How to Move with a Bike
From cheap beach cruisers to high-dollar racing machines, bicycles are as varied as the people who ride them.
Most are easy to move, but getting them where they need to be safely and efficiently often requires tools, know-how, and the right packing material.
On the bright side, once they’ve been properly prepared, packed and loaded, bikes are unlikely to get damaged on local or long-distance moves.
Before reading on, take a moment to check out these valuable pre-move resources –
- Moving cost calculator – Talk about a great budgeting tool. Just enter your move dates, origin and destination cities, and the estimated size of your move, and the magic algorithms will do the rest
- Best interstate movers – The moving industry is full of shady players. With so much at stake, hiring a top-rated long-distance mover with verified customer reviews is imperative
- Best moving container companies – It’s simple. You load and unload, they drive, and you save big bucks
Think about your bike’s age, size and value
The time, effort and expense you invest in preparing and moving your bikes will depend on their age, value and complexity.
When moved with household goods, the expense is often negligible.
In some cases however, like when they’re moved across the country on their own, relocation costs can be prohibitively expensive.
Consider your moving options
All professional movers move bicycles, so regardless of budget, you’ll have several options.
When moving a bicycle by itself, you may want to consider these options for small moves.
In addition, you could move your bicycle in its own moving container, or along with the rest of your household goods.
Parcel companies like FedEx or UPS are worth checking out as well, make sure to ask about shipping restrictions and insurance options.
Moving bikes locally is a snap
When moving locally, most bikes require minimal preparation.
Bikes can usually be covered with moving blankets and strapped against the wall at the back of the moving truck.
If so, make sure nothing heavy can fall on them during transit.
Load them near the top of a wide tier when there’s insufficient room at the back of the truck.
When moving multiple bikes, put moving blankets between them and secure them against the rest of the load with rope or heavy-duty logistics straps.
Use your personal vehicle to move your bikes
For bicycle enthusiasts who spend much of their time on two wheels, disassembling their pride and joy and loading it onto a clunky, rough-riding moving truck isn’t a pleasant thought.
If you’re one of these folks and are moving locally, transporting your bicycle inside your vehicle or on a trunk or roof-mounted bike rack may be the way to go.
That said, roof racks aren’t the best option for long-distance trips, because while in transit, bikes are exposed to wind, weather and road debris.
On the other hand, the position of trunk racks gives bicycles much better protection.
Just remember to use reflective adhesive strips or add-on lights to alert other drivers that something is protruding from the back of your vehicle.
How to prepare, pack and load your bike for a long-distance move
For now, let’s assume that you’re relocating to another state and –
- Hiring professional movers
- Renting a truck and doing your move yourself
- Using moving containers
Whatever the case, the steps for getting your bike prepared are nearly identical.
The goal is to make it as compact as possible, and to pack it in a sturdy well-labeled container.
1. Gather the necessary supplies
Preparing your bike for a move is all about careful planning and execution.
If your bike is relatively new and you take cycling seriously, you probably saved the instructions, box and tools that came with it.
If so, now’s the time to get them.
In addition, you’ll need –
- Material to reinforce and stabilize the forks (foam or wood blocks or a purpose-built fork guard)
- Soft, non-scratch material to protect the frame (packing paper, bubble wrap, and quilted moving blankets)
- Good quality tape and a black marker
- Scissors or a razor knife
- Zip ties
- Foam peanuts, packing paper, or clean rags to fill empty spaces
- Cardboard to wrap around the bike once it has been padded (if you don’t have the original box)
- Standard and Allen wrenches (these probably came with your bike) and pliers
2. Remove parts and accessories and clean your bike
Add-on accessories like drink holders, mudguards and reflective lights should be removed before moving your bike.
Some bike owners remove foot pedals too, though this isn’t always necessary.
At this point you’ll want to –
- Loosen the brake and gear cables
- Wipe excessive oil and grease from the chain and sprockets with paper towels or a disposable rag
3. Remove wheel(s) and protect the fork, cables and brake components
The front wheels on most bicycles are easy to remove, but on most bikes, neither the front or rear wheels need to be taken off when moving.
If you do decide to remove one or both wheels, make sure to put the hardware in a plastic bag and pack it in a parts box with the other accessories.
With the wheels removed, you’ll need to strengthen the forks so they don’t get damaged during transit.
Forks are exceptionally strong when bicycles are in the upright position, but they’re prone to damage when pressure is exerted from the sides.
If your bike doesn’t have a spare axle to lock between the forks, place a sturdy piece of foam or a wood block between them.
To keep brake components protected during your move, place folded cardboard between the pad and caliper.
4. Protect the frame
Most bikes have minor rust, scratches and chipped paint.
If so, draping a moving pad over the top before loading it onto the truck may be adequate.
On newer and more expensive bikes, it’s important to make sure that nothing will rub against the frame.
Especially on long-distance moves, repeated rubbing can wear paint away.
When using moving blankets, make sure that they’re clean, dry and grit free.
5. Turn the handlebars until they’re parallel to the frame
Before turning the handlebars sideways, loosen the nut near the top of the front frame member.
Next, rotate the stem (the vertical post to which the handlebars are connected) until one handlebar is pointing straight back, and the other is pointing straight forward.
This will make your bike more compact and less prone to damage.
On older bikes the stem and front frame member may be fused together due to rust, in which case you’ll need to free them with lubricant.
If the rear-facing handlebar comes in contact with any part of the frame, put foam or packing material between them and secure it with mover’s tape.
6. Pack your bike in the original box (or buy a hard case)
For 10-year-old bikes from Wal-Mart, this step may be unnecessary.
When shipping a newer or valuable bike across the country, it’s always a good idea to put it back in its original box or a rigid aftermarket case.
When the original box is long gone, you may be able to purchase new packing material directly from the manufacturer.
If you have a nice bike but aren’t an experienced cyclist, don’t hesitate to swing by your local bike shop to ask for recommendations.
In addition, many online retailers like Amazon carry all-purpose “utility” boxes that work well for bikes.
Though pricey, hard-shell cases provide the best protection, and they can be used for years.
Most cases come with ample cushioning and inserts, but depending on your bike’s size you may need to fill empty spaces with towels, packing peanuts or airbags.
7. Secure and label the box
Now that you’re in the homestretch, resist the urge to skimp on packing tape.
In fact, it’s best to use more than you think is necessary.
With your marker, draw large orientation arrows on each side of the container and write –
- THIS SIDE UP
If you’re shipping it, be sure to include vital information like your name, contact information and destination address.
8. Load your bike like a pro
When shipping a bike with an airline or parcel carrier, there’s no telling how they’ll handle it.
If you’re moving yourself, load your packaged or unpackaged bike on top of a wide tier.
Make sure there’s nothing heavy on top of or beside it that could fall and damage it during transit.
Fill in the empty spaces around your bike with patio furniture cushions, moving blankets or old comforters.
Remember, bikes should never be loaded flat inside a moving truck.
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