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Air Motorcycle Shipping - Is It The Best Way to Move Your Two-Wheeler?

Air Motorcycle Shipping - Is It The Best Way to Move Your Two-Wheeler?
November 13, 2023
11 min

Imagine the adrenaline rush of zipping around on your beloved two-wheeler, the wind in your face, and the open road ahead. Now, imagine you need to move across the country, or even overseas. There’s no way you’re leaving your mechanical pride and joy behind, right? But the thought of transporting it might be enough to pop your proverbial wheelie. Fear not, because we’ve got solutions that’ll make this whole process smoother than a well-oiled gearbox. In comes ‘Forward Air Motorcycle Shipping,’ the knight in shining armor to your motorcycle relocation needs.

This blog post will take you on a joyride through the ins and outs of air motorcycle shipping, answering the question that’s probably burning rubber in your mind – Is it the best way to move your two-wheeler? We’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of this service, showcasing its unique features, benefits, disadvantages, and alternative transport modes. So, let’s start!

What’s Air Motorcycle Shipping?

Air motorcycle shipping refers to transporting motorcycles via air freight transportation services. Motorcycles are fragile equipment that require careful handling during shipping to avoid damage. Air freight is often the preferred option for motorcycle shipping as it provides a fast and secure door-to-door delivery service.

When a customer requests air motorcycle shipping, the first step is for the air freight company to assess the packaging requirements. Proper packaging is vital to protect the motorcycle during air transport. The bike will either be completely disassembled, with significant components like the frame, wheels, engine, etc., packaged separately in custom-fitted cartons, or it will be crated and strapped in the cargo hold of the airplane. Foam inserts are used to cradle and cushion the parts.

Once packaged, the cartons are labeled, and the air freight company generates an air waybill. This serves as the contract of carriage and lists important details like shipment contents, origin/destination, weight, special handling codes, etc. The labeled cartons are then picked up from the customer’s location by the ground transportation assigned by the air freight company.

The pickup truck then transports the packaged motorcycle to the air freight company’s local station. At the station, the cartons are inspected and weighed. Forklifts are used to move the palletized cartons into the cargo warehouse. The air freight company aggregates shipments from multiple customers onto pallets unitized for flight loading.

When the scheduled cargo flight is ready for loading, the pallets containing the motorcycle shipment are wheeled to the aircraft cargo door. Special lifts are used to load the pallets into the cargo hold, with consideration given to weight and balance distribution. The cargo doors are secured before takeoff.

The aircraft then flies the shipment to its destination airport, where a similar unloading process unpacks the pallets. Ground transportation deployed by the air freight forwarder picks up the cargo and delivers it to the customer’s address, completing the door-to-door transport. Proper packaging helps ensure the motorcycle arrives in the same condition it was left in.

How Is Motorcycle Shipping By Airplane Done? - Process and Steps

5 Steps when Air Shipping Motorcycle

Step#1: Preparation

  • Drain all fluids besides engine oil and disconnect the battery. Airplanes require minimal liquids.
  • Remove any loose items or accessories that may come off in transit.
  • Ensure the tires are properly inflated.
  • Clean the bike thoroughly so it is free of dirt and debris.
  • Check the bike over carefully for any pre-existing damage and document it.

Step#2: Booking

  • Find an airline that transports motorcycles.
  • Book well in advance, as motorcycle spots are limited.
  • Alert them you are shipping a motorcycle so they can place you on the appropriate plane.
  • Get accurate dimensions and weight ahead of time. Oversize fees apply for large bikes.

Step#3: Packing

  • Obtain a motorcycle-specific airline crate, often from the shipping company.
  • Secure the bike inside the bolted crate with tie-downs and wheel chocks.
  • Drain the engine oil and seal the engine intakes to prevent leaks.
  • Separate and seal the battery. Battery acid leaks are dangerous in flight.
  • Use padding and secure all loose parts like mirrors.

Step#4: Shipping

  • Deliver the packed motorcycle crate to the airline’s freight terminal.
  • Fill out any final paperwork and declare the value for insurance purposes.
  • Pay any applicable shipping fees based on weight and destination.
  • The airline will load the crate onto the correct plane using proper handling equipment.
  • Upon arrival, the recipient will pick it up from the destination airport.

Step#5: Unpacking

  • Thoroughly inspect for any damage before unpacking. Note any issues.
  • Unseal intakes, reinstall battery, and refill fluids like engine oil.
  • Reattach any parts removed, like mirrors.
  • Check tire pressure.
  • Start it up and test it thoroughly before riding to ensure no issues.

