Boxing a Bicycle For Public Transit
Cycle in a Bike Box
A view inside the bike box
by Harvey Botzman
Updated December, 2008
Note 1: It
will take you longer to read these directions than to actually box your
bike! Nonetheless, they are important to read!
Note 2: This page may take a bit longer time to load due to the
Note 3: If you download this article for publication (in whole or in
part) whether for publication on the web or by any other electronic, mechanical or print
means; in a club newsletter; paid or free circulation newspaper, periodical or book you
must include the by line, the copyright notice, and the author information. It
would be appreciated if you included the email address & web site address.
© Harvey Botzman, 1993, 2006. Mr. Botzman is the author of 7
bicycle touring guide books:
Harvey will answer your questions on bicycle touring if you write to
him at Cyclotour Guide Books,
PO Box 10585, Rochester, NY, USA; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Publication's editor may edit this article and if the editor is real
nice include a title or two.]
'Round Lake Ontario: A Bicyclist's Tour Guide, 'Round Lake Erie: A Bicyclist's
'Round Lake Michigan: A Bicyclist's Tour Guide, 'Round Lake Huron: A Bicyclist's Tour
'Round Lake Superior: A Bicyclist's Tour Guide, Erie Canal Bicyclist & Hiker Tour
Finger Lakes Bicyclist's Tour Guide.
Transit to Your Starting Point
A very efficient and enjoyable way to start your cyclotour is to
travel to your starting point is via train, airplane or bus.
Cyclotour Guides are designed so that a cyclotourist can begin
and end at any point along the described route. Directions to and from major train
stations, airports and bus terminals are provided in the text.
Each individual carrier - airline, bus and railroad company - has
specific rules regarding the transport of bicycles. All carriers allow bicycles
to be boxed and shipped as baggage. The carrier's specific airplane, bus or
train determines how a standard upright bicycle will be transported. Tandem, long
wheel base recumbent and other bicycles may not be able to be transported on
airplanes or buses. Call the specific transportation company you intend to use
Amtrak, VIARail and the airlines will sell you a box at their
terminals. Phone the train and airline company at least 3 days in advance of your
departure to make certain there are bike boxes at that station/terminal. Tell the
station/terminal baggage person to reserve a bike box for you.
Bus companies in the U. S. A. do not have boxes for sale at their
terminals. The major bus companies in the U. S. A. now (2006+) permit the
transportation of bicycles in a canvas bag. These bags are available from a number of
pannier manufacturers, notably Arkel, and from your local bicycle shop.
Some bus companies in Canada allow you to bag your
bicycle. Oversize plastic bags which wrap entirely around your bike may be available
at the larger Canadian bus terminals. These bags fold down to a 6x6x3"
(15.25x15.25x7.6 cm.) package and when layed flat make a wonderful ground cloth under your
tent! Read below to find out how to obtain a bike box for bus transport.
You must have your own tools to pack a bike box or bike bag (cone
wrench for the pedals and the proper size hex wrench for the handlebar stem). There
are no bicycle tools at train stations, bus or airline terminals.
If you are traveling via train or plane then purchase the
carriers box. These boxes are designed to minimally disassembly your
bicycle by turning the handlebars and removing the pedals to fit the cycle into the
box. Very simple! Scroll down for detailed directions.
Liability. All common carriers have specific rules and regulations
regarding their liability for loss or damage to bicycles. Read the carriers' liability
statements carefully. Using the carriers bike box generally assures that the carrier
can not claim that your home made box was too weak for transporting a bicycle on
|Bike Box Charges (As of
January 1, 2009)
||Bike Box Charge
||Excess Bag Chg (Optional)
||Various options. See policy
on web site.
A few long distance trains
have facilities for carriage of unboxed bicycles. Amtrak & ViaRail trains w/out such
facilities MUST have a baggage car.
||Free or ~$5.00 for
a lifetime permit
||Usually a lifetime
permit is needed
||Excess bag & service
charges will most likely be assessed.
||No bikes on US
bike boxes are available at terminal.
|Bus, US, Intercity
||Your own canvas bag
||Bike must fit in
|Canvas or sturdy bag, O. K.
fit on rack
|Some municipal US
& Canadian buses
have bike racks.
On domestic US flights the excess baggage charge can be as much as US
$65.00 in addition to the bike box charge. An excess baggage charge may apply to
Generally, commuter airplanes do not have facilities for the transport
of bicycle boxes in their baggage holds. Booking a seat on a commuter airplane
will most likely mean your bike will be shipped on a different flight than yourself. You
may have to ship the bike a day or two earlier than your departure date; and
possibly to a different airport than your destination.
