That is, if it's small enough and you're willing to pack it carefully

by Mark Livingood


It is possible to ship a tandem via UPS and the cost savings is substantial; about $45 for two boxes via UPS -- one for the frame & another for the rest of the components. Compare with Danzas who charges about $80 for Santana's Special Roadrunner Rate. The Danzas / Santana rate is good, but if you can get your tandem in under UPS's "maximum girth" limit of 130", you can save yourself some bucks.


If you intend to ship via UPS you'll need to be sure to keep the boxed tandem's girth below UPS's max allowable of 130".

UPS Girth is measured by:

  • 1 x longest dimension of the box ; PLUS
  • 2 x width of the box; PLUS
  • 2 x height of the box; EQUALS GIRTH

For example, assume a boxed tandem is: 74" Long, 6" Wide and 22" tall you get 74 + 12 + 44 = 130"

Therefore, it is imperative you pack the tandem with this in mind. In the past, I have taken extra effort to bubblewrap and foam wrap the frame so that I could cut down the box to be an exact fit for the frame. All other components are then shipped in a second box. Typical shipping costs are $28.00 for the frame & $18.00 for a wheel box.

I've shortened bicycle boxes by cutting down the sides, ends and middles. Also, to prevent the sides of the box from settlng in on tandem I cut a piece of the excess box material into a 3' long strip of material that is the same width as the box, roll it into a circle and then place it into the open space of the padded frame. There are pictures of how I packed the last road tandem that I sold before I shipped it off via below for your reference

First, the frame is prepared for shipping. To minimize the amount of assembly required, I shipped this tandem with all of the running gear attached to the tandem, i.e., crankset, chains, derailleurs, handlebars with shifters & cables attached. This is what is normally done for tandems being packed for travel, etc..

When at all possible, it is always best to strip the frame of as much as possible to get the boxed size down to meet UPS girth requirements.

Note that this is a purple frame; however, you can't see any of the painted surfaces. The entire frame is protected by either foam pipe insulation or bubblewrap material. This will prevent the frame's paint from being chipped, scratched, or mared by friction between the frame & box or other items in the box.


You'll notice how two single mountain bike boxes have been cut-down and put together to create a tandem box. Additionally, the tops of the boxes have been cut down to reduce the overall height of the box to match the height of the packaged frame. I used several extra layers of bubblewrap at all of the touch points between the frame (head tube, seat post masts, rear dropouts) and the box. You'll also notice that I have installed a 160mm piece of PVC pipe between the rear dropouts that is held in place by the tandem's rear skewer. this will prevent the rear triangle from being bent during shipment. Because I've left the cranks & chainrings on the bike I have set the front & rear chainrings into two foam blocks. This is what the frame will sit on in the box. This will prevent the chainrings from being damaged or from punching through the bottom of the box.


Here's the frame in the box. Notice the piece of cardboard that has been cut to the width of the box and then "rolled-up" and set inside of the frame to act as a brace. This will keep the box from being crushed to where the sides of the box would be in contact with the frame. It's an extra measure of protection that is well worth the 2 minutes that it takes to do.

With the frame in the box, both ends are pushed together to make the box as small as possible for shipment. A hot-melt glue gun is used to apply hot glue to the parts of the boxes that will be joined together as it is all put together. Again, it's an extra measure taken to make the box as strong as possible.


With the frame now packed, the handlebars, front fork, seats/posts, and other loose components are individually bubblewrapped prepared for shipment. They will go into a wheel box for this shipment and, believe it or not, all of these components & spare parts fit into a two-wheel Colorado Cyclist shipping box!! you'll need to let the air out of the bicycle tires when you pack them if you use a wheel box.


Well, there you have it. Two boxes ready for shipment by UPS. The frame came in at 127" -- just 3" under the limit. This was a small sized Santana Arriva road frame; not sure a medium or large would have made it under the limit.