Even if we’d love to, we can’t travel everywhere on our bikes! Even the most hardcore enduro racers will have to transport their bike via other means at some point.
Despite being typically durable, bikes are still vulnerable to nicks, cracks or dents when travelling. And then there’s the challenge of flying with a bike!
Bike boxes solve these problems. They’re the perfect option for safe bike transportation when you’re otherwise unable to cycle or drive to a location.
That obviously includes air travel, but also sea and train travel.
You may be able to transport complete bikes on some modes of public transport but not others, and even on some trains, you may be required to pack your bike away properly prior to travel.
It’s probably not worth the risk, and for peace of mind and security, a bike box or bag is the way to go.
Bike Bags vs Bike Boxes
There are two broad types of bike transportation systems available, the bike bag and bike box.
- Bike bags are generally the cheaper, lighter and simpler option. They’re no slouch when it comes to protection, though, and many incorporate thick high-impact foam or even inflatable airbags. Given that fabric material has a lot more give than plastic, they are more flexible than hard cases, meaning they can slot into smaller spaces.
- Bike boxes are a more comprehensive option when it comes to sheer durability and protection. With an array of high-quality plastics used in their construction, heavy-duty catches and other security features, they offer peace of mind for the owners of very expensive bikes. The trade-off is that hard bike boxes are generally heavier and less flexible than most bike bags.
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The Best Bike Boxes
1. Evoc Pro Road Bike Bag
Another top bike bag from German manufacturer Evoc, this bike bag is purpose-built for road bikes. It’s designed to require minimal pack down, so you’ll only need to remove the wheels and pedals. This is excellent for when a quick teardown and build is needed. To add to its portability, this bike bag can be packed down and folded with a clever collapsible design.
The Evoc Pro bag features an internal frame which makes transportation even simpler and safer. High-quality caster wheels complete a bag that is extraordinarily well designed for convenience and protection.
- Requires minimal pack down
- Superbly well designed for convenience when travelling
- Accepts road bikes with up to 107cm wheelbases
- Superb wheels
- Collapsible design
2. Chain Reaction Cycles Pro Bike Bag
Custom designed by Chain Reaction Cycles themselves, this bag represents superb value and is flexible to virtually all bike sizes. First and foremost, this has to rate as one of the cheapest bags on the market for its feature set and size. It features numerous protective inserts, 8 in fact, to ensure that every bike is covered for maximum protection.
There are no less than 12 internal fastening straps too, ensuring any bike can be stored securely, including very long wheelbase downhill bikes ranging all the way up to 125cm in length. With ample space for accessories and a top-quality rip-proof exterior, this is a great bag for the money.
- Custom made by cyclists
- Comfortably fits most bikes
- Ample protection and fastening
- Decent wheel casters
3. Scicon Road AeroComfort 3.0 TSA Bike Travel Bag
The Scicon AeroComfort range has become synonymous with top pros and cycling teams from around the world. This is a soft case bike bag, but forget the ‘soft’ – this is a top-class bike bag with ample protection for even the most expensive bikes.
The Scicon AeroComfort 3.0 actually comes in multiple versions for both road bikes and mountain bikes. It features an internal bike frame that you’ll need to attach your wheel-less bike to prior to packing. Other than that, you can keep the handlebars, pedals and fork attached, which is awesome.
- Top-quality high-protection soft bike bag
- Road and MTB versions available
- Comes with an internal bike frame
- Little bike disassembly needed
- Fits bikes with frames up to 63cm
- Quick-release and thru-axle compatible
4. Evoc Bike Travel Bag XL
If you quite simply need the biggest bike bag on the market then this is the one for you. Forget 29” wheels and 65cm frames, this colossal bike bag can even accept fat bikes and plus-size bikes for those beyond 6ft6 in height. It has a mighty internal capacity of 320L and will accept bikes with up to 125cm wheelbases.
The Evoc XL packs all the usual high-quality features you expect from Evoc and has an innovative fitting system that can be tailored to almost any bike in existence, regardless of size (excluding tandems, obviously).
- Huge size for 99% of bikes
- Still lightweight at 8kg
- Superb fabric outer with padding
- Safe frame mounting system
- Plenty of room for accessories and other equipment
5. Evoc 29″ Bike Travel Bag
Here we have another excellent soft bike bag from Evoc. Firstly, this bike bag is very flexible and can accommodate nearly all bikes including road bikes and mountain bikes with 63cm frames and 29-inch wheels. It’s won many awards owing to its flexibility and wealth of fastening options.
Though it is a soft case, it has proper padding in all the right areas to keep your bikes soft spots protected during travel. The ultra-strong external fabric is waterproof and tearproof and features numerous handles.
With extra compartments galore, this bike bag combines convenience with a very comprehensive design.
