How to Ship Your Bike

Introduction

This section contains:

Enter YOUR OWN PREVIOUS shipment, to help other travellers!

Actual Shipments DONE by Travellers

See the Shipping pages for information on air and sea shipments by actual travellers to or from everywhere!

For each shipment, the details include Shipping Date, Cost, Shipper Contact details and a Description of the experience, in many cases very detailed and extremely useful information about the requirements for crating or the paperwork involved at the destination location.

This information has been gleaned from various sources, and not all details are available for every route. If you are aware of any more up-to-date information, or you know of any shipping details for locations which aren't listed in the database, please advise us. Thanks to all who have entered shipment details, and please keep it coming!

Motorcycle Shipping Experts

James Cargo is an international freight shipper specialising in International Bike / Motorcycle Shipping and more. All countries, sea or air, multi-bike shipments, containers to USA from the UK and back for events like Sturgis and more. Be sure to mention Horizons Unlimited for the best service!

Air or Sea?

After shipping our own bike many times, and watching and hearing about hundreds more shipments, we have come to the conclusion that overall, the best method to send your bike is via air.

Sea shipping sounds cheaper, but the port fees are much higher, often off-setting any savings, or worse, as we heard recently, costing a traveller more than the entire original shipping fees! And by the time you factor in being without the bike for weeks or even months, it's usually not worth any savings you may get in the end. An important thing to watch for is that sea shipments are extraordinarily unreliable for time. The shipper will often quote for instance 6-8 weeks to ship from Vancouver to Europe by sea. Experience has shown that this is at best an optimistic guess, at worst a flat lie. Yes it can be done in six weeks, but not if the boat is rerouted to Nigeria! Twelve weeks is not unheard of, and then there's the dock strikes...

We know of one traveller who arranged shipping for her bike from England to Ecuador 12 weeks in advance of her planned vacation in South America. On arrival in Ecuador, she went to the shipping company's office looking for her bike. They knew nothing about it. It was still in the UK, awaiting a boat. She didn't enjoy the bus for the next two months. At least with an airplane they can always put it on another flight and it will only be a matter of days before it arrives.

Unfortunately US airlines are paranoid about shipping bikes - they class them as "dangerous goods" - and often refuse to carry them at all. All you can do is call all the airlines freight departments and find out if they will do it. Not the head office etc. - their automatic reaction is NO. If you find one make sure you talk to the guys in the freight department that actually handle it - what they will tell you is often very different from the official story from head office and passenger people. Do a search using the search bar above on "dangerous goods" to find much more about solutions and ways to deal with the problem. MOST shipments aren't done out of the USA anymore, most travellers use Canada instead due to this problem. Air Canada is very familiar with shipping bikes, and it can generally be done by dealing direct with the FREIGHT guys at the airport - not the check-in desk! :) Air Canada also regularly does super deals on shipping, in the range of half or less the usual, during the northern summer. See posts on the HUBB Trip Transport Forum documenting the details.

Lufthansa and other European airlines, as well as South American and Asian airlines will generally take a bike. You may have to work through an agent, but it is usually not too expensive for their services, and they will take care of all the paperwork for you.

For a good description of the crating process, see Chris and Erin Ratay's website. Chris also made this comment on the Air vs Sea question on the HUBB:

"Receiving a bike at the airport in Buenos Aires is much cheaper than at the seaport. ($60 vs $400). I've heard that Uruguay is a bit more expensive.

A friend shipped his bike to Valpariso (near Santiago), Chile, and paid US$7 -- yes, only SEVEN Dollars to reclaim his bike. I was with him, and the whole process was done in one day. The customs offices are walking distance from where the containers get unpacked."

Also, there are numerous more posts on the HUBB on this topic, in the Trip Transport forum.

General Instructions for Shipping

  • You may get told you can't ship the battery with the bike - that is not generally true - you MUST however completely disconnect the battery and tape the terminals securely. Also usually you must drain MOST of the fuel out of the tank, a litre or pint or so left is usually fine, just enough to get you to a fuel station on arrival.


