When you head abroad on vacation with your bike, you put a lot of thought into where you'll go, which company you'll fly with, and which hotel you'll stay at, but how do you ensure your bike travels to your destination safely? 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.
No matter how cautious you are with your pride and joy, time-pressed baggage handlers and automated baggage systems may not be quite as gentle: there are horror stories of airlines destroying bikes to attest to that.
But bike bags and boxes are pretty well-designed these days, and do a great job of delivering your bike to your destination and back unscathed.
What to look for in a bike travel case
To help you choose the best travel case for you and your bike, here are some of the most important factors to consider.
Hard or soft shell
Hardshell case bike bags 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 bags 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, helmet 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.
Versatile travel case
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 ham-fisted 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 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 Round Trip 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.
Budget friendly hard case
Sometimes simple is best, and that's precisely what the B&W International Bike Box II has to offer. There are no complicated packing procedures - instead, you get a few layers of foam to protect the frame from the wheels and box, and it all fits inside two interlocking plastic sides.
The clamshell design utilises six self-tightening Velcro buckles to prevent the case from slipping open, and it features a surprising number of handles given the design. B&W International has updated the case with a new plastic designed to flex and not crack, and there are no latches or hinges to break.
With room for up to a 62cm frame, the case rolls on four wheels, two fixed and two free rotating and weighs 11kg with the included padding.
Best for the mechanically inclined
While many airlines are abandoning the extra fees for checking bikes, some still haven't taken note, and that's where the Oru Airport Ninja comes in handy. Travelling with the OruCase Airport Ninja, when asked by desk agents what's in the bag we've told them everything from massage tables and trade show gear, to 'it's just a really weird duffel bag’ — just make sure you’re not wearing a bike t-shirt, trust us.
The Airport Ninja sneaks in under most airlines’ maximum external dimensions limits for baggage and features plastic armour panels which are backed by foam to keep your ride safe. You'll need to remove your pedals, handlebars, front brake, fork and seatpost, and the bag is still a tight fit, but it comes in two sizes to fit a range of frames.
Weighing in at 5kg empty, there is plenty of weight for you to fill the bag with riding clothes (which also work great as extra padding), and there are plush backpack straps to help you get around with minimal fuss.
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