Bike travel bag guide, the basics explained.
If you are currently looking to purchase a new bike travel bag and are trying to work out what you should buy then read on. In this article, we go through the different styles of bike travel bags as well as the things you should consider before choosing one for you. There are many articles online outlining their take on the best bike travel bags and the more you read the more confusing it can get. We want to help you decide what the best one for you is and cut through the myriad of articles so you can narrow down your search and make sure you purchase a bike travel bag that is suitable for your needs and requirements.
We have used bike travel bags ourselves for the past 9 years to travel with our bicycles on planes and trains for international and domestic flights. We have definitely learned a lot along the way but we are happy with the choices we made and our bicycles have always made it to their destinations in the same conditions they left. We have written a number of other articles geared around the transportation of your bike which both complement and add to this article.
- Bike box basics helping you select the best type – an article all about bike boxes designed to help make sure you source the right one for you.
- What you need to know about taking your bike on a plane – lots of helpful information about traveling with your bike on a plane based on our own experience. Make sure you are well prepared for your journey and know what to expect at the airport.
- Airline fees and charges for bikes – see our list of over 100 airlines and what each charges to bring your bike as luggage.
- Useful tips about using a cardboard bike box for air travel – lots of handy information about using a cardboard bike box for the first time including where to get one, how to prepare it, and how to pack your bike.
- Shipping a bike: learn how to get the best deal – you may decide that shipping your bike is a better option for you. Learn about how the whole process works and make sure you get the best deal in the process.
Bike travel bags are designed to transport or store your bike and offer different levels of protection depending on what you need them for. They are typically made from hard plastic, aluminum, padded nylon, or a combination of these materials. The lightest bike travel bags weigh as little as 2kg while the heaviest weigh in at 18.5kg. Bike travel bag dimensions vary greatly between brands and styles and the type of bicycle they are designed for.
Choosing the best bike travel bag can be confusing and there are lots of different options available on the market to select from. In this section of the guide, we break down bike travel bags to the basics to help you narrow your search considerably. At the end of the article, we have a list of over 60 bike travel bags with weight and dimension data to help you firstly see what is available and secondly focus on the brands and models that suit you.
The differences between hard, light, and soft bags
Bike travel cases come in three broad categories which we have called hard, light and soft.
Hard bike travel bags are constructed from molded plastic, aluminum, or another rigid material. The biggest advantage of hard bags is the level of protection they offer your bike. This comes at the expense of weight though and you will need to keep in mind the combined weight of the bag and your bike, especially when considering airline luggage restrictions. The hard bags in our table range from 8.2kg to 18.5kg. Given their rigid construction there is no ability to reduce the size of the case for storage purposes.
Soft bike travel bags combine the benefits of the other types to offer good protection without significant weight. These bags generally have a rigid base with wheels and a tough nylon top section supported by battens or a frame. Bags in this category weigh between 4.9kg and 11.8kg. When you get to your destination or return home, you can reduce the size of these cases to make storage easier. We have included the folded dimensions in our table where possible.
Light bike travel bags are made from nylon or plastic and provide the least protection for your bike. In our opinion, they are only suitable for travel in a car or on a train where you are looking after the bike yourself. These cases weigh anywhere from 0.5kg to 4.8kg. When not in use these cases fold up and take little space.
5 factors to consider when choosing a bike travel bag
In our experience, there are five factors that you should take into consideration to make sure you choose the best bike travel bag for you:
- the type of bicycle you want to put in the bag
- the combined weight of your bike and the bag
- your budget
- frequency and type of travel and,
- ease of packing
1. The type of bicycle you want to put in the bag
One of the first things you need to consider is the type of bike that you want to put in the travel bag. Are you looking to put a road bike, mountain bike, or another type of bike in the bag? Not all bike travel bags will fit all types and styles of bike and it is important to check that the bag you are considering is suitable for the type of bike you have. While many cases will accommodate multiple bicycle types, others are designed with specific bicycles in mind. If you have an especially large frame you may also find that some cases will not fit your bike. Given the range of bike travel bags available on the market, you will find a case to suit the type of bike you have, but you need to be aware of this upfront.
