In over 20 years of shipping bikes across the country back to manufacturers, I’ve typically used a good old cardboard box. With enough experience, patience and packing material, bikes typically arrive unscathed. Recently, the folks at BikeFlights released their own multi-use cardboard shipping box. While it doesn’t pretend to replace a costlier plastic or nylon travel bags, how would it handle the not-so-gentle hands of UPS Ground service? I found out after shipping a test bike back to Trek HQ last fall.
BikeFlights Large Cardboard Shipping Box Features:
- Features detachable top/bottom lids
- Utilizes 8 BClips to allow easy access without tape
- Padding, bungees and dividers are all included
- four sturdy handles for carrying
- Meets ISTA 6A standard
- Optimized for shipping full-suspension bikes
- Dimensions: 62 x 13 x 33” when assembled (62 x 14 x 7″ shipped)
- Weight: 11 lbs
- MSRP: $149.95
Supercaliber goes home to Waterloo
Last summer, I enjoyed ripping around the local trails aboard the Trek Supercaliber 9.8. As a short-travel XC racer, that bike absolutely rips. While I racked up the miles, smiles and PR’s, the inevitable day it would return to Waterloo, Wisconsin came. And, it just so happened that right about that time, the BikeFlights Large Shipping Box arrived at my doorstep.
The family was intrigued, “A box? They shipped you a cardboard box?” Indeed, it seems contradictory to ship a box, but it has to arrive at my house somehow. I stashed it away until the inevitable UPS call tag arrived and it was time to test this thing out.
I’m a pretty handy guy and I know my way around a bike box, but this one was a little tricky at first. Luckily, BikeFlights has a nifty instructional video that helped a ton with assembly and a separate video teaching you how to pack your bike into the box. Now, let’s talk about how this went in the real world.
Assembling the BikeFlights Shipping Box
Again, every piece of the box is used to transform it into a shipping box. After unwrapping the outer, the pieces come to light. Again, after watching the video, the purposes for each section were pretty clear.
Inside the baggie are all the misc parts — including bungees, clips, fork block, axle spacers, foam frame yoke and the blue hub protector for the front wheel. Once the side panels are removed, you’ll notice that they are all folded like giant wings or an Oriental fan. Because of that, it does make them a little unwieldy getting into place.
The side and end panels slip into each other and everything is held into place with the white plastic clips. Once inserted, the clips stay secure and hold all panels in place, but you do wonder how secure they really are. It’s awesome that you can pop them off and back on again a number of times for multiple uses or when you forget to drop your pedals or miscellaneous parts inside. Below, you can see how they expand to secure each part of the box together. Note that I installed them just so you can see them in place, but for real use you’ll want the top/bottom shell installed before using each of the eight clips.
Now, with the bottom shell attached and divider inserted, it was time to get that Supercaliber ready for its trip home to Waterloo.
Packing up the Supercaliber
As always, shipping a bike requires at least the removal of the front wheel and handlebars. The size large is perfect for today’s full-suspension bikes and easily swallowed the Trek Supercaliber. I did release a little air from the rear tire, just for good measure, but it fit in with ease.
I will say that the foam fork block isn’t as confidence inspiring as I’d like. The removable sections really didn’t provide a perfect seating location, but it’s enough to keep everything protected and secured during transport. Additionally, the cardboard axle spacers could use some labels to know which one is which. I figured it all out and secured the fork to the block with a bungee.
After that, there rest was easy — just dropped the bike on one side of the divider, then the handlebar and front wheel on the opposite side. With a dropper post, I just pushed it all the way down and it cleared the top of the box with ease. The included bungees do keep things from flopping around. I didn’t use any other packing materials aside from those included in the box and the end result looked really good. I was confident that everything was protected and secured. It would be nice to have a couple of small cardboard or foam pieces included to wrap around the top tube, down tube and stays (for added protection).
How well did it survive?
After spending all the time assembling the box and getting the bike in there, the next test was to ship this thing UPS Ground from Utah to Wisconsin. Even though bike boxes are unmistakable, it’s surprising just how much abuse they tend to take. Over the years, I’ve had sidewalls torn and all kinds of rips and tears from shipping boxes. At most though, I’ve only experienced a few superficial dings or small scratches in transit because manufacturers typically wrap the frame in foam or cardboard padding. The outside of the box may get damaged, but the bike remains protected.
With the BikeFlights Large Shipping Box, that same experience held true. You never know how many hands, conveyor belts or accidental drops a bike box is going to experience and this one was no exception.
Upon arrival, one clip was MIA and the sidewall got torn right along the center fold line — a definite weak spot. To re-use this box, I would have to tape that sidewall, which isn’t a big deal. However, each of those fold lines represents a weak spot, so it may be wise to slap some packing tape along each one before use.
Now, that missing clip is another story. Seeing this happen with the first use is disheartening. I would hope that BikeFlights would include at least a couple of extra clips just in case this happens again. Perhaps they would ship a few out for a nominal charge? I’ll have to check on that.
But, most importantly, the bike arrived intact and undamaged. The Trek marketing team will re-use the box for another shipment as well, so it won’t get just a single use.
- All parts are re-used
- Can neatly stash it away between uses
- Clips allow repeated entry for last-second items
- Feels sturdy and secure
- Provides ample protection for your bike
- Handles are nice and sturdy
- Axle spacers could be labeled
- Fork block could have better cutouts
- Some additional frame protection would be nice (though everything arrived unscathed)
- Extra clips should be included
- Folded sidewalls are vulnerable to tearing
The Bottom Line: BikeFlights Large Shipping Box
In the end, the BikeFlights Large Shipping Box was pretty easy to assemble and use. There’s enough bits and pieces to keep your bike protected and secure. I do wonder how many times you can actually use the box before resorting to taping it up and fixing torn sidewalls. Just keep in mind that, while this is a nicely-built shipping box, it’s still just cardboard and will not stand up to repeated shipments like a real shipping case will. As an added bonus, BikeFlights can arrange shipment to make sure your bike arrives to its destination.
Buy Now: Get a BikeFlights Shipping Box
Thank you for your review Mike – I just bought the large case to use to check my road bike as baggage. I have traveled a couple of times with bike shop boxes and they have worked just fine, however, I wanted a tad larger box for added protection.
Hoping the box is the answer before I spend $500 or more on a standard case.