Whether you are transporting your bike in your car with luggage and other items or on an airplane at the mercy of baggage handlers, a bike travel case protects your bike and the money you have invested in it. In addition, if you are taking your bike with you, then you are planning on using it. So you are not only protecting your bike, but you are also protecting your investment in your trip. So either way, a bike travel case makes sense.
We have created a buyer’s guide to discuss the important features you should consider when choosing a bike travel case.
How To Fly With Your Bike
Packing a bike safely, dragging the bag or box around, and paying the exorbitant excess baggage fee is frustrating, but it’s part of our sport. Let’s make the experience as low-stress as possible by taking a few precautions.
There are two ways to get your bike to the race site: ship it days before, or bring it with you on the plane. Shipping your bike means packaging it and sending it via a carrier that will take large items. You can send it to a bike shop or any other physical destination that can take daytime deliveries. If timed properly your bike will be there waiting for you, perhaps assembled and ready to ride of you sent it to a bike shop. The downside is the planning involved and time without your precious training buddy.
Most athletes do take their bike on the plane with them though…
Taking it with you on the plane has its benefits and drawbacks. You’re always with your bike (unless the airline loses it); you can ride it the day you pack it and as soon as you reassemble it at the race site. On the other hand, you’ll need to find a vehicle big enough to transport the bag or box to and from the airports (perhaps a companion’s bike as well), and it’s going to cost you plenty in excess baggage charges unless it’s an international flight (note: this policy is changing on many airlines).
Like it or not, there’s an excess baggage charge on bikes for domestic flights, hopefully none for international flights if you have only 2 pieces of checked baggage. The fee has steadily risen from $12 since I began flying with a bike many years ago, to $60-$100 now. To me the high fee says that the airlines would really prefer not to take checked bikes, and this attitude often comes across through ticket agents and baggage carriers.
If you believe baggage handlers really don’t want to deal with your bike, you’ll understand why you’d better pack it carefully. I’ve seen bikes dropped from significant heights, luggage weighing hundreds of pounds loaded on top, and generally handled with contempt. This doesn’t mean that it’s always the case, but it happens.
The case you use and the care you take in packing your bike can make all the difference. There are padded nylon bags with supportive metal frames inside, hard ‘sandwich style’ cases with foam layers inside, and hard cases with a metal framework inside to secure your bike’s frame. All the different types of bike cases work well, but none is a guarantee that your bike will be impervious to damage. If you don’t want to spring for the $250 to $750+ price to buy your own bike case, look for a bike shop that rents them for a fraction of the cost.
If you’re doing the packing job yourself you’ll need some basic tools and minor disassembly/assembly skills. You’ll need to remove wheels, handlebars, seat, and pedals, then reassemble it at your destination. Teaching you how to do this is a job for a bike shop or a mechanically skilled friend, but I can give you a few packing tips.
Your goals are to crush-proof the bike and avoid metal against metal contact. If your bike case doesn’t have a supportive framework, you should put spacers where the wheels’ axles would normally be in the frame’s fork and rear triangle. This does much to strengthen the frame, thus avoiding damage from outside forces like weight or dropping the box/bag. When you remove the handlebar with brake and shift cables still attached, it will have to rest next to, or beside the frame. This is fine as-long-as it’s secured with substantial padding at contact points. I like to use old-style toe straps to keep the handlebar from moving around and potentially denting the frame or damaging paint.
I recommend that you be self-sufficient and bring all the tools you’ll need. Also bring rags for padding and cleaning, as well as lubricant, a pump, spare tubes and tires. Bike cases allow room for other items that may not fit into your luggage. Use this space as needed for your gear, but don’t overload, as very heavy bike cases make for irate baggage handlers!
Allow extra time when checking-in with your bike. Bike bags and boxes move more slowly than normal luggage on their way to the plane and ticket agents are often baffled when presented with a passenger traveling with a bike (if you’re lucky, they may not charge you). Make sure you have an extra day at your destination before the race. For whatever reason, bikes often don’t make it there with you. But, every airline I’ve flown with has a policy of delivering the bike for free to you at your destination. For me, luckily, this has always occurred within 24 hours of my arrival. If the bike doesn’t make it with your other luggage, don’t panic. I’ve found that the more connections you make, the more likely your bike will get ‘lost.’ On flights with connections, my bike has been ‘delayed’ about 20% of the time!
