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There’s no getting around the fact that traveling with a mountain bike can be a pain. Mountain bike bags are awkward and bikes can be expensive to fly with (although checking a bike as luggage is getting cheaper!)
But even though traveling with a bike can be a headache, it’s absolutely worth the hassle if you’re heading to an exciting mountain bike destination or event. Of course, you can rent or demo a bike, but if you’re like me, you prefer having your own set of two wheels that you’re tuned into and comfortable riding.
In order to get checked onto a plane, though, mountain bikes need to be partially disassembled and packed into a bike travel bag or box. If you are in the process of shopping around for one, I’ve got you covered. In this post, I share the best mountain bike travel bags and cases and give a few pointers on how to choose the best one for you.
Considerations before you buy
Before you decide on which travel case you want to buy, take a moment to think through these considerations:
Dimensions & weight
Pretty much every airline will accept a mountain bike in a travel bag, but not every airline will treat you equally when it comes to overweight and oversize fees. Some airlines – like Alaska Airlines – completely waive bike fees, but others – like American Airlines – will hit you hard.
So before you buy a mountain bike travel case, be sure to check out the fees and size/weight restrictions for the airlines you travel with the most so that you can avoid excessive charges.
Soft-sided vs Hard-sided
There are pros and cons for both types of cases:
Be sure to measure your bike before you buy a bag or case! Some mountain bike bags can’t fit your XXL long wheelbase mountain bike.
Check wheel size compatibility
Also, be sure to read whether the bag or case you’re looking at will accommodate your bike’s wheel size. Most bags these days should fit both 27.5″ and 29″ wheels, but just double-check to make sure that’s the case.
Internal frame & bike stand
Some bike bags and cases come with an internal frame that helps keep the bike secure and anchored inside the travel case. If you travel a lot (or plan on traveling a lot) it’s a good idea to get a bike case that has an internal frame for extra security and protection.
Some internal frames, like the one in the Evoc Pro, even turn into a bike stand to help you easily put your bike back together and break down at the end of your trip.
Mountain Bike Bags & Cases
I have the Dakine Bike Roller Bag and it works great for airline travel. I’ve taken it across the country and back, to Peru, to Mexico, and Africa, and haven’t had any issues. It’s durable, easy to pack and unpack, and has plenty of extra room to pack additional pieces of gear and clothing if you’re not worried about overweight fees.
The Dakine Bike Roller Bag comes with a tool roll, an extra pouch for pedals, and plenty of high-quality padding to protect your bike from the jostles of airplane travel. Lastly, the bag folds down for better storage when not in use.
EVOC is a company based out of Munich, Germany that makes high-quality bags and gear
The Evoc Bike Travel Bag is similar to the Dakine bag, but it has a longer rear triangle block and it’s also a bit burlier, providing more protection. But that does come with a couple of pounds of added weight.
If you decide that you want an internal frame/bike stand, this bag is compatible with the Evoc Bike Stand Pro, although you’re better off just buying the Evoc Pro Bag below.
If you ride an XL or XXL mountain bike, the Evoc Bike Travel Bag XL fits bigger bikes.
The Orucase B2-MTB travel bag is an interesting concept. It’s designed to make traveling with a bike as convenient and affordable as possible. You do need to break your bike down quite a bit more than other travel bags (including taking completely removing the handlebars and removing the fork) but if compact and light is your goal, this could be a great option.
I don’t think I would use it for my mountain bike, but I’d definitely consider using it for a gravel bike or bikepacking bike that doesn’t have a dropper post.
If you’re looking for extra protection, Orucase sells a frame padding kit.
If you travel with your bike a lot, it may be worth investing in the Evoc Bike Travel Bag Pro. It has a few extra key features that the regular Evoc bag and the Dakine bag don’t, namely the removable front wheel and internal frame that turns into a bike stand.
If you’ve traveled with a bike, you know how tiring and awkward it can be to haul your bike bag from one terminal to the next even though it has two rolling wheels. With the Evoc Pro Bag, the front wheel allows you to push it along without doing any work. Revolutionary.
It’s also designed with an internal frame for max stabilization. You can actually secure your bike on the frame outside of the bag and then transfer it to the bike bag. This frame also doubles as a bike stand, making reassembly a lot easier.
The biggest downside to the Evoc Pro, though is that it’s heavy. It may be really hard to get everything under the weight limit depending on what airline you fly, so be prepared to pay some overweight fees.
The Thule Roundtrip MTB Travel Case has all the bells and whistles. It’s also the heaviest on this list, so if you choose this bag, choose your airlines wisely (like Alaska Airlines, which doesn’t have a weight limit), or be prepared to pay overweight fees.
With rigid side panels that fold all the way down for easy packing, an internal frame that doubles as a workstand, and a front wheel to make traveling with your bike a breeze, this bike bag is really impressive. That is if you can swallow the price tag.
The Thule Roundtrip Transition Bike Case is a burly beast and if you’re really worried about protecting your multi-thousand dollar bike during transit, it could be a good option. However, despite providing the most protection out of all the bags and cases on this list, it definitely has some downsides.
Because it’s constructed with an ultra-protective hard shell it comes with added weight. A lot of added weight. When fully packed with a mountain bike, the Thule RoundTrip Transition can easily be 70-80 lbs, which would be considered overweight for many airlines. Be sure to check overweight fees and weight restrictions on your airline carrier before choosing this case.
Another downside is that there is no front wheel. Do you want to lug a 70-80 lb bike down airport corridors?
Lastly, the Thule Case doesn’t come with any frame padding like the other bags on this list do. You’ll need to get creative with packing materials or purchase a frame padding kit.
Tips for packing your mountain bike bag
1. Give yourself plenty of time
The first couple of times you pack and unpack your mountain bike will probably take a good 45 minutes to an hour (at least it should!). So give yourself plenty of time, go slow. I recommend watching some YouTube videos like this one by BKXC if you’re not sure how to break down your bike.
2. Use extra padding
I always pad my bike as well as I can when packing my bike bag. Bubble wrap works really well or head to your local bike shop and ask if they have any soft foam frame protection that comes on new bikes.
If you’re not worried about paying overweight fees, you can also pack your clothes in packing cubes and stuff them around your bike frame.
3. Use pad spacers between brake pads
New bikes typically come with little plastic pieces between the brake pads to prevent them from getting damaged and/or prevent brake fluid from leaking out if the brake levers get squeezed.
It’s a really good idea to do this for your bike when you pack it up into your bike bag as well. You can buy them online or simply use a small square of cardboard.
4. Zip tie any loose parts
I always use and pack a handful of zip ties when I’m traveling with my bike because they are super handy. I zip tie anything that is loose so that it doesn’t rattle and cause damage (or break) en route.
For example, I wrap my chainstay with bubble wrap or a cloth and then zip tie the chain tight onto the chainstay. I also remove the derailleur from the derailleur hanger and zip tie it onto the chainstay as well.
5. Remove the rotors
I highly recommend removing both the front and rear rotors before packing your bike up. Rotors can be easily bent during transit, even if the bike case has specific rotor pockets or padding. Removing the rotors only takes a few minutes and it can save a ton of hassle and headache!
Pro-tip: remove both rotors and wrap in bubble wrap or a clean cloth. Screw the bolts back onto the wheels so you don’t lose any during transit.
Do you own a mountain bike travel bag? Which one and what are your thoughts? How does it perform on trips? Let us know in the comments!
- Flying with a Bike + An Airline Bike Bag Fee Master Guide
- Complete Mountain Bike Trip Packing List
- How to Ship A Bike: Services, Costs, & More