What to Look for in a Bike Travel Bag-
If you are setting out on a cycling adventure and have decided to bring your bike with you, the most important decision you will make is which travel bag to use for your bike. There are many materials, sizes and features to consider but I have simplified the process for you and provided recommendations for bags we have used with success in the past or that have been recommended to us by reliable sources.
HARD vs. SOFT CASE
I've used both a hard and soft case and prefer the soft case.
- Advantages of the hard case:
- More protection for the bike.
- Advantages of the soft case:
- Lighter than the hard case so possibly less charges by the airline.
- Collapses so you can more easily transport it in the car.
- Generally less expensive than higher end hard cases.
TRAVEL BAG REVIEW & RECOMMENDATIONS
- Just Go For It: Thule Roundtrip Pro XT
I have used several bike bags on 50+ flights and my personal preference is the Thule Roundtrip Pro XT
- Big enough to handle road, gravel and mountain bikes.
- Provides good protection for the bike (there are removable folding solid side panels)
- Rolls well and is fairly stable when pulling it through the airport.
- Game Changer: Integrated bike holder and assembly stand for assembling and disassembling the bike - I LOVE this the stand which is a rare feature for bike bags.
- Easy to get the bike into the case - this is a function of the assembly stand - you are actually assembling the bike on the bottom fitting of the bike case so when you are done with assembly, you just slide the base with the bike on it into the bag and it clicks into place - smooth as butter - really!
- The bag is long enough where you don't have to remove the rear derailleur, which is a big plus for mechanically challenged me.
- You can use this bag for road bike on up to mountain bike - a huge advantage if you travel for both activities.
- Price: $750 is in the upper range for soft shells - but, if you can afford it, there is no better choice.
- For those who need the absolute greatest protection for their bike, this is close, but not as protective as the hard case.
- Only two rollers - so, you have to pick the bike up on one end and pull it with the two rear rollers.
Having the bike stand to assemble and disassemble the bike is a major benefit for me - I am often going through multiple packing/unpacking evolutions on my trips and having the bike stand significantly eases the bike build/breakdown process. Another major plus if the size of the bag offers extra space at the front and back of the bike.
- Bullet Proof - Ultimate Peace Of Mind: Buxumbox Ventoux
Buxumbox Ventoux Mountain Bike (MTB) Box - this is the gold standard in hard cases and used by PJAMM adventurer extraordinaire Luke Hise (we will be traveling to Saudi Arabia in November 2021 to document cycling climbs in the Asir Mountains). Luke swears by this box:
"I can highly recommend this product. Go with the smaller offering. Not once have I had damage to the bike. Never tell the airlines it is a box. Tell them it is media equipment. All of a sudden, the price is half. I have the Ventoux MTB bike box. Fortunately, I have never had to move the box between hotels during my travels. The most challenging situation arose in Bogota when I was required to leave the box at the hotel for two days while outside the city, they were kind enough to accommodate me without question. The box does not disassemble or collapse."
- Extremely durable: You could probably drop this box out of a plane at 30,000', retrieve it and ride your bike from the drop point.
- Easy assembly/disassembly.
- Nearly any type of bike will fit in it.
- Four wheels on the bottom - this is the most convenient and easiest way to get a bike around the airport - on rollers.
- You can get custom finishes (that's rare).
- There is a work stand accessory you can buy for ~$130 that goes on top of the box and holds the bike in place while you assemble it.
- Price - £850 (GBP).
- Size and weight - at 30 lbs empty you're gonna pay extra at the pump . . .
- Cumbersome and awkward to transport: The box is large and does not collapse - a disabling problem if you have a compact car (e.g. for the Alps) or two cyclists with the same box and a minivan.
The Buxumbox Ventoux MTB is available by visiting their website at: buxumbox.com
- Meeting Halfway - The Plastic Case: SCICON AeroTech Evolution TSA Bike Box
A highly rated and popular plastic case is the SCICON AeroTech Evolution TSA bike box.
- Plastic is in general more protective of the bike than soft bags
- Lighter than most plastic cases at 24 pounds.
- Don't need to remove handlebars.
- Easy to pack.
- Easy to roll around the airport - four wheel system.
- Pricey - at the high end of the hard case spectrum.
- As with all hard cases, they take up a lot of space in your car and/or rental car.
The SCICON AeroTech Evolution TSA bike box is available at: TREKbikes.com
- Body Armor (a Little Short of Bullet Proof): BIKND 4
I've owned three BIKND travel cases (one BIKND 3 and two BIKND 4's). I have gone exclusively to the Thule noted above because it's easier to assemble/disassemble the bike using that case. However, the BIKND does provide a little more protection than the Thule (that's not to say the Thule does not provide sufficient protection of the bike in transit).
