Nothing is more thoughtful than gifting the one you love (or yourself) a fortress of protection for their most prized tri-possession.
So your loved one purchased the ride of their dreams, and now they want to take the show on the road. The very last thing they want is their tri-bike to get damaged in the transfer, right? That means that renting—or if you travel often, even buying—a bike box should be a no-brainer.
We’ve tested three of the best bike boxes (not bags!) you can find on the market.
Bike Box Alan
Dimensions: 31.5 x 35.4 x 11.8 (inches); 24.7 pounds
“The bike box of the Brownlee brothers!” I often heard people saying when I traveled with this, one of the most iconic bike boxes on the market (at least in the U.K.). The company not only sponsors two of the best men the sport has ever known, but also manufactures an almost indestructible case for bike trips.
I say ‘almost indestructible’ because even the Bike Box Alan can suffer from long-haul transits (and airport employees). In my case, the most visible damage the box received medium-term was a partial detachment of rivets that seal the case (some had completely pulled off the plastic during transit) and the normal wear on the hooks that close the box. However, Bike Box Alan sells spare parts online, so you can easily fix these kind of problems when they pop up.
On top of the solid, hard-plastic case, this case has two internal layers of foam that protect the bike: one for the frame and one between the frame and wheels. It also boasts an abundance of velcro straps that tighten the frame to the box. This is a very important feature if you want to put your mind at peace when traveling. It’s also one that at least one of the other boxes featured in this round-up (the Scicon Aerotech Comfort) does not include.
The downside of the Alan—if compared to the Scicon—is that the box is a bit bigger and harder to move around, because it only has two of the four wheels that actually rotate and make the box to turn left and right. Alan has three different models in its fleet: the higher end version even has a GPRS tracking system, free name and flag customization, and an internal anti-crush pole made of carbon.
SCICON AeroTech Evolution X
Dimensions: 44.8 x 14.1 x 37 (inches); 26.5 pounds
I would define the SCICON AeroTech Evolution X as a “refined” version of both the Bike Box Alan and the Bonza Bike Box we looked at. Not only because of its country of origin (Italy, which is known for its traditions in manufacturing and design), but also because even at a first glance, the Aerotech looks nicer and neater than any other bike boxes on the market.
The design is curvier and smoother than both the Alan and the Bonza and has better constructed plastic (which also helps explain why the Scicon is more expensive than its competitors). But the Italian-based company really has paid great attention to the details. The top of the box features a name-tag integrated in the case, as well as a built-in TSA-approved closing system that works with a pair of keys provided by Scicon.
Finally, the Aerotech has a set of four turning wheels and a central handle that makes it way easier to carry around. As a final touch, they even thought of a little horizontal hole for feeding the baggage tag through at the airport.
Still, despite being the best bike box out there, even the Aerotech has a few areas than need improvement: the protective layers inside the box are minimal (I felt my bike frame was much safer with the foam provided by Alan and Bonza), and having only three straps to secure the frame inside the box is less than ideal. In two trips I did with the Aerotech, two straps broke. Scicon said that’s because the straps absorbed the forces applied during the transport, and you can easily replace them by buying more online—regardless, two straps breaking in two trips was a bit of a shock of its own.
Bonza Bike Box
Dimensions: 48.8 x 13.4 x 37 (inches); 26.4 pounds
From another U.K. producer, the Bonza Bike Box looks like the smaller brother (or sister) of the Bike Box Alan. With a similar but smoother hard case, the Bonza acts as the missing link between the Alan and Scicon.
You might also think it’s a close relation of the Alan from its similar details: The rivets and the closing hooks are similar and both systems boast the two-turning wheel setup—which again makes it a little harder to guide the box around.
The plus side of the Bonza, as with the Alan, is its superior internal protection for the frame. Like the Alan the Bonza provides two layers of foam—the first is for tightening your bike to, and the second goes between the frame and your wheels. Once more, the greater number of straps to secure your frame to the box (a feature that the Alan had, but not the Scicon) is something that the Italians should take into account for their next generation of boxes.
A couple of downsides with the Bonza: They don’t do a thru-axle version and the inner space is a bit tight, which is tricky if you ride a large frame or if you want to fit disc-brake wheels. In the case of the Aerotech, the Scicon has allowed more space so you can fit in disc brakes without taking them off the wheels (although I always did it anyway as a precaution). On the Alan and the Bonza, on the other hand, the space is a bit tighter, so I wouldn’t think twice and always remove the discs (in fact I damaged the rotor during one transfer in one occasion).