In many years of flying with my bike, it’s always made it to my destination – eventually. But just in case it doesn’t and you’re waiting there in a panic, make an alternative plan. Maybe you could borrow a friend’s bike who’s in another race, or perhaps a loaner/rental from a local bike shop could save the day. Traveling with your bike is a drag, but it could be worse: Be glad you don’t have to travel with a surfboard or a kayak!
How to choose bike travel case
Bike Bag or Bike Box?
The first choice is whether you want a bag or box, and by box, we mean a hard case, not a cardboard box. Some people will say that they have used cardboard boxes and have not had any problems. They will say they know how to pack their bike in a cardboard box so that it is safe. As mentioned earlier, you have money invested in your bicycle and on your trip. A hard or soft case will better protect your financial investment in your bike and your trip, provide you with a better chance of never having your bike damaged when you are traveling, and prevent you from suffering the disappointment of not having your bike available to use on your trip. So we recommend that you do not try to cut corners and use a cardboard box to transport your bicycle.
For transporting your bike, you can choose a soft bag, a hard case, or a hybrid-combination bag. Softer hybrid cases can have inserts in the base and upper frames that provide some structure and protection, or they can use the wheels to provide structure. These are still lightweight and made of soft materials. Other hybrid cases are made of the semi-rigid polymer that provides more protection and weighs a little more than the cloth of the softer versions. Hybrid cases are in the mid-price range between soft and hard cases.
Soft bike travel cases are the least expensive of the three choices. They also use less of your baggage weight allowance. Therefore, they cost less to transport by airplane than hard and hybrid cases. In addition, soft cases are easier to carry than hard cases, especially if they have more than one handle such as an over-the-shoulder strap and a hand carrier. An additional advantage of a soft case is the ability to use it for a variety of bikes if you are among the cyclists who have more than one bike. As for storage when you are not using a soft case, it can be easily folded and stored out of the way. However, soft cases do not offer as much protection as hard cases or even hybrid cases once your bicycle has left your care. So the softer the travel case, the more carefully you need to pack your bike.
Hard cases will protect your bike the best if the case falls, is thrown by a baggage handler, or ends up at the bottom of a stack of luggage. They have hard plastic shells with interior reinforcement. The hard plastic does make these cases more likely than soft cases to slide off elevated surfaces and fall on the floor. Since they are not as flexible as a soft case, it can be harder to get your bike parts to squeeze into open spaces in hard cases. This can be an additional issue when airport employees examine and repack your case. Hard cases also pose the problem of where to store them, both at home and when you are traveling. Additionally, hard cases are the most expensive and weigh the most, so they use more of your baggage allowance and cost the most to ship.
Many cases have built-in dropouts that help your bike stand securely in the case. You can also go to a bike shop and get the dropout protectors that were used in shipping to protect your frame in case your bike is mishandled. Another consideration is whether or not the bag you choose mounts the bicycle to the base, if it does, then you need to make sure that the axle of your bicycle is compatible with the base.
With soft bike cases weighing up to 17 pounds empty, they and most hard cases do have wheels to make it easier to handle them. Recessed wheels are better protected from damage, and wheels that can be replaced prevent your bike case from becoming less functional because of a broken wheel. So be sure to check the durability of the wheels on the cases you are considering. In addition, before you are ready to pack it for a trip, check the condition of the wheels to make sure that none of them need to be replaced.
Besides the wheels, you will also need sturdy handles to help you transport your case on stairs, over curbs, and over unpaved areas. Our suggestion is to look for a case with both a sturdy top handle for carrying by hand and a sturdy shoulder strap to distribute the weight better and free your hands. Not only should the straps be sturdy, but you should check how the straps connect to the case to make sure that the connection will not break with you. Also, check to see if the straps can be easily replaced like the wheels. Additional handles on the sides will give you something to grip so that you can roll the case in tight spaces. Just as we recommended with the wheels, you should check the handles before trips to see if they need replacing.
