PREPARING A BICYCLE BOX
Vintage bicycles are becoming increasingly valuable. With this in mind, and knowing that the vintage bicycle market is global, the need to properly pack up a bicycle, becomes a necessary skill, to have, when sending bicycles from here to there.
There are realities, to deal with, when it comes to packing complete bicycles and frame sets. To do a proper job, it takes time. Do not be surprised if it takes 4+ hours, to get a bike in a box - properly. Know that it takes time, just to get the box. Know that it takes time to get the packing materials. And, it takes time, just to figure out what you need. Hence, this information package.
To pack a complete bike, or frame set, one will need certain tools and resources.
The tool kit is really basic. A good sharp locking blade knife is a must. So, too, is a pencil or black marker. You will need something to measure with, a tape measure being the most likely candidate. A straight edge, and a flashlight, will make the chore much easier to deal with. Additionally, a small hammer, and a couple of small screw drives, will prove to be ultimately useful. Include a small clamp, of some sort, and you will suddenly have that third hand, so often needed by human beings.
Should you wish to trim all extra length from tie wraps, a pair of cutting pliers will prove invaluable.
To the tool list, add the required resources. A bicycle box (available, usually, at your local bike shop - LBS) or two would be even better. One to use as the shipping container and the other, cut up and used for padding concerns. One box, however, is enough. Padding cardboard can be found elsewhere. And, though it might not need explaining, one can get a bicycle box, usually free of charge, at just about any local bicycle shop. Of course, in Canada or other areas that suffer from serious seasonal temperature changes and conditions, bike boxes are hard to find in the middle of the winter.
While you are at the bike shop, begging for a box or two, ask also for some little plastic thingies, to assist with packing chores. Plastic thingies include: the block for fork blade support, flat discs to protect axles from poking through the side of the container. "U" shaped thingies that protect the rear derailleur. Tube like plastic thingies and Styrofoam thingies help to protect tubular items. There is, actually, quite a few items one can get, again free, from the local bike shop, that will help with the packing chore.
Needless to say, packing tape will be a requirement, also. Do not get the cheapest thinnest stuff available. Get at least one fifty foot roll of 2" wide and 2.2mm thick tape. You will come close to using the entire roll. Do not be cheap with packing tape. It is inexpensive and very important to your container's shipping integrity.
Both tie wraps and vinyl PVC tape will come in very handy. In fact, it would be very difficult to pack up a bike without the tie wraps. The PVC tape is a nice extra, that does come in handy, but can be left out of the recipe.
To begin the task, understand that your target is to make the bicycle fit into a box, the shipping company, or postal services, will accept. Now, any size box will do, but keep in mind that cost to ship, increases with the size package, its weight and distance shipped. In other words, a big box will cost more to ship, than a smaller box, regardless of weight. Any box will cost more to ship, the further it has to go. And, the further it has to go, the greater the chances are it will experience rough handling.
With weight and size concerns to address, the shipper should fit the bike, into the smallest possible container available. This, almost always, requires modifying a box, to fit the contents. And, the container modifications will actually increase the quality of the packing job, which, in turn, helps to prevent shipping damage from occurring.
Most ground shipments, in North America, will accept a container size that does not exceed 130" (length + girth). Any larger than that and the shipping cost skyrockets. Most shippers will accept the weight, of a packed bicycle, without issue. Packed weight, for a vintage road bicycle, usually comes in around 35 pounds.
Shipping a bicycle by post, the least expensive means available to me, is another story all together, but still addresses the same concerns - weight, size and distance. Unfortunately, size is considerably smaller than with companies like FedEx, or Purolator, or UPS.
For most postal shipments, the max size of a container will be 118" (length + girth). Know also that the max length requirement is somewhat restrictive. Canada Post limits length to 45". A 45" box will go, but a 46" one will not be accepted. Knowing these size limitations, before packing up a bicycle, or frame set, is important.
Just about all size and weight limitations can be found, simply by visiting the carrier's website, be it Canada Post, or FedEx or one of the many other shipping services, available in one's area. I strongly suggest you look at the limitations before quoting shipping costs and/or starting to pack a bicycle.