Unless you are using a folding bicycle Amtrak & VIARail only carry
bicycles in baggage cars. This is significant! Not all Amtrak or VIARail
stations have baggage facilities! Make certain both your originating and
terminating stations have baggage facilities. Make certain the train you will be using has
a baggage car. Otherwise your bike will be at one station and you at another.
In 2007, The League of American Bicyclists and Amtrak agreed to a new
Amtrak folding bicycle carriage policy. True folding bicycle can be carried, in the
passenger compartment, as carry on luggage. The folding bicycle does not count as
one piece of carry on luggage. The bike must be folded before boarding the train and, in
its folded state, must not be any larger than a 34"x15"x48" (about the size
of a folded garment bag).
As a matter of courtesy to your fellow passengers, the bicyclist
carrying a folding bicycle on to Amtrak's trains should pack the folded bicycle in
a canvas bag or at the very least, one or two heavy duty contractor plastic trash bags.
Amtrak's policy does not specify carrying the folded bicycle in a bag. I suggest using a
bag since bicycle grease on your fellow passengers' luggage, clothing or person will only
build bad rapport for bicycling & bicyclists. Be civil.
See Amtrak's bicycle baggage policy: http://www.amtrak.com/;
go to the menu item, Traveling with Amtrak; and then to Bring Your Bicycle
Amtrak's policy concerning bicycles in passenger cars is
changing. As the National Railroad Corp. (Amtrak) purchases new or reconditions older
passenger cars it is making provisions for the carriage of bicycles directly in the
passenger compartment. Check with Amtrak. Some trains on California, Vermont &
New York routes already have limited space for bicycles in the passenger compartments or
carriage of unboxed bikes in baggage cars.
Write to Amtrak, Vice President, Marketing, 60 Massachusetts Ave.,
Washington DC 20002; your representative in the House of Representatives; both of your U.
S. Senators and the Chairperson of your State legislature's transportation and tourism
committees. Ask these legislators to provide sufficient funds for all Amtrak (and other
train companies) trains to be equiped with passenger cars capable of carrying bicycles (on
a reserved basis) in the passenger compartments and to equip all Amtrak trains with
baggage cars. It would not be outrageous also to ask the legislators to fund
European/Japanese style super fast trains.
VIARail Commuter, GO (Ontario, Canada) trains; New York City's MTA
trains; Chicago's commuter trains; and most municipal subway/rapid transit systems permit
unboxed bicycles on their facilities during non rush hours. A permit may be
needed and must be obtained before boarding a train.
Bus travel presents a different problem. Bus line offices in the
US do not stock bicycle boxes. In Canada you must call the bus station 5 days
before departure to arrange for a bike box from Greyhound Administrative Services. No
bag or box? Do one of the following:
1. Obtain a bicycle box from a bike shop;
2. Go to Amtrak/VIARail or an airport and obtain a box from those carriers;
3. Construct your own box from two or more smaller boxes;
4. Put your (unboxed) bike into the baggage compartment when the
drivers back is turned. Many drivers suddenly disappear with the
implication that you should do this heinous crime!
Many local buses (city buses) in the US and Canada now have bike racks
on them. Use is usually free of charge. Ah! To be back traveling in Africa
(Peace Corps 66-69) where bikes are simply placed on top of the bus or
lashed to the wall of the trains baggage car. How simple! And rarely were the
For more information check these web sites:
Greyhound US: www.greyhound.com
Airlines: Use a search engine to find a specific airline.
Municipalities: We usually list the availability of municipal buses with bike racks &
other bicycle carriage facilities in our books. We strongly urge you to advocate for
bike racks on your municipal buses.
How to Box Your Bike
The first time I boxed my bike I did it at home. I inserted extra
cardboard into the box to reinforce the long sides of the box. I double sealed all
edges using reinforced sealing tape. After loading the box into my station wagon
and I brought it to the terminal the day before my departure date. It took an
interminably long time, 2+ hours.
What a chore!
Make life simple for yourself. Pack the box at the
terminal. Allow an extra 30-45 minutes to pack the box. It now takes me 15
minutes or less to assemble, pack a bike box and seal the box.
Before you start on your cyclotour take pictures of your bicycle, with
and without panniers. Open the panniers and take some pictures of the contents
of the panniers. If any damage occurs in transit you might need these pictures to assert
a. Filament packing tape ~2" (~3.2cm)
b. Cord (you have it in your panniers) or zip
c. Black permanent felt tipped marker.
