I've been asked by several people to post my write-up on packing and shipping a bike. I actually posted this to the list several years ago, but here it is again.
Cut, paste and save as necessary.
Packing and Shipping a Bicycle
How to safely transfer the objects of our desire (the bikes, people, the bikes) is at least as relevant to classic bicycles as when Campagnolo introduced the CPSC changes.
In that spirit, I'll pass along some of my tips. I'll use a complete bike as the example, but most principles apply to parts as well. Some tips may be pretty well known, but bear with me for the sake of those who might not know them yet.
If you're having something shipped to you, communicate with the shipper. Find out their lever of experience in shipping bikes. Help them with advise or recommend that they seek local assistance. If there's any question, offer to pay for that assistance and for packing materials. Most local bike shops do a pretty good job of packing and shipping bikes for a modest fee. Trust me, in the end, you'll benefit from this effort.
If you're doing the shipping, first and foremost, don't cut corners. Don't just do the minimum. Take the extra effort to do as much as you can to protect the cargo. Make everything secure, and assemble as much as you can as a single unit BEFORE you put it in the box. Most damage is done by things moving or shifting during transport, or from bits floating around in the box.
Most contemporary bike boxes (the once-used variety you scrounge from your Local Bike Shop) are designed to ship the bike with the rear wheel in place. If the bike fits that way, go with it, but remove the skewer. Some older, long wheelbase/touring types may not fit in the modern boxes.
If possible, disconnect and/or remove cables and chain. Take off the wheels and remove the skewers. Remove the pedals, saddle, seatpost, and handlebar/stem combo. Hold all this aside to pack later.
Cover ALL the frame and fork tubes with pipe insulation (preferable), wrapped foam, or bubble-wrap. Fold a piece of heavy cardboard over the seat cluster and secure it. Put the rear wheel back in (sans skewer) and secure it with zip-ties. Trapping a layer of cardboard where it contacts the (already padded) frame, secure the front wheel over the main triangle using zip-ties. Depending on fit (you have to test-fit your assembly several times by dropping it into the empty box) you should be able to secure the handlebar/stem combo (stem may have to be rotated) over the top tube or over the rear wheel. Put a layer of cardboard wherever it contacts anything and secure it, again with zip-ties. Put a brace in the fork drops (either a standard plastic one from your LBS or a piece of wood) and tape it into place. Place a strip of heavy cardboard along the front of the fork legs, around the braced fork-ends and up the back of the legs. Secure this with tape. With the fork turned perpendicular to the frame, fold a piece of cardboard around the head tube and upper part of the fork and secure it to the frame. You should now have a complete assembly. Check it to make sure everything is tight and nothing shifts around. Drop it into the box and see how it fits. Now's the time to make adjustments. See where the axles and other protruding parts are close to the sides of the box and mark the spots.
Wrap all the loose parts in bubble-wrap and place them in a couple smaller boxes. I prefer this to using bags, as the boxes can usually be fitted into the bottom corners of the main box to help secure the structure of the box. If using bags for the loose parts, brace the corners of the box with extra cardboard or foam. Check fit again.
At the potential contact points you marked inside the box, tape in an extra layer of cardboard or, preferably, a 6" x 6" square of 1/8" plywood.
Tape the small boxes (or the bags) into the corners of the main box, put some newspaper in the bottom and set the bike assemble in place. Pack enough material (newspaper, foam, whatever) in the box so that NOTHING MOVES. Foam peanuts hold the structure better than newspaper.
Write the TO and FROM info INSIDE the box. Close the box and tape securely both the top, sides AND bottom. Don't rely on the original staples in the bottom flaps! Label the box with the shipping information and cover the labels with clear tape.
Insure, ship and pray.
That's pretty much how I've been doing it for years, and I've had pretty good success. Good luck, and don't blame me if something goes wrong. Sometimes the planets just don't line up right.
Falls Church, VA