Grant preparing to crate the bike in Cape Town, South Africa

  • We usually leave the front wheel on when shipping as we're lazy - it can be an advantage to be able to just wheel the bike out of the crate and drive away, particularly in places like Nairobi. All I usually do is take off the mirrors and windshield, but it does cost a little more. Sometimes the local warehouse where you pick up the bike will not allow you to dismantle the crate there, insisting you take the crate away on a truck. We've always been able to get around this, but it has taken some persuading in the USA. (and waiting for everyone to go on coffee break)
  • Crates can often be obtained from a dealer. Wood crates are the easiest to deal with but many crates are now metal with a cardboard wrapper. They will work, but are harder to custom size. They are lighter, which can be good, but usually the problem with a bike is not the weight but the volume.
  • Shipping costs are calculated on a weight per volume basis. If the weight is over x / cubic foot then you pay the weight, if under you pay based on volume. Bikes are bulky, and you have to work hard to get the volume down in order to pay the weight price. You will have to really squeeze hard to get down to the weight price.

"Size counts" formula in common use:

Length x Width x Height in cm. divided by 6 = weight in KG.

e.g. 225 x 100 x 115 = 2587.5 cm3 divided by 6 = 431kg

Therefore regardless of the REAL weight of the bike and crate, you will be charged AS IF it weighed 431 KG.


Strapped down on the base of the crate
  • DON'T fully compress the forks. The bike should be tied TIGHT down on its suspension, about half-way or a little more down. Be SURE the straps can't loosen or come unhooked if the bike moves, because it will!
  • It should NOT be resting on centre-stand or side-stand, only on its wheels, and vertical. This will not harm the springs (unless you leave it for a couple of years). If it's on the stand, it will pound up and down in transport, and cause a lot of damage to the stand, the crate, etc.
  • Use good straps (I like 6) and don't skimp on the crate. You can usually get them for nothing from bike dealers, since they usually throw them away anyway. Good straps are often available for free from BMW dealers - they are what BMW uses to ship their bikes, and dealers end up with plenty. They are popular though!
  • IF you really want to squeeze the volume down, take the front wheel off, rest the bike on the skidplate or forks (with axle installed and clamps tightened but NOT the end nut), and tie securely. I like to have the axle secured to the base of the crate.
  • Book a container and put several bikes in it, and the cost per bike will usually drop significantly.


Strapping boxes on top, getting as much as possible in and as small as possible.

To reduce your shipping costs - from Istvan Szlany:

  • Dismount front tire with fender, handle bar with mirrors, and side+tail bags/boxes to reduce height, length and width and you'll pay the minimum possible by volume.
  • if you can, crate the bike, because then they can put other things on the top of the motorcycle crate. Ask around for scrap wood, nails and hammer - I'm sure they have. In this case you will pay most likely for the weight of the motorcycle.


Almost done.

For a good description of the crating process, see Chris and Erin Ratay's website.

Also, there are numerous posts on the HUBB on this topic, in the Trip Transport forum.

Other issues to think about

  • Import regulations
  • Carnet de passage or temporary import permit (esp. OZ)
  • Insurance (transport, bike, health insurance etc.)
  • Quarantine: Be aware of very strict regulations for OZ and NZ.
  • CLEAN - the bike must be SUPER CLEAN or toothbrush clean for most countries, and you cannot use untreated wood not specified as safe for export. They WILL send the crate back to the originating country at your expense!


BEST PLACE TO ASK QUESTIONS IS ON THE HUBB IN THE TRIP TRANSPORT FORUM: CLICK HERE.

Comments

Hi all. Don't know if anyone could answer a question for me. Am I ok to ship my bike by air with a tent as part of the luggage i.e strapped to the rack / top box or has anyone been refused ? Thanks

 

As always "it depends". Most carriers no problem but a few don't want the liability risk of external gear. And perhaps you don't either. But you will have to ask. 

Thanks Grant, it was something I've heard which is regarding insurance and I thought was strange. I can store the tent in the top box if needed but space is of a premium as you know

 

Theft is ALWAYS a risk, anything not bolted on can easily walk away on two new legs. And it's not just the cost of replacement, it's also the aggro of replacement, very difficult in some places. We've heard both good and bad with stuff tied on, sometimes you win sometimes you lose, and there's no proof where it walked away, so you're just out of pocket. Good luck!

