We test the hard case bike box travel option from Velovault.
Words and photos: Mike Blewitt
We’ve said it before, but one of the hardest things about travelling with your bike is travelling with your bike. When your mountain bike is exactly what you want to take with you for your dream mountain bike holiday or event, then obviously you need to make sure it gets there in one piece.
There are a variety of bike bags on the market, ranging from soft bags where you add your own padding, padded bags, soft bags with hard bases and wheels, complete hard cases that cocoon your bike in close to 20kg of plastic, and options like the VeloVault 2, which is a compact hard case that has four wheels and useful handles to make carting it around a little bit easier.
Having witnessed the wheelbases of my bikes grow each time I get a new one, I did view the VeloVault2 a little cautiously. Would my bike actually fit in it? Or would I need to dismantle it so much it would be too much of a headache? The smaller your bike box is, the easier it is to cart around. Be that in and out of cars, or on public transport. Even for navigating through barriers at the airport it is easier if the bike bag is more compact. Any smugness about saving money and weight using a cardboard box is usually gone after the saga of getting to the airport and checked in. The VeloVault2 is 125cm long at the base, 31cm wide at the bulge for the cassette and 91cm high at it's highest point. The whole lot weights 12.3kg.
If your bag of choice means you need to take so much off that you have an hour at the other end building and prepping your bike, then it is worth being mindful of whether it’s the right choice. To me, that’s a reasonable sacrifice for a long trip where your bike isn’t being packed down again for quite a long time. For a weekend or week-long trip that much time is out of the question. My personal go-to bike bag is the Thule RoundTrip Traveler, and at a push I can unpack my bike in under 8-minutes. And that’s with the wheels, rotors, derailleur, chain, pedals and bars removed, and the suspension deflated. That was a specific timed effort but you get the idea, you want something that is convenient and manageable. What's nice about the VeloVault2 is the four wheels. Two are fixed, and two can turn. So this means it won't follow you like an untrained puppy when you pull it, but instead it can be guided with the handle or your hand on top of it. The wheels do sit nicely into the shell a little to make them less vulnerable in transit.
Wheels can be a bike bag's worst enemy, as for many airlines or airport staff, it is policy for bike bags with wheels to go upside down on the trailers that cart your luggage from the terminal to the plane and back again. If it has wheels, it goes upside down. My own bag has two wheels at one so it only rolls when lifted, and it still gets tipped upside down. The tip here is pack accordingly. A bag like the VeloVault2 is a hard case, not a soft case with a hard base. Upside down doesn't matter.
The VeloVault2 is no featherweight. But given some soft bags are about 10kg that’s not a bad weight for a hard case that needs little extra padding. It does push the bike to the realms of those with a 30kg item limit. It would be hard to get much more than an all-out XC race bike in here at sub 23kg, especially if you were travelling with any spares or proper tools. You would just have to have a second piece of luggage, which isn't a huge cost for domestic travel if you book in advance.
With the bag opened up like a clamshell, there is a padded side with lots of straps and a moulded side for wheels, a cut piece of foam and a supporting pole to prevent the box being crushed.
Packing the bike is relatively simple, depending what you put in. I could leave the seat post in on a meduim XC 29er, but if you have a dropper on even an XL bike dropping it should be fine. The bike fits best driveside down, which I hate, but you're just packing it like this, not transporting it this way. There's a useful video on the Bike Box Rental website, who supply the VeloVault2 bike bags. I could leave the mech on, but really you're better to remove it and secure it. I took the stem off the streerer, and placed it alongside the forks. I used all the different hook and loop closures to keep it all in place. It's also worth using padding around the bars, and the mech. You might need to jostle the exact position of the central pole, as at first attempt it was right where the rear shock fits, so I put some padding there to prevent rub.
The wheels go into the top, and a 29er wheel fits best without air in the tyres. Or more accurately, less than 10psi so you can get them to sit nice and flush and so the tyres help hold it all in place, along with the straps. There's a side with a deeper recess for the cassette. You can leave your rotors on, but I would suggest removing them as a safeguard.
At first it doesn't look like it's all going to fit, but in the end there is plenty of space around your frame for shoes, spare tyres or a soft bag tool kit. I wouldn't risk putting a helmet in. The case closes nicely, with the buckles securing the clamshell. These can be locked for security. There was nothing rattling inside, and with a couple of choice bits of extra padding I'm sure everything was stable without unwanted contact points.
Is this the bike box for me?
Weighing 12.3kg the VeloVault2 does give up a little bit of weight, but it's a very light hard case if that's the security you're chasing. Thanks to its compact size, you might struggle to get a big travel bike in there – although turning the fork or removing it would mean you could fit just about any bike in.
Packing into the box was simple enough, as was rebuilding. In this way it has no different demands to other bags on the market. Ease of mobility was great with 4 wheels, although lifting the bag sideways to go in the back of a vehicle is still awkward, like most bags. Throw in some peace of mind about using a hard case and I think this bike box suits those chasing events like the Epic Series, or who are planning more travel to events. It would also suit those travelling to trail destinations for riding trips with friends. I don't think it suits someone like a privateer EWS racer who might opt for a cardboard box and fill it with spare tyres and clothes to squeeze everything out of their luggage allowance. And while you could make a downhill bike fit, it would take a while stripping it down to do so. This box is best suited to XC and light trail bikes, and they will fit with a minimal amount of fuss and might just squeeze under 23kg, or easily under 30kg for international trips or those with some frequent flyer status.
The main downside is size when you're storing it. It cannot be compressed, which is a bonus when in use and less so when you're not using it.
- Secure bike transportation.
- Lockable buckles.
- Easy movement with 4 wheels.
- Light for a hard case
- Still a large chunk of your baggage allowance.
- Not easy to store.
RRP: $675 plus shipping