Taking your bike overseas can feel like more hassle than it's worth. Thankfully, the Evoc Travel Bike Bag is here to help, writes Jonny Cooper.
A confession: the first time I took my bike abroad, it took me two and a half hours to pack it adequately into my bike box. Like many modern cyclists, the value of my bike is (shamefully) disproportionate to my mechanical know-how; I hesitated over every dismantling step, fearful that I'd never be able to put the thing back together again. And then there was the tetris-like puzzle of working out how to squeeze the fractured mess into a box that felt like nothing more than an oversized Samsonite suitcase. Those two and a half hours were far from fun.
So, taking a bike abroad can be a stressful experience - and that's long before you've even reached the airport and signed over your prized steed to the absentmindedly boisterous attentions of the baggage handlers. When it came out the other end, my rear derailler hanger was bent out of shape and I had to find a mechanic to come to my rescue.
In the context of such a fluffed transit, the Evoc Travel Bike Bag is a minor Godsend. This structurally strong canvas bag has been well designed to hold and protect a road or mountain bike with a minimum of fuss.
To get your bike into the bag, you take off both wheels and pedals, and unhinge the handlebars (they stay connected to the frame via the brake and gear cables). The frame and bars fit into the bag's main cavity, where a succession of adjustable straps hold them securely in place, while the wheels slot into two pockets on the side. The bottom bracket is protected by a huge foam pad, and the pedals slip into a side pocket.
And that's that. It took me 50 minutes to get my bike into the bag and zipped up the first time I tried - and that reduced to 20 minutes on the second attempt. It's impressively straight forward.
Of course, bike bags have to be more than easy to use: their primary purpose is to protect your bike from the vicissitudes of transit. A cursory glance around bike forums reveals a number of sob stories on this front - and a healthy debate over whether soft shell (the Evoc) or hard shell (for example, the frequently recommended Bike Box Alan) is better. Hard shell cases are supposed to protect against external knocks better than their soft siblings - but then the bike can also move around and bang against the hard internal walls. Or so the arguments go.
All I know is that the one time I travelled with a hard case, my derailer got bent, whereas my bike has been fine in the Evoc. One thing that's surely worth doing is padding the bag on the inside with enough bubble wrap and/or old sheets to ensure your bike is well cushioned from internal or external movements.
A definite benefit of the Evoc over hard cases is its foldaway nature. The bag is kept structurally strong by 8 removable rods; take them out and it collapses in on itself, allowing you to store it in a cupboard or under a bed. A major boon for cyclists already in trouble at home over their space-sapping hobby.
The only slight let down is that unlike other bike boxes, the Evoc has two rather than four wheels on its base, which means you have to pick up one end to wheel it along. You start to feel a bit jealous of those who gently push their four-wheeled boxes around when you've got one arm going dead thanks to the weight it's lifting. A minor complaint, but two wheels good, four wheels better.
The Evoc Travel Bike Bag comes with two optional add ons. An aluminum bike stand fits into the bottom of the bag and screws onto your bike's frame via the fork ends, lifting the bottom bracket off the foam pad and lending extra stability to the setup. The ease of mind it creates will cost you £89.95 - if you don't fancy shelling that out, there's a protective foam fork pad available for £19.95.