unforeseen delays.
In this article, we’ve covered everything from bike shipping basics to common blunders. We’ve outlined several services in addition to listing sources for recyclable bike boxes and reusable hard cases. We’ve also gone over insurance, packing services and, last but not least, shipment size restrictions.
Now that you know how to coordinate a successful and affordable shipment, you’re ready to ship a bicycle with FedEx or UPS. If you have any questions about Overnight Bikes’ bicycle shipping service for cyclists, triathletes and custom bike builders, let’s chat.
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