Are you planning to travel with your bicycle on a cycling tour and considering how to transport it? If you have spent a significant amount of money on a carbon frame bicycle (and wheels) and you intend to travel by plane, it may be worth investing in a decent bike box. What are the best bicycle transport cases? Is a cardboard box bicycles are sold in sufficient? A corrugated plastic bike box? Do I need to splurge for a soft or hard case? Let’s run through the options and look at the pros and cons of each. Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The Free / Cheap Options
The cheapest option is using a cardboard box bicycles are sold in. They often don’t last – especially in inclement weather, and may not offer complete protection, but they are generally (next to) free at your local bike shop, and if packed properly, especially with some foam padding, do offer protection. I have traveled this way with my son and his road bike (not carbon!) and it made the round trip beautifully. You need to be aware that the box could be damaged beyond repair on the outbound leg of your trip, leaving you searching for a box for your return trip.
Similar to a cardboard box but more protective is the Enviro Bike Box. Waterproof, weatherproof, and extendable, this corrugated plastic option is not free, but relatively inexpensive, costing less than $200 AU. It is also more protective than the standard cardboard bicycle box and only weighs between 5 and 6 kg. For those transporting a tandem bicycle, they have an option that will work for that size too. My question is whether this box will withstand the abuse airport workers put luggage through, including stacking multiple heavy suitcases on top of bike luggage.
A lightweight (8 kg) soft case option is the Scicon Aerocomfort Road 3.0. A very nice feature of this bag is that other than removing the wheels, the bike fits into the case as is. There is no need to do anything else; not even lowering the saddle. The bicycle can really be packed in just a few minutes. Also, they do have a tandem bike option. There are a few downsides with this option. For starters, it doesn’t protect the bicycle in all conditions. When I flew from Milan back to Israel in July, the seat stays on my Cervelo R5 got cracked during transit while in my Scicon Aerocomfort 2.0 bag. Also, this case is not cheap, retailing at $900. (Note that the 2.0 version is a more affordable $650. Finally, it’s worth noting that some airlines have started refusing to take soft case bicycle bags.
The Hard Case
The first hard case I’ve chosen to highlight the Aerotech Evolution X TSA Travel Case. Scicon claims the hard shell case is “the toughest and lightest hard shell bike transport case in the world”. It comes with a TSA approved lock, which means TSA (hopefully) won’t bust your case trying to get a peek. It weighs 12 kg, certainly not the lightest hard case in the world. While it offers protection, I don’t know how they can definitively prove that it is the toughest in the world. Plus, that protection comes at the whopping price of $1,000. Be aware that it does require minimal disassembly of the bike, including removing saddle and seat post, both pedals, and twisting the handlebars into a more compact position.
Another hard case worth mention is the GPRS Race Bike Box by BikeBox Alan. This option weighs 11.2 kg – 800 grams less than the Scicon option above – you can read full technical info here – and comes in 13 color options. It seems this company too likes to make claims about the durability of their case: “The BikeBox Alan GPRS Race Bike Box is the strongest bike box available. Made from a patented material and a unique one-piece anti-crush carbon pole, it’s as close to indestructible as you can get.” Used by Chris Froome and other pros, it also has a bike and case tracking device. The invisible, waterproof, ultra lightweight GPRS Race Tracker device offers peace of mind and recoverability, with the added convenience of real time tracking from your smartphone. Another plus is a 7 year guarantee. The hard case is priced at £475, which is equivalent just over $600, significantly less than the Scicon model. You can add a TSA approved lock for £10. They do ship worldwide, although shipping out of the UK is not cheap.
Finally, if you want to go with a hard case that looks bombproof, Road.cc recommends Buxumbox cases. At 12.5 – 15 kg weight, neither of their models are the lightest in the category, however, they do appear to be sturdy. Note that they do scratch and dent, and I have not been able to find any YouTube videos about how well they hold up to abuse. You have to remove wheels, seat post, pedals, and with the Tourmalet, the handlebars as well. Prices are £700 – 800.
While I certainly like the simplicity of packing with my current Scicon Aerocomfort bag, having my seat stay cracked was far from a pleasant experience, nor was the repair cheap. Having been through that experience, I also don’t relish the worry of traveling with the soft shell case, knowing that the bike may show up broken. I plan on trying the BikeBox Alan GPRS Race Bike Box and just have to figure how to get it without paying the exorbitant shipping prices + Israel import tax/VAT.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What case do you have? Are you happy with it?