The much welcomed explosion of triathlon competitions have made it possible for the majority of triathletes to participate in a race without travelling far. Still, as you want to expand your triathlon race repertoire travelling by plane often becomes a necessity.
Starting from T1 on a rented road bike (or tribike for that matter), is not preferable so having your beloved and often quit expensive tri bike with you is the only option. The airplane companies will cover the cost of potential damages on your bike, up to about $ 1000, or equivalent, depending on the company, which again seldom is enough to cover the actual costs of a damaged frame. Also, having any damages on your bike a couple of day before race day will put tremendous pressure on the triathlete to get it fixed or get a replacement bike in a very limited time. Therefore I need a sturdy bicycle case to be as sure as I can be, that my bicycle comes with me in a race ready condition.
First I had a bicycle suitcase, which was ruined after the TSA chose to open it (fair enough) with a crowbar (which I found a bit unnecessary since it was unlocked) and failed to close it properly. Luck, more than anything, made sure the bike did arrived back home undamaged. After that I bought a BikeBoxAlan, which is just over 4 year and about 40 – 45 flights ago. You might call it a very thoroughly long-term test.
When you are going to get a bicycle suitcase you have to make a choice, going with a hard case or a soft case. In general the differences are:
- Very good protection
- Needs more demounting of the bike
- More difficult to fit in a car
- Good protection
- Usually quite light
- Can often manage with less demounting
- Can be easier to fit in a car
- Less expensive
When I list it up the pros and cons you should think that going soft case is a no brainer, but to be 100 % sure (at least my mind think so) that “Mr.Boardman” arrives in one piece I chose hard case. I also have an Evoc travel bag pro, since Jenny also want to bring her bike ones in a while. That is a very good soft case bike bag and we have never had any issues with that, but I have seen that bag being put at the bottom of a pile with not less than four hard cases on top. That can happen, and I don’t have stomach to send my bike that way to competitions. Jenny’s bike is a less expensive road bike and she is not competing, so it would be horrible, but not a disaster if something happened to her bike.
There are a lot of hard cases out there. While I ended up with a BikeBoxAlan and am incredibly happy with my choice there is also other good ones. The Scicon Aerotech Evolution is nearly identical (Alan worked there and though he could make a better bike box that was what the did). If you chose a hard case I would carefully consider the following:
Size: it should obviously have room for you bike, but other than that it should be as small as possible. It can save you from renting a bigger rental car and take a normal taxi. BikeBoxAlan have a bit odd dimensions but is relatively small and fits in small rental cars.
Weight: every saved kg counts. There are different rules for each airplane company and you should check them before booking. Most companies allow 30 kg and some 32 kg, but some also have a 23 kg limit (and with SAS you can bring your a hard case as normal luggage if it is less than 23 kg), and some demands $50/kg overweight for the whole case(!). BikeBoxAlan weighs 11,5 kg, which makes me able to put in my bike and some other stuff without exceeding my weight limit. B&W bike guard curve is the lightest hard case weighing 8,2 kg, but I have not tried it.
Ease of packing: how much demounting is needed.
Having travelled so much with my BikeBoxAlan without any issue with the bike, I cannot be anything other than very happy about it. The case has been thru a lot and the only damage has been a buckle that got torn of and heavy wear on one of the wheels. A new buckle was sent free of charge by BikeBoxAlan, and a new wheel costs £8 + postal fee.
Packing my bike in the case is fairly easy and I have to dismantle the aerobars, seat post, the left pedal together with the wheels. Of course, not as easy as Scicon Aerocomfort triathlon bike case, were you don’t need to dismantle anything.
The only downside I see with the case is that you cannot use the pole (to improve the integrity) together with a disc wheel. BikeBoxAlan says you can use the case without the pole, and I have done it a couple of times with success, but having the pole is preferable. When I bought mine a strap to pull the box with was not available like now, so I used the same strap as I use to stretch out to pull it along like.