On show: Interbike 2009 Part 7

Biknd's Helium is (almost) lighter than air

The new Helium travel case from Canadian upstart Biknd aims to blend the protection of a hard travel case but the weight and convenience of a soft case thanks to an innovative layout that features inflatable padding instead of traditional foam.

Unlike hard cases which can typically weigh upwards of 13kg (29lb), claimed weight on the Helium is under 9kg (19.8lb) – so while you'll still get hit with the airlines' increasingly exorbitant fees for transporting bikes, you at least might not have to pay an additional overweight charge.

The Helium uses a five-layer layout and opens on all sides for easy packing and unpacking. The frame is firmly locked in the centre on a rigid heavy-duty plastic base with a front quick-release skewer, a tough bottom bracket pad, and a rear dropout dummy axle that is then strapped down to the rear of the centre plate.

There's enough room on either side of the frame for up to <i>two</i> sets of wheels (they're strapped in tight, too, and hard plastic axle protectors are also included) and the whole thing is easily wheeled around on four casters.

Zip everything up and then use the included pump to inflate the two air pads – one resides on either side of the bike in between the frame and wheels. Biknd says just 5-10psi will do the trick and the front of the pack is a rigid molded bit to add further protection to forks and handlebars. Up top are additional pockets to conveniently store smaller bits like pedals and skewers.

When all is said and done, the result is an impressively solid setup – at least based on initial observations – and Biknd claims the Helium will fit road bikes up to 64cm and most dual-suspension cross-country and all-mountain bikes. When not in use, the Helium even folds down to a conveniently compact setup for easy storage in a closet or under a bed.

What happens if you spring a leak, you ask? In case of a puncture, Biknd claims there's still enough traditional foam padding to get your prized possession safely to its destination and individual spare parts like the inflatable pads, casters, and various hardware will be available, too.

Suggested retail price is US$599.95 and Biknd says the first production run will be in stores sometime around January.

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