Shipping Your Bike
Greyhound: This is the most common option; you pack your bike in a box (see below) and pay for the shipping at the station. In smaller towns you may be able to convince Greyhound to let you travel with your bike, in which case you can transfer it from the bus yourself, and thus reduce the risk of damage. Call Greyhound Courier Express at 1-877-463-6446 for more information.
VIA Rail: VIA boxes are great and you only pay for the box ($20). But you can only put your bike on trains that have checked luggage (i.e., cross-Canada trains: Halifax-Montreal and Toronto-Vancouver, and one train daily between Montreal and Toronto). Most trains in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor do not accept checked luggage. Call VIA Rail at 1 888 842-7245 for details. Note: Shipping a bike on VIA does not require taking off the wheels, only removing the pedals and turning the handlebars. Be advised that VIA Rail prices can sometimes be inconsistent depending on who you talk to.
Flying: If you are flying, taking the bike with you on the plane is the best option. It usually costs about $50 extra (paid at the airport), and does not require a box, only removing your pedals and turning the handlebars. If you come without a box, they will put the bike in a plastic bag and you take responsibility for any damage. Make sure you arrive an extra hour early if you’re bringing a bike, as there is often a bit of hoopla about it. Sometimes they will try to count your bike as one of your pieces of luggage (thus charging you another $105 for any pieces over your two allowed), even though you’re paying $50 extra for it already. You can usually talk them out of this! Westjet: 1-888-937-8538. Air Canada: 1-888-247-2262.
Canada Post: If Canada Post is your only option, you will need to send the bike in two separate boxes (wheels in one, frame in another) to not exceed their maximum box sizes. This requires much finicky work and cutting down of the box. Call Canada Post at 1-866-607-6301 for more information.
Getting a bike box
Bike shops will often agree to give away the cardboard boxes that new bikes are delivered in. Call your local shop in advance to make sure they hold one for you that is big enough (i.e., one that will fit your bike with a back rack on it). Greyhound boxes are larger and thicker than bike shop boxes (but will cost you $15). VIA Rail boxes are the biggest (and super easy to use!). Note: Don’t leave any unattached small parts in a bike box. They risk falling out. Pack parts in your panniers.
Protecting your bike
The best way to protect your bike is to remove as few parts as possible. You will need to remove your wheels, fenders, and handlebars. Don’t leave the handlebars dangling by the various cables; tape the handlebars to the frame with masking tape (packing tape and duct tape can leave a residue) if possible. Lower your seat as much as possible, (you shouldn’t have to remove it unless you have a very large frame) and put your bike in the box upside-down with the seat bearing the weight (instead of your cogs!). Tape extra cardboard over fragile parts or parts that might poke through the box (i.e., wheel hubs). Stuffing your sleeping bag into the box does the dual trick of cushioning your bike within the box, and giving you less stuff to carry. However, some shippers (notably VIA) are not into this.
Pedals: If you remove the pedals, carry them in your panniers. To remove them, be aware that each pedal loosens in a different direction (i.e., towards the back wheel).
Protecting your derailleur: This part of the bike is the most vulnerable to damage, and one of the most expensive to fix. You can protect it by putting your helmet over the derailleur as if the derailleur was your head. Attach the straps of the helmet by wrapping them around the frame and then clipping them together, as you would if the frame were your chin; tighten the straps as securely as possible. Wrap an old rag, or newspaper around the derailleur to keep bike grease from getting into your helmet (and your hair!).
Getting your bike to your destination on time
If you are not travelling with your bike and want to be sure it arrives on time, ship it three days to a week before you ship yourself. You should find out how long the shipper will store the bike once it gets to the destination; it differs depending on the shipper and can even vary from station to station.