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.
Choosing the right case for bike travel is important if you want it to arrive in one piece. There’s always some anguish when you hand over your pride and joy at the airport and see it disappear into the unknown, so having faith in your choice of box or bag can make a difference.
More of us than ever are travelling with bikes, whether it’s for a holiday, training camp or a race, and it shouldn’t be difficult as long as you do your research when choosing which airline to travel with and how to transport your bike.
Just because an airline charges to take a bike, it’s no guarantee your ride will be cared for as you might hope. Some don’t have a separate bike allowance, but will let you take it as part of your luggage allowance, and some charge by the kilo.
A bike box is an invaluable piece of equipment for any travelling cyclist. There’s no perfect answer as to which is the best, because they all have their trade-offs, so it’s important to weigh up your needs before you buy.
Handles can make a huge difference to transporting your bike. One handle might work well for pulling it along, while others make lifting easier. It’s a small addition that can make a big difference.
2. Hard cases
These are made from tough plastic or aluminium. They’re the most robust, offering good protection. The trade-off is that they’re usually heavier and more cumbersome than soft cases.
3. Soft bags
These are made from soft hard-wearing fabric and usually feature added padding and hard bases for extra protection. They’re lighter, which makes it easier to hit airline weight limits.
When you have a week’s worth of luggage, your bike bag/box needs to be as portable as possible. Wheels are a must, and having at least two that steer is helpful. Drag handles make life easier too.
Make sure the box will fit in your car/hire car and check airline size restrictions. Not all bike boxes are easy to carry, but if yours is, it might mean it’s less likely to be dropped by airport staff.
6. Supports and crush poles
Crush poles, made from aluminium or carbon, are used in the centre of a hard case to avoid crushing your frame and components. Supports in soft bags help them keep their shape.
Most airlines require you to deflate your tyres because of potential changes in pressure that could cause them to go bang. They don’t need to be pancake flat, but it’s worth reducing air just in case. Some airlines check, some don’t.
If you carry CO2 inflator cartridges, check your airline’s policy — some allow them in limited quantities while other won’t take them at all.
2. Know your setup
The last thing you want to be worrying about is whether your bike is set up the same as before you left. A piece of electrical tape around the seatpost before you remove it will mean you get the same saddle height.
Use a marker pen or take a photo before removing the bars so you know how many spacers you need above and below the stem.
3. Make the most of your box
Whatever your choice of bike box it’s worth making the most of the space and weight available. Your bike box is the perfect place for packing tools, a track pump, shoes and nutrition products.
Remember these can get thrown around during transport, so pack smartly for damage limitation, especially if you have a carbon bike. Clothes can also be packed for added protection in soft bags.
4. Protect it
Foam lagging (used by plumbers to insulate pipes) is cheap and ideal for wrapping around your bike’s tubes for added protection during transportation. Alternatively, some quality bubble wrap or similar will help keep your bike safe and shiny. Also, both will avoid scuff marks from securing straps or other things floating around in your box. If you’re in a rush and don’t have either, an old t-shirt should do.
5. What to remove
All the bike boxes here require the removal of wheels, which is easy. Some also require removing pedals, bar and stem, saddle and seatpost, and derailleur.
When packing, it’s important to make sure the items you’ve removed are protected and secure, so as not to do damage to them or other parts. Be considerate when it comes to any cables, (electronic or not), making sure to avoid any kinks or stretching.
6. Use baby wipes
A pack of baby wipes is a useful item to have in your bike box. They’re brilliant at removing any dirt and grease from your hands after working on your bike, and equally good for cleaning your bike if the need arises.
BikeBoxAlan has become the hard case benchmark, offering excellent protection without excess weight or costing a fortune. But the USP of Alan’s top-end GPRS is its tracking device that can be monitored by SMS or smartphone app.
The wheels use a skewer to attach to one side, with Velcro securing the frame and components to the other. The fixing clamps work well and have provision for a padlock or zip ties.
This padded soft bag fits a range of bikes and does a good job for the money.
Attaching the bike to the base is crude with lots of Velcro, blocks and ties but it works well. It’s quick release and thru-axle compatible. Zipped wheel compartments keep your hoops safe, plus there’s hard plastic hub protection.
Dragging the Pro isn’t easy because the low handle lifts the bag high, making it a little unstable.
Polaris Bike Pod Pro
4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Polaris Bike Pod Pro is supremely rigid and crack resistantChain Reaction Cycles
Highs: Superior build quality, very secure, compact size
Lows: Requires significant dismantling of the bike
The Polaris Pod Pro is constructed from polypropylene and it’s not only supremely rigid but also very crack resistant. All 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.
Pro Travel Case Mega
4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Pro Travel Case Mega hits the sweet spot between low weight and protectionCycle Store
The Pro Mega is a good performer both in terms of its low weight and — for a soft bag — the protection it offers. Inside, an alloy base frame with sliding adjustable clamp brackets copes with a wide range of wheelbase lengths.
The wheels slip into side pockets with hub protectors and there’s plenty of room for shoes, tools and a pump. This bag features a protective inner foam lining and foam blocks to keep things safe, while four removable rigid rods help keep its shape.
Below, four independently steering wheels and plenty of grab handles make it easy to tow and lift when necessary.
Scicon Aerocomfort TSA 3.0
4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Scicon Aerocomfort TSA 3.0 is pricey, but it packs down and rolls wellWiggle
Mildred’s a utilitarian cyclist at heart, determined to do everything on two wheels, whether it’s commuting or moving house. Her ideal ride covers long distances through remote countryside, on mixed terrain that offers a bit of crunch. Easily won over by steel frames coupled with a 650B/plus tyre combo.