Confessions of a Bicycle Transporter — the Pros & Cons of different shipping methods

Ten different methods to move your bicycle — and I’ve used them all.

Airlines

Flying with your bicycle falls on a scale of little admin to rather demanding, depending on how well-prepared you are
Flying with your bicycle falls on a scale of little admin to rather demanding, depending on how well-prepared you are

Most airlines allow you to pay an additional fee and check in your overweight baggage and sporting equipment separately. Find out more about the costs and what to expect when flying with your bicycle in South Africa.

Pros — nothing beats the feeling of knowing your prized possession is traveling with you on the same flight (once you stop worrying about how it was loaded). Perfect for a lightweight race bike in a custom case.

Cons — when last have you lugged around a 30kg bike box through an airport (pray it has wheels), after paying a R1000 overweight charge, up and down flights of stairs when elevators aren’t working, only to arrive at your taxi or Uber to see that the box won’t fit. Not always as much fun as it seems.

Self-drive

Taking your own bike is the default choice for races and events that are close to home
Taking your own bike is the default choice for races and events that are close to home

Why do you have to pay a separate company to take your bicycle to a race if you can just throw it in your car and drive there yourself? Good point. Do your own thing.

Pros — if the race is close and you are going to drive to the start in any event then you might as well take your own bike, right? Off course. And if you are driving there yourself, be sure to check out the bike rack in the next example.

Cons — unless you are a group of riders or mates on tour and there isn’t enough space for all the bicycles. Fear not, there are many more options below.

Bikerack on your car

If you are going to take your bicycle in a car, this is my preferred way to do so
If you are going to take your bicycle in a car, this is my preferred way to do so

Thule remains the market leader in this field, and there are few better products than their Euroway or Velo bike carriers that fit onto the tow bar at the back of your car. Roof racks are also an option, but these seem to be a safe bet for bike shops to sell more bikes while short term insurance companies foot the bill, as it is so easy to forget that you have bikes on the roof when you cannot see them…

Pros — I have a Euroway G3 and it was the best decision ever (thanks to my wife). Designed with Swiss precision, these racks can tilt (to allow access to the boot) and lock (to both secure the bike rack to the vehicle and to safeguard the bikes from prying hands).

Cons — they are expensive, ranging from R8000 to R16k at the time of writing. There are alternatives available from the likes of Holdfast and stores like Rack and Carry (online and a store in Knysna), even though I haven’t used any of them before.

Bikesafe boxes

These guys are large and sturdy and will fit more than just your bicycle and your gear
These guys are large and sturdy and will fit more than just your bicycle and your gear

Bikesafe.co.za (priced around R5500 each at the time of writing) are some of the toughest bike boxes around. I wholeheartedly agree, and own and use them myself. Once you’ve loaded the bicycle (usually as simple as removing the wheels and twisting or lowering the handle bar), there is still plenty of space left to fill. Just keep in mind those possible airline overweight penalties.

Pros — the wheels make it easier to maneuver, which is rather important with a box that will swallow as much weight as you can load it with. The lockable lid is also a cinch to use and remove in a jiffy (especially when you forgot to remove the CO2 bombs).

Cons — on a flight home via Dubai, a mate of mine found that his Bikesafe was loaded on it’s side, with more luggage on top, and his carbon fork broke in the process. This is in now way due to the box itself, but rather the airline that placed it sideways and not upright. Pro TIP: when using any type of box or bag to fly with, please ensure there are ample THIS SIDE UP stickers on…

Book a courier company

'Click-click, ding-dong, we are here to collect your bicycle (and we hope you've done a good job of boxing it)'
‘Click-click, ding-dong, we are here to collect your bicycle (and we hope you’ve done a good job of boxing it)’

If you fancy a bit of DIY, you could always just box the bike yourself and book a courier to come and collect it. Be sure to check your short term insurance options prior to sending your bike.

Pros — great for ad hoc transfers, available at any time, not only for specific races, making this a great option if you bought or sold a bicycle and need to ship it across the country.

Cons — do you have a hard-shell case or an empty bike box lying around and do you have the expertise and enthusiasm to do it yourself? If not, read on. Time is money.

