Traveling with Your Bike: Tips and Recommendations
Traveling with your bike can be a real hassle. But landing in a new location ready to hit the ground riding on your own two wheels can often outweigh the pitfalls associated with flying your bike or having to rent a bike at your location. That of course assumes that you can actually get your bike to your destination in one piece – which is not always guaranteed, regardless of the airline.
There are a number of different ways to pack and transport your bike, but when you get into the world of mountain bikes, especially with larger 29″ tires, things get a little more tricky. I ended up requesting a new EVOC Bike Travel Bag when I realized that my original Bike Travel Bag wouldn’t easily fit larger 29″ wheels. The newer bags have larger wheel pockets to fit more common tire sizes – though you may still have to deflate the the tires a bit if they’re on the larger side.
Benefits of the EVOC Bike Travel Bag Pro
In addition to fitting most modern mountain bikes with ease (and road, gravel, and many other bikes), the EVOC Bike Travel Bag Pro has a number of other benefits going for it as well. Yes, soft sided cases are well, soft sided. But I’ve seen just as much damage done to bikes in hard cases as soft cases. How? It usually happens when TSA opens a hard case, and doesn’t put the bike back in properly, which usually results in pricey damage because it’s harder to put the bikes in those cases properly.
To protect the bike, the EVOC bags have a rigid PE board perimeter with glass fiber vertical supports at the end and hard plastic rods inside the wheel compartments. Combined with using the wheels and wheel compartments as structural elements and additional PE board reinforcements with a hard plastic tub with aluminum rails on the bottom, the EVOC design seems to do pretty well for most in terms of protection. There’s also the fact that to an airline employee, a large soft bag (hopefully) won’t get stuff piled on top the way a hard case would. The soft sided design also has a huge benefit in terms of storage. Once you take out all of the supports, the bag can be folded down to the same size it ships in. This is far easier to store in your house, apartment, shed, than a full size hard case. Soft cases are also usually lighter than hard cases – an important detail if you’re trying to make checked baggage weight.
The EVOC Bike Stand
One of the main things that sets the EVOC Bike Travel Bag Pro apart from the standard Bike Travel Bag, is the addition of the Bike Stand which features thru axle (or QR) mounts for each end on an aluminum tray that is adjustable for different wheel base lengths (maximum wheel base of 126cm). This makes it a lot easier to load the bike in the case, and prevents the bottom of the frame, derailleur, and crank from resting on the bottom of a dirty bag.
Up front, there are four different end cap sets included along with a set of spacers that can go under any end cap set for Boost spacing. That allows you to mount standard QR, 12mm, 15mm, and 20mm thru axles in both standard and Boost 110 spacing. There are also three vertical positions to mount the axle to best fit the fork/bike/bag.
Out back, it’s the same story, this time with dummy axles in 5 x 130mm, 12 x 135mm, 12 x 142mm, 12 x 150mm, and 12 x 157mm (DH or Super Boost). The axles slot through one of three vertical positions, and you install the thru axle through them and tighten it down like you would a hub. One nice feature is the fact that the stand provides something for the derailleur to rest against. This way, if it gets hit from the side, it won’t bend the hanger, and you can leave the derailleur mounted in place. I was a little nervous to leave the derailleur on as I always remove it, but not having to do so saved a lot of time and effort. And it arrived at both ends of the journey with a straight hanger.
Packing Tips for Protecting Your Bike
You will notice the bike above does not have a chain. Removing it is way easier than wrapping the chainstay to prevent damage from a flailing loose chain. Yes, SRAM says that their Power Lock chain connectors are not reusable. They may have a point, but I’ve also taken this one apart a few times now without issue. Do so at your own risk though, and make sure you bring a spare just in case. EVOC does sell chain covers if you choose to leave the chain on and they state it has a separation flap between the chainstay and the chain to keep things protected.
You’ll also notice the extra bits of foam wrapped around many of the tubes (especially important for the suspension stanchions). As far as I’m concerned, you can never be too careful when flying with a multi-thousand dollar bicycle. You can pick up packs of this Frost King pipe insulation from your local home improvement store in different sizes for less than $2. It’s pre-slit, so all you have to do is cut it to length, and slap it on. Then when you’re done with your trip, just throw the pieces back in the bag to use them again the next time. To make it even easier on yourself, use a Sharpie to label them for where they go on the bike. I used some 3/8″ insulation I already had around the house which worked pretty well for the smaller tubes, and stayed in place around the 34mm fork stanchions without the need for tape. Around the larger tubes like the downtube, either foam for larger pipes or masking tape is needed to make it stay in place.
Bigger wheels pockets allow for bigger tires. Shown here with 29 x 2.35 with plenty of room. While we’re on the subject of safeguarding your bike in the bag, always remove your rotors. Just do it. I was hesitant to leave them on for my first trip with the Bike Travel Bag Pro, but I thought “it has disc rotor protection pockets, I have to try it.” So I did try it, and I ended up with one severely bent rotor by the time my bike arrived in Italy. That wasn’t the only damage (more on that in a minute), but it was damage that was easily avoidable – especially with Centerlock rotors. Bring a tool, remove the rotors and reinstall them at your destination. If your bike didn’t come with them, you’ll also want to go down to your local shop and ask nicely for some plastic hub/axle protectors that companies stick in the wheels for shipping. The EVOC bags have a reinforced plastic plate on the inside of the bag, but…