*Best in Class*
The draw: Minimizes bike break-down
Bikes would pack easily if it weren’t for handlebars. SciCon (pronounced “SHE-con”) has attempted put an end to that with the Aerocomfort Tri 3.0 TSA. The bag is wider at the top on one end to make room for bars. With the wheels off, the bike is dropped into an aluminum frame and secured at the dropouts. Straps over the seat, top tube and bars provide additional stability. Your pedals and rear derailleur stay on. We struggled getting horizontal drops into the T-bar while ensuring that the chain was properly wrapped. The Aerocomfort is a soft bag with plastic shields strategically placed over the rear derailleur and wheel hubs. It comes with thru axle adapters and a TSA lock. Infrequent flyers will like the internal cheat sheet with step-by-step packing instructions.
The draw: Padded in the right places
PRO has done it right with its removable base—you mount the frame and do most of the securing clear of the case itself. Dropouts attach to plastic anchors that can be slid fore and aft to fit different bike lengths. The rear anchor has a chain wrap so you can keep your rear derailleurs on. The rear and chain tensioner even accepted horizontal dropouts without much fuss. The padded handlebar hanger was another story: With the pad wrapped around the head, down and top tubes, we struggled to attach tri bars. Once secured, bike and base are placed in the semi-soft case with four straps wrapping around the base’s aluminum rails. We had to get on all fours to ensure everything was snug. We like the adjustable large pads that protect dropouts and the rear derailleur. Huge side pockets for wheels come with axle pads. Plenty of room for additional gear or spare wheels. Internal pockets stow pedals and tools. Nylon fabric keeps it light at 17 pounds. The four caster wheels roll nicely but make one-handed steering difficult.
The draw: Stows nicely
A big question with bike travel is what to do with that bulky piece of luggage once you get to your destination. Thule attempts to solve that dilemma with its Round Trip Traveler, a semi-soft shell case that collapses once unpacked. Two slip-in panels give the case structure. Remove them and the case pancakes for easy stowing. Pedals, wheels, seat, rear derailleur, bar and stem removal are required. We advise bubble wrapping the frame and fork since the case walls have minimal padding; however, a massive pad supports the bike under the bottom bracket. The fork attaches to a mount using quick-release or thru axle, so it’ll handle disc brake bikes. Four nylon straps cinch the bike in place, but we struggled to thread these through the anchor positions. There is plenty of room in the main compartment for helmet, shoes or wetsuit. Your wheels stow in lightly padded, external pockets. It’s light at 17 pounds, and that’s a good thing; it only has two wheels, so you’ll have to lift up on one end to get it rolling.
The draw: Avoids baggage fees
To beat oversize baggage fees, Ruster has gone with two bags: one for frame and parts, and one for wheels. But here’s the catch: Packing requires significant breakdown. To get a bike into a Hen House requires removal of wheels, pedals, bars, stem, seat post, front brake and fork. And the frame bag is tight—Ruster says XL frames will only fit with cranks removed, and bikes with integrated seat masts may not fit at all. You’ll load your bike into the case upside-down and if you’re one of the lucky ones, the Hen House will zip shut. The wheel bag, on the other hand, is big; wheels easily slide in with plenty of room for your other gear. The packing instructions have 17 steps—Ruster supplies Velcro straps and pipe insulation for protection—so this case is for the mechanically skilled. Ruster claims your work will be rewarded by saving up to $300 per flight in fees.
The draw: Simple and cheap
The most unique case on the market, the AirCaddy is a triangular, heavy-duty cardboard box specifically designed for bikes while conforming to all FedEx Ground shipping and TSA standards. Shipped to buyers as a flat box, the directions for assembly are clear and simple. From there, simply remove your saddle and front wheel and drop your bike in. A plate at the front secures a fork mount, which uses a standard skewer (thru axle adapters are available for $20) to secure your bike upright. Six nylon straps and cardboard inserts help to secure the frame and your front wheel. Your bars can remain intact but need to be rotated downward to fit. If your bars cannot rotate, as is the case with some integrated systems, you will likely need to remove them completely. With your bike in, there is plenty of room for other items. The catch is that the AirCaddy is good for only six to eight trips before it wears out. However, you can buy a replacement shell for $50 plus freight.
– Bike case reviews by Michael Hotten