Best bike boxes and bike bags

By Warren Rossiter, Triathlon Plus | Wednesday, March 14, 2012 10.10am

If you take your bike on holiday with you, the right bag or box can make the difference between it arriving safely or in several pieces. Here's our pick of the best travel cases we've tested so far this year.

How we tested the latest boxes and bike bags

Most bags and boxes will take a standard drop-bar road bike or hardtail mountain bike with ease, but things get a little more difficult when it comes to time trial/triathlon machines and full-suspension rigs. For this reason, we used a Specialized Shiv with 335mm straight bar extensions for our testing. 

This is one of the more extreme aero frames around so if this fits then whatever you’re riding should too – although we'd always advise checking the measurements (wheelbase, etc) to make sure. We also tried the bags with a standard 56cm road bike.

Each bag or box was packed, carried up flights of stairs, rolled, and dropped from a decent height to check for the case toughness. Bags were dragged around to check for abrasion, and we were generally much more abusive than we'd be with our own stuff.

Best bike boxes

1 Biknd Helium Bike Case

£425 / $600

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

star:

"Innovative design protects brilliantly and packs small, too"

Bikind helium case:

The great thing about the Biknd Helium is the way it offers the protection of a hard case with the storage of a soft bag. The core of this travel case is an aluminium-framed sled base, with four wheels for easy wheeling. 

The aluminium frame allows the bike's fork to be mounted to a solid anchor with the included skewer. The bottom bracket shell sits on a padded base and is strapped into place. The wheels lock into mounts on the inner sides. Plenty of supports and straps hold the frame. 

The sides have super-tough, lilo-like inflatable ribs in them. Use the included foot pump and you’ve got 5in-thick air-sprung protection. The side of the bag where your fork sits offers hard-case-like protection for your frame. Compared to all the other bags on the market, the Helium is the next evolutionary step.

  • Size: 125 x 75 x 32cm
  • Weight: 9.74kg
  • Extras: Fork dropout mount, pads, hub protectors, pump
  • From: Biknd / C3 Products (UK)

2 Bikebox Alan

£438 / $700

 Buy now from:

J E James Cycles

star:

"Quality build, clever design and a custom option"

Bikebox alan:

Outwardly similar to designs from Polaris and Scicon, it’s inside this hard case where Bikebox do things differently. The wheels attach to the side and this is separated from the bike by a fitted foam pad. The second pad has integrated strapping to hold the frame secure. 

In addition, there's mount provision for a track pump, seat pack (included) and even a bottle (also included). We like the included anti-crush bar. Its an aluminium tube that fits across the centre of the box, protecting your frame should something heavy get dropped on its side.

The attention to detail makes it obvious that riders who have travelled extensively put this bike box together. All of the sturdy clamps are replaceable and include padlock loops, and the four wheels are hidden and protected. Bikebox can customize the box size for £25.

  • Size: 105 x 82-90 x 30cm
  • Weight: 11.74kg
  • Extras: Bottle, saddlepack, straps, anti-crush tube
  • From: Bikebox Alan / Bikebox US

3 Scicon AeroTech Evolution TSA

£703 / $1,400

 Buy now from:

J E James Cycles

star:

"Simply superb case, but prohibitively expensive"

Scicon aerotech evolution:

The Scicon Aerotech is the original form-fitting hard case. Your bike's wheels mount into the box side with the supplied steel skewers; you then slip over the padded covers to protect them and your frame. 

The frame hangs from the box top by integral straps and it’s secured with straps from below. This means it effectively floats within the hard case. The frame is also protected with a four-sided padded enclosure. 

The Aerotech’s fittings, the wheels, handles and combination lock clasps are all replaceable. Fitting our test frame meant removing the bar assembly, but if you spin the frame to the other way round the seatmast can be left in place. The Aerotech is the best of its type, but it's hard to justify the extra expense over the Bikebox or PRO Pod.

  • Size: 114 x 89 x 78cm
  • Weight: 11.7kg
  • Extras: Wheel shields, frame pads, accessory bag, four-sided padded frame enclosure, drivetrain cover
  • From: Scicon

Value award: Serfas Bike Case

£299 / $350

 Buy now from:

Amazon

star:

"Simple, solidly built and good value, with good security features"

Serfas bike case:

The Serfas bike box has been around for more than a decade. Its simple two-piece clamshell design makes packing easy. All of the hardware, clamps, handles and wheels are quality metal-framed items. 

The wheels are set into the sides rather than the bottom, which means you trolley it around in a vertical position, which is great for getting through doorways and onto airport travelators. The shell is crack-resistant and takes knocks well. Incorporated into the clamps are handy padlock loops for extra security.

 Fitting our bike required some dismantling, but we liked the fact that Serfas include plenty of straps to tie it all down, plus dropout spacers to keep the frame safe. We like the Serfas's simple, sturdy design, and the price isn’t too much of a shock either.

