Field Tested: Bike travel bag comparisonOriginally posted on October 22, 2015 at 6:00 am
We field tested three bags for traveling with your bike: Evoc Bike Bag, Scicon AeroComfort MTB and the Shimano Pro Bike Mega. If you’re ready to ditch the cardboard box, considering putting one of these products on your Christmas/Hanukkah list this year.
Evoc Bike Bag
Tester: Mike Cushionbury
Evoc is commonly known as the brand that redefined how a bike travel case should be made: soft shell to keep it very lightweight, collapsible for easy storage, and quick and easy to pack. Its Bike Travel Bag, shown here, is the one that set the standard.
The bottom of the case has external hard-plastic skid beams that support and protect the case. Two removable glass-fiber rods at the front and back, along with two plastic rods inside each side wheel pocket, give the case support and shape. For portage, there are two inline skate wheels with sealed bearings at the back.
Evoc’s roomy wheel compartments are unique in that they zip open from the side as opposed to from the top, flapping open almost like little doors to make it incredibly easy to drop in your 27.5, 29 or 27plus wheel—and both pockets have hard-plastic reinforcement at the axle/rotor location. Inside, there’s a larger pocket on the side for pedals, tools and the like, as well as a smaller pocket at the back.
The bag clamshells open for easy bike installation. Remove both wheels and pedals, then lower the saddle to make it fit in the bag. Next, remove the bars and stem, then use the included frame pad to wrap around the top tube and down tube. Evoc’s bag doesn’t have dedicated axle mounts; instead, the bottom bracket rests on a large reinforced pad. You then slide the fork into its padded area, with the dropouts resting on the bottom of the bag.
Because of the frame angle this creates, rear derailleur removal isn’t necessary. Also, with this construction there’s no need to worry about various axle sizes and designs, and it’s one of the quickest and easiest to pack, taking just minutes once you have the process down. With plenty of Velcro and buckle straps, everything snugs tightly into place, and there’s lots of room for extras like a helmet, shoes, a water pack and some clothes.
With a whopping seven handholds and large, wide-stance wheels, maneuvering the bag around is easy. Weighing in at 19.6 pounds, depending on the style of bike you ride there might or might not be much leeway to pack extras before hitting that magic travel weight of 50 pounds. Nonetheless, Evoc’s reputation as one of the best bag makers in the world is well earned and the Bike Travel Bag proves that.
- MSRP: $475
Scicon AeroComfort MTB case
Tester: Adam Newman
Scicon Bags specializes in bicycle transportation cases and is used by several top pro road teams and triathletes, but it also offers a mountain bike case, pictured here.
The case starts with a metal chassis to which the frame and fork are mounted. With both of the bike’s axles (QR or thru axle) mounted into place, it keeps the bike stable and off the ground. Beneath the chassis is a set of four casters that rotate 360 degrees, making it a breeze to roll through the airport.
The bag unzips entirely, with each side folding away to give you total access to the bike, which is useful for you and for the security folks who can open it and see your bike without having to unpack and repack anything.
Each side of the clamshell opening contains a special zippered pocket for your wheels, and I was pleased to see that they fit both 29-inch wheels and a 26×3.8-inch wheel and tire. They will likely fit even 29-plus wheels and tires if you deflate them. There’s also a stash pocket on the inside of the bag for things like tools, pedals and other small items.
The handlebars are removed from the bike and slide into a padded sleeve to keep them protected. The sleeve then Velcros into place so it’s not flopping around. Included is a small metal guard that bolts on to protect your rear derailleur, but I felt safer not taking any chances; I unbolted the derailleur entirely and fastened it to the frame with a toe strap. Pro tip: Toe straps are super handy for all sorts of things—except securing your feet to your pedals.
The last piece is the saddle. You can either remove it altogether and stuff it in somewhere, or slam it down and slip the saddle cover over it. I found that even with it all the way down, the strap wasn’t long enough to reach up and around to secure it in place, but it doesn’t seem like a very vital step in securing the bike. When I traveled with a dropper post, I removed it from the frame and secured it in place with another toe strap because I didn’t want it popping up unexpectedly en route.
Some nice touches on the outside of the bag include plastic bumpers in high-wear areas on the sides, an integrated name tag, and pull handles to roll it along. I would like the bag to have more handles, though, especially down lower, as it is quite tall and can be difficult to lift up over a curb or into a vehicle with only the top handles.
With modern axle “standards” all over the map, you’re going to be able to use the Scicon only with traditional QR axles or 100×15 and 142×12 thru axles. One hang-up is that the rear thru-axle adapter is a small spacer that requires three hands: one to hold the bike, one to hold the adapter piece and one to slide the axle through the bracket. Plus, if you lose it on your trip, you are SOL.
Finally, you need to watch your weight when traveling, and this is likely the case with each of these bags. With just my bike and some small items, my case was right at the 50-pound mark, and some airlines may charge extra if you go over it. If weight isn’t a problem, there is plenty of room to stuff in some clothes, a helmet and other accessories.
- MSRP: $799
Shimano Pro Bike Travel Case Mega
Tester: Mike Cushionbury
Shimano’s component arm, Pro, makes not only quality handlebars, stems, posts and saddles, but also this impressive soft-shell bike bag designed to carry road and mountain bikes.
Holding its upper shape via four removable rigid rods, the aluminum frame is also removable for easy access; it’s suspended above the bottom of the bag and has sliding resin brackets to compensate for various wheelbases that attach to the fork and rear dropouts. The dropout mounts are designed to easily accept quick releases or thru axles, and the rear mount also has a built-in chain guide to keep the rear derailleur from hitting the bottom of the bag. The bag rolls on four small casters that rotate 360 degrees for easy rolling on smooth surfaces. It has a protective inner liner and plenty of additional foam blocks and specialty pads designed to protect the frame from the handlebars.
Each side of the bag has large external wheel pockets that easily fit 29er wheels and tires and some 27-plus (though some tires may need to be partially or completely deflated). Internally, there is a handy stash pocket for smaller items like tools, pedals and extra-small parts, along with a large pocket on the side. It also includes a large mesh bag for clothing. The wheel pockets have hard plastic panels at the hub to protect rotors, and thick padding helps prevents damage.
What makes the Pro bag so amazing is how easy it is to pack. Remove the bag’s frame, take off your wheels and pedals, secure the bike with your wheel axles to the frame, drop the seat just enough to fit in the bag, then remove the handlebars and secure them to the frame with the large pad specifically designed for this, which Velcros into place. Now, simply slide the frame into place—the bag completely unzips on one side, so there is ample room—secure it with the bottom straps, tighten the seatpost strap and you’re ready to travel.
At a light 17.2 pounds, there is some leeway (and plenty of space) to stash shoes, a helmet, a water pack and some clothing while staying under 50 pounds, which is the benchmark for airlines and shipping companies. In use, I’ve never had any damage to my bike or wheels, and all zippers and straps are as durable as you’d expect.
The Pro Mega is one of the best travel bags you’ll find, and it sells for a comparably decent price. It rolls nicely, has five handholds for dragging or picking it up and packing it is incredibly simple and fast. If you travel with your bike a fair amount, this is the bag for you.
- MSRP: $500