The best mountain bike travel bags can make flying with your bike a less stressful experience and ensure your pride and joy is in good shape when you get to your destination.
Going on a riding holiday can be an amazing experience, and with so many great destinations just a short flight away, there’s never been more opportunities to expand your mountain biking horizon.
But do you leave your rig at home and take a chance on the hire bike lottery – often expensive and the quality of machinery can be rather questionable – or do you go take your own bike and suffer the stress of navigating through the airport and praying that it doesn’t get damaged by the baggage handlers?
Investing in a good bike bag will definitely ease your journey to and around the airport as well as protecting your bike from potential damage.
Low-cost alternative to the classic Evoc
Weight: 8.8kg | Size: 1,400mm x 280mm x 790mm | Folding: Yes | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Great value. Includes dropout spacers and internal organisation. Folds for storage.
Cons: Narrow wheel track makes it less stable than rivals when manoeuvring.
Chain Reaction’s in-house bike bag is obviously, ahem, inspired by the classic Evoc design, but the price is a lot more palatable. It’s big enough to take a modern 29in enduro bike with a wheelbase of up to 1,360mm – more if you let the air out of the suspension. Internal fixings keep the frame and fork stable while CRC usefully includes dropout spacers to prevent crush damage.
Evoc Bike Travel Bag
The original and still the best
Weight: 8.6kg | Size: 1,380mm x 360mm x 850mm | Folding: Yes | Rating: N/A
Pros: Great quality. One of the most stable designs. Folds for storage.
Cons: Expensive if you only use it occasionally.
The OG bike travel bag and still the best today, if your pockets are deep enough. Evoc actually makes several different bike bags, but for most people the basic version is the one to get. Separate wheel pockets are large enough for 29in hoops (with tyres partially deflated) and the frame is cosseted snugly by a series of blocks and straps to stop movement and rubbing. It’s all adjustable to fit different frame sizes and designs and has proven itself durable on numerous trips we’ve undertaken. The wheel track is broad, so the Evoc Bike Bag is one of the more stable designs on the market.
Scott Bike Transport Premium 2.0 Bag
Weight: 8.7kg | Size: 1,380mm x 300mm x 800mm | Folding: Yes | Rating: N/A
Pros: Internal pockets for organising parts.
Cons: Shorter length makes it tricky for long wheelbases.
Scott’s take on Evoc’s classic bike bag design sees thin aluminium poles maintain the upper shape – a bit like tent poles. Inside there’s a series of adjustable straps and blocks to hold the bike in place and separate compartments house the wheels (up to 29in). Maximum wheelbase is only 1,280mm, which is a bit less than rivals, but letting the air out of your suspension will help a bigger bike squeeze in.
Weight: From 2kg | Size: Varies | Folding: Yes | Rating: N/A
Pros: Cheap/free. Eco-friendly.
Cons: Awkward to transport/carry. Not great if it rains. Requires more disassembly and packing material.
How can we round-up the best bike travel bags without including the humble cardboard box? Afterall, it’s good enough for shipping a bike from the factory to the retailer, and favoured by all of the downhill racers on the World Cup circuit when flying between rounds. Best thing about the bike box is that it’s cheap. And if you ask nicely at your local bike shop (paying in biscuits always helps) they’ll probably give you one for free. Which, considering the price of some bike bags is over £400, means you’re effectively saving a big chunk towards the cost of your holiday. But, this option is not without its problems. The biggest of which is that a bike box is huge and unwieldy. Fine if you have help and can use a trolley at either end of the journey, a massive pain if you can’t. Then there’s the fact that you’ll need to pack it carefully with loads of protection to keep everything from being damaged. And if it rains you might end up with a pile of soggy cardboard and an exposed bike.
What to look for in the best travel bags for mountain biking
Evoc pretty much revolutionised the bike bag market with its benchmark design nearly 20 years ago and still holds the gold standard for frequent flyers. Since then, the basic Evoc design has won numerous awards and inspired many competitors, but it remains a serious investment.