Alternatives to Airplane Motorcycle Transport:

Shipping MethodCosts (Approximate)RisksBenefits
Renting a Trailer/Towing 🚚Rental Trailer: $20-$50/day- Potential for accidents if not experienced towing trailers. - Risk of theft if the motorcycle is left unattended.- Convenient and flexible. - Ability to transport other belongings. - Full control over transport.
Own Trailer: Fuel costs ($0.58/mile)
Shipping via Ocean Freight 🚢500-1000 miles: $300-$500- Accidents during shipping. - Mishandling during loading and unloading.- Convenient, door-to-door service. - No wear and tear on your motorcycle.
International: $1,500+
Ship Motorcycle By Train 🚆800 miles (e.g., Lurton, VA to Sanford, FL): $155- Minimal risks. - Theft is unlikely.- Lower cost than trucking for long distances.
International: Not available
Shipping via Professional Motorcycle Transport Company 🏍️Domestic: $300-$700- Very minimal risks. - Well-secured and insured.- Door-to-door service. - Specialized equipment such as crates, pods, padding, and straps to secure bikes. - Very safe.
International: $1,500+

Renting a trailer/towing:

This involves renting an appropriate trailer or using your own if you have one and towing the motorcycle behind a truck or SUV.

  • Costs: Rental trailers can range from $20-$50 per day. No additional costs if you own a trailer. Just need to account for fuel costs, which can be $0.58 per mile.
  • Risks: Potential for accidents if not experienced towing trailers. Risk of theft if the motorcycle is left unattended.
  • Benefits: Convenient and flexible. Ability to transport other belongings. Full control over transport.

Shipping via Ocean Freight:

You can hire an auto transport company to ship the motorcycle in on cargo freight along with other vehicles.

  • Costs: $300-$500 for a 500-1000 mile shipment. International shipping will be $1500+
  • Risks: Medium as accidents can happen on freight or even mishandling is a possibility during loading and unloading. However, vehicles are insured during transport by most freight forwarders. Very rare for damage/theft.
  • Benefits: Convenient, door-to-door service. No wear and tear on your motorcycle.

Ship Motorcycle By Train:

Some train shipping companies like Amtrak offer motorcycle transport in baggage cars.

  • Costs: Around $155 for an 800-mile shipment from Lurton, VA, to Sanford, Florida (Only route available). International not available.
  • Risks: Minimal. Theft is very unlikely with train shipping.
  • Benefits: Lower cost than trucking for long distances.

Shipping via professional motorcycle transport Company:

Companies like Easy Auto Ship specialize in shipping motorcycles domestically and internationally by truck and ocean freight.

  • Costs: $300-$700 for domestic transport, $1,500+ for international.
  • Risks: Very minimal with professional transport. Well-secured and insured.
  • Benefits: Door-to-door service. Specialized equipment such as crates, pods, padding, and straps to secure bikes. Very safe.

What Goes Into Preparing Motorcycles for Safe Transport:

  • Inspect the motorcycle thoroughly before transport. Check for any fluid leaks, damaged parts, loose bolts, etc. Make repairs as needed.
  • Ensure the fuel tank is less than 1/4 f ull to allow for expansion. Drain the carburetor float bowls to prevent leaks. For overseas shipping, drain all fluids if required by customs regulations. Refill after transport.
  • Disconnect the battery and tape the terminals to prevent sparks. For air transport, the battery must be disconnected and placed in a spill-proof box.
  • Remove any loose accessories or items that could shift during transport. This includes detachable windshields, saddlebags, etc.
  • Ensure the motorcycle is secured upright and cannot tip over. Use proper tie-down straps, wheel chocks, and ratchet straps to keep it stable. For air transport, the motorcycle must be secured in an aircraft-approved crate.
  • Block the front suspension and secure the handlebars so the front wheel stays straight. You can use straps, wooden blocks, or a steering head brace.
  • For open transport like trains or trucks, cover the motorcycle well with a tarp to prevent damage from road debris. Avoid using plastic sheets that could scratch the paint.
  • Place the motorcycle in gear or in a park to prevent the wheels from rolling. Engage the parking brake if equipped.
  • Apply rust inhibitors inside the gas tank, cylinders, etc.
  • Include documentation like registration insurance info inside the transport container in case of loss or damage.
  • Clearly label and provide handling instructions for the correct orientation and tie-down points on the crate/container.

Best Practices For Transporting Motorcycles?

Do thorough research to find a reputable transport company that specializes in motorcycle transport. Look for companies with excellent reviews and experience shipping motorcycles long distances.

