Boxing a Bicycle For Public Transit
by Harvey Botzman
Note 1: It will take you longer to read
these directions than to actually box your bike! Nonetheless, they are important to
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© Harvey Botzman, 1993, 2002, 2007. 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 Tour Guide,
'Round Lake Michigan: A Bicyclist's Tour Guide, 'Round Lake Huron: A Bicyclist's
Erie Canal Bicyclist & Hiker Tour Guide, Finger Lakes Bicyclist's Tour Guide, and
Public Transit to Your Starting Point
A very efficient and enjoyable way to start your cyclotour is to
go to your starting point is via train, airline or bus. Of course if you
live near by just ride to the start point.
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.
General Public Transit Rules
Each carrier - airlines, buses and railroads - have specific rules
regarding the transport of bicycles. All carriers specify that bicycles must be
boxed and shipped as baggage. Tandem, long wheel base recumbent and other large
bicycles may not be able to be transported on airplanes or buses. Call the specific
transportation company you intend to use for information.
Amtrak, VIARail and the airlines will sell you a box at the
terminal. Phone the train and airline company at least 2 days in advance of your
departure to make certain there are bike boxes at the 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. Disassembly of the bicycle is necessary to fit
a bike into these canvas bags. These bags are available from a number of pannier
manufacturers, notably Arkel, and from your local bicycle shop.
A few bus companies in Canada allow you to plastic bag
your bicycle. This is a very large plastic bag which wraps entirely around your
bike. It folds down to a 6x6x3" (15.25x15.25x7.6 cm.) package and makes 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 for you to simply turn the
handlebars and remove the pedals to fit a bicycle into the box. Very
simple! Scroll down for detailed directions.
Using the carriers bike box assures that the carrier
can not claim that your box was too weak for holding a bicycle.
|Bike Box Charges (As
of December 20, 2007)
||Bike Box Charge
||Excess Bag Chg.
||US $5.00 checked bike baggage fee
||Tandems, yes; true folding bikes qualify as
||Only on trains w/ baggage cars.
||CN $20.00; tandems, $40.00
||Yes; folding bikes only as checked baggage
A few long distance
trains have facilities for carriage of unboxed bicycles.
||Free or ~$5.00 for
a lifetime permit
||Usually a lifetime permit is needed
||No bikes on US or
commuter flights. Make certain
that bike boxes are available
||Excess bag chg. may apply
|Bus, US, Intercity
||Your own, box
||Must fit in baggage hold
||Travels w/ passenger
|Bus, Canada, Intercity
||CN $10.00, if available
||CN $30.00 + GST
||Bike must fit on rack
||Some local US & Canadian local transit buses
have bike racks.
On domestic US flights you will also have to pay an over limit (excess)
baggage charge which can be as much as an additional US $80.00. An excess baggage
charge may apply to international flights.
Generally, smaller commuter airplanes do not have facilities for the
transport of bicycle boxes on their planes. Your bike may be shipped on a
different flight; possibly to a different airport than your destination.
Unless you have a folding bicycle or use a a bicycle bag Amtrak &
VIARail only carry bicycles in baggage cars. This is significant! Not all
Amtrak stations have baggage facilities! Make certain that both your
originating and terminating stations have baggage facilities for the train which will be
transporting both you and your bike. Otherwise your bike will be at one station and
you at another.
In 2007, The League of American Bicyclists and Amtrak have
refined Amtrak's folding bicycle carriage policy. Now any 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. 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 this 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 Onboard.
Or go to our web page http://www.cyclotour.com/amtrak.htm
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.
Ask them to provide sufficient funds for all Amtrak trains to be equipped with passenger
cars capable of carrying bicycles (on a reserved basis) in the passenger compartments and
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 is 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. Many Greyhound-Canada and
Ontario-Northland bus stations in Canada now (2005) stock bike bags. 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 45-60 minutes to pack the box. It now takes me 15
minutes or less to pack a bike 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
The Directions, finally!
a. Filament packing tape ~2" (~3.2cm)
b. Cord (you have it in your panniers).
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 or cord for tying up cranks.
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.
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.
a. If you are travelling by plane, deflate your
tires to 20 psi. Airplane baggage compartments are not pressurized. You might
find a burst tube at your destination!
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
Into the Box the Bike Goes!
1. Wheel 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 Styrofoam protection for the derailleur.
A view inside the bike box.
How To Box A Bicycle, Text and Photographs
© Harvey Botzman, 1993, 2002.
From Cyclotour Guide Books web site: www.cyclotour.com
From Long Distance Bicycle Touring & other Cyclotour Guide Books.