If you are taking your case on an airplane, then locks either have to be TSA-approved or left unlocked so that airport security can examine the contents of your case. So while you are choosing a case, if the locks are not TSA-approved buy some that are TSA-approved.
Measure your bike and decide on your preferred way of packing it. With a standard 56-centimeter road bike and a normal seat post, you should be able to use most cases. Size issues arise with larger frames, integrated seat posts, and mountain bikes with full suspension. Also if you are among the cyclists that have more than one bike, you will want to make sure that the case you choose fits all your bikes.
Transporting a bike in a case can also mean considering what type of vehicle you will need to get to the airport and when you arrive at your destination. Soft cases with some disassembly can create a smaller bundle than a hard case, and you will not need a larger vehicle. Also, as mentioned earlier, hard cases present a storage issue both at home and when you are traveling
Obviously, you will be doing some amount of disassembly on your bike, and you will not want the parts just piled in the bag to scratch and bang against each other. Many cases attach the wheels to the sides of the case with quick-release skewers. Using older skewers with some padding protects your new skewers from damage. Some other cases have wheel bags. Removing the pedals and padding them is another preventive measure along with padding your tools. One recommendation for padding the various parts of your bike is pipe insulation from the hardware store.
Weight and Airline Restrictions
Remember you will not only be carrying other luggage, but you will be adding the weight of the case along with the weight of your bike and anything else you pack in the case. All of that will be calculated into your airline baggage weight limits. We suggest that you determine the weight of your bike’s case with everything packed inside. Then check the different airline policies and charges before you book your flight. Check to see if there are any airlines that transport bicycles for free. Some airlines with higher base ticket prices may be cheaper in the end when you add baggage fees.
Be sure you also check the maximum dimensions for luggage from various airlines before purchasing tickets. In addition, check for other restrictions such as how far in advance to book to be sure that the airline will accept your bike. Since working with a passenger who is traveling with a bicycle is a less common experience, when you find all of this information, print a copy of it and take it with you to the airport as proof in case an airline employee doesn’t know the company policy.
We have already mentioned several times that purchasing a good bike travel case is protecting what you have already spent on your bike and your trip. However, there is still quite a price range between good, protective cases. So you should be able to stay within your budget and protect your bike. If you choose a case at the higher end, you will get a more durable, protective case that is easier to transport. However, there are less expensive cases that provide adequate protection, although some of them may be smaller and require more disassembly of your bike. So while shopping for a case at the good price may not be the top reason for selecting a particular case, you can let it be a consideration without worrying that you might be buying a case that is not quite as good.
Packing Your Bike
As you are considering different travel cases, think about how you will disassemble and pack your bike in each case. For most cases, you will take off the wheels, the rear derailleur, the pedals, and the seat post. If you can leave the seat post, you will probably lower it down to the frame. You will also turn handlebars so that they are parallel to the frame. If you are considering removing the chainset, we advise only doing it if you are good with a spanner. Strapping removed parts to the frame keeps parts more secure and organized in your case.
Another step in packing your bike that cyclists debate is whether or not you need to deflate the tires. While it may not be really necessary, it saves the stress of dealing with an airline employee, who thinks it’s something that must be done. This final step in considering how your bike will need to be disassembled to fit in a case should help you with choosing a case.
A final recommendation is to buy travel insurance for your bike even if your case makes it unlikely that your bike will be damaged. As stated previously, you have an investment in your bicycle and your trip. Travel insurance will protect that investment so that your bike is covered and so is the part of your trip that centers around riding your bike.
The Best Bike Travel Case in 2021
1. EVOC Road Bike Bag Pro – Best Hybrid Soft/Hard Shell Bike Case
The EVOC Road Bike Bag Pro has a hybrid soft/hard shell design to help you pack and unpack your bike easily.