Bulk Boxed transport

Drop off your bike at a reputable freight carrier company to box and deliver it to and from your race
Drop off your bike at a reputable freight carrier company to box and deliver it to and from your race

For certain events, such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour, there are also a number of local furniture removal companies (do you remember that lovely Stuttafords advertisement, ‘there goes my only possessions‘?), that offer bulk boxed bike transfers to certain races. Find them here.

Pros — these well-established companies often have the systems and infrastructure in place to cope with large events, with the addition of adequately-trained temporary support staff. Some of them even collect

Cons — can you imagine what happens to an interlink filled with cardboard bike boxes (that are stacked in layers on top of each other) when the truck goes through a rain storm? And some customers might be hesitant to drop off a bicycle-that-costs-more-than-a-small-car at their local grocery store for collection later.

Bicycle transporters to races

This is a great option for specific races and events and I applaud the kind interaction between the different transporters
This is a great option for specific races and events and I applaud the kind interaction between the different transporters

This is mostly race-specific bicycle transport as offered by most of the companies listed in our rather complete list of bicycle transporters in South Africa. Most of them either use a variation of a roll-on-roll-off system, or blankets between bicycles, as discussed below.

Pros — easy and relatively safe. Most local vendors also allow you to drop off your bicycle at a range of local bicycle shops where they collect from and then meet you at the race.

Cons — event specific and sometimes pricey. Granted, there are more bicycle transport companies around than there were a couple of years ago and this may have made for some slightly more competitive pricing, but with more supply you also have to consider who you will trust with your prized possession.

Blankets between bicycles

What can be simpler that loading a couple of bikes fully assembled and just separating it with blankets in-between?
What can be simpler that loading a couple of bikes fully assembled and just separating it with blankets in-between?

Even though we might not be too familiar with this method right here in sunny South Africa, this is a frequently-used method to transport bicycles in the back of a panel van, especially in Europe.

Pros — with little effort and equipment (other than a stack of typical moving blankets and straps to fasten them) you can load a shipment of bicycles securely in the back of a van such as a Vito or a Transporter.

Cons — not ideal for large races as you cannot get access to an individual bicycle at any one time as LIFO (last in first out) applies when it come to loading and unloading. Great care is required when loading the bikes to ensure nothing will move in transit.

Roll-on-roll-off systems

If you want to have your bicycle transported fully assembled* to and from most major races in SA
If you want to have your bicycle transported fully assembled* to and from most major races and tours in South Africa

This is typically used in custom made trucks and trailers used specifically for the transport of bicycles. Common examples include and enclosed trailer with two rows of side-by-side racks in which the bicycles are mounted side-by-side and and can accessed from both sides of the vehicle. Other trailers (some open) consist of typical roof racks for bicycles that mounted in long rows.

Pros — safe and secure and great to organize your load, which is important if the transporter has different collection and drop-off points as any one bicycle can be separately unloaded at any time (no last-in-first-out).

Cons — custom made adds to the expense and these vehicles are used to carry bulk so only financially viable (read: large and popular) races and routes are catered for, while once-off transfers are excluded.

Bicycle Couriers

Moving your bicycle from anywhere and at any time have never been this easy // Bicycle Couriers
Moving your bicycle from anywhere and at any time have never been this easy // Bicycle Couriers

This is the way we prefer to do things in the modern age and the reason I have created this very site, bicyclecouriers.co.za. Drop off your bicycle at your at your LBS (local bike shop) from them to box and we deliver door-to-door to your chosen destination bike shop or guest house / hotel / address. And if you prefer to pack it yourself just tell us when and where to collect from. Easy does it đŸ™‚

Pros — easy and cost effective. Also great for ad hoc and one time transfers as many of the above-mentioned event-specific bicycle transporters will not offer this service.

Cons — don’t wait until the last minute, otherwise it might become more expensive. Plan in advance and ensure you have enough time on your side.

And if you find yourself being Mr Last Minute Dot Com, do not despair. Miracles can happen, they just cost a bit more, ie moving from road to air freight for overnight options where available.

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