Skip to Main Content

How to transport your bicycle safely

Learn how to pack a bike for travel, the best bike racks for cars and the best cases for air travel.

There may come a time when you will want to transport your bike. Whether you are racing or just checking out new, cool spots to ride your bike, you may need some tips on how to safely transport your bicycle by car or airplane.

Transporting your bike safely by car

If you are traveling by car, there are a few different options for transporting your bicycle.

First, if you have a bigger vehicle like an SUV, you may be able to transport your bike inside without a bike rack. If you are placing it in the trunk or the back seat, this may require some disassembly like removing your wheels and pedals. You will also have to watch out for the chain lube staining your interior. Setting your bike on an old blanket will help. If you do lay your bike down, make sure the chain side is up so as not to bend the derailleur. Bending this would affect your shifting.

The other option is to transport your bike outside of your car using bike racks. There are three different styles of bike racks to choose from: roof rack, trunk rack or hitch rack. Let’s compare them, so you can select the best rack for your needs.

The roof rack

Pros Cons
Easy to use Requires reaching to secure the bikes
Stable and secure
Have to remember they are on top as to not hit garages
Frees up space in the vehicle for gear and passengers
Wind resistance from the bikes can lower the vehicle's gas mileage
Can carry multiple bikes
May have to remove a bike(s) wheel
Doesn't prevent theft

The trunk rack

Pros Cons
Less expensive than other racks
Limits access to the trunk
Easy to use
Not the most secure
Frees up space in vehicle for gear and passengers
Doesn't prevent theft
Can be quickly removed when not in use
May melt bike's tires if mounted above the car's exhaust pipe
Can be swapped between vehicles
Can damage both the bike and the car

The hitch rack

Pros Cons
Easy to install
Some limit access to the trunk
Frees up space in car for gear and passengers
Not the most secure
Can be quickly moved when not in use
Doesn't prevent theft
Can carry multiple bikes
Can damage both the bike and car
Can be swapped between vehicles with a hitch
Can be expensive
Good choice for frequent use
Can be heavy
Some allow access to trunk without removing bikes
Can be low to the ground and can scrape when going down ramps
Don't have to remove a bike wheel
Tend to bounce when hitting bumps

Transporting your bike safely by a commercial airline carrier

There are a few different options you have when you pack your bike for transport in an airplane. The first thing to do before choosing your container is to call your airline to understand what it requires for you to transport your bike. Ask if the bike needs to be placed in a specific type of container and if it needs to be disassembled. Also ask if there are additional fees associated with transporting your bike. You will want to ask about their policies on what they cover if the bike is damaged or disappears while in the airline’s care.

Here are some common containers used to transport your bike by airplane:

Cardboard bike box

  • Affordable option – your local bike shop may provide it for free or for a nominal cost. The bike shop may even offer packing services.
  • Offers protection from damage.
  • You will need to remove parts to fit the bike.
  • You may only be able to use the box for one trip, as it may not hold up for additional travel.

Plastic bike bag

  • These bags are made specifically for bikes and hold up for repeated use – about 10 times.
  • They are usually see-through and handlers tend to be more careful with cargo they can see.
  • They have the least protection for your bicycle and may need to be secured with foam or cardboard.

Hard case

  • These cases are the best option for protection.
  • They hold up for repeated use, much longer than other containers.
  • They tend to be expensive. For a more affordable option, you can rent one.
  • They can be heavy.
  • You will need to remove parts to fit the bike.

No matter which container you use, you will want to follow some simple packing steps.

  1. Remove your pedals first. Pack the pedals separately from your bike as they can damage the container and the bike.
  2. As another safety rule, remove the rear derailleur. This part has a tendency to be damaged when transporting.
  3. Loosen and turn the handlebars sideways.
  4. Pack soft materials with your bike. You can add shirts and towels. This frees up space in your luggage and pads your bike during transit.
  5. Write “Handle with Care” on your container.
  6. If you are traveling for a race, take down the measurements of your bike just in case it gets lost or delayed and you need to rent a bike.
  7. Get to the airport early. Oversized luggage may take longer to check.


Hopefully, we’ve provided you with some good tips on how you can safely and securely transport your bike to another destination. However, there is always risk in transporting your bike. Even after taking all the necessary precautions, unfortunately, damage can still occur. You can’t, with 100% certainty, prevent your bicycle from being damaged during transport, but you can make sure you are protected if it is damaged. Accidents happen and airlines and auto insurance may not fully cover the damage. By purchasing a stand-alone bicycle insurance policy from Markel bicycle insurance, you will be protected beyond the airlines and your auto insurance.