Hi HU

Any suggestions for a lead on a company to ship our Ural from Southern Africa to South America around August 2017 would be welcome. Tried searching the HUB but not found anything current.

Air or Sea?

Thanks.

Hi Goffdroop

Air or Sea depends also on the forwarder. I traveled with a sidecar in South America and shipped the bike to South Africa and the sidecar to Europe. Some forwarder offered me one container for the sidecar and other used a shared container. The port charges for sea freight are incredible high and so air freight is finally cheaper. Ask them for both and you will see what is the best way.

Contact Juliana in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was dealing with her and she can give you for sure some contacts in South Africa (or other countries).

Anyway Juliana is a very good contact for all who like to ship a bike from South America.

Juliana Forner

+ 55 11 97237 9440

juliana@wingslog.com.br

Skype + julianaforner

 

Feel free to contact me anytime

Chris

Shippers don't change a lot, so do check the older posts out.

Air or sea, it's fairly easy for a solo bike, but for a sidecar, harder as air will be much more. The big problem is a sidecar is VERY light for it's VOLUME for air shipping. For motorcycles, no matter how hard you compress it you will always be paying based on "volumetric weight" or in English, based on volume. A sidecar is worse due to the nature of the body. PERHAPS you can do a super squeeze, depends on how much effort you want to put in.

Read the shipping page carefully, and you'll have to make the decision that's best for YOU when you get some quotes.

PLEASE be sure to enter YOUR shipment data when you're done to help future travellers.

Thanks!

Hi all,

I am planning a round the world trip.  I am CEO of a charity called Blue HOPE (Helping Out Police Everywhere) and I am doing the ride to raise awareness about the prevalence of police suicide.  See http://www.bluehope.org.au/ for more about us.

I have set up a war room (in my garage) with a huge map of the world and I am going to plan the trip in segments.  

My plan at the moment is to leave Australia (Brisbane) and ship my R1200GS to the UK and start from the most western point in Europe (Dunmore Head, Ireland) and head East to Magadan and then get to Anchorage and ride through to the most eastern point in north America (Saint Johns - Newfoundland).

But already I am seeing logistical issues.  Getting the bike home from the East Coast of the USA for starters.  I know this is a broad question, but I would welcome and advice re shipping my bike from Australia to UK, Magadan to Anchorage by air, and USA to Australia.  I also welcome alternate thoughts on the best route (I am loosely following the Long Way Round) to minimise costs.

Thanks to all,

Bruce G

Hi Bruce

“to minimise costs” -> don’t ship so many times, do spend so much time in expensive Europe, don’t ride a R1200GS it’s a too expensive bike, too heavy for the bone road (take a small bike), not easy to fix.

“also welcome alternate thoughts” -> Fly to Moscow and buy an Ural Bike (costs you probably less that to ship you bike to UK.

Then my advice: don’t follow someone else’s route, don’t copy a travel. Go your own way! Long way round has nothing to do with traveling around the world! It is a movie/show and not a documentary (sorry for all who loves Long Way…).

From Australia you are close to Indonesia. Why not to travel from Australia to Europe?

 

Feel free to ask me anytime whatever you like (chr...@infiniteroad.ch)

Chris

Bruce, I'd recommend asking your question on the HUBB, I think you'll get bettter responses as it's more "trip planning" than specific shipping.

Note: Magadan to Anchorage doesn't exist. At best, Magadan to Vancouver or Seattle, but I think that's doubtful. Korea to Canada or Seattle is more likely.

Sounds like a great trip for a good cause! Good luck,

Hi Guys, I need send my BMW 1200 GS YEAR 2014 Mexico to Spain next may. Some recommendations? Company ? Documts ? etc... Thanks Dubanok

That's a tough one Dubanok, it's rarely done. The last entry in the Shipping Database is from 2013 for Mexico to Europe.

All I can suggest is to contact the shippers listed in the links pages, and international shipping com-panies with offices in Mexico and see what you can find.

Check both air and sea routes! And remember sea is more expensive than they tell you as they do not include port charges at the destination, which can be considerable. Also it's less secure!

When you do make your shipment, please add it to the database to help other travellers!

Hope that helps, Grant

THANKS

Hi Grant; I think so better ride Mexico City to Dallas, and shipping from US to Spain, I more cheap. Now I request different optiosn.