- Suitable for most bikes up to 63cm frames and 29” wheels
- Strong fabric exterior with advanced padding
- Easy to wheel along with an extra-wide wheelbase
- Multiple extra pockets
- Lots of handles
- Quick-release and thru-axle compatible
6. Thule RoundTrip Traveller Bike Case
Thule’s excellent reputation has extended to the very well designed RoundTrip Traveller bike bag. It uses an internal bike frame to suspend your bike in a safe position for transport and with its high-tech padded exterior, your bike’s protruding components will be kept safe.
This is quite a slimline bike bag and will require you to remove the wheels, handlebars, seat and pedals, but that means it can slot into tighter spaces than other larger bike bags. It’s still big enough to accommodate frames up to 63cm and with a wheelbase of no more than 117cm. It will also accept 29” wheels.
- Includes interior bike bracket/frame
- Suitable for most bikes with up to 63cm frames and 29-inch wheels
- Excellent padded design
- Good value
- Quick-release and thru-axle compatible
7. Topeak PakGo X Bike Transport System
This bike box is very heavy-duty indeed, featuring a strong polycarbonate shell with aluminium frame. It’s safe to say that even the most heavy-handed baggage handlers have no chance of damaging this super-strong bike case.
The Topeak PakGo X comes with numerous advanced features including an innovative internal bike holder that doubles up as a workstation. This makes packing and reassembling your bike very easy indeed and is very useful for working on your bike at trails, tournaments or competitions.
Unlike other bike boxes and bags on the list, it’s not suitable for extra-large bikes with wheelbases beyond 112cm and with wheels larger than 26”.
- Nuke-proof design
- Innovatively doubles up as a workstation
- Suitable for average-sized bikes only
- Surprisingly light at 10kg
- Easy to manoeuvre
8. SHOKBOX CLASSIC BIKE BOX
ShokBox’s original models were initially funded via Kickstarter but have grown to become of the most popular pro bike boxes in the UK. First and foremost, they’re extremely strong and have been tested to be strongest in key areas for bike transportation.
This superb bike box is suitable for 29” wheels and has a ton of features including well-placed handles, optional GPS tracking and an advanced locking system. ShokBox’s customer service is second to none and replacement parts and upgrades are easily available. It even has a lifetime warranty to boot.
- Superbly durable
- Optional GPS tracker
- Fits 29” wheels
- Crush-proof design
- Lifetime warranty
9. Bike Box Alan GPRS Race
Custom bike box builder and cycling pro Alan from the UK has set about to create a legacy of masterclass bike boxes. With numerous awards and accolades earnt across major cycling publications worldwide, he’s doing a pretty good job!
This could be considered the pinnacle of his efforts. It’s an extremely durable plastic hard case bike box complete with GPRS tracking device. Each and every component has been manufactured with exceptional quality in mind.
This bike box is said to fit 95% of all road and mountain bikes with frames up to a colossal 65cm. It also comes with Alan’s world-beating aftermarket customer care, meaning you’ll never be left without spare parts if you need them, not to mention a phenomenal 7-year warranty!
- Masterclass hard plastic bike box
- Fits 95% of all bikes
- Easy to pack
- 7-year warranty
- GPRS tracking system included
- Quick release and thru-axle compatible
10. B&W Bike Box
This small bike box is purpose-designed for Brompton bikes and other small folding bikes. It’s excellent value for a hard case and though it’s pretty simple, it’s secure, lightweight and compact.
This small hard case enables you to store folding bikes by simply folding them and placing them in the box. No disassembly is required. You can also collapse this box to a profile of just 20cm, which is quite remarkable. An excellent travel all-rounder.
- Designed for Brompton and folding bikes
- Strong hard exterior
- Foldable for transport
- Excellent value
11. Scicon Aerotech Evolution X TSA Bike Travel Case
Last but never least, the Evolution X TSA bike case from Scicon is a real world-beater. This pro-level bike case actually represents remarkably good value considering it is expertly built in every sense. Not only is it extremely strong in and out, but it also weighs in pretty light for a hard case at just 11kg.
The Scicon Aerotech Evolution X TSA can accommodate large bike frames up to 63cm with integrated seats and wheels up to 29”. It’s very comfortable to use and sports excellent coasters. It also includes two TSA-approved travel locks for extra safety.
- Strong yet light hard bike box
- TSA-Approved locks
- Fits larger bikes
- Pretty light at 11kg
- Quick-release and thru-axle compatible
What to Consider When Buying a Bike Box
Type of Bike
There is a huge array of bike boxes and bags available on the market but not every bag or box is compatible with every bike. Bikes come in many sizes ranging from small foldable Brompton bikes to colossal fat bikes.
Matching your bike to the case is crucial and should always be the first step to choosing one.
