If you’re travelling with your bike one of your biggest concerns will likely be making sure it arrives safely. The road.cc team has travelled hundreds of thousands of miles over the years with our bikes, using a variety of bike boxes, bike bags and flight cases. We've learned what protects bike from baggage handlers and what doesn't. Here are the best bike travel cases you can buy.
The best bike bag, box or flight case would protect your bike from anything short of a direct artillery strike; require as little faff as possible to get your bike into it; not make too big a dent in your luggage weight allowance; and cost a sensible amount of money.
There's some tension between those requirements. Extremely protective cases tend to be heavy and expensive; cheaper bike bags don't protect your bike as well. Nevertheless if you travel frequently one of the best bike bags, boxes or flight cases is a good investment. Nothing ruins a cycling trip more than your bike lying crushed on the Tarmac before you've even cleared customs.
Even if you're not flying, a bike box, bike bag or flight case can be useful. Sure, you can just put your bike in your car, but if you want to get lots of other luggage in too, a bike bag will protect your bike from bumps and scratches.
Our pick for the best bike bag you can buy, the Evoc Bike Travel Bag Pro is lightweight, packs down well and protects your bike while travelling by plane, train or automobile. It's easily assembled with four PVC tubes that reinforce the wheel pockets and four fibreglass sticks that strengthen each end of the case. Inside are a number of Velcro and clip fittings that wrap around your bike and secure it to the inside of the case.
Tester Mike writes: "The Evoc Bike Travel Bag Pro does an admirable job protecting the bike and contents. Everything inside was exactly where it had been put and the case showed few signs of wear after a week of travel across taxis, trains, planes, lifts, elevators and pavements in a number of countries.
"The standout feature of this bike bag is the removable front castor wheel. This clips onto the aluminium handle so the bag sits level, allowing you to steer it in any direction with just your little finger in one of the three topmost handles. If you're juggling other luggage or kids it would be perfectly possible to use a short lanyard secured to your belt, wrist or other luggage to pull the bike along. It's difficult to overstate just how nice the experience is of waltzing down an airport or train station concourse, your 23kg 'check-me-out-I'm-a-cyclist-on-holiday' luggage following meekly behind."
While it's not far off the price of a hardshell, it's lighter at just 8kg, leaving more luggage allowance for other stuff, and folds down for storage so you don't need a huge cupboard under the stairs for it.
The BikeBox Alan Triathlon Aero Easyfit Bikebox is a secure, easy-to-pack bike case that's brilliantly thought out. The wide section for handlebars means there's no need to start dismantling your bike, but that extra bulk can cause a few issues with car boots and check-ins. The Triathlon Aero Easyfit immediately has a significant advantage over other boxes, because it doesn't require you to remove your handlebar. That's not just a good feature for those who are picky about position, it's also nice not to be wrestling with dismantling and reassembling an integrated front end – something we commonly see on road race bikes these days.
If you've got the cash and want an easy life, this is a brilliant choice.
It's not cheap, but the Buxum Tourmalet is a very well thought-out bike case that’s built to take anything baggage handlers can dish out. In fact it looks like it'll survive anything short of a direct artillery attack. It's very easy to pack, though it's not light at 13.3kg.
The Bike Guard Curv is a high-end bike case which gives excellent protection to your pride and joy. At a little over 8kg it's very light for a hard case, but it's also very expensive – costing nearly as much as an aluminium flight case. In our travels, our bikes arrived unscathed, but the lack of bracing could make it vulnerable if a lot of weight is stacked on top.
The soft shell Merlin Cycles Elite Travel Bike Bag allows secure, easy packing of your bike, with plenty of remaining space for all the items you would usually need when travelling with your bike. It has plenty of straps and handles to make travelling with the bag easy, though some extra wheels might help when pulling it along.
The Elite Travel Bike Bag does a great job at an excellent price. It was relatively easy to load into a car and manoeuvre onto baggage carousels too. It fitted easily into the back of a Ford Fiesta with the rear seats down. It's also helpful that, when unloaded, the bag folds down to a small size, taking up roughly a quarter of the space needed when fully loaded.