 

Thank you again.

There's a big issue with shipping out of the USA - Dangerous Goods paperwork and fees. It's bad enough that American shippers often tell Americans to ride to the nearest Canadian port or city and they will arrange shipping from there. MUCH cheaper and easier.

Be VERY careful and ensure that all Dangerous Goods documentation, fees etc are included!

Note: Dangerous Goods applies primarily to AIR shipping.

I am moving from the USA to Panama and would like to ship my (7) bikes there. I own a Panamanian company and would be using them for the business. Any idea on the best way to accomplish this? What would be the approximate cost?

that's a tough one!
If you're getting residence, I think you can bring in one vehicle tax free, otherwise you will need to pay taxes and duty, which can get expensive. Check into this carefully before you ship!
Shipping - probably a container would be best, and of course by sea. You can get a small container and ship all of them in it, or a bigger one and include household goods etc.
DO let us know how you do, others might want to know - Panama is becoming a destination for ex-pats!

When I moved to Panama 10 years ago they wouldn't give me the tax exemption for my bikes. They said it only applied to cars. I don't know that that has changed so you'll have to check with customs. Also, the exemption does not apply to anyone moving to Panama; it is/was an exemption for retirees (on a retiree visa). Again, check for current information.
Please post whatever you find out here.

I am currently researching shipping companies. It's harder than I thought it would be to get responses. I am trying to get a container for the bikes and other household items. I'll post my findings.

Thanks stbarnett, good to know! What ARE the duties/taxes for bikes?

About to pick up my BMW GSA after shipping from Los Angeles to Auckland with Kiwi Shipping. Drop off to pick up has been 5 weeks. Cost about USD 1000. Roll on roll off so no packing and had the panniers full of riding gears etc. Excellent commications and service. Highly recommended

DLyttle, please be sure to add this shipment to the Shipping database for everyone to be able to find the details!
thanks!

Hello everybody!

I am planning this summer a motorcycle trip from Greece to Magadan/Russia. We are three guys with three motorcycles. Do you know a way to ship back our motorcycles to Greece or even somewhere in the rest of Europe?

We dont mind if it is by air, ground or sea.

Thanks in advance.

Hi, we are looking to ship two BMW F800s from EITHER western Canada or Western USA to Cape Town, South Af. We can send from either country so whichever is cheaper but mainly I'm curious if anyone has ever shipped over to Europe first, say with Air Canada as it seems cheaper, then flew from EU to South Af. Is there a savings? Which company(ies) did you use and how long did it takes? Cheers! ridingfullcircle.com

Generally it will be cheaper from Canada than USA, as USA regs on "hazardous materials" - which bikes are - are much more onerous and therefore expensive. Air Canada has done a special deal to Europe the last few years, in the summer, so that may help.

Shipping via Europe is likely to be more expensive than direct as it's a lot farther, and an extra port's paperwork to deal with.

There's a number of shipments from North America to Africa direct and NA to Europe and Europe to Africa in the shipping database, have a look and see what you think.

Please report in the database what your result is!

Hello everybody.

I'm trying to send 2bikes to Chili, Argentina or Uruguay...
APA (company that transport) says to me that we can't import used bikes in south america....
So I'm trying to find a solution....Any idea's??
I'm planning to travael with my cousin 4 months in SA! Hope we will gett or bikes there!!!

thanks for helping us!

Math

Math, the problem (maybe) is the word "import" - you are NOT "IMPORTING", you are "TEMPORARILY IMPORTING" the bikes. There should be NO issue, it's done all the time. The shipping company don't have any idea what they're talking about. See the Shipments by Travellers to see if you can find another shipping company.
Good luck, and please let us know what happens!

Does anybody know a shipper who would ship my Africa Twin from Dubai via anywhere to Buenos Aires as the prices i have hot locally are in excess of 6,000 Euros !!
Jonno

Is that by air or sea? Either way it's ridiculous!

Go down to the airport CARGO area, and talk to the guys in the office there and see what they say. Talking to head office will get you ridiculous prices, these guys are the ones that matter.

Hi,
I´ll be in Sao Paulo around in November 2016 need help to arrange flying my bike from there to Cape Town.
Regards,
Paul Saunders
psau...@gmail.com



 

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