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The Bike Guard Curv is a high-end flight 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.
B&W makes all sorts of cases, including toolboxes and waterproof Peli-style cases. Its range of bike luggage includes soft cases, hard cases and even flight cases specifically for folding bikes. Its products are designed in Germany and manufactured in China and there's something for all budgets, from £50 soft cases upwards.
This case is at the top of the range, made using a special material called Curv, described as "a novel material made from Polypropylene that combines the versatility of a 100% thermoplastic with the high performance of a fibre reinforced composite". It looks a bit like carbon fibre but is more flexible; claimed attributes like high stiffness, high tensile strength and outstanding impact resistance make it sound like a good choice for a bike case.
The case comes in two halves, and there's no hinge holding them together. Instead, the edges of the case slot together, alternately inside and outside the other, around the circumference of the case. It's a bit fiddly the first time you do it, without a hinge to guide the case as it closes, but once you've done it a few times it only takes a minute. I found that it was much easier if you were on a good flat surface with room to walk around the case.
The bike is held to one half of the case via large, dense foam blocks, which themselves are positioned to suit via high-strength Velcro strips, attached to the inside of the case. Initially I was half expecting the Velcro to start coming unstuck either from the plastic of the case or the foam, but B&W has chosen its adhesives well and all stays put. Velcro straps hold the bike frame to the foam blocks.
Fitting a 59cm road bike was pretty easy, I just had to remove the wheels, pedals and the bar from the stem. There's a piece of foam designed to fit underneath the chainrings, some lagging to protect tubes from rubbing, dropout spacers and even a special part to stop the chain rattling against the chainstay. It would accommodate a larger frame or mountain bike without difficulty.
There are wide straps which go around the outside of the case, with high-quality metal buckles for closing it up. There's no need to adjust the length, they're all cut to just the right size. They need to be too, as the straps are the only thing keeping the two halves of the case together, but they do it just fine. You can put a padlock through the buckles, or just a zip-tie, but in reality they won't come open through being knocked, as you have to push a button before you can open the buckle.
There's no internal bracing between the sides of the case – the idea is that the case has enough structural integrity itself to protect its contents. To test this theory, I lay the empty case on its side and stood on it. It held my weight and nothing cracked, but it did squash down by a good 3-4 inches. That suggests if some unkind airport employee were to stack a load of heavy cases on top, some of that weight will be borne by the contents rather than the case – potentially bad news. My test was a harsh one, with 80kg or so concentrated in a small area in the centre of the case rather than spread over the size of a suitcase, but it suggests some bracing would help to help take the load.
Included with the case are all sorts of bags for organising your stuff around the bike, in addition to a pair of wheel bags. You can fit loads in the assortment of triangular and rectangular bags and it's much better than just throwing it in loose with your bike. They are sized so they'll fit in and around the bike once it's in the case, and I found them very useful for tools, shoes, energy products, spares and all sorts.
It's worth pointing out that some airlines say you shouldn't pack anything else in with your bike. We flew Easyjet and didn't have any issues (and such was the weight of the case that with a 7kg race bike we could put a lot of other stuff in there before coming close to the 32kg weight limit).
The wheel bags are big enough for 29in mountain bike wheels but aren't padded, which I thought was a little disappointing at this price. However, there are a couple of large sheets of foam you can use to keep them separated from your bike frame.
Manhandling the case around is mostly an absolute pleasure, in part because it's unusually light but also because the well-chosen wheels make for easy progress. There's a pair of rotating castors at the front, and a much larger diameter pair of inline skate wheels at the rear. Crossing uneven or loose surfaces is much easier than with four small castors as you can just lift up the front and roll on the rear wheels only.
Being picky, it could do with one or two more handles for lifting. There's a comfortable padded handle on the strap at the front, and two other unpadded handles also sewn onto the blue closure straps. When you're lifting the case into a car or onto a baggage belt at the airport, it would be nice to have a handle in each corner to make it a little less awkward.
One advantage of the hingeless design, according to B&W, is that the two halves can be stacked one inside the other. In reality this would require you to remove the wheels from one half (which have to be fitted before first use), so I can't see too many people going to the trouble.
