When was the last time you went somewhere new on your bike? When did you last charge into a corner not knowing what would be on the other side? When did you last try and stumble over directions in a new language, or drink a beer that you did not recognise? For many of us, winter is here and riding dry trails is a memory–but adventure is only a short flight away!
Flying with a bike is now easier than ever, and there are a huge range of dedicated bags on the market designed to protect your prized ride. You can make do with a cardboard bike box from your local bike shop, but a dedicated case makes travelling with your bike a lot more enjoyable. A good bike bag should pack up easily, protect your bike, and be light and transportable enough to make carriage stress-free. We tested five of the most popular bike bags on the market to see which one performed the best.
Chain Reaction Pro Bike Bag
Price: 310,49 € Weight: 8,6kg
The Chain Reaction PRO bike bag is the cheapest bag in test, but is certainly feature packed. The bag includes alloy Crush Protection Inserts which, once fitted in place of your hubs, will prevent your frame and forks from being crushed together during transport. These inserts fit inside slots on the foam blocks in the bag to provide a secure mounting. The bag is fully compatible with 29er wheels and features twelve internal straps and integrated fork padding to keep everything protected. We liked the big wheels fitted to the bag, allowing it to be towed over rough ground, and at 8.6kg it keeps the weight down. For the money it offers most of the features of the more expensive bags and was quick to load and unload, and proved durable in our testing. Like the EVOC and Polaris, side protection is good, but not as thick as the BikND and Bikebox.
EVOC Bike Travel Bag
Price: 352,94 € Weight: 8,6kg
The EVOC bag has been the most popular soft bag for a number of years and it is easy to see why. The slide-in plastic stabilizers make the bag stand up, so loading is very quick. Although there are no solid crush-protection inserts for the fork or frame, everything feels very well made, and there are plenty of internal straps to hold your bike in place. The bag has proven durable in many overseas adventures. The best feature is that both bike wheels are stored in the rear of the bag, keeping the weight centered over the bag’s roller wheels; when combined with the class-leading large roller wheels, this bag is a delight to pull around. It covers rough ground easily and makes airports a breeze. If you travel long distances with your bag or need the best roller, then this is the bag for you.
Price: 299,99 € Weight: 8,8 kg
Polaris have been making hard shell cases for many years, and have taken that experience to produce the AXIAL soft bag. The attention to detail is very high. The AXIAL bristles with neat design features: removable strengthening inserts keep the bag upright for packing, and can be removed allowing the bag to be stored within its own EVA base. When packing the bag, all the straps are well located and foam inserts protect the bottom bracket; everything is well thought out. The packing instructions suggest the seatpost should be removed and secured in a dedicated sleeve, which is a bit of a no-no with a dropper post. It was not a big problem, however, as the bag had plenty of space to keep the seatpost in place. The wheels slot into two padded sleeves on one side of the bag, and there was plenty of space for big 29er tyres. The AXIAL is easy to transport, but with both bike wheels stored on one side, you have to spend a bit more time packing your belongings to ensure that the bag remains balanced. If space is at a premium in your home, the AXIAL packs down to the smallest dimensions in the group, and is easy to store when not in use.
Price: 450,00 € Weight: 8,0 kg
The BikND is packed full of great features and is by far the most logical bag to load; both sides zip down fully to allow you to work on your bike through a full 360 degrees. We really liked the way the front and back axles mount through an adjustable brace onto a rigid frame, keeping the bike secure in transit; it also helps packing and unpacking too. This can take a bit of time initially, and you may have to let some air out of your shock if your bike is really long, but once mastered it is a very quick process. To keep the weight down to a class-leading 8kg, BikND have used inflatable cells for side protection–a nice touch which offers an extra layer of security not normally found on soft bags. The bag is supplied with an an allen key set and an easy-to-attach frame guard which holds the handlebar. The bag suits a variety of bikes, from road bikes to full-on DH rigs. When loaded it is the most compact of all the bags, and it also folds down neatly for home storage. While not quite as stable as the class-leading EVOC bag when towing (as the wheels are smaller than they should be, and the centre of gravity is a little farther forward than optimal), it still proved itself well on a 1km tarmac drag. The Jetpack is the easiest to pack and with its unique features, it offers unrivaled protection for a soft bag–thus standing out as the overall winner in this test.
Price: 546,00 € Weight: 11,2 kg
If absolute protection is what you require, then the hard-shelled Bikebox is hands-down the best in the group. Handmade in the UK, and offered with a 10-year guarantee, this has been the box of choice for many Olympic track and road teams. With a hard-shell case and a steel anti-crush pole, you can be sure that your bike will turn up safe and sound. All this protection does come at a cost to practicality, however. As a hard case, it does take more preparation to pack your bike–this is the only box in the group test that requires your forks to be removed. There are also no dedicated covers for forks and bars, so additional clothing is best used to ensure no contact is made within the case. Our medium bike was a close fit, so if your bike is a large or bigger you may need to disassemble the bike further (deflate the rear shock). In use the box is very stable and balanced, the integrated handles are useful, and high quality security clasps keep your belongings secured. The four small wheels make airports easy, but struggle on rough ground. We liked the provision of many straps to secure the bike and the quality of the workmanship. The Bikebox does require more time and mechanical knowledge to pack properly, but once packed, it is certainly the most protective in this group test.
All these bags offer a far more convenient and protective solution than the humble cardboard box, especially if you are a frequent flyer. We were very impressed with all the bags in the test, and would happily recommend them all to protect your valuable bike. If absolute protection is what you require, the Bikebox is certainly the best, but is less practical and harder to transport. The AXIAL had some very nice features and is the most compact when stored; the Chain Reaction PRO bag is superb value, offering all the features of the more expensive bags at a very competitive price. In the end it was the EVOC Bike Travel bag and BikND Jetpack that impressed the most: the EVOC is the most comfortable and capable when towing, but the innovative protective features of the BikND and the 360 degree access nose it ahead to take the overall win.
Words & Pictures: Trevor Worsey
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