  • Size: 111 x 72 x 26cm
  • Weight: 10.3kg
  • Extras: Three foam layers, straps, dropout spacers
  • From: Serfas / Walkers Cycles (UK)

Also consider: Polaris Bike Pod Pro

£475 / $640

 Buy now from:

Probikekit

star:

"Superior build quality, very secure and compact size makes it easy to transport"

Polaris pod pro:

The Polaris Pod Pro is constructed from polypropylene and it’s not only supremely rigid but also very crack resistant. The four individual trolley wheels are deeply recessed to avoid accidental breakages. All of the hardware, handles, wheels and clasps are bolted into place and fully replaceable. Of the four clasps, two are lockable for added security.

Inside, on each side of the box, are fitments for the wheels that allow the hubs to centre. These are locked into place with integrated position guides and reusable zip-ties. The frame is then sandwiched between the included foam and plenty of straps are included to lock it down.

The compact proportions are great for transporting but mean you may have to dismantle your bike quite significantly to fit it in. On the upside, we had total confidence in the Pod Pro’s protection.

  • Size: 116 x 86 x 30cm
  • Weight: 11.4kg
  • Extras: Strapping, reusable zip-ties
  • From: Polaris

Also consider: Polaris EVA Bike Pod

£250 / $320

 Buy now from:

Probikekit

star:

"Excellent build quality, with low weight for the large amount of protection"

Polaris eva bike pod:

The Polaris EVA Bike Pod looks similar to offerings from Bike Box and Scicon. Where it differs is in the use of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) material for the shell. This has a semi-rigid structure and offers the same amount of protection as a hard case but with less weight. At 8kg it’s more than 3kg lighter than the competition.

The case closes with a full heavy-duty zip. This is backed up with additional quick-release buckles. Fitting in our bike did require dismantling, but we like that Polaris have included two heavy-duty skewers to fit your wheels to the integral ports on the pod’s side. 

The quality is top-notch, with all the fittings being metal and riveted into place. For a road bike this offers the best balance of protection and weight around. For a bigger bike things are a little snug so you may want to try before you buy.

  • Size: 122 x 93 x 26cm
  • Weight: 8.1kg
  • Extras: Steel skewers
  • From: Polaris

Also consider: Elite Vaison Bike Box

 Buy now from:

Evans Cycles

£350 / $460

star:

"Massive, tough, hefty and good value, too. Easy to pack and surprisingly easy to transport"

Elite vasion bike box:

The Elite Vaison has had an overhaul for 2012. The structure is now more resistant to squashing. We stood on the side and, while it dips, it doesn’t get too far. The redesign also dropped a lot of weight, although at 16.44kg it’s still the heaviest here. 

Inside, two full-size pads keep the wheels separate from the frame. But the fully open design means plenty of space for accessories and kit. Even though the Elite has large dimensions, we still needed to remove the bar extensions to get our test bike to fit. 

But the simplicity meant getting everything in was a doddle, helped by the internal straps to make everything secure. The case has two lockable clasps and the wheels are recessed out of the way. They’re also larger in diameter so we had no problems wheeling it across rough surfaces and even gravel.

  • Size: 118 x 75 x 32cm
  • Weight: 16.44kg
  • Extras: Pads, straps, roof rack fitting kit
  • From: Elite / Madison (UK)

Also consider: DHB Elsted Bike Box

£175 / $TBC

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

star:

"Great value for a hard case but on the weighty side"

DHB elsted bike box:

The DHB Elsted hard case looks like a massive suitcase. The plastic casing is very thick and resistant to cracking. We’ve dropped it from a height onto its corners and generally abused it but it stayed structurally solid. 

It has two large end wheels and a side mounted grab handle enabling it to be scooted around, with a second set of wheels so it can be pushed horizontally too. The inside is lined with dense foam and two large corrugated foam pads add even more protection. Two further square corrugated foam pads are included to protect the fork ends and bottom bracket shell. 

Security is paramount, with lockable top clasps and a combination lock. The sides are supported with a further four hook clamps. Once packed there was still room for extras so you’ll get your kit, shoes and even helmet in too. The downside is the weight.

  • Size: 99-110 x 81 x 24cm
  • Weight: 13.4kg
  • Extras: Wheel bags, frame strapping, corrugated pads, pedal pouch
  • From: DHB / Wiggle (UK)

Best bike bags

1 DHB Elsted Wheeled Bike Bag

£63 / $99

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

star:

"Masses of space but little in the way of padding or strapping"

DHB elsted wheeled bike bag:

The DHB Elsted's dimensions are the biggest we’ve seen, but at 6.78kg it’s light for the size. Fitting our test bike was pretty simple. The frameset fitted in with no problems. Two large slots hold the wheels in place and there's plenty of space left over for accessories and kit. 

The construction is heavyweight-coated polyester and the lining is a ripstop-like fabric. The base and corners are reinforced, adding a bit of structure and protection. The padding is dense 20mm crush-resistant foam. 

It offers decent impact protection for a bag, and still allows the bag to be folded, making it easier to store. Dual wheels and a grab handle make it easy to move and twin shoulder straps means you can lug it upstairs, though the large size means it helps if you’re tall.