On our travels, the box and its contents survived the attentions of the luggage monkeys admirably. There was some scuffing on the corners of the case but nothing more, and the contents were untouched.
So about that price, then... £650 is serious money for a bike case, almost as much as a Scicon Aerotech. And for only a little more, you could have the full aluminium Buxum Box Tourmalet flight case. The Bike Guard lacks the rigidity of an aluminium case, but it's an awful lot lighter too.
The inclusion of lots of internal bags and bits to protect your bike goes a little way to justify the cost, and the overall quality is high. It's the lightest hard case I know of too, which means you can get away with a heavier bike without paying more luggage charges, or just simply that it's easier to take your light bike around with you. The flipside, though, is the flexible nature of the sides which, combined with a lack of bracing, could mean your bike ends up taking more of the weight piled on top than you'd want.
High-end case that's a pleasure to pack and use, but some rigidity sacrificed in the name of low weight
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Make and model: B&W Bike Guard Curv
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
B&W says: "Curv® is a unique and innovative material that combines high stiffness and tensile strength with outstanding impact resistance and low weight. B&W's bike guard curv weighs only 8.2kg, with the full pack of accessories, including 29' wheel bags and gear bags, taking the total weight to only 10.9kg! The overall design is visually stunning, with soft curves and strong lines, but the functionality is equally impressive. The Curv® shells slot into each other, making the bike guard curv as good as crush proof. The bike frame is fixed to the lower shell with a 'variable fixing system' – it's held away from the shell on foam blocks which are positioned as required on Velcro strips. There are protectors for all vulnerable components, two wheel bags, and four gear bags which are designed to fit around the frame. The bike guard curv is compressed and held tightly closed with three straps incorporating steel tensioning lockable buckles, suitable for TSA compatible locks. Moving the bike guard curv is easy, with inline skate wheels at the back and rotating castors at the front. The bike guard curv will follow your every movement whether you pull it on all 4 wheels or have to lift up the front and run with it! The bike guard curv is designed for all bikes with wheels up to 29', including bikes with integrated seat posts. It conforms to the baggage requirements of all major airlines. The B&W bike guard curv case is designed for all bikes with wheels up to 29', including bikes with integrated seat posts. It conforms to the baggage requirements of all major airlines. Lightest, strongest, smartest - the B&W bike guard curv"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Interlocking crush proof lightweight Curv® shells 2 x sheets of protective foam padding 2 x 29' wheel bags chain guard, chainring/crank guard, fork spacers, tube protectors 4 x made to measure luggage/gear bags 2 closing straps with steel tensioning lockable buckles Stackable The base fits into the lid to reduce storage height 3 x Adjustable solid foam mounting blocks
Weight: 8.2kg (plus 2.7kg of accessories)
Dimensions: 1310 x 910 x 315mm
Very nicely made out of quality material. My only quibble would be that at this price I'd expect the (included) wheel bags to be padded - they're not.
Performed faultlessly in our tests. It's not overly difficult to pack and it survived the attentions of baggage handlers unscathed. It's also particularly easy to wheel around. No bracing, though, meaning that when stacked with other luggage some weight could be taken by its contents.
The Curv material seems well suited to the job in hand. The larger rear wheels are attached to a three-dimensional surface, which should help to prevent failure. The corners were a little scuffed after a trip but it doesn't look like it'll fail any time soon.
Particularly light for a rigid case.
It's at the upper end of the price range for flight cases, almost on a par with some aluminium cases. Performance is very good, though, and it's lighter than almost any others, so if that's important to you then it may be money well spent.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – protected my best bike and was a pleasure to manoeuvre around the airport. I was a little concerned about its flexibility but I didn't have any damage during my testing.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Decent protection, easy manoeuvring and light weight. I really liked the various bags for packing other stuff around the frame too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A bit fiddly to get the two halves together, but once you've done it a few times it only takes a minute. The lack of bracing combined with the flexible shell material made me a little nervous.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe, if I found it in a sale.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I had no issues at all using this case and its low weight and excellent wheels made it really easy to move around. I'm scoring it on the basis of my experience, but with the proviso that it isn't as rigid as some.
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Commuter - something with disc brakes, drop bars and a rack My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.