It's scary to send your bike down the conveyor belt at the oversized baggage check-in and put it in someone else's hands for an extended period of time. You'll be ever cautious with your pride and joy, but time-pressed baggage handlers and automated baggage systems may not be quite as gentle. There are horror stories of airlines destroying bikes but today's best bike cases and bags are designed to deliver your bike to your destination and back unscathed.
Read on for our pick of the best bike travel cases, along with our guide on what to look for in a bike bag.
Hard or soft shell
Hard Shell bike travel cases were the best way to travel with a bike for quite some time; however, engineers at bike brands are pretty clever and softshell bags are nearly on par for protection, weigh less, and often have removable ribbing so they can be neatly rolled up for storage.
With a plastic base, wheels, internal skeleton, and robust materials, bike travel cases are heavy before you put anything inside, and some are pudgier than others. Most airlines will give you 23kg / 50lbs before they hit you with an exorbitant overweight baggage fee, and if your bag weighs 12kg empty, when you pack a 6.8kg lightweight road bike, shoes and a track pump you'll be nudging up against that limit.
Are you just looking to travel with just your road bikes, or will you be taking trips with your mountain bike too? Are you riding an aero road bike with integrated handlebars or TT bars? Are you riding an XL frame? These are all things to take into account when shopping for a bike travel case because some of the more compact options are simply too small for certain bikes and frame sizes.
Some disassembly required
No bike bag will take your bike fully assembled, but some require considerably more disassembly and mechanical acumen than others. At the very least you’ll have to pop your wheels off, but some bags also require you to remove your seat post, handlebars, and even the fork.
Wheels and handles
For something designed to help you move around with a bike in tow, bike travel cases are unsurprisingly awkward and cumbersome to move around with. If you want to avoid a back injury, a set of wheels should be a minimum requirement, especially if you'll be walking much after you land - some even use easily replaceable roller blade wheels. In addition, you'll want plenty of handles to help you hoist your bag onto a conveyor belt or into the back of a car.
Takes anything from a road bike to a 29er enduro MTB
Around any bike event, you're likely to see a sea of Evoc bike bags, because they are some of the best you can buy. With room for anything from a lightweight roadie to a long and slack 29er enduro bike, the Pro version includes an aluminium tray that attaches to the axles of the bike inside the bag and doubles as a work-stand when it's time to rebuild.
Inside, the bike is secured with a range of Velcro straps and purpose-built padding, and are plenty big enough for road and MTB wheels. Inside the bag, there are internal pockets for tools and pedals and the removable plastic ribbing allows the bag to be rolled up for storage.
The back features two ultra-smooth roller blade wheels and a third which slots into the front handle for easy transition from the baggage claim to your accommodation.
Bike bag for the less confident home mechanic
The beauty of the Scicon AeroComfort 3.0 TSA is you can pack your bike without turning a single bolt (unless you have thru-axles); all you have to do is remove the wheels.
With a rigid Frame Defender metal base, the bike slots in using your quick release or thru-axles, and comes with plenty of additional padding and a gear bag that's secured to the base under the downtube.
At 9kg empty the bike straps into the bag securely, and the 360-degree wheels allow for easy one-handed dragging. With all of that said, we’ve seen baggage handlers stack Scicon bags upside down on baggage carts on multiple occasions so they won’t roll away, so consider some additional padding for your handlebars and shifters.
Soft case nearing budget-friendly
Bike travel cases and bags are expensive, and if you don't have a bundle to drop on a soft travel case, the RoundTrip Travel does well to toe the line between price and performance/protection. Using removable plastic ribbing for shape, the RoundTrip Traveler folds down completely flat when not in use.
The bike is secured with a fixed-fork block which has adaptors for all modern axle standards and uses a padded bottom-bracket block, similar to the standard Evoc Bag. Inside there are heaps of zippered pockets for things like tools and pedals, and the bag sees padded wheel pockets big enough for 29er wheels and tyres.
At the back, there are two sizeable alloy wheels that don't get caught up on cracks or doorways, and at 7.7kg empty, it's noticeably lighter than pricier models.
A soft shell bag that needs reinforcing
If you don’t want to spend a lot on a high-end travel case for your bike, you can always opt for a cheaper soft shell bag like this Bike Sack from B&W International.
The robust Nylon bag weighs just under 3lbs, so it really helps to keep the overall baggage weight down as low as possible. The main compartment will house the frame, while two inside pockets can hold the wheels. Just make sure to reinforce the most vulnerable parts: we’d recommend putting some cardboard between the wheels and the outer wall, and put something protective around the derailleur. Many people fashion something from cardboard or a plastic bottle. You can also use cheap plumbing installation tubes to protect the frame from getting scratched.
You’ll need to do some extra thinking about how you pack your bike, but this makes for a very budget-friendly option.
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Mildred is a Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews who loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike. She does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors. Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall.
Height: 156cm (5'2")
Rides: Liv Devote, Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Whyte Victoria, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike
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