We've done half a dozen flights with the Bonza Bike Box. The bikes have come through all those journeys completely fine and the box is looking almost unscathed.
Getting your bike packed inside is relatively straightforward. The printed instructions aren't great but a couple of videos on bonzabikebox.com show you exactly how to do it. It's pretty standard stuff: you whip the wheels off, remove the pedals, take the handlebar out of the stem and probably take the seatpost out of the frame (you might get away with leaving it in if you have a small frame). I won't go into detail, but you won't have too much trouble with any of this.
The B’Twin bike bag has a large bike compartment, two wheel compartments and a rigid base. It weighs 3.6kg and, like most other bags of this kind, it comes with a shoulder strap. It's amazingly cheap and light, but you're probably going to want to add protective layers of foam or cardboard to beef it up a bit.
Evoc’s highly rated bike bag comes with a reinforced fork mount, external-loading wheel pockets, compartments for smaller parts, and multiple handles. It’ll even take big mountain bikes and is collapsible for simple stowage.
Internal reinforcement strengthens and supports the soft out shell and pulled and picked up by the handle, it rolls easily on a pair of rear wheels. In that regard it's not quite as nice as the Bike Travel Bag Pro, but at typical retail prices it's a lot cheaper.
This rigid bike box is made from a tough plastic polymer and it provides superb protection for your bike. It’s also simple to pack and rolls on four wheels with proper bearings. The RRP of £700 is a sticking point, but shop around and you will probably find it for less.
Db Equipment’s The Djärv Bike Bag (formerly known as The Douchebags Savage) really does a great job of protecting your bike. The internal cage arguably makes it more robust than many boxes, and it's very easy to assemble and pack. It is a little difficult to cart round airports and may be a struggle to fit in a car – and some extra protection might be needed beneath your drivetrain – but we don't think you'll be disappointed if you opt for one.
BikeBox Online's VeloVault2 bike case is a sturdy, easy to pack and easy to transport option for keeping your bike safe when you fly. It is made from high-quality components that should stand the test of time. If you don't want to stump up the cash to buy one of these, they're also available to hire.
This robust plastic case has steel catches to hold the sides together and good wheels to make travel that little bit easier. You can even choose your own stickers!
You fix your bike to a frame inside this a nylon ripstop bike bag, and hold it steady with a strap system. A waterproof polyurethane base and high-density foam padding provide protection for your bike.
Because you can't rely on anyone else to look after your bike the way you would. Travelling by air is the situation where you'll most commonly want to stash your bike in a protective case. After all, baggage handlers aren’t known for their finesse or delicacy of movement. No disrespect to those guys but they’re not going to move every bag and case as if it contained a priceless Ming vase, are they? Would you, if you were in their position? Luggage often gets flung about, dropped or stacked sky high, and you don’t want your bike to be subject to any of that with anything other than heavy-duty protection.
We’ve heard tales of people who thought they’d take their bike abroad in a soft bag or a cardboard bike box and it all going horribly wrong. You might get away with it, of course. You might get away with it many times. But what about that one time when your bike is at the bottom of a tower of cases being sorted by a bloke who’s already late finishing his shift?
It happens. Really, it does. And arriving in the Pyrenees with your bike frame snapped in two is, let’s face it, a disaster. Aside from needing to replace your bike in the long term, you need to salvage a trip for which you’ve already paid.
The best bike bags and bike boxes might be expensive but chances are they’re not as expensive as your bike or your holiday. Invest in something that’s right for your needs and it’ll likely last you years.
Soft, padded bike bags are lightweight, easy to store, and they’ll protect your bike from scratches and scrapes. As a rule, they’re also cheaper than rigid boxes. Some come with aluminium frames and rigid spacers for the frame and fork dropouts to help prevent damage.
Next, there are boxes made from semi-rigid polymers that offer good impact strength. In terms of weight, they’re somewhere between a soft bag and a rigid bike box.
Then there are boxes with rigid walls that provide loads of protection, although these tend to be the heaviest and most expensive options out there.
Between that lot there are plenty of variations.
In short, rigid bike cases provide more protection than soft bike bags, but are heavier, more expensive and harder to store when you're not using them.