- Because of the inflatable air bladders on each side of the case, BIKND provides almost as much protection as a hard case.
- Breaks down as small as any case I've ever seen.
- A breeze to wheel around the airport - there are four wheels (two at each end of the case) that make transport very efficient.
- Cumbersome to pack the bike (you have to do this in the case) and to get the two air bladders lined up and pumped up.
- It is a bit more delicate than the Thule, in my experience. I've had two or three of the front wheels break (over the course of 20+ very rugged trips, I should say). The good news is they are easy to replace, BIKND had good customer service on the occasions I've needed it and the wheels are available as accessories on the BIKND website.
The BIKND 4 is available at: Amazon.com
- Easiest to Pack (and Best Tri-Bike Case): SCICON AeroComfort Road TSA 3.0
I have had limited experience with this bike bag but have run across two cyclists (on different trips) that absolutely loved the bag.
- Easy to pack - you can leave everything on the bike other than wheels (see YouTube video) (Note that some airlines require removal of handlebars and pedals).
- Nice touch with easy instructions on the outside of the wheel bags.
- Plastic frame around the derailleur provides a little extra protection.
- All the padding is named so you don't have to guess where it goes.
- Fairly light at around 19 pounds.
- Collapses for better storage in the car while travelling after assembling the bike.
- The bag is very wide which can make transport cumbersome depending on circumstances.
- There is no stand with the bag - you must do all your packing bent over at bag level.
- The bag does not offer as much protection as a hard case or other soft cases.
Another bag that is well respected and provides "ultimate ease" in packing to the Scicon is the Evoc Pro Road Bike Bag. Like the SCICON AeroComfort Road TSA 3.0, this bag permits you to leave on the seat and handlebars. The downside is that the bag is very wide, including when collapsed and it is only for road bikes - no dual function here. But, it's another option to consider
- The "Off the Books" Bike Bag: Orucase Airport Ninja Bike Travel Case or Orucase B2:
Orucase "Airport Ninja" Bike Travel Case (Sub62) or the more contemporary Orucase B2.
The only bike bag I'm aware of that can "beat the system" is the Orucase Sub 62. I have researched this bag online and also seen it in action with Mitch Reid on our trip to Japan/Thailand/Taiwan. Mitch and I got on five flights together (including domestic and international) and it never failed - they never charged him more than a standard baggage fee. Here is Mitch's input on the bag:
- I've flown too many times to remember off the top of my head, but if I had to guess I'm probably approaching 50+ flights with my bike.
- I've travelled to Ecuador, Colombia, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, The Netherlands, and tons of domestic US travel between MA, NV, and CO.
- I have only ever used the Orucase Airport Ninja bike bag. I have used it for both caliper brake road bikes, disc brake road bikes, and disc brake gravel bikes.
- I have never been charged a bike fee for my Sub62.
PJAMM friend and uber cyclist Mollie Bernstein swears by her Sub62. She has flown about 20 times with it and never been charged a bike fee - here's Mollie's input on the case:
"Airlines always ask me what is in the bag. I say "art supplies" and unless they are TSA, they can't look inside my bag. No one has looked inside my bag or gotten out a tape measure to make sure the bag is within the dimensions. However, I have a friend who flew Southwest recently and they measured his bag and made him pay the extra fees. Now, I try to fly Alaska and Delta exclusively because they don't charge any extra fees for a bike, regardless of size."
- Mid-range of pricing at $499 (B2 is $599).
- Avoids airline bike charges.
- Small and compact design.
- Older models had no wheels requiring you to carry the bag on your back everywhere, but the newer Orucase B2 does have wheels.
- Larger bikes won't fit into the bag (it should fit most 56mm though).
- There is more disassembly required for packing your bike. The seatpost, fork, rear derailleur, even your derailleur hanger has to come off.
- Doesn't collapse as well as other soft bags (the B2 does collapse well).
Personally, this is not the case for me because I prefer a bigger bag that can easily roll and requires minimal dismantling of the bike. But if you are looking for a stealth way to possibly fool the airlines into thinking there isn't a bike inside, this may be for you
TRAVELING WITH YOUR BIKE
Looking for tips on the best way to travel with your bike? Check out our blog post on transporting your bike for cycling trips.
For a comprehensive checklist of items I always run through when I head out on a cycling adventure please visit:Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip