I am doing a cycle tour of Japan starting from Fukuoka and ending in Tokyo. I will be flying with the bike and as my start and end points differ I will not have the opportunity to use a box (unless anyone has any ideas?). I will most likely use one of these bags and I have been told by the airline that nothing is necessary by way of packing the bike but I would naturally like to see my bike in one piece at the other end. The bike is a Specialized Tricross with disc brakes. Does anyone have any pointers as to the safest way to package something like this. I think I will definitely take the rear dérailleur off and wrap bubble wrap along the length of the bike to protect the wheels, pedals etc but other than that I'm not sure what lengths to go to. Does anybody have any experience or ideas?
I flew from UK to USA with my bike in one of these http://www.wiggle.co.uk/dhb-elsted-wheeled-bike-bag/
As you can see it is much more padded than your option which, by the way, is a terrible idea.
My bag had padding around the front and back and the way it was packed meant that you could use the bike wheels as extra protection.
They still managed to completely destroy the rear mech.
My advice is to use a proper box http://www.wiggle.co.uk/b-w-bike-box/
or if you are to use a bag like mine do this:
*Pack as much clothes as you can through the frame.
*Place a helmet between the front forks
*Remove the rear mech and hangar that connects it and place a wooden block or spare hub between the rear frame stays. <<< dont even think about not doing this.
Travelling with a bag such as this has one unexpected advantage: you can get round weight restrictions on most airlines; they dont weigh the bag because it is 'outsized' so you can pretty much pack everything into it and have no other luggage!
I had a similar long-range trip. I was a member of a local bike group and asked them if they, as a part of our membership, owned and lent bike luggage to members. They said they didn't have any but that it was a good idea. Maybe other bike clubs around your town might have luggage that you could rent.
You might want to try bike shops and see if they have any shipping boxes. I get boxes from my LBS to ship eBay parts.
Have you explored shipping it to yourself or to your hotel or a friend? There is something scary about shipping a super expensive bike in a soft bag.
My advice would be not to do it. I don't think bubble wrap would help. I imagine a suit case sitting on spokes and it makes me cringe.
Hardcase, hardcase, hardcase!!!
Your bike is not going to fare well going most of half way around the world in nothing more than a plastic bag. Please believe me. Don't ruin your tour.
Some shops rent hard cases. Call around and see what you can find. Ask your friends. Ask local clubs. Look for a new or used one, buy it, and sell it when you're done. Ship the empty case to your endpoint.
For that matter, you'll probably be better off- both in terms of how the bike is treated and how much it costs you- if you pack the bike and ship it ahead of time. Just make arrangements with family/friends/local shop to receive it. Get it insured.
Whatever you do, don't ship your bike in a plastic bag. If you don't heed my warning, please post pics.
A Local Bike Shop will be able to disassemble your bike and properly pack it into one of the same cardboard boxes that brand new bikes get shipped to them in. When you reach your destination, another bike shop will be able to re-assemble it (if you aren't comfortable doing this yourself) and throw away the cardboard box. At the end of your ride, have another LBS disassemble it and pack it into another cardboard bike box to ship home. Expect to pay somewhere between $50 and $75 to have it packed and somewhere between $75 and $150 to have it reassembled by qualified mechanics.
Also, I recommend contacting all of the bike shops ahead of time to make sure they'll be able to work with your schedule.
Finally, I recommend having the bike shipped ahead and not bringing it with you to the airport. Airport baggage handler are much tougher on your luggage than UPS, also, if you ship it before you go, the shop can have it assembled by the time you get there.
Good luck, and enjoy your trip.