The only pieces you’ll need to disassemble are your wheels and pedals. The bag was designed with an extra wide wheel chassis so it’s sure to fit most road and time trial bikes.
To ensure that your precious bike is protected the case has aluminum slide rails from front to back.
All the extra protective materials sound heavy to some, but EVOC thought ahead. The travel case has clip on wheels and extra handles so you can maneuver through airports, bus and train stations, or just getting into your hotel room.
The case’s lid is made of highly durable polycarbonate and the pressure-proof P600D PU sides are strengthened with removed hard plastic rods.
Along with the bag, EVOC also provides a bike stand, wheel bags, and a clip-on front wheel for those who want a little extra protection.
If you travel by plane, the bag has a TSA approved lock if they need to look in your bag.
Bikers who have bought the bag like it because it’s makes packing their bike easy. There’s minimal assembly because it’s a soft and hard traveling case. And, when not in use, the bag can be folded up and stored in a discreet spot. It’s not the best for overseas trips but the bag is ideal for short trips close by.
I’d recommend this bike bag if you frequently travel within your country or make short trips with your bike. The case will be perfect and you can be assured your bike will be in good hands.
2. Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 TSA – Best Bike Travel Case
The Scicon Aerocomfort travel bag was designed with input from time trial riders and triathletes. You do not need to remove the seat post or the handlebar, so your bike is out of the case and ready to ride quickly.
The case measures 50.7 inch x 17.7 inch x 38.5 inch.
It is lightweight at 17.64 pounds empty, which will add less to your baggage weight limit and fees.
The case is made of nylon and includes padding and rigid inserts to protect your bike. The base holds your bike upright in the case and can be used as a bike stand. It is compatible with both the quick-release and thru-axle systems. For maneuverability, the
Aerocomfort’s eight ball bearing wheels rotate 360° to help it turn corners. For security, it includes a TSA padlock that allows airline security to easily inspect the bag. It also offers a 3/4 length zipper and two wheel pockets.
3. Evoc Bike Travel Bag – Most Versatile Bike Travel Case
The size of a case is one of the most important factors. How much will you have to disassemble your bike for it to fit in the case? If you are among the cyclists that have more than one bike, will this case fit all your bikes? How will the case fit in your car, and how will it fit in a vehicle when you reach your travel destination? Where can you store it both at home and on a trip?
This case measures 53.2 inches x 31.5 inches x 15 inches.
The weight of the case packed with your bike is not only something you have to manage with other luggage, but it will also be calculated into your baggage weight limit and baggage fees.
This soft case weighs 18.9-pounds empty.
When Evoc was designing this case, they took into consideration the extra protection provided by a hard case versus the weight, maneuverability, and pliability of a soft case. They chose to create a soft case. The Evoc bike travel bag is made from rip- and tear-resistant ripstop nylon with a polyurethane coating that provides water-resistance. It has 10-millimeter padding and rubber reinforcement to protect your bike. This bike bag provides a full-zippered enclosure, a zippered pocket on the front, several handles, two wheel bags, an accessory bag, and 2.5-inch inline skate wheels with reinforced wheel pockets.
To fit your bike in this bag, take off the wheels, turn the handlebars parallel to the frame, and use the padded straps provided to secure your bike in the bag. Place the wheels in their bags. This bag will easily hold 29-inch bikes, road bikes, time-trial bikes, and cyclocross bikes
4. Thule RoundTrip Transition – Most Protected Bike Travel Case
Thule makes hard-shell bike cases that make it one of the most protective cases on the market. It would be a good choice for those who travel internationally with bikes for pleasure or races.
The bike’s safety is guaranteed since the bike case is made from ABS shell with a durable rail of lightweight aluminum. This construction cradles and protects your bike during transport.
This would be especially important during air transport since bag attendants never handle any luggage with care.
Additionally, the bike case has multiple functions and can be used as a bike holder and work stand. If you bring your own tools, it would save you a trip to the bike store after landing. You can adjust and assemble your bike. And, it would ensure your bike is put together properly.
