Getting a vintage bicycle from Their There to Your Here is fraught with risk!  Risk of poor packing.  Risk of shipping damage.  Risk of loss.  And, for an on-line seller such as myself, risk of receiver fraud.


If a bicycle frame set or component is poorly packaged, it is unreasonable to expect it to travel thousands of miles of travel, coupled with repeated handling exchanges, without also experiencing damage of some kind.  Though you have little control of how an item, big or small, is actually prepared for shipment, you can at least look at the Seller’s Feedback report if you are dealing through Ebay.

Make no mistake about it - fitting a vintage road bicycle into an appropriately sized shipping container is quite a chore!  If shipping costs are to be kept as low as possible, the shipping container must not exceed a defined size.  The defined size is 130 inches.  Measure the length of the container and the girth.  Length is easy to determine, just measure from one end to the other.  Girth, however, is a measurement of both sides, top and bottom.  The total acceptable size of a shipping container must equal 130 inches or less.  Figure size with this simple formula:  LENGTH + 2 X HEIGHT + 2 X WIDTH = 130 (or less).  Exceeding the 130 inches figure will cause the cost to ship to go up dramatically.

Sooner or later an Ebay Seller who fails to package properly will receive Negative Feedback for doing so.  However, that kind of information is available only on Ebay.  If the Ebay Seller has high positive feedback and lots of feedbacks, you can bet that the packaging will be just fine.  Assuming, of course that he or she has actually sold physically large items.  Just because a seller has sold three hundred bicycle components, most of which are quite small, does not mean that he can package a large item properly.

Before I buy a bike On-Line I ask the seller if he has experience with packing bicycles.  Simple as that.  If he is experienced and has good feedback, I trust him to do the job.  If the bike I just bought from him will be his first large item packing effort, I do not trust that he will do a good job.  It is as simple as that.

I have packed up about three hundred bicycles or frame sets over the past few years.  The way I pack today is vastly different from the way that I used to pack.  I used to remove far too many components, wrap all frame tube with soft cloth and then put the bike in a box.  This was awfully time consuming (three to four hours).  And the customer had to put the bike together when it arrived.  Today, I can pack a bicycle up in about two hours and the bikes I pack require minimal assemble when they reach their destination.  The bikes fit almost perfectly into the shipping container and the padding/protective material is not soft cloth.  The end result is a very well packed bicycle that is far less likely to experience shipping damage.

The old adage of practice makes perfect really applies when preparing a bicycle for shipment.  And my bet is that, as I continue to pack bicycles for shipping, my packing skills will continue to increase.  I might add that good packaging is step one to ensuring against shipping damage.  However, no matter how well a bicycle is packed up, shipping damage can still result.  I have shipped hundreds of bicycles over the years and had to deal with two damage claims.  Both to the customer's satisfaction, I might add.


If your package is damaged or lost during shipping, who deals with the problem?  I, personally like to get involved.  I have had a bit of experience in dealing with loss or damage situations, as both a Seller and a Buyer.  Leaving the "What Do I Do Now" thing to the Buyer seems a bit unfair to me.

Often times, an Ebay listing will inform potential Buyers that once an item is shipped, the Seller is no longer responsible and this is OK.  At least you know up front who will have to solve your shipping problems – YOU!  It would, however, benefit you to ask the Seller if he or she will assist with a claim, in the event of a loss of or damage.  As a seller, I see it as part of my responsibility to help ensure that the item I send, arrives and arrives safely.  I might add that, out of three hundred deals on Ebay and else where, I have had to step in to assist with shipping woes on three separate occasions.  Two situations were caused by the shipping company and one was caused by the buyer himself.

If an On-Line purchased item does arrive and appear to have experienced shipping damage, document the damage, before opening the package.  I suggest using a digital camera to record the apparent damage.  Open the package carefully and take pictures of the contents, before removing anything from the box.  Continue on with the process of damage discovery, documenting what you find every step of the way.  Even if there is no proof as to who caused the damage, this documentation will usually satisfy any shipping company involved.  Such documentation might also lead the way to settling any dispute, should the damage look to be caused by inadequate packing on the part of the seller.


Sending any item across an international boundary could involve Custom’s scrutiny, coupled with duties, taxes and even Broker’s fees.  When Customs gets involved, elapsed travel time increases and the buyer's costs often go up.  Believe me when I tell you that, as a Seller or Buyer, Custom’s intervention cannot be controlled, predicted or avoided.

Be prepared to pay duty, on just about anything that you import.  Be also prepared to shell out more money, to cover any of your country’s taxes that might be applied to imported items.  And, if the transaction value is high enough, be prepared to pay a Broker's fee, to help you import your package.

Before buying out of country, take the time to visit the web site that helps to define what fees (Duties/Taxes/Import Fees) might apply and how much they will likely be.  You should even ask the Seller for this information or, at the very least, ask him/her if they have experience with these potential hurdles.

And one very important word of advice when importing a bicycle across an international boundary…  You might be charged for dirt!  Yep good old dirt can cost and cost plenty.  I once shipped an early seventies French Peugeot to Australia and the cost, even with the buyer's shipping discount, was very high.  And, as we were both soon to learn, the high cost to ship was just the beginning of an import nightmare.

Apparently, Australian Customs is very fussy when it comes to allowing dirt into their country.  Before the Peugeot could be released, Australian Customs ordered that it be professionally cleaned and then sit in quarantine for thirty days.  The bicycle’s journey was stalled while it was pulled from the package, cleaned off (perhaps with a high pressure water sprayer and another horror story if that happens), stuffed back into  the shipping container and then forwarded to you.  Of course, the forward to you part applies only after you pay the cleaning and duties bill.

If you are buying a bicycle and plan to import it, be sure to ask the Seller to ensure that the bicycle is cleaned off prior to shipment.  This is certainly no guarantee that some over zealous Customs employee will not target the bike for cleaning, anyway.  But at least it is an attempt to deal with the problem in case it does crop up.  I should add that the Peugeot in question was pretty clean to begin with.  I had prepared it for picture taking and it looked exactly as it does in the picture.  But it wasn't clean enough!