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Old 10 Sep 2012
Wheelie's Avatar
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Oslo, Norway
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Crating logistics - best practices?

If time is on your side, then crating is probably the least of your worries, but if you are like me, usually going on shorter trips with a crazy itinerary, you don't have much time at your final destination for any type of logistics.

I would therefore appreciate any tips and tricks for making crating and uncrating quick and easy.

The crate that leaves home is usually never a problem, as I have ample time to source a crate from a dealer, ample time to crate the bike, and ample time to organize transport of the crate to wherever it will be picked up. But, away from home, with maybe only a couple of days at most to sort everything out, this is not so easy. Arranging stuff from home is not always easy, and reliability of prior agreements are often poor.

In the developing world, sourcing a crate, pallet or scaffolding, from a dealer has never worked out for me 8it seems that they vanish upon arrival). I once organized for a crate to be made before my arrival to Nairoby, by DHL. Detailed drawings and instructions were sent ahead of time, and assurances were given that everything would be taken care of so that it would be ready upon my arrival (reassurances were given every day for a week until my arrival, where there was no crate).

Although there was no crate upon my arrival, dollars made it easy - there were lots of willing DHL-affiliated people, sourced by my DHL contact, that ran off and sourced materials and built me the crate, arranged for loading into a truck, and had it transported to the DHL terminal - but it still took a whole day... and the crate was built out of insanely heavy wood and was the size of a small house... and in the end, needed to be opened again at the terminal for inspection and recreated again, which took another day.

Getting rid of the crate in Africa has proven easy, as there has always been eager people nearby that will take all the scraps of my hands for free - they use it for... I don't know... construction material, fire wood???

But, come to a more developed country - people are not so eager to go out of their way to rearrange their day's schedule to help you out. And, even with money, things are difficult.

First problem is finding a place where you can build the crate, then source transport for the crated bike to where it needs to be delivered (whether it is only a few hundred meters or tens of kilometers), then source a fork lift or the man power to get it onto that transport... which all comes after having sourced the materials and tools for building the crate in the first place, and then having had sourced the means to have the materials transported to wherever the crate can be built (I have seen the pictures of people transporting big sheets of plywood, etc, on motorcycles, but would advice against this).

I guess for shorter trips, where you ship in and out of the same place, with the same company, I guess you could agree with your shipping company or some local friendly person or motorcycle dealer ahead of time (locally), so that the crate you arrived in is to be stored safely and securely until you leave (heavily marked with "do not touch, move or throw away until date such and such, belongs to XXXXX, phone YYYYYY, with inquieries can be made to Dude ZZZZ. To be used for return shipment of motorcycle to..."... in various languages)... and then hope that it is actually there when you return. But I would still like to have a backup plan.

My last trip out of Guinea Bissau, by ship, involved no crate. We were three bikes and tow quads that shared a container... which took three full days to get sorted.

The question is very relevant for me now that I plan a very short trip to Iceland (1-2 week long trip). I want to pretty much fly and ride, and spend at most one day for crating and drop off for my return back home to Norway.

Anyways, with many trips planned in the future, any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

And, here is a tip from me. I once called up a large department store in Norway and asked if I could build crates for three bikes next to their loading dock and if they could use their fork lift to lift it into a big truck, which they happily volunteered to free of charge. We built the crates, and waited for the truck to come and pick it up. They lifted the bikes onto the truck, and off it went to southern Spain where I picked it up out of storage a couple of weeks later and took the ferry into Morocco - (our shipping company picked us up at the airport and took care of the trash - awesome).
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