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Bike boxes: A buyer's guide

Cyclist magazine
9 Jun 2021

Taking your bike on a plane? Unless you’re planning to buy it a seat, you’ll need a bike box…

With Europe just a budget-airline flight away offering famous climbs and electric descents, it’s not surprising so many of us are booking cycling holidays abroad these days.

And if you’re taking your bike on a break, you’ll need to pack it up for transit.

Here are the best bike boxes

1. Evoc travel bag

Size: 135 x 25 x 75cm Weight: 9kg

Unlike hard case boxes, the Evoc Travel Bag uses Woven PE (polyethylene) to produce what Evoc describes as an ‘extremely lightweight, tear-resistant and highly water-repellent fabric’. While that may be true, not having a hard outer shell has its drawbacks. The biggest one being that if a heavy item of luggage gets placed on top of it, your bike risks getting damaged. This is particularly true if your bike has disc-brake wheels as sideways pressure on the disc could potentially warp it. Meaning you’d either have to bend it back (far from ideal) or buy a new disc and fit it (a very long way from ideal). 

Thankfully, this bag’s wheel sections have their own rigid disc protection area designed to prevent that eventuality. The use of Woven PE instead of ABS plastic, along with the aluminium frame the bike stands on inside the bag, means the whole thing is fairly light, too, and can be folded down for easy storage when not in use. Well-positioned grab handles and skate wheels also mean it’s easy to shift about.

2. B&W Bike Box

Size: 118 x 85 x 25cm Weight: 9.5kg

Size matters, especially if you’re having to lug your bike and all your other luggage around. Which is why this offering from B&W is a bit special. Measuring just over a metre in length, and 85cm tall, its petite nature means you won’t be struggling to juggle your worldly possessions as the baggage drop-off lady asks to see your terrible passport photo. 

Being smaller by design doesn’t mean that those of you with bigger bikes need miss out, however, as the case can easily swallow bikes all the way up to a huge 62cm frame. Being at the budget end of the scale, you could also be forgiven for worrying about the box’s protective attributes but as it uses the same ‘strike-proof’ ABS plastic you’ll find in more expensive products, your bike’s safety will be guaranteed in the event of bruising encounter. 

Lined with a foam housing, B&W also includes two padded wheel bags and a fork spacer to ensure your ride will have a comfortable trip. As with the other bike transportation devices on display here, packing your bike means disassembling the handlebars, seat post and wheels and strapping them in separately, although being smaller it’s obviously a tighter fit.

3. PBK Bike Travel Case 

Size: 105 x 90 x 30 cm Weight: 13.4kg

We’ve seen a few iterations of this bike box over the years. This one comes branded up by online retailer ProBikeKit. Made of tough plastic, this rigid option is a bit like an instrument case. Packing is easy – a simple case of removing the wheels, bars, pedals and seatpost, then clipping or strapping them into place via the case's many velcro straps.

With the wheels slotting into two dedicated wells within the case, a thick foam pad adds further peace of mind.

The whole assemblage is then further bolstered by two anti-crush posts that fit between the lid and the base. This means that although the case is very rigid by itself, even if it ends up at the bottom of a very large pile, your bike should remain unsquished.

Once packed, the case snaps shut via various metal clasps, one of which you can also sling a TSA-spec padlock through for further security should you wish.

Easy to push or pull around, unsurprisingly for a rigid box, the PBK case weighs a fair chunk at 13.4kg. It’s something worth bearing in mind if you need to carry it or if you’re packing to a restricted baggage limit. Otherwise, it’s a great buy.

4. Thule Roundtrip Pro Semi-Rigid Bike Case

Size: 126 x 30 x 89 cm Weight: 9.5 kg

Probably the most innovative of the lot, the Thule Roundtrip is not just a bike box, as it comes with its very own tripod workstand. 

Like many workstands, you secure the bike by attaching the fork while resting the bottom bracket area on a small plinth, tying it down with a ratcheting strap. By taking the legs off, you can then easily clip the bike and its attendant sledge into the box before placing the wheels on either side.

Quick to assemble at the other end, your bike should then arrive both undamaged and ready to work on once you reach your destination.

The Roundtrip’s semi-rigid construction also sees foldable panels zip into the sides of the bag. Almost as secure as a rigid box, once removed, they let the whole bag fold down into a package no larger than its full-size footprint and only about 25cm high; easily small enough to slide under a bed for storage at home or on holiday.

