How to pack your mountain bike up for travel

Step-by-step instructions to ensure your off-road ride has a safe journey

Video: how to pack your mountain bike up for travel

Packing a mountain bike up ready for riding on foreign trails is an almost identical process to bagging up a road machine. There are, however, a few additional considerations to take into account the extra complexities of most off-road rides.

1. Get things properly prepped

First, clean your bike before packing as no one wants to go on holiday with a grimy bike!

Once it's sparkling clean, mark off your handlebars and seatpost, as these will be removed when packing the bike. Wrap a small strip of tape around the bars and mark their position off with pen – the same goes for the seatpost.

2. Remove pedals, handlebars and seatpost

Remove your pedals and then your handlebars from the stem – we would recommend reattaching the stem faceplate though so you don't lose it, making sure the bolts are finger-tight so they don’t rattle around. With some bags you may need to turn the stem around so it's facing backwards, or remove it altogether.

Some bags require you to remove the seatpost but if you've got a dropper fitted, as with the bike on the video, you can simply push it down into the frame.

Many bags come with handy wheels, such as the Chain Reaction Cycles pro bike bag
Many bags come with handy wheels, such as the Chain Reaction Cycles pro bike bag

3. Whip off the wheels and let down the tyres

The wheels need to come off next but before you do that, make sure your chain is shifted on to the largest front chainring and the smallest rear sprocket.

It's often suggested that you let all the air out of your tyres before flying – this is unnecessary as plane cabins are pressurised, but deflating them is good practice as many airlines will ask you to do so anyway. We would recommend you leave a little bit of air in though as this will help to protect your rims.

4. Protect the delicate parts

In order to protect the fork, an axle spacer is required. If you don’t have one of these then an old hub or axle can work. Remove the rear wheel (and, if necessary, the rear derailleur), once again placing a hub spacer or similar in the rear of the frame. Place some pad spacers between your front and rear brakes to ensure they arrive in perfect working order.

It’s a good idea to wrap your chain in some cardboard or bubble wrap at this point. This prevent the chain from damaging the bike, and from grease getting all over the inside of your bag.

As with tyres, there’s a slim chance your airline might insist that you let the air out of your suspension. We don't believe that this is necessary, but we don’t make the rules. Once you’ve let it out, use some bubble wrap to protect the linkages.

5. Bag it all up

The wheels should go in the bag first – remove the skewers before putting them in, and use some of the bag's storage compartments to put the skewers in. It’s now just a matter of placing the bike in the bag using all the straps and fittings provided. If your bag doesn’t have these, bubble wrap and cardboard are again a great way to protect it.

Your bottom bracket should rest on the block in the middle of the bag with the chainring hanging down to the side. Depending on the size of your bike, these blocks can be moved. If your bag doesn’t have a block, it's good practice to remove the chainrings and pad the bottom of the bag with bubble wrap. 

Finally, slot the rear axle into the block at the rear. Once again it’s important to slot the rear axle into the right size slot on the rear block.

Attach the bars to the bag using the straps provided, ensuring that nothing will rattle around in your bag when it's being transported. Don't forget your seatpost and pedals!

The bag is also a good way to transport the tools you'll need while you're away, not to mention the energy drinks and clothing (but don't stuff it too full). Some bubble wrap or cardboard around delicate components is another good thing to add for peace of mind.

6. Before you travel

Don't forget the last-minute checks, or you may not reach that exciting destination
Don't forget the last-minute checks, or you may not reach that exciting destination

Prior to setting off, make sure you check the baggage weight limit with your airline before you fly – these can vary and it’s obviously critical not to exceed the weight limit.

An important final check is to make sure there's nothing that will move or rattle around and cause damage in your bag. Make sure everything is secure and in place and you will have a bike in perfect condition when you arrive at your destination.

7. When you arrive

A critical step that's often forgotten is to check the bike as soon as you're reunited with it in the airport – if it's suffered any damage then you'll need to report it straight away to your travel insurer, or else they probably won't pay up.

Happy riding!

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
  • Discipline: Road, Mountain, Urban, Womens
  • Location: UK, USA, Australia

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