In this exercise, we will be accepting the most difficult packing job of all. Shipping a complete bicycle, overseas through the postal system. The postal system is selected based on shipping cost. Just about any vintage road bicycle can be fitted into a container, the post offices, of the world, will accept (Australia is one exception). The trick is fitting the bicycle into a bicycle box that is roughly one third smaller, than it should be.
The Peugeot PX10 is on its way to Osaka, Japan. It will have to fit into a box that measures 42" x 28" x 8" with a weight of about 32 pounds. This means that the bicycle box will have to be cut down to fit the contents. Cutting a box, to fit ,does require understanding...
A shipping container is, simply, a bicycle box that can, usually, be obtained free of charge, from a local bicycle shop, or department store, that sells bicycles. It is a good idea to get two boxes, if possible. One to hold the bike or frame set. The other, to be cut up and used for padding, wedging or anything else that comes to mind, in the presence of necessity, which, as we all know, is the Mother of Invention.
Begin the process, of reducing the box size, by determining minimum practical length. The Peugeot was prepared to fit, placed inside the box which was then marked, indicating where the new end would be, once modified. There is a little dilemma with this process, since the bicycle must be prepared for packing before the box size can be finally determined.
Keep in mind that the wheels should be attached, with tie wraps, to the bicycle before attempting to determine container length and/or height dimensions. It is also a good idea to ensure that the handlebars are also secured into place. The frame, wheels and bars are the big items and need to be one unit to determine length, as well as height. Hence, the bicycle packing and box preparation, though separate tasks, must be implemented simultaneously, for the end result, a properly packed vintage road bicycle, to be realized. But fear not, and trudge on...
There are many safety concerns associated with packing up a bicycle, most of the common sense variety. The original staples, which are sometimes present in bike boxes, are sharp and should be removed, if exposed. Remove unused staples right at the start of the packing exercise. And, throughout the effort, always keep safety in mind. You will be working with sharp instruments, sometimes pointed at you, and in awkward positions. BE CAREFUL!
With the length, plus a wee bit (1/2"), determined, draw cutting and folding lines. Cutting lines will be solid and folding lines, dashed. I show the lines this way for demonstration purposes, mostly, but keeping them identified this way cannot hurt.
a cutting lines drawn, on the inside bottom of the box, and on one side
only, make the cuts. This will prove to be somewhat awkward.
Shorter people might want to transfer the cutting line to the outside,
of the box,
and work from there. Either way, at the end of the exercise, one
entire end of the box will open up, and lay flat, parallel and in line
with the uncut side. This will involve breaking the glued seal,
present on the bottom flap of the original end.
With the end cut and folded out, look to the first fold. This fold will allow the new end to begin, exactly where you want it to. In line with the bottom cut, and keeping between the cardboard's corrugations (you can see these with the help of a flashlight), make a crease.
Crease the cardboard by retracting the blade of the knife you are using (any blunt object will work for this task), and turn the knife around. Use the blunt end of the knife to gently follow the corrugation groove, and press lightly, as you do so, on the first pass. Focus your attention. The cardboard's corrugation will not guide the blunt end of the tool. You must watch and guide the tool yourself. Do you best to stay within the groove, and do so without jumping to the next groove. A jump will make it harder to get a good square edge, once folded.
Continue to deepen the crease, with a couple of more blunt end passes, and then make the fold. You must still go slowly. It might help to use a heavy straight edge, or you can do as I do, and let the edge of the hand suffice. Just go a short ways, and lift gently. Go a short ways further, and lift gently. Repeat this process, gently, until you see the fold begin to happen. This is not magic, and you will easily see, when it is safe to complete the fold, or bend.
When possible to make the bend, fold the end up to meet the cut side. Mark the point of intersection and then lay the end flat again. Move one corrugation in from the mark, and dash a fold line. Crease the dashed line, as before, and then make the second end fold.
Repeat the crease and fold exercise for the new bottom flap. The only difference with this crease/fold operation lies in the fact that you will not be following a corrugation groove. Rather, you will be creasing and then folding across the corrugations.
With the folds made and excess material cut away, bend the new bottom flap, in, against the new end. Now, bend the newest end fold, and then tuck the whole works into the cut end of the box. This is one of those tasks that is best completed with the help of another person, or with the little clamp I suggested using earlier.
With the bottom of the new end tucked in, loosely, line up the top edges and clamp them securely into place. Next, push the bottom of the new flap as close to in place as you can get it, then, using the little board, carefully push the new bottom flap into place.
