The Bike Box Alan premium box is a well-designed and sturdy box that will keep your bike well-protected through the vagaries of airport baggage handling. You can hire or buy one, and which you do would depend on how frequently you travel. Either way, it's fairly easy to recommend.
Pros: Good level of protection, easy to use, well-featured
Cons: sometimes tricky to manoeuvre, some sharp edges on the handles
My first impression was that it was substantial in both size and weight, but no more so than others I've used or seen. It's a single-skin design made from a tough but pliable plastic (various colours are available) and it has good-quality locking clasps and a full-length hinge. On the bottom there are two fixed and two rotating casters, and inside there's a wealth of straps and some well-fitted foam padding. There's a steel anti-crush pole in the centre of the case. You can choose up to three stickers free of charge (as you can see, ours came with lots) and for £12 you can add a personalised name sticker too.
It's not a huge case, and the Bike Box Alan easily fitted into the boot of an Audi A3 and a Toyota Auris with the back seats down and space to spare, so I'd be confident in it fitting into any modern hatchback and bigger.
The weight was fine too, although if you are on a 23kg weight limit then there is a lot of space you can't use,. Case plus bike was near 20kg, so helmet, shoes and tools, plus a bag of energy gels/bars/powder was all I felt I could get away with.
I opened the case to find a free water bottle and saddlebag, but looking at the comparison chart on Bike Box Alan's website you'd normally only get those with the more expensive boxes. The case also comes with a strap to use to carry the case, but I didn't take it, as I was driving straight to the airport door and picking up a hire car the other end, so I didn't think I'd need it.
Packing the bike into it is dead easy. First take the pedals and wheels off, deflate your tyres and use your quick release skewers to attach the wheels to the lid. Then remove the seatpost and saddle and use one of the straps to secure them in the case. The bars and stem come off as one, then the frame goes in chainset side down. Happily there's no need to take off the rear derailleur, as there was enough of a gap to the side of the case. This was for a 54cm frame, so if your bike is larger it may need the rear mech removing; certainly the bike will take much bigger bikes than mine and Bike Box Alan say it's 29er mountain bike compatible.
Fortunately, there's a Youtube video for the process. You secure the frame with the well thought-out positioned straps, then the bars at a diagonal to the frame and use the straps for those too. In all it took me about 35 minutes the first time, but on the last day of the holiday when it came to re-packing, it took about 20. I didn't get down to Bike Box Alan's claimed 10-minute pack time, but I guess I might with more practice.
There are plenty of straps to secure the frame and forks firmly; I felt happy they would stay put and be secure. I used some bubblewrap to wrap the chain and chainstay, otherwise it would be free to swing and rub the frame. That was the only additional packaging I used as everything seemed rock solid.
There are also a lot of other straps attached to the case, which I used to secure my pedals, mini track-pump and water bottle. I put tools in a bag and slid them behind the bottom foam panel and put my helmet in the rear triangle. There was plenty more space that could be used, but you have to find ways to pack other things in so that they will stay put, otherwise they could fly loose during handling and transit. If you are on a 32kg limit though then you could probably put all your clothes in there in such a way that they would act as extra padding.
Lastly you need to fit the bracing rod; you have to make sure your wheel spokes are aligned so that there's space for the rod to go into its recess when closed. There's another foam sheet to put in between the frame and the wheels before closing.
Closing the box is a little bit fiddly, as you have to align the sides and the clasp tongues can drop on the wrong side, instead of into the latches. This was a bit annoying. It's one of those situations where if you lift one side to align a tongue, the other side is misaligned, so you're having to keep an eye on other clasps when trying to sort out one. But when the job was done, and the case was upright it felt completely secure and I couldn't hear a rattle when I shook it.
I thought, on first getting the case, that it was easy to move around. The back wheels are fixed and the front ones rotate, so guiding/pushing using the rear handle was easy on level, smooth flooring. But on anything with even a slight camber it becomes much harder to keep it going where you want it to go from the back handle, and the way the case is lower at the front meant I had to crouch to use that, which didn't really work for me. Having my other hand taken up with my other piece of luggage meant that my weakling cyclist arm had to work hard to keep the case going in the right direction. In retrospect I probably should have brought the strap with me!
The two handles are formed when the two halves of the case are closed, so there is a fairly sharp ridge on each handle. When having to put as much effort in to guide the case as I did, this meant that I nearly got a blister on my palm, guiding it for only about 100 yards on a car park with a slight left-to-right downhill slant, with speed bumps. If there was a softer material, like rubber, on these contact points it would help.
The fixed/rotating wheel combination also meant that the box wasn't quite as manoeuvrable as I had hoped. You can only swing it round from the front end, so getting into and out of the hotel lifts meant doing an exact reverse procedure, but if there are other people in the lift and you're at the back, then trying to guide it out with the fixed wheels at the lift door was sometimes tricky.
The Bike Box Alan gave me a lot of confidence that the bike was safe, and it's easy to pack. These are two huge pluses for me. The downsides are the annoyance of aligning the sides when closing, and the manoeuvring ability on anything other than level and smooth ground, but overall the performance was very good.
£440 is a lot of money for something I would use once or twice a year at the most; a week's hire from Bike Box Alan is between £70 and £90 delivered, so you're going to need to do at least five trips before it's paid for itself. That's unless you live near Rotherham in which case you can pick one up from the HQ and save on the postage. That knocks about £40 off the price, so if you're local to Bike Box Alan it's almost certainly going to work out better for you that way. If you're travelling with your bike a lot, it's certainly a box to recommend, whether you're going down the hire or purchase route.
Very good bike box that's strong and fairly compact; available to buy or to hire
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bike Box Alan Premium Bike Box
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for
Our Premium Bike Box is the ultimate award winning bike box made in Britain that will hold ANY bike and the only box with a 7 year guarantee!
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
You're buying Direct from the Manufacturer
The ONLY BikeBox with a 7 year Guarantee
Unique one piece Steel anti crush pole.
ALL Bikes fit
Custom Graphics, Your Name, Flag & Bike Brand
10 minutes to pack
15 Cushioned Velcro straps to secure your bike safely
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Easy to pack, fairly compact, strong
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
sometimes difficult to move about, some sharp edges, closing it is fiddly
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
pretty good value if you're travelling with your bike a lot, and available for hire if you're not. A good quality bike box
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.