  • Size: 134 x 90 x 26cm
  • Weight: 6.78kg
  • Extras: ID pocket 
  • From: DHB / Wiggle (UK)

2 Scicon AeroComfort 2.0 TSA

£475 / $650

 Buy now from:

Probikekit

star:

"Stunningly good soft bag that's easy to load and offers excellent protection, but expensive"

Scicon aero cycle comfort plus:

The Scicon Comfort Plus is certainly pricey for a soft bag but it does go the extra mile in the protection stakes. The offset shape allows a road bike to be fitted inside with the bars in place. On our aero bike we only had to remove the extensions. 

The rigid base has a metal framework that secures the bike at both sets of dropouts. The wheels are taken care of with two integral padded bags. Inner pockets are there for your tools and pedals. It’s surprisingly lightweight for a bike bag that features a metal frame mount, at 6.9kg. 

The four trolley wheels are a bit exposed and could be potentially damaged. The nylon outer is thickly padded and it’ll offer better protection than most. This is a brilliant bag, but it has a price premium over the competition.

  • Size: 115 x 87 x 28cm
  • Weight: 6.9kg
  • Extras: Frame bag, frame pads, handlebar and rear derailleur padding
  • From: Scicon

3 Polaris Cargo Bag

 Buy now from:

Probikekit

£110 / $TBC

star:

"Lightweight bike bag that's a good size and easy to transport"

Polaris cargo bag:

The inside of the Polaris Cargo Bag features two large zipped compartments for pedals and accessories, plus two padded wheel bags. Externally it has twin shoulder straps, a grab handle, reinforced base and two encapsulated roller wheels. 

The robust nylon fabric is backed with dense 10mm thick foam. The size enabled us to fit our test bike in, only needing to slide the aero extensions back into the clamps towards the top tube. With a bagged wheel either side of the frame it was snug but manageable. 

What also impressed us was the weight. At just 5.32kg it’s light for such a decent size. The reinforced base with plastic skids has enough structure to prevent the bag from flopping over. The sides are still pliable enough to be able to fold over and reduce the size when you’re storing it.

  • Size: 126 x 80 x 23cm
  • Weight: 5.32kg
  • Extras: Two wheel bags, tool roll, luggage tag
  • From: Polaris

Value: Chain Reaction Cycles Complete Bike & Wheel Bags

£60 / $89

 Buy now from:

Chain Reaction Cycles

star:

"On the small side, but well made and great value"

Chain reaction cycles complete:

The CRC bag has smaller dimensions than most. It has a reinforced base with plastic runners, twin corner wheels, seven interior pockets, tool wrap and four quick-access zips, which double as slots to hang it on a bike rack. The sides are padded with 20mm thick high-density foam.

The smaller dimensions meant we had to dismantle our test bike to get it to fit. The rear mech was removed and taped to the chainstays, and the whole bar assembly was undone and taped to the top tube. We also had to rotate the fork and remove the seatmast. 

With a standard road bike it was easier, though we still needed to remove the bar and stem and seatpost. The reinforced base holds its shape well, making it easy to trolley around. The tough polyester material takes the knocks and we had plenty of faith in the dense foam padding.

  • Size: 122 x 68 x 23cm
  • Weight: 6.12kg
  • Extras: ID pocket, padded wheel bags, tool wrap
  • From: Chain Reaction Cycles

Also consider: We haven't tested it for a couple of years but the EVOC Bike Travel Bag scored a whopping four-and-a-half stars back in 2010.

Box or bag?

Whether you opt for a box or bike bag really depends on the amount of travelling you do, and the type of bike. If it’s just an occasional overseas trip then a bag offers unrivalled value, and can be stored more easily when not in use. However, if you travel a lot and want your bike to have the very ultimate in protection, we’d opt for a hard case. 

If you're on a tight budget and can't stretch to either option, try asking your local bike shop if they have any spare cardboard bike boxes. These are extremely lightweight, helping to avoid excess baggage charges, but aren't as durable and don't offer the same level of protection as a fabric bag or box. For packing tips, see our workshop guide: How to use a car boot rack and bike box.

What to look for when choosing a bike bag or box

Handles: The more the better: a grab handle allowing you to trolley the case is ideal, as is a shoulder strap for getting upstairs. Secondary handles and grips to help lift it into the boot of a car are welcome too.

Wheels: Ideal for scooting through airports, look for wheels that are well protected: either encapsulated into the base, or set into big recesses. Wheels that stand proud will get broken off, and trying to wheel a one-and-a-half metre long bag or one dodgy wheel is no fun at all.

Interior: Ripstop fabrics and plenty of foam padding will help keep your bike safe. A case with plenty of accessory straps and mounting points means you’ll be able to pack your bike and strap it in to prevent it from being shaken around inside which can mean accidental damage to the contents.

Wheel storage: Soft bags with wheel compartments or accessory wheel bags are worth seeking out. Some clever hard cases have secure wheel mounts in the sides separated from the main bike compartment. Again these are the things to look for on a quality bag or case.

Security: Key-lockable clasps are good, as are padlock hoops. Cases that offer multiple locking points are the most secure. Soft bags don’t tend to have the same level of security as hard cases.

This article is based on a group test published in Triathlon Plus magazine, which is available on Zinio.

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