2. Obtain a bicycle box.
3. Clearly mark all six sides of the bike box. Use a black
permanent marker. Write in big letters and numerals:
Train or Flight number:
4. Make the box stand up!
a. Square the box and tape one end closed.
Use filament packing
tape ~2" (~3.2cm) wide.
b. Some folks place a small triangle of
cardboard at the closed end of the box to minimize bike in the box movement.
Or what you must do to your bike to make it fit into that slim box!
a. Hex wrenches for
1) Brake cables
2) Stem bolt
3) New fangled pedals
b. Cone wrenches for old fangled pedals
c. A screw driver, flat & phillips, might
also be necessary.
d. Tape, cord or zip ties for tying up
2 Pedals & Cranks
a. Remove the pedals using a cone wrench; on
newer bikes the pedals (cranks) are removed using a hex wrench.
b. Tape or tie one crank (if not removed) to a
c. Put your pedals into a pannier or wrap them
around the top tube or handlebars.
a. Loosen the front brake cables.
b. Loosen the handlebar stem bolt.
c. Twist the handlebar stem. Usually you do not
have to completely remove the stem.
d. Turn the handlebars so that they are
parallel with the bike's top tube.
e. Wrap or tie the handlebars to the top tube
or front rack.
f. It is important to make certain the
brake or gear levers do not protrude through the side of the box.
a. If you are travelling by plane, deflate your
tires to 20 psi. Airplane baggage compartments are not pressurized.
5. Pack up your tools and put them back into your panniers! Check
your panniers as separate piece(s) of baggage. Due to security regulations you are
not be permitted to carry tool laden panniers into the passenger compartment of an
airplane. Checking the panniers as separate pieces of baggage allow you to make
a claim if the panniers are lost or if any items are missing from the panniers.
Into the Box the Bike
1. Wheel or push the bike into the bike box. Yippee!
2. Secure the bike by wedging your sleeping bag and a pannier between
the bike and the box sides. Transportation companies officially forbid anything
besides the bicycle to go into the bike box with the bike. Heck, your panniers are permanently
attached to your bike!
a. Do not overload the
box with heavy panniers.
b. Seal the open end of the Bike Box with
filament packing tape.
c. You can place a few extra lengths of packing
tape wherever you want on the box!
3. Bring the filled bike box to the baggage room and obtain a baggage
claim check. Keep it with you. You will not be able to claim your bike without
this claim check.
4. Time needed to disassemble your bike and pack the bike box: =
At your Destination:
1. Claim your bicycle!
2. I have to preface this discussion of damage claims with the fact
that my bike has never been damaged traveling via Amtrak and only once on a plane
trip. Amtrak stores bikes in an upright position in its baggage cars. Airlines and bus
lines store bikes on their side in baggage holds.
3. Check the bicycle box for possible in transit damage. If you
see any damage to the exterior of the bike box, immediately take a picture of the
damage and show the damage to the baggage personnel before you open the box.
4. Open the bike box, check your bike for any damage or missing
items. If damage occurred, immediately show it to the baggage personnel and
complete the damage claim form.
5. Assemble your bike. I hope you brought the hex wrenches and
6. After assembling your bike, take a short ride in the terminal to
make certain there is no non-visible damage to the gearing, frame, wheels, etc. If
you determine that there is some damage, take a picture of the damage and immediately
show it to the baggage personnel. Ask
for and complete the damage claim form.
a. If your bike was damaged: Find a
local bicycle shop (look in the phone book.) Purchase the part, etc. Copy the receipt
and make copies of your completed claim form. Send a copy of the receipt with
the original claim form to the carrier. Mail home the original receipt and one copy
of the claim form. It takes 2-6 weeks for most airlines, bus lines or Amtrak to
begin to settle baggage damage claims so
simply enjoy your cyclotour.
7; No damage! Hurrah! Yippee! Enjoy your cyclotour!
Bicycle, small light panniers & sleeping bag ready to go into the bike box
The small box contains pedals & is used to wedge the front tire to
Note the extra special Styrofoam (from a box found at the airport)
for the derailleur.
Examples of Carrier
rules for the carriage of bicycles
All these examples were copy/pasted from the carrier's web site on
December 9, 2006.
"Continental Airlines accepts a non-motorized bicycle with single
seat or up to two non-motorized bicycles packed in one case as checked baggage. A bicycle
is not included in a customer's free baggage allowance and is subject to a $95 service
charge (each way).
