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by James Huang
October 18, 2019
Photography by BikeBox
Upstart South African company BikeBox wants you to fly with your bike. But it doesn’t think you need an expensive case to do so, and instead is proposing that you use a more basic vessel made of corrugated plastic.
The concept of using a corrugated plastic box instead of a cardboard one for transporting your bike is hardly new. BikeFlights currently sells one for a couple hundred bucks, for example, and another company called CrateWorks offered something similar before they went under in 2013.
Either way, the idea is the same: corrugated plastic (or Coroplast, as it is also often called) is tougher and more weather-resistant than conventional corrugated cardboard, it’s reusable (to a degree), it folds down flat for easy storage when not in use, and the boxes are generally a lot cheaper than dedicated hard-sided or soft-shell cases.
The BikeBox is still a basic corrugated plastic box, more or less, but BikeBox also uses the shell material for internal braces as well as handy protective covers to guard sensitive bits like the rear derailleur, fork tips, disc rotors, and crankset. There’s also a convenient box-within-a-box section for smaller items like pedals, tools, and accessories, and even a two-wheeled dolly that attaches with Velcro that makes it vastly easier to get the thing through the airport terminal. Holding everything together are two sturdy-looking exterior nylon straps.
“I have sold BikeBoxes to a big number of adventure racers that are traveling the world,” said company co-founder (and adventure racer) Christine Collins. “The Boxes last for multiple international trips and are also excellent when being transported by truck or sitting in transition zones in the rain for days. Experience from mainly adventure racers tell me that the Boxes last for at least 10 international trips. Obviously, some airlines treat the luggage with very little care and there is no guarantee that the Boxes will not get damaged. But so far the feedback has been very good.”
The included BikeGuards are made of the same corrugated polypropylene as the rest of the case, and are specifically shaped to protect areas that are particularly vulnerable to damage.
Two sizes are offered — 140 x 80 x 30 cm or 120 x 78 x 25 cm — depending on the size and type of bike you wish to transport, and both fall within typical airline limits for maximum size. Claimed weight for the large size is a relatively