At the other end of the scale, the humble bike box represents the cheapest – even free – solution and is still favoured by pro mountain bike racers. However, it’s not the slickest or most convenient method if you need to use public transport.
Whichever you choose, it might be worth investing in an Apple Airtag to attach to your bike or hide in the bag, so if the worst does happen and your bike bag goes missing, at least you can track it.
Top of the list of priorities when looking for the perfect travel bag is protection, afterall, a bag can be super light and easy to wheel through the airport, but if your bike ends up as scrap after a flight then it’s a complete waste of time. So the base needs to be tough, the corners need to be reinforced and the material needs to be abrasion and puncture resistant. Internally, the frame should be securely stabilised within the bag, the wheels should be separate and there should be provision for small parts that get removed from the bike such as the rear mech, disc rotors, handlebar and pedals.
Although you can get hard case designs, we would only recommend these for XC race bikes and road bikes as they tend to be too small for modern mountain bikes. They’re also more difficult to store at home as you can’t fold or roll them up.
How do I pack a bike bag?
- There are many different ways to pack a bike, but for ultimate safety and protection, we’d recommend removing the disc rotors and storing them in a separate (clean) plastic bag. Use pad spacers in your calipers to stop the pistons from moving. Think about chucking a spare set of pads in the bag as well, particularly if you’re heading somewhere with long descents.
- Remove the rear mech and the hanger together. If it’s a SRAM UDH then we’d leave it in place as you’ll need it to secure the rear axle between the dropouts. Wrap the rear mech in an old t-shirt or rag and secure with a strap.
- Cut two dropout spacers from lightweight alloy or plastic tubing (from a plumber’s merchant) and use the front and rear axle to hold them in place – this protects the frame from being crushed.
- Mark your bars with a permanent pen at the gap between the stem and the faceplate – this will let you set the angle easily when you build the bike up at the other end. Remove the faceplate, drop the bars out (with controls in place) and reinstall the faceplate so you don’t lose the bolts. Alternatively you can remove the stem and bars in one piece and use another stem (150g or so) or a spacer cut from a plastic pipe in its place to keep the fork and headset in place.
- Use bike packing material (your local bike shop probably has surplus being thrown out) to pad the frame, fork and bars.
- Deflate your tyres slightly. This will help them fit into their compartments and adhere to airline advice.
The best bike travel bags are relatively easy to steer around a crowded airport given their weight and bulk. Large, robust skate wheels at one end allow you to wheel the bag around while holding a comfortable handle at the front. Widely-spaced wheels and a low centre of gravity help prevent the bag from tipping over when cornering. Some bags have a third castor wheel at the front to allow you to pull it along without having to lift the front.
Weight is always a concern when travelling with a bike, especially given most trail/enduro bikes now tip the scales at around 15kg on average. Evoc’s bike bags weigh around 8-10kg, so that doesn’t leave a lot of headway to sneak under airline baggage limits. Obviously different airlines have different rules and different price structures for carrying bikes, but here are a few of the most popular:
- Easyjet – Bikes are treated as ‘Large Sports Equipment’ with a weight limit of 32kg. Cost is £45 each way if booked online.
- British Airways – charges £65 each way for any bag over 23kg, which includes bikes up to 32kg. Your standard baggage allowance depends on the route you are flying.
- Ryanair – The maximum weight for a bike is 30kg, lower than other airlines. Cost per flight is £60.
- Air Canada – Maximum weight is 32kg and a bike costs $50CAD each way.
With the advent of longer wheelbases and 29in wheels bike bag size has increasingly become an issue, especially if you’re riding an XL size or larger, or own something like a Pole or Geometron. But, letting the air out of your fork and shock could reduce the wheelbase of your bike by as much as 70mm.
With 29in wheels you will probably need to deflate the tyres to some degree to get them to fit into their specific compartments. Try to leave some air in there to ensure that your tyres don’t become unseated or leak sealant into the bag.