The new bottom flap will be a tight fit and that is good. Do not push it all the way to the bottom, at first. Leave it about a half inch up, before becoming flat to the bottom. This will help to keep the new side flap in place, while you insert location pins.
Using what ever will work, and I use small screw drivers, pin the new box end into place, as best you can. With the top of the newly cut and folded end clamped in place, insert the first pin one inch up from the bottom of the box and about 1" in from the end. Repeat half way up the new cut edge. You can add a third, if you feel the need.
With pins in place, and do not fool yourself into believing that they will hold anything if careful handling is not at the to of the to do list, roll the new edge. This is sort of like creasing, except the side of the knife handle, not the edge, is used to complete the task. The edge will want to collapse a bit when taping, and it helps create a better result if you simply roll that harsh edge away before applying tape.
Begin taping with as close to the bottom of the new edge as you can. Apply a single strip of tape, ensuring that it is secure to both sides and the top. Attach two more single strips, at the mid point and, if you wish, near the top of the new edge. Now turn your attention to the new bottom edge and tape it exactly the same as you did the new edge. Roll the edge and then apply tape, catching the bottom and the end.
Once the new edges, bottom and side, are taped securely into place, take a moment to remove the top clamp, and then cut the corners to the original top fold. Be careful to cut no further than the fold. The purpose here is to help make it easier to reach inside the box, sometimes all the way to the bottom. This is not always as easy as it sounds.
The new end is just about completed. All that is left, at the moment, is to reach inside and secure the inner flaps into place. Does this increase the structural integrity of the container? I think so and I always ensure the inside side and bottom flaps, of the new end, are always taped into place. Once done, turn your packing attention to creating a new top for the container.
Before starting the new top of the box, you must first know where the new top will be. Will it be four inches lower than the original box, or three? This question is best answered by inserting the bicycle into the box, and then gauging height. This is easily accomplished by using a straight edge of some sort across the original top edges of the box.
With the straight edge flat to each of the two top side edges, measure the distance from the straight edge to the top of the seat tube. Repeat for the steering stem. Select the shorter of the two, mark the inside of the box and then transfer this line to the outside and all the way around. It helps to temporarily tape the original top loosely into place while making the transfer and creasing the line...
Once a line is marked all the way around the top of the box, the marked line needs to be heavily creased. Using the blunt end of your knife, or some other appropriate tool, gently and accurately following the line, crease one side. Crease it in exactly the same place several times until the crease is prominent. Repeat on all four sides.
With a good straight and reasonably deep crease created all the way around the box, the next move is to cut the end folds to the new crease. You will need to cut all four corners down to the crease, and no further. Once cut, it will be easy to fold each of the four top creases outward. Do this very slowly...
The top creases go against the corrugation and making the fold will not be quite as easy as it was when following corrugations. So, place your hand close to the crease at one end of the box and gently but firmly try to bend the soon to be new flap out. It will not bend much. Then move your hands about a foot towards the unfolded part of the crease and repeat.
This process will be repeated for each crease until you see and feel it wanting to complete the fold. When this stage is reached, fold the new flap all the way out and then down to come close to touching the side of the box. Now, using the edge of the knife handle, rub the new edge fold hard to smooth it out. Voila, the new top edge is just about done, and once repeated three more times, the new top will be ready for final width adjustment.
The new top will be too wide and narrowing it will become necessary. However, only the new top side flaps need be narrowed. The new end caps can be left as is, for the moment.
One new top end flap can be used to help hold the bicycle or frame set centered in the box. Since the top height was cut to fit the bike or frame set in question, the flap can actually be modified to prevent movement inside the box and preventing all movement is a really good thing to achieve when packing.
Fold the new top end flap over. Ensure the the bike is centered in the box and then press hard on the flap. You are trying to make an indentation, of the steering head. Once the spot is indented, simply cut the indent out and fit the cut out over the steering head. This process can be repeated for the new top inner side flap, this time picking up the indentation from the seat tube cavity. Once cut and in place, this hole will help to keep the bicycle centered in the box.
And that pretty much takes care of how to prepare a box for shipping a bicycle or frame set. Next, one needs to know how to ensure that the contents fit snugly, securely and safely into the box.