Ask for references from past motorcycle shipping customers. For Air motorcycle transport, choose an IATA-certified cargo carrier like UPS, FedEx, or DHL that guarantees door-to-door service.

For Air Motorcycle Shipping:

  • Use a motorcycle-specific shipping crate if possible. Custom-fit crates provide maximum protection.
  • Secure the motorcycle tightly within the crate using straps, braces, or fasteners. It should not move around at all.
  • Wrap or cover important parts like the fork, handlebars, and exhaust in foam, bubble wrap, or similar padding.
  • Seal any openings i n the crate with wood, metal, or plastic to prevent the intrusion of foreign objects.
  • Mark the crate clearly as “Motorcycle” or “Do Not Stack” to avoid heavy items stacked on top.
  • Label the crate with delivery and return addresses, bike descriptions, contact info, and hazardous warnings.
  • Opt for expedited delivery if possible to minimize transit time exposed to handling.
  • Consider air ride suspension, climate control, and cargo tracking options for premium care.

Inspect the bike thoroughly and test all systems after delivery. Report any damage immediately.

For Truck Motorcycle Shipping:

  • Inspect the transport truck and trailer before loading your motorcycle. Make sure the trailer has proper tie-down equipment like wheel chocks, straps, and anchors. The trailer should be enclosed and weatherproof.
  • Properly prepare the motorcycle for transport. Drain the fuel to avoid fires. Disconnect the battery and tape down loose parts like mirrors. Remove saddlebags and other detachable accessories. Check tire pressure and suspension.
  • Discuss how the motorcycle will be secured in the traile r. There should be tie-down straps over the forks, rear swing arm, handlebars, chassis, and wheels with slack removed. Soft tie-downs are better than hard ratchets to avoid scratches.
  • Ask the transport driver about their route and duration. Request GPS tracking if available. Get contact information for status updates during transport. Find out about insurance coverage in case of damages.
  • Take plenty of detailed photos of the motorcycle before and after transport to document the condition. Note any prior cosmetic damages or defects. Do a thorough inspection upon delivery.
  • Tip the transport driver if they provide excellent service. Provide positive reviews online along with photos if you had a good experience. Report any damages immediately to the company and insurance providers.
  • For very valuable motorcycles, consider accompanying the driver or hiring an inspector to oversee the loading/unloading process. This provides peace of mind for a smooth transport.

Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping Your Motorcycle:

  • Lack of proper packaging/protection - Motorcycles need sturdy crates or racks to secure them for transport. Simply strapping the bike down leaves it vulnerable to damage from moving around. Proper packaging ensures it doesn’t fall or get dented/scratched in transport.
  • Failure to drain fluids - Gas, oil, coolant, etc., need to be drained from the bike before shipping to prevent leaks. If fluids shift during travel, it can damage engine parts. Drain and cap all ports to avoid messy spills in transit.
  • Not disconnecting battery - Vibrations during shipping can cause electrical issues if the battery isn’t removed. At a minimum, terminals should be covered to prevent sparking. It is better to fully remove the battery to avoid unexpected drain/shorts en route.
  • Inadequate coverage for insurance - Only insuring the bike for minimum liability leaves you exposed if it’s damaged. Get coverage for the bike’s actual cash value to ensure you can replace/repair it if anything goes wrong in shipment.
  • Lack of proper documentation - The bill of lading and other shipping papers need complete details on pickup/delivery addresses, declared value, special instructions, etc. Missing info could delay or complicate the moving process.
  • Rushing the packing job - A hurried packing job is more likely to miss steps and not adequately brace/protect vulnerable parts. Take time to pack securely to maximize arrival in the same condition as departure.

Parting Words:

So, should Forward Air Motorcycle Shipping be your go-to option? Well, it’s like asking if the most expensive coffee is the best way to start your day. The answer is a resounding ‘only if you can afford it’ if you’re after quick, reliable, and efficient service.

If you don’t have a lot of money to hand over to an airline, why not just use any alternate transport methods? They’re much cheaper, but also very secure. Easy Auto Ship offers motorcycle transport throughout the U.S. Feel free to give us a call, and we’ll set up the move just the way you want.


Easy Auto Ship will never call you from our toll free number. Any emails from our company will from an ""email address. We are an auto transport broker, and we do not sell any products on our website or any other website. We will never ask for payment through Western Union, Zelle, CashApp, Venmo, etc. unless previously discussed, and the name on the account that you would be sending to will always be Easy Auto Ship.

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