The inside of the case has a built-in fork mount that makes it easy to disassemble and assemble your bike.
As this is a hard-shell case, it won’t be easy to lug around everywhere. Luckily, the case comes with wheels and handles which makes it less burdensome to “carry” around an airport.
Bikers like it because it’s easy to travel with on planes. And, is easy to use once they understand how everything works. The case does a great job of packing everything in so nothing gets damaged- no matter how the airlines treat it. And, most didn’t have a problem wheeling the case around the airport.
I highly recommend this for people who go on long journeys with their bikes. You’ll see all the damage done to the case and your bike will come out unharmed.
5. Scicon AeroTech Evolution X TSA Hard Case
The Scicon AeroTech Evolution X TSA hard bike case offers bikers padded protection and enough space for all the bike parts while being lightweight. Of course, there is minimal disassembly on your part when you need to travel with your bike.
The case was specifically designed for race bikes and can accommodate nearly every bike size.
Inside the case, you’ll find a suspended frame system that holds the bike in place while offering stability and protection. Just like what a seatbelt does for you.
The case has special storage space for your pedals, saddle, and wheels when you take apart your bike. To make things easier, you won’t need to remove your handlebars. However, you will need to loosen them and turn them to ensure they fit into your bike box.
If you travel by plane, the case is built with TSA approved key locks. This ensures that your bike is safe and customs has access to the bike if needed. This holds true for airports in the USA, Canada, and other major international airports.
Yes, the case sounds bulky and heavy and hard to move, but no fear. Even for the smallest triathletes out there, it’s easy to travel with. The wheel system rotates in a circle so it ensures your bike case won’t fall down and you’ll silently traverse the airport terminals.
I recommend this bike case if you need one that will last for years and is durable. There is some disassembly required for this case. Be sure you’re comfortable with that part before you buy it.
6. Thule RoundTrip Pro XT Bike Case
First, measure the parts of your bike or bikes that you intend to leave in one piece when you are traveling. Then check the sizes of the different cases to make sure they are large enough.
The Thule RoundTrip Pro XT Bike Case measures 49.5 inches x 11.8 inches x 35 inches.
Now calculate the weight of the items that you will be packing in your bike case and add that to the weight of the empty cases. This is what you will be transporting to and from the airport and your hotel. It will also be included in your baggage weight limit and fees.
The Thule RoundTrip case weighs 19-pounds empty.
This soft case is made from durable ripstop nylon with aluminum supports and can be used for road bikes, cyclocross bikes, and mountain bikes with a 46-inch wheelbase or less. It offers four integrated wheels, five integrated handles, and two 29-inch wheel bags. Since it is a soft case, when it is not in use, it folds up compactly for easy storage.
7. B&W International Bike Guard Curv
The Bike Guard Curv® Case has been designed to provide you with the protection of a hard case at a reduced weight. This also reduces the concern of excessive baggage fees. It weighs 18.1 pounds empty without the protective inserts, which is in the range of soft cases.
With the protective inserts, its weight only goes up to 24 pounds, which does not take that much extra off of your airline baggage weight limit for you to skip receiving the extra protection of a hard case.
The Bike Guard Curv® uses self-reinforced polypropylene (PP) Curv®-material.
It is weatherproof, scratch-resistant, eco-friendly, and 12 times stronger yet lighter than ABS plastic.
The two sides are not attached but instead interlock. This protects the case from “slide-by” compression.
For storage, the two sides can be nested inside of each other, which saves space, especially in a hotel room. The case can be packed with only one of the two pieces. This case was designed for 29-inch mountain bikes, road bikes, and triathlon bikes.
The Bike Guard Curv® has two fixed wheels and two free-rolling wheels. The four handles give you the option of two carrying handles, a handle for pulling, and another adjustable handle for pulling. A TSA pad-lock can be attached to lock the case.
The interior inserts include two wheel guards, foam padding for between the frame and the wheels, a rear derailleur protector, a foam spacer for the handlebar, a foam block for the chainring, and four frame accessory bags.
