Mid summer is here, it’s blistering out there and just yelling at you to “go ride” new routes and regions. In a couple of months things will cool off and moisten up, and that same “go ride” call will be heard in a different tone - perhaps tempting you to warmer or foreign climes.
But, being cyclists we rarely travel alone – we nearly always have that beautiful carbon horse to tag along, your pride and joy – and we have to look after it. After all, if it arrived in bad shape it’s not only a dent to your bank balance, it could ruin an entire trip or scuttle a race that you’ve trained months for.
To this end we trust in the powers of padded protection, to save our steeds from the often callous and abusive treatment of airport baggage handlers.
This the point where we often reach something of a conundrum, that being total protection versus handling practicalities and bulk versus the dreaded airline scales, which when topped send $ signs flipping through the eyes of a gleeful check in clerk.
Unless you have knee deep pockets, carry a platinum air miles card or have a pilot as your brother in law then the chances are that you will need to make the age old and ever narrowing decision between paying for ultimate all-inclusive protection, or chancing things with a third party investment,
The bike box is perhaps the fully inclusive personal bodyguard when it comes to bike travel. But it does have huge downsides; firstly it requires a major strip down of your bike, then it’s also a very heavy option, one that cuts a gaping hole in your economy class baggage allowance, and then of course it’s something of an elephant in the room – or rather the car, as it cannot be crammed into a taxi. It’s not easy to bundle onto a transfer bus, and it almost requires a hotel room of its own.
The opposite end of the scale has there is the budget happy cardboard box. It’s cheap, or free, is a tad cumbersome to manoeuvre, but it can be broken down and folded of deposited of at the other end, making it an ideal option for touring or place to pale tours.
My personal suit of armour comes in the form of the lightly padded bike bag, and in 30 years of carting bikes around this humble piece of kit has carried my bikes to more than 50 different countries around the world – but not totally without incident or the occasional bruising, But it’s a price I’m prepared to pay for something that weights in as less than 3kg, can be pushed into the back of a rickshaw and then folded into a backpack.
Enter the hybrid
So, now to the kill; Italian manufacturer Scicon have been making some of the best bike bags and boxes around for decades now, and they offer something to register on both end of the scales – and something that sits squarely in between too, the AeroComfort 2.0.
This bag is something of a hybrid, which will be the answer to the prayers of many a traveling cyclist, and it has become the choice of many pro teams, although you do have to remember that their traveling and sponsorship arrangements are not the same as us paying punters.
The bag is made from well-padded Ripstop nylon and comes with skate along wheels and a metal “anti shock” base frame. What this means is that all you really have to do to prep your bike for travel is take out the wheels and skewers, let a little pressure escape from the tyres, take off the pedals, lower the saddle a touch if you’re a tall rider, and then clamp and strap your bike into the frame, partition the wheels, put your sharp bits into the compartments and way you go. Yes, you don’t even need to turn the bars. The whole process can be tuned down to 6-7 minutes in all, which is pretty impressive.
The quality of the bag’s construction is top notch – it’s “rubber bullet proof”. The bag can be pulled along on its wheels or carried via a detachable shoulder strap.
Once you reach your destination you are faced with a very short rebuild, and given the bags design you can be quite sure that the bike will be well protected, or at least as much as anything barring a hard case can offer. Finally you take the base frame struts out and fold the bag into a torpedo shape and stash it away – very neat.
So what are the downsides? Firstly the bag steps in at a “winter weight” of around 9.5kg (thanks to the heavyweight and non-detachable anti shock frame). This puts it at some 5-6kg up on the simple padded bag. Its dead weight equates to a round half of the usual 20kg economy class baggage allowance. Throw the bike inside and a pair of shoes and your spares and you’re all weighed out.
Baggage allowances vary from carrier to carrier, and excess charges are usually applied per Kg, and an extra 5kg (pre booked) on a long-haul Emirates flight costs around $250 each way, which is not cheap. On the other hand a budget flight usually carries a standard charge for a bike of around $30 each way, whether it’s bagged or boxed.
The other issue is that this bag is designed to have your bars left in place, which makes it’s pretty wide and vulnerable at one end – and when you check in a bike the standard 3 questions are; “Have you taken of your pedals, let down your tyres and turned the bars?”
At 550 Euros this bag is definitely not a cheap option, but given its construction and quality it’s fair value for money. There is little doubt that this is a well though out, well designed and durable carrier, although I would still consider taking off or at least turning and inverting my bars, it makes quite a difference to the bulk. If the industrial strength frame could be shaved by 1.5-2kg then this would be a no brainer.
But with its slight bulk and weight (for me) it’s not the choice for lightweight trips on a tight baggage allowance. However, for competitive outings, assisted tours, and where I don’t need to carry excess gear this is a definite wise choice of bag.
RRP 550 Euros
Available from www.sciconbags.com