How To Pack A Mountain Bike For Air Travel

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How To Pack A Mountain Bike For Air Travel

I’ve never been good at flying. I always arrive with enough time to board, and I’m nervous that I’ve forgotten something.

Imagine throwing your mountain bike in the mix.

My goal is to teach you how to pack a mountain bike for air travel so you can get on the plane with no problems.

And once you get to your destination your mountain is in one piece and you are ready to ride.

Let’s get into it! 

Preparing A Bike For Air Travel

To prepare your bike for air travel, you’re going to need to clean it first. This step may sound unnecessary, but a clean bike is easier to disassemble and put back together.

Plus, certain destinations don’t allow dirt or mud from other countries, which will make things difficult once you land. Also, you’ll need a few tools, including Allen keys and a pedal wrench.

You’ll also want to check whether your luggage insurance covers sports equipment. If it doesn’t, consider buying special insurance to cover loss or theft. 

How To Disassemble Your Bike

Different bikes need different disassembly instructions to get them flight-ready. The same is true of certain carrying cases, which might have storage sections for specific components.

But, the vast majority of bikes need the removal of at least four parts:

  1. Front-wheel
  2. Pedals
  3. Seat post
  4. Handlebars

Removing Your Front Wheel

The first bike component that you’ll need to remove is the front wheel. Depending on your bike, this removal process might take a few steps.

For instance, bikes with cantilever or rim brakes will need their cable tensions released before you can get at the wheel.

You’ll then flip over your bike and press the release lever, spinning it until it loosens. At this point, your front wheel will pop from the fork, and you’ll be able to slide off the wheel. 

Removing Your Pedals

The next thing you’ll remove is your pedals. These aren’t too tricky to take off.

To start, your chainring should move to your big ring; this way, you’ll avoid cutting yourself. Next, remove your right pedal by turning the wrench anti-clockwise.

For the left pedal, turn it clockwise toward the back of your bike. Wrap both pedals in bubble wrap before packing them in your storage case.

It also helps to know how to put your pedals back on once you land. 

Removing Or Compressing Your Seat Post

In order to safely pack a fixed seat post, you’ll need to loosen your seat post clamp and remove it.

But, make sure to retighten the clamp itself or risk that clamp becoming lost during the flight.

For a dropper seat post, try shortening the post to its lowest setting. Sometimes, that slight adjustment is all you need to make your bike fit.

Removing Your Handlebars

Your handlebars use several bolts and washers to connect to the stem. Remove all these bolts and washers.


remember to loosely replace them before packing your bike.

Otherwise, they might get lost. The handlebars will still connect to the bike, but they’ll hang loosely beside the stem. 

Where To Pack Your Bike

You have several options for packing your bike. Some popular options include cardboard boxes, hard shell boxes, and bike bags. 

Cardboard Box

Cardboard boxes are by far the cheapest option for packing your bike. But that doesn’t make them the best option.

These boxes are prone to tearing, and if they get wet, they might not hold up during transport. 

Hardshell Box

A hardshell box is an expensive but more durable alternative to cardboard boxes. This box’s hard exterior ensures that your bike will arrive safely.

But, hard shell boxes also take up more space and weigh more than cardboard or bike boxes. Which might put your luggage over the weight limit. 

I suggest checking out the B&W International Bike Case on Amazon. This hardshell case will protect your mountain bike and has foam on the inside to protect your bike frame.

Bike Bag

A bike bag is an ideal choice for bikers who want their bike to transport safely at an affordable price.

I highly suggest the Kisshome Folding Bike Bag Thick Bicycle Carry Bag on Amazon.

This bike bag consists of 1680D Polyester, and it can carry a standard 26-inch bike. The bike bag also includes an inside compartment. 

You can separate your front wheel from the rest of your bike. This will help prevent scratches on your bike frame. 

What To Expect When You Are At The Airport

Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll want to head to the oversized luggage counter. Here, an attendant will weigh your bike and go over airline protocol.

For instance, certain airlines have very specific requirements for how to package a bike.

And they’ll refuse to take your luggage if you don’t comply.

Deflating your tires and knowing the weight of your luggage in advance can help you get ahead of these requirements.

But, the best way to ensure an easy check-in is by calling the airline in advance and asking about their specific policies. 

airplane landing

What Happens Once You Land?

Unpacking your bike is easier than packing it. Before leaving the airport, you’ll want to make sure all your pieces are still together and undamaged.

It’s rare, but it’s possible for your bike to incur damage as it’s loaded or unloaded from the plane.

You’ll also want to inspect the state of your packing materials. Especially if you’re bringing your bike on a later return flight.

A broken cardboard box isn’t going to hold up for a second trip, and you’ll need time to find a replacement.  

Traveling with your bike can be a headache. Disassembling your bike is hard enough.

But, figuring out how to pack it makes the whole task even harder.

By knowing what to expect and preparing in advance, traveling with your bike can be an easy, stress-free experience.

Remember to have the right tools, be careful disassembling, check your airline regulations, and research the best packing materials.

And as an added tip, make sure to check out your destination’s bike trails and have a blast on your next ride! 

Photo of author
Bryan Ray is the Co-Founder of The Biking Apex. He's a cyclist and a trainer who loves fitness and loves to teach people how to ride and maintain their bikes and bike accessories.

2 thoughts on “How To Pack A Mountain Bike For Air Travel”

  1. The idea is to disassemble your bike as little as possible while fitting the bike in the box as securely as possible. Remove your front wheel. Pedals will almost always need to be removed; in fact, many airlines require this step.

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