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Save hundreds on international bike shipping

Bob Forgrave

From our corner of the Pacific Northwest, we never really had a grand plan for shipping all over the world. But that’s what happened over the years, with more countries added regularly. (Just this week, we sent a frame to a boater in the Azores, adding a Portugal pin to our wall map).

That worldwide reach has also meant a lot of questions. So here, in one place, we’ll try to answer the big questions that we keep getting about shipping full-size folding bikes, or frames, or components to make your existing bike flat. Here are the big ones, all linked for quick jumping:




How much work is left when a shipped bike arrives?

At Flatbike, we ship a variety of rugged full-size bikes (mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and hybrids) that all fold in half, because they are built on a CHANGE folding frame.

This allows us to ship all bikes folded in half, boxes that are consistently 35″ long x 30″ tall x 14″ wide (89 cm x 76 cm x 36 cm). This is shorter but wider than most shipped bikes, but the bike is also nearly fully assembled, with just four actions needed after taking your bike out of the box:

  1. Unfold the frame.
  2. Attach the handlebars with the included 4mm hex wrench.
  3. Mount the front wheel (usually quick-release, but sometimes thru-axle).
  4. Attach the pop-off pedals (no tools required).
bikes ready for international shipping

CHANGE bikes built by Changebike LTD in Taiwan come in boxes like this. CHANGE bikes built by Flatbike in the US come in unmarked boxes of the same type.




Can I save money shipping my own bike during my own travels?

On a commercial airline, the magic number for non-oversized baggage is 62. That’s the total in inches, of height plus length, plus depth of your luggage. Anything over that is oversized.

As a reality check, consider an industry-standard 700c rear wheel. 28 + 28 + 8 = 64 inches, so your rear wheel alone is oversized, without the rest of the bike! Can an entire CHANGE bike, in a box, ship as non-oversized luggage? That’s a hard no.

But, because you can get your bike in and out of the box with minimal effort, reusing the box becomes an option. You can use the box for shipping, sending your bike in advance if your airline’s bike fees are too high–and they vary greatly by airline, so check first. We have personally reused a CHANGE box, unreinforced with surface tape, for cross-country shipments.

Even if you do ship your bike on your own flight, you’re reusing a pasteboard box instead of buying a bike carrying bag. In the short term, that can save hundreds.

Also, in the absence of a box or a plane, anytime you are moving about on your travels, you can easily transport your bike as a half-sized, bagged package, selecting smaller Uber/Lyft rides, and paying less often for more space for your bike. 

If you intend to reuse your box, let us know at purchase, and we will ship in our own box design, which is a bit sturdier construction.




How does “FREE” shipping work in the US and Canada?

Well, in the US (including Alaska and Hawaii), it’s pretty simple. We ship it to you, and shipping is free, with no taxes outside Washington State.

map pins

Where we’ve shipped, not how many. We’re still missing Mississippi, West Virginia . . . and Saskatchewan.

Shipping to Canada is also free (AKA paid by Flatbike), but there are some other things that happen once your bike arrives in Canada–taxes and customs. There’s a VAT that’s added to all incoming merchandise, as well as Customs. While we’d like to say that the CHANGE bikes we build in Washington State are made in the USA, “made” is actually a manufacturing term, and the frame–the core of a bike–is manufactured in Taiwan.




Do you ship to (my country)?

Looking at our map–and wondering where our extra pins are so we can add Cyprus–we’ve got a fair presence on five continents, which is really strange as our small team has yet to localize any content outside of English.

We have shipped to Europe, lower Asia, Australia, a couple of countries in Africa, as well as places in between, from Abu Dhabi to the Marshall Islands. Where does that leave? Antarctica (obviously)  . . . and South America. 

While we physically can ship to countries in South America, it’s prohibitively expensive, with a combination of high shipping costs and high tariffs that make a full bike uneconomical to ship internationally in most cases. So our bikes that have ended up in Argentina, Brazil, and Costa Rica have all shipped to southern US cities and then been picked up as personal luggage.




How do I save hundreds on international bike shipping?

Suppose you’ve found the perfect bike for you–the CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike. A folding bike so versatile that riders have purchased it for everything from river bike rafting in the US to dusty trail riding in hot and humid Qatar.

Problem is, international shipping of large packages is so expensive. So close, but out of reach…

so close, yet so far away

Fortunately, as Flatbike has grown, we’ve become eligible for volume discounts on shipping that we can pass on to you. On Flatbike.com, you can see the shipping rates from different couriers when a bike is in your shopping cart. 

That’s actually the starting point, not the final answer–not because we’re trying to barter, but because of how shipping works.

There are three possible ways your bike shipping can go down internationally:

  1. Equivalent shipping discount. In the US or Canada, shipping is free. We can’t do that internationally, but in fairness to our international customers, we can provide a discount for the amount that we would pay anyway if we were shipping domestically.  
  2. Negotiated rates. In most cases, our negotiated rates for all services show up on your order page. But not always. The best way to know for sure is to ask.
  3. Spot quotes. These are like special-offer, day-specific rates that are discussed with the shippers to match their capacity at that moment. Usually they’re similar to negotiated rates, but they occasionally can be much better.

In most cases, you can ship a bike via FedEx to your country for under $200. If not, send me an e-mail personally at bob.forgrave@flatbike.com.  

The best way to know if you’ve got the best rate is to ask. We’ll need to know what city you’d be shipping a bike to, the postal code if you have one (Fun fact…Abu Dhabi has none), and about when this shipment would happen if you were buying–no obligation.




How does APO/FPO/DPO shipping work?

In the APO/FPO/DPO system, mail shipped to deployed US personnel, military or diplomatic, is sent to a domestic location on one of the US coasts and then delivered through government channels. This interfaces only with the US Postal System, which uses its own system for measuring package size.

The US Postal System uses a Length + Girth model for converting package volume into a single number. That number then determines how large a package can be for shipping APO:

  • Under 108 inches can fly Priority Mail to its destination (typically a week or less)
  • Between 109 and 130 is Parcel Select and goes by ship (typically 6 weeks)
  • Over 130 is not deliverable to APO addresses.

A CHANGE folding frame ships in a 41 x 7 x 23 box, which translates to 41 Length + 60 Girth = 101. A frame can ship Priority Mail.

A CHANGE folding bike ships in a 35 x 14 x 30 box, which translates to 35 Length + 84 Girth = 123. This means it ships Parcel Select.

By comparison, a typical non-folding bike will fit into the usual bike shipping box size of 43 x 11 x 32 = 43 Length + 86 Girth = 129, barely qualifying for APO shipping and requiring numerous tools at both ends of the trip every time you need to transport it.

Some USPS-originating internal changes in common automated shipping software platforms have meant that Parcel Select has dropped of the shipping menu for many e-commerce companies. At Flatbike, we are intimately aware of this support issue and will take APO packages directly to the US Post Office if necessary to ensure that policies are followed and the mail gets through.


Now what?

Now it’s time to take a second look!

If you’ve been looking at CHANGE bikes, maybe even zeroing in on a favorite if only you didn’t have to pay for international shipping, now is a great time to take a second look. Send an e-mail (bob.forgrave@flatbike.com) Get a super-discounted international shipping rate. And see if you could be riding your own new CHANGE bike in as little as two weeks.

Happy riding, and great savings!


Bob Forgrave's Signature

Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.


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