I worked at a bicycle shop for four years. We had a tour company that specialized in overseas tours so I packed a ton of bikes. Kdeg00 mentioned the best way to ship via the airlines. The hard cases provide much more protection but even those aren't invincible. During the presidential campaign I handled John Kerry's aircraft a number of times and there were a few bikes in the back every time in trico hardcases. I'm sure his serrotta was in one but those things looked like they had been through hell. If I was flying domestically, I'd ship with UPS or FX
. It will save some money and chances are the bike will be in better shape upon arrival. Ship it to a local shop, they should sign for it. Pay them to build it back up or do it yourself. You'll have an excuse to go in a bike shop and get the scoop on the favorite local rides.
When I packaged bikes to be shipped, I did it in the same fashion that they were delivered to us from the manufacturer. Most shops should give you the materials free since they just throw most of it away. We would take the pedals and front wheel off. Depending on the stem set up we would take the handlebar off or the whole stem out. I really like detatchable face stems for this. Threaded stems with one clamp bolt make things more difficult. Pad the tubes on the frame and zip tie the handlebar to the top tube. Remove the skewer from the front wheel and ziptie the front wheel to the non drive (left) side of the bike. If using cardboard,LEAVE THE REAR WHEEL IN
. Without the rear wheel, the chainstays and seatstays are weak and will bend/crack with little side load. Also, resting the crankset on the bottom of the box could damage it or cause it to punch through the box. The shop will give you little plastic pieces to put over the skewer on the back and a plastic cap to put in the fork dropouts. Use these to keep the box intact and maintain some lateral strength in the fork. As for the box, most shops recycle them so they should give it to you free as well. I'd try and find one from a high-end trek or other US made bike. Nothing wrong with the Asian or European bikes (I ride an Italian road bike), it's just that they get beat up a little more on the boat ride over here. It's not the weight so much as it is the bulk(Unless you're shipping a huffy). A bike box is tough to get in the pit of a smaller aircraft.
Sorry this is so long and in detail, but it's pretty important to do this right. If your road bike is 17lbs, it's probably pretty high-end. Don't hesitate to email me with additional questions. The only thing that rivals my passion for airplanes is my passion for bicycles. I figure I'm just keeping in line with Wilbur and Orville