All the bike boxes we know of and a lot of soft bike bags come with wheels that allow you to pull/push them to and from a car, around the airport and so on, and that’s a hell of a lot easier than carrying all that weight.
Wheels that are recessed into the base of the box are less vulnerable to getting broken off in transit and wheels that can be replaced after a mishap might save you needing to buy a completely new bike bag or box.
In related vein, you can’t drag your bike bag or box everywhere – you’ll inevitably need to lug it up some steps or over some gravel at some stage. That’s when some form of carrying handle or strap comes in useful; more that one option helps. A shoulder strap will save your arms doing all the hard work.
Locks might seem useful but, realistically, how often are you going to let a loaded up bike box out of your sight anyway?
Okay, it’ll be separated from you for the flight, but bear in mind that if you check in a locked bike box and the customs officials want to look inside, they’ll bust the locks open. Think about it. They need to be able to check what’s in there and a simple lock isn’t going to stop them (otherwise drug smuggling would be really, really simple). Leave it unlocked for the plane.
Big enough to take your bike easily. If you have a 56cm road bike with a normal seatpost, you’re unlikely to have a problem with any of the options out there.
However, if you take a very big frame, have an integrated seat post (an extended seat tube rather than a separate seat post), or if you have a full-suspension mountain bike, things might get more complicated.
Check the minimum dimensions you need before you part with your cash, and allow a bit of wiggle room. You don’t want to have to remove every component and use masses of force to get your bike into a box; you need something that’ll take your bike easily. International travel is stressful enough without adding to it with bike packing pressures.
You can often fit other stuff inside your bike box or bag, in the spaces between the frame tubes, although this obviously adds to the weight and that might be a consideration when you’re flying. Some airlines, such as Easyjet and British Airways explicitly forbid putting anything in a bike bag other than your bike.
If you intend to drive to the airport rather than take public transport, remember to make sure your bike bag or box will fit in your car. As long as you can fold the rear seats down, that’s not usually a problem.
Oh, and remember that you’ll have to store your bike bag or box somewhere at home. One of the drawbacks of a hard-shelled bike box as opposed to a soft bag is the extra storage space you’ll need for it.
Getting a bike bag or box that’s large enough (see above) is the essential first step, but beyond that some options are much easier to pack than others.
You’ll have to take the wheels off your bike, either spin the handlebar or remove it from the stem, and remove a pedal (or both of them). You’ll likely have to remove the seatpost or push it down too (depending on the size of your bike). You’ll have to deflate the tyres for flying too. (Yes, we know tyre pressure is far too low to be hazardous, but as our commenters have pointed out, life's too short to teach airline check-in staff the laws of physics.)
If you have to remove the rear mech and/or the chainset, things can start to get boring. You obviously have to rebuild the bike at your destination, then take it apart for the return journey and rebuild it again when you get home. As long as you have half-decent spannering skills, that’s unlikely to be a problem. It only takes minutes on each occasion, but it just adds to the faff and might shorten valuable riding time.
You need some means of stopping the various bits of the bike from damaging one another. Some wheels attach to the walls of a bike box with their quick-release skewers (we've had a skewer take a knock and get ruined in this way, so you might want to consider using old skewers for the job) and and have some form of cover to avoid harm, others have their own separate wheel bags, as do many bike bags.
Look for other means of storage for removed pedals, the tools you need for rebuilding your bike, and so on.
If you’re ever in doubt, you can always fall back on the cyclists’ favourite, simple pipe insulation from your local DIY store, to protect the various parts of your bike.
There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to weight. First, you have to move your loaded up bike bag or box around so lightness makes life easier.
Second, you have to stick within airline weight limits. Currently, EasyJet allows you 32kg for a boxed up bike and the Ryanair limit is 30kg. Sticking within those boundaries shouldn't be a problem.
British Airways, though, say that items over 23kg may incur a heavy bag charge. Larger items (in dimensions rather than weight) like bike boxes can be carried for an oversized bag charge, although they waive this at the time of writing.
The point is, you need to check your allowances with your airline before you travel (and preferably before you book) in order to avoid expensive surprises.
Yes! Even the best bike boxes don’t guarantee you against damage to your bike, so get yourself some insurance that covers the value of your bike.
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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.