Several cases here will fit very large bikes with 63cm frames and 29-inch wheels, and some, like the Evoc XL, will fit fat bikes and plus bikes for very tall individuals.
For average-sized bikes, you essentially have the pick of the punch, provided it doesn’t have a very long wheelbase.
Road bikes, for example, typically have short wheelbases whereas downhill bikes have very long wheelbases. For example, the Pole Machine 200 has a wheelbase of 136cm (though that is the longest wheelbase bike in the world!)!
Always be sure to check and double-check measurements before buying!
Hard or Soft?
Hard cases are generally seen as stronger and more durable and this is probably true. Soft cases still contain advanced padding, though, and they’re no slouch when it comes to protection. One advantage of soft cases is that they’re more flexible and can be pushed into smaller spaces, also making them more economic when they’re packed with a smaller bike. A large hard case will always be the same size, even with smaller contents.
Other than that, whilst you’d expect soft cases to be much lighter, there’s not usually much in it in terms of weight as modern plastics are generally very light.
Quick Release vs Thru Axles
Bikes feature two common axle types. Skewer axles, used for most wheels including quick-release wheels, are thin at 5mm. Thru-axles are typically 12mm thick.
Some hard cases with wheel holes are only compatible with skewer axles. It is possible to remove a thru-axle and replace it with a skewer axle temporarily for travel, so your wheels sit properly in the holes. Luckily, though, many bike boxes are compatible with either axle type (including the vast majority of soft cases).
Weight and Portability
Bikes boxes and bags are large and their weight can be considerable. Bikes themselves typically weigh between 8 to 10kg, and bike boxes and bags weigh similar. You’re probably looking at 15kg minimum for the bike and bag/box unless you have a very light road or racing bike.
Soft bags are generally 2 – 3kg lighter than hard cases but modern plastics aren’t particularly heavy and there’s really very little in it. Some lighter cases include the Scicon AeroTech and Evoc Pro/XL.
Portability is also influenced by the wheels or castors installed on the case. the standards here are pretty high but some cases only have one-directional casters whereas others have multi-directional casters.
Airline Weight Allowance
Airlines are generally pretty liberal with their weight and size allowances for bikes and other sporting goods like skis. Many allow your bike bag to be your first piece of checked-in luggage, meaning you won’t need to add it as a sports equipment unless you have other luggage.
Even so, these allowances can vary considerably. For example, Virgin Atlantic’s max size is 190cm and 32kg, clearly big and heavy enough for any bike bag or box on the market.
Other airlines, e.g. American Airlines, will only accept bike bags up to 157cm as your first piece of check-in luggage, which doesn’t cover every bike box or bag.
Not every bike bag or box features locks of any kind but those that do typically come with TSA-Certified locks. TSA, or Travel Security Administration locks are designed to be unlockable by airport security staff in case a luggage check is needed. Otherwise, airport staff and other law enforcement or customs officials have the right to break into your bag.
TSA is an American standard, though, and with no real European or international equivalent, there is no guarantee that these locks are effective everywhere in the world.
If you want to eliminate all chance of security breaking into your bike case, don’t lock it.
Disassembling a bike to pack it may seem daunting but really, you’ll only need to remove the wheels, seat, pedals and fork at the most. Many bike bags won’t require you to remove the fork or seat, depending on your bike’s size. Some, like the Evoc Pro Road Bike case or Scicon AeroComfort, don’t even require you to remove the handlebars.
Many cases also come with built-in frames to hold your bike internally within the case. These double-up as a workstation, allowing you to quickly reassemble your bike when needed.
The Benefits of Bike Bags and Boxes
Bikes have an awkward shape to say the least and when you’re not actually riding them, they’re pretty unwieldy. This makes transportation on public transport difficult.
Back in the day, airlines would tend to accept bikes on flights so long as the pedals were removed, tyres deflated and handlebars turned sideways.
Nowadays, it is very rare to find an airline that accepts bikes in any form other than bagged or boxed.
Boxing or bagging your bike is best practice for travel anyway as this protects the bike and keeps it secure. Most bikes won’t need much disassembly to prep for a bike bag or box – it really isn’t as much hassle as you might expect.
Bike bags and boxes are very useful and though the costs may seem steep, they’re designed to last for life and are worth it in the long run. International travel is pretty testing and poor quality bike bags or boxes get found out quickly. Every single one of these bike bags or boxes have been tried and tested by a multitude of users, the standards are very high.
It all comes down to your bike and the level of protection you require. Average sizes or smaller bikes will have the pick of the bunch whereas larger bikes are confined to fewer options.
For repeated, intense travel, hard cases are pretty hard to beat and for expensive bike owners, trusting your bike to others without serious level protection may not be palatable. For domestic travel, soft cases may well do the job just fine.