- Drain it dry
Well, that's the rule. You can usually sneak engine oil past the railway chaps if you want. Don't sneak fuel though. If it catches fire, or spills out, forget the losses others will bear, you'll lose your bike. Remember to turn the fuel petcock off. And remember to carry an empty, dry bottle with you so you can get fuel once you get out the other side. Don't be silly enough to carry petrol in your luggage. It isn't worth the convenience.
- Remove all loose ends and fiddly bits
This is actually a painfully tedious process, but usually worth the while. All bits that stick out need to be carried separately (or packed securely with the bike in a less vulnerable place) for best results. Remove indicators, mirrors, tail lamp lenses if it sticks out (like Bullets, RXs etc).
- Disconnect that battery
Personally, I like to remove the battery from the electrical system and then unplug the spark plug cap as well. I don't know why I do this, but it seems to make sense. If your battery is totally full to the brim, also consider draining the fluid level in the cells closer to the lower line – reduces chances of overflow or spillage
- Remove all papers
I'm not sure if the railways need you to store a set of papers on the bike, but I don't like the idea of having a full set of papers stored on the bike that someone could get to/use. If needed, keep a dirty, faded old xerox (will pass inspection, but can't be copied). Ensure you have the originals with you. If you've borrowed someone else's bike, keep an original authority letter with you as well. You will need xeroxes of the papers to book the bike though.
- Tie up the side stand
If you're worried about the bike being stood on the side stand and then loaded with stuff on top, take a bit of rope and wind the sidestand up so it takes some time and effort to undo it. Ensure your main stand isn't bent, cracked or broken.
- Add a seat cover
A cheap, ideally padded rexine seatcover (feel free to pick shag carpets styles, polka or leopard dots... indulge your most rustic fantasies) should cover the seat. Anyone carelessly slashing the seat will only damage a cheap cover.
- Book early
Get to the station with plenty of time in hand, and be prepared to grease a few palms to ensure the bike is taken care of. The railway loaders don't give a shit. Until the shit's worth some money to them, that is.
- Pack well
Cover all painted surfaces – they will get scratched. I'm OCD, so I like to apply masking tape, and wrap in hay and gunny sacks or bubble wrap if I am feeling flush with cash.
- Theft protection
While I haven't heard of theft cases in transit, removing the gear lever (one nut), clutch lever (one nut) and the brake lever (one nut) can be a serious deterrent. You will have to reassemble all the bits when you're ready to ride, of course.
- Pick the right train
If it only stops at your destination station for two minutes, chances are you won't get your bike out in time at the destination. It will probably go back and forth and you'll face days of delays. So pay if you have to and book it on a train that stops for a decent time at your destination station.
- Pick the right destination
The safest bet is a train that ends at your destination. They have to clear out the luggage bogey at the end station, so you'll definitely find your bike at the other side. It might be buried under a mountain of mango crates or something even smellier, but it will be there.