2. The combined weight of your bike and the travel bag
If you are planning to use airlines with your bike and travel bag then the combined weight of the bike and bag is another important factor to consider. Many airlines impose a 23kg limit on bikes while others will allow up to 30kg. The heaviest case on the market weighs in at 18.5kg which does not leave much room for your bike if the airline you are intending to use has a 23kg limit. So make sure you know the weight of your bicycle when you are looking at different options and consider the combined weight of both.
3. Your budget
The next factor is how much you are able to spend on your bike bag. The cost of bike bags varies significantly. In our table, the cheapest bag on the market is $US 42 (£30) while the most expensive is $US 1,190 (£852). The range of prices for each of the types of bags is as follows.
Hard cases – US$ 165 to US 1,190 (£120 to £852)
Light bags – US$ 42 to US$ 250 (£30 to £180)
Soft bags – US$ 160 to US$ 912 (£117 to £655)
Ultimately it is a personal decision on how much you want to spend on a travel case and there are cases to suit everyone’s budget.
4. Frequency and type of travel
How you intend to use your bike travel bag is the fourth factor we think you should consider. Will you be using it on airlines? Will you need to fit it in hire cars? How often are you likely to travel? There is no point in getting a light bag that offers no protection if you are going to be doing lots of air travel and handing your bike over to baggage handlers. When looking at different cases consider the level of protection offered, maneuverability, size, and durability. For a one-off trip, you may be able to borrow or hire a bike travel bag, rather than outlay the money to purchase one yourself.
5. Ease of packing
The final factor we think you should consider is how easy it is to pack your bike in the travel bag. Some bags will simply require you to remove the wheels and place the bike inside while others will require handlebars and/or forks to be removed. If you are not comfortable taking your bike apart you may want to consider cases that don’t require too much dismantling. Likewise, if you will be packing and unpacking your bike multiple times in a short period you would probably want a case that is quicker to pack.
What is the best bike travel bag?
Of course, everyone wants to make sure they select the best bike travel bag that is available. So which one is the best? In our opinion, there is no single bike travel case and what is best for one person is not the best for another when you look at the different factors we outlined earlier.
Our personal opinion is that the best bag for you comes down to a trade-off between our five factors. For example, if you are looking for a high level of protection then that is generally going to come at the expense of weight and cost. So we suggest working through our factors in your order of preference to end up with a shortlist which you can then research a little further and make your choice. Once you narrow it down to a couple of options and maybe a couple of brands in a similar price range you are not going to go far wrong with any choice. Any models or brands that are truly bad and poorly designed and manufactured are going to appear on forums and other reviews. So, once you are down to a choice of 2 or 3 models of bike bag have a quick search and see what other people think of them before you make your decision.
Online forums are a great tool and there are plenty of discussions about bike travel bags and the different brands to help you make your choice. You can even start your own topic to get information about a particular case you are considering. This extends also to YouTube where you can find videos reviewing different bags or demonstrating how to pack them.
What bike travel bag do we use?
We purchased Evoc Bike Bags in 2013 for our road bikes. We have used them primarily for international travel and we have been more than happy with them and would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone. To pack the bikes it is a simple matter of removing the wheels and handlebars and securing it in the bag. Once you have done it a few times it only takes about 30 mins from start to finish. The bag is big enough to fit a few other bits and pieces in there as well. After 9 years of regular travel, the bags are still in good condition and we are confident they will be in operation for many more years ahead. You can check out our detailed review here.
What is currently available – the 2022 list
To help you select and purchase the best bike travel bag we have combed the market to see what is available and included the results in the table below. We have listed some of the key features so you can quickly narrow down your search and research in more detail the travel bags that suit your needs. We believe this is the majority of bike travel bags currently available and regularly update the table to include new models when released. If you know of something that is not on our list let us know and send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly add it to the table.