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 bike box or bag
More of us than ever are travelling with our 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.
Things to consider when choosing a bike box
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.
6 tips and tricks for boxing a bike
1. Deflate your tyres
2. Know your setup
3. Make the most of your box
4. Protect it
5. What to remove
6. Use baby wipes
Best bike boxes and bags
Evoc Bike Travel Bag Pro
£469 / $TBC
- Size: 147 x 85 x 36cm
- Weight: 8kg
Evoc’s Pro offers a good balance of protection, low weight and portability. This robust bag is given extra in-use support with removable composite canes and PVC tubes.
The frame sits on a plastic block that uses Velcro to attach it to the moulded base, while the fork is housed in a padded sheath. Everything is held securely with Velcro straps.
It’s easy to pack once you’ve done it a couple of times.
BikeBoxAlan GPRS Race
£570 / $TBC
- Size: 105 x 90 x 30cm
- Weight: 11.74kg
- Highs: Solid, neat packing, easy rolling
- Lows: Fewer grab handles than some
Scicon AeroTech Evolution TSA
£703 / $1,400"Simply superb case, but prohibitively expensive"
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.
Value award: Serfas Bike Case
£299 / $350"Simple, solidly built and good value, with good security features"
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.
Also consider: Polaris Bike Pod Pro
£475 / $640
"Superior build quality, very secure and compact size makes it easy to transport"
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 / Chain Reaction
Also consider: Polaris EVA Bike Pod
£250 / $320
"Excellent build quality, with low weight for the large amount of protection"
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.
Also consider: Elite Vaison Bike Box
£350 / $460
"Massive, tough, hefty and good value, too. Easy to pack and surprisingly easy to transport"
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 / Evans (UK)
Also consider: DHB Elsted Bike Box
£175 / $TBC
"Great value for a hard case but on the weighty side"
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
DHB Elsted Wheeled Bike Bag
£63 / $99
"Masses of space but little in the way of padding or strapping"
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.
Scicon AeroComfort 2.0 TSA
£475 / $650
"Stunningly good soft bag that's easy to load and offers excellent protection, but expensive"
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 / Competitive Cyclist
Polaris Cargo Bag
£110 / $TBC
"Lightweight bike bag that's a good size and easy to transport"
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 / Evans
Value: Chain Reaction Cycles Complete Bike & Wheel Bags
£60 / $89
"On the small side, but well made and great value"
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.