The following are bicycle restrictions:
Handlebars must be fixed sideways and pedals
All loose items must be enclosed in plastic
foam or similar protective material or
Bicycle should be transported in a sealed box.
If a box is needed, see the Courtesy Bags section of this site.
The service charge is in addition to any excess
baggage charges that may apply.
Continental is not liable for damage to
bicycles that do not have the handlebars fixed sideways and pedals removed,
handlebars and pedals encased in plastic foam or similar material or bicycles not
contained in a cardboard containers or hard-sided cases.
Note: Bicycles will not be accepted during an
excess baggage embargo when no excess baggage is allowed."
Courtesy Bags: Bicycle Box: 69"(L) x
8.5"(W) x 40"(H) $25.00
"Allowance/Requirements: 1 non-motorized touring or racing bike.
Handlebars must be fixed sideways and pedals removed. Or pedals and handlebars must be
enclosed in plastic foam or similar material.
Cost: $80.00 Exception: If bicycle and container are less than 62
dimensional inches and under 50 lbs., the bike is free in place of one 62 inch bag in the
Maximum size and weight: 70 lbs / 115 inches
Additional Information: - Acceptance conditional on aircraft size and
Exception: If a bike is less than 62 dimensional inches and 50 lbs.,
the above conditions do not apply
If this item is in excess of the number of pieces allowed in the free
baggage allowance, excess baggage charges apply in addition to the $80 special items
"Bicycles Defined as: Single seat, non-motorised bicycles. (see
preparation for travel notes below.)
Weight allowance: The weight of the bicycle is considered as part of
your total allowance.
Piece allowance: Bicycles will be counted as one piece of baggage.
Preparing Bicycles for Travel
Bike pedals must be removed (or fixed inwards).
Handlebars must be fixed sideways.
The bike must be contained in a protective box
You may wish to deflate the tyres to reduce
risk of damage."."
"There is a fixed handling charge for the carriage of bicycles
anywhere Air Canada flies: $50 CAD/USD plus applicable taxes for one-way travel.
The bicycle must be prepared as follows, prior to arrival at the
Fix the handlebars sideways and remove the
Place the bicycle in a rigid and/or hard shell
container specifically designed for shipping
If not packaged in a container, Air Canada will
provide a plastic bicycle bag and will accept the item with a limited release form (to be
signed at check-in), releasing Air Canada of liability.
Bicycle suitcases containing collapsible
bicycles are also accepted."
"Many Options for Our Bike-Riding Passengers
We offer several options for transporting your
bicycle with you on your Amtrak journey. Options include:
Bicycles stored onboard
in bike racks.
Bicycles checked as
baggage in a box or other secure container.
Bicycles checked as
baggage secured by tie-down equipment, not in a box.
brought onboard as carry-on baggage. Click here to see the official Amtrak policy: amtrak.htm
Bicycles on Auto Train
Bicycles on Amtrak
N. B.: Each of
the above options is fully described on the Amtrak web site.
"Oversized sports equipment
Does your train carry checked baggage? To find out, visit the RESERVIA
page.... Your choice of trains will ... be displayed. Click on the "Train Service
Description" for your train for a detailed description of the services available,
including checked baggage services.
Already know your train number? Our Baggage Policy (PDF file) describes
the services available on your train along with specific information about bringing your
How much is the fee?
Bicycles - Regardless of the number of
Find out how to protect your bicycle on the trip.
You can obtain the following boxes and bags in main stations:
Box for a bicycle: free for passengers; $20 for non-passengers
Bag for a bicycle: free for passengers; $5 for non-passengers
Bicycles require special protection. We recommend that you store your
bicycle in a special protective box, which you can obtain free of charge at the station.
You need to turn the handlebar and remove the pedals. Bring the tools you need to do this,
because we cannot supply them.
If you cannot remove the pedals from your bicycle, we can supply you
with a protective bag instead of a box.
However, if your bicycle is not boxed, VIA Rail accepts no liability in
the event of damage. Follow this link for information on VIA's liability."
How To Box A Bicycle, Text and Photographs
© Harvey Botzman, 1993, 2006.
From Cyclotour Guide Books web site: www.cyclotour.com
From Long Distance Bicycle Touring & other Cyclotour Guide Books.
Link for additional Information
George Farnsworth Travel with Bicycles: http://www.gfonline.org/BikeAccess/
Chicago O'Hare International Airport: http://www.ohare-airport.org/ORD/news.html