In common with most Thule products, a lot of thought has been invested in the design process. The workstand function is no gimmick, in fact, it’s nicer than the majority of dedicated models we’ve used. Taken together, the result is a product that offers a lot of features for the price, yet still competes in terms of weight and security.

5. Scicon Aerocomfort 3.0

Size: 118 x 90 x 25cm Weight: 8.8kg

Bike-case godfathers Scicon have come up with a superb bit of kit in the Aerocomfort 3.0. Packing the bike saw us get away with only taking the wheels and pedals off, reducing faff time considerably. Fixing the bike into the bag is pretty simple thanks to its built-in rack, meaning you just have to place your frame onto the internal mount and secure it to both the fork and rear dropouts. There's even a little guard like the ones you get on kids bikes to stop your derailleur from getting smacked if you choose to leave it one.

Saving us one job we always have to do before flying, the bag’s padding is formidable and also provides safe storage for wheels on either side of the frame. Thanks to nicely rubberised wheels on the case itself, the Scicon is also very easy to wheel around the airport. If you can deal with the sizable price tag, this bag is perfect for lazy riders like us who hate taking apart their bikes, plus it provides tons of protection.

6. BikeBox Alan’s GPRS-RACE 

Size: 105 x 90 x 30 cm Weight: 11.7kg

Right at the top end of the market is BikeBox Alan whose premium products are made from super-tough ABS hard plastic. How tough? Check out the various Youtube vids of the eponymous Alan testing boxes by slinging them off viaducts, bumper-hauling them behind a souped-up Subaru, and even blasting them with a shotgun! 

His latest offering, the GPRS Race, has added to these nuclear levels of protection by incorporating a fully functional tracking device which you’ll then be able to use to trace your beloved bike in real-time via an app using your smartphone. 

Packing is easy – a simple case of removing the wheels, bars, pedals and seatpost and clipping or strapping them into place. There’s also a carbon anti-crush post that fits between the lid and the base, plus a thick foam pad for added peace of mind. Chuck in a seven-year guarantee, a customisable exterior, wheels and a pull strap and you’ve basically got the Rolls-Royce of bike boxes. And if that price is making you wince, Bikebox Alan even offers a hire service with prices starting from as little as £65 a week – and around half that if you collect it from the company HQ in Rotherham.

Buy now from BikeBoxAlan for £570

7. Polaris Pro Bike Pod

Size: 116 x 86 x 30cm Weight: 11.4kg

Being among the most expensive in this group, the Polaris Pro Bike Pod is definitely aimed at the serious cyclist. Or perhaps the seriously wealthy ones. Using a composite polypropylene, this hard-case box is extremely tough, and with four clamps – two of which are lockable – very secure. Unlike some others here, which have moulded compartments or sections, or even an anti-crush pole in the middle, this box’s main internal protection is provided by two heavy-duty slabs of foam.

Wheels are strapped against the hard case, while the foam then forms a sandwich between them and the rest of your bike which you’ll need to dismantle right down to your rear derailleur. That, along with the lack of sophistication in this box’s internal design were the down points for us. On the plus side, though, this box is incredibly compact easily fitting in the boot of a car and we’d be confident it could take some serious bashing about without your bike coming a cropper. Which is what it’s all about, really.

Buy now from Polaris for £540

8. Velovault 2

Size: 116 x 91 x 30cm Weight: 11.6kg

Bike boxes don’t need to be the prettiest objects but they do need to be practical. And practicality is the word that springs to mind with the VeloVault bike box. 

You see, bikes boxes are only as strong as their weakest point –  their catches. Recognising this, the British-made VeloVault uses Protex Catchbolts (which have a track record in Formula 1) that have a claimed 400kg strength rating per catch. In plain English, this means you could dangle a baby elephant off of one of those catches and it still wouldn’t break! 

There are also integrated anti-crush poles in both walls of the case, so no faffing around trying to install the pole every time you open and close it. The box is compact, which is great for being on the move, but that comes at the price of having to remove everything from the pedals to rear derailleur to fit your whole bike in. 

Buy now from VeloVault for £459

Read our guides to the best cycling holidays, how to pack a bike box and 12 amazing Tour of Britain rides

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