8. BIKND Helium V4
The BIKND Helium V4 bike case is a light and easy-to-carry case with air protection.
To ensure maximum protection, the bike has inflatable padding which is truly one of a kind.
And, what makes this case even more unique is its size. It’s the smallest bike case with the most protection. It can fit in the trunk of the smallest cars.
The case was designed with additional compartments for all your bike accessories and even an extra wheel set.
Although it is small, you won’t have to disassemble your bike that much.
Like the EVOC case, this one uses both soft and strategically placed hard materials to make it incredibly protective at a low weight.
The inflatable parts of the case are on both sides of the frame and give the same protection as a hard case but without the extra weight.
Bikers like this bag because it is light weight with strong protection technologies, which make it easy to fly with. The bag opens 360 degrees which makes it easy to pack and unpack the bike. It’s compatible with most road bikes which makes it useful for a triathlon family.
I’d recommend this bag once the company fixes the airbag technology issues. There have been reports of the bags not staying inflated for the entire journey.
9. PRO Mega Bike Travel Case
The PRO Mega Bike Travel Case is a larger soft case. The size makes it quick and easy to pack, including just dropping the seatpost. The large size leads to a debate over whether you need to remove the handlebars or not. Some just loosen the handlebars and turn them parallel to the frame. The PRO Mega Bike Case measures 51 inches x 10 inches x 30 inches.
Despite its size, this bag does not weigh that much more than the other soft cases. Even with all the packing inserts included, this case only weighs 18.1 pounds empty.
The hard plastic base with the aluminum frame and the packing inserts are the highlights of this bag. There are also two plastic poles at each end to add support to the bag. The base has movable brackets for attaching the front and rear axles. Since the brackets can be moved, you can adjust them for your bike’s wheelbase. The maximum wheelbase that can be accommodated is around 47 inches.
You take off the wheels and secure the dropouts to the base using your skewers. If you have some old skewers, you do not need to put your current skewers at risk. There are straps to hold the skewers in place. The brackets have two levels for attaching your bike. The lower level is intended for taller bikes and mountain bikes. There is a chain holder on the rear bracket that keeps the chain under pressure along with a chain cover.
The packing inserts feature large padded blocks that can be Velcroed where needed, including two for the head and seat tube junctions on the frame.
This case is made with foam-padded, ripstop nylon. There are pockets on the side for the wheels and accessories. Inside there is a mesh bag for accessories. It has multiple handles and four wheels that can rotate 360°. These type wheels can be hard to control especially on unpaved or uneven surfaces. The extra handles can be helpful, but you will also have other luggage.
In our product reviews, we presented four soft cases and one hard case. In our buyer’s guide, we recommended that, because of your investment in your bike and your trip, other issues were more important than cutting corners on the cost of a case. So for the best protection, a hard case is really the best choice. However, spending a little more to get a better case is a one-time expense. Transporting a hard case will mean an excess baggage fee every time you travel with a hard case. That is one reason that we are choosing a soft case as our top choice.
However, we reviewed the B&W International Bike Guard Curv® Hard Bike Case which, as one of the lightest hard cases, can reduce the excess baggage fee. It also eliminates the issue of the space needed to store it because it has two sides that can nest inside of each other. However, it does not offer enough internal restraints to keep your bike secure, and the two interlocking sides are complicated to restrap. Airport security may not restrap this case once they inspect it. That is another reason that we have chosen a soft case.
Our recommendation is still to get travel insurance that will provide you with coverage on your bike for loss, damage, or misdirection, including replacement so you have a bike for the portion of your trip during which you planned to use your bike. Then you are covered even when using a soft case.
After comparing the four soft cases, we have chosen the Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 TSA as the winner. The base provides adjustable brackets for attaching your bike that accommodates different wheelbases and bike heights. It holds your bike securely and has a chain holder that keeps tension on your chain and derailleur. The base has large foam blocks that use Velcro, so they can be placed wherever they are needed to protect your bike. It is also the case that helps you pack your bike the quickest which is most important when you are at your destination. To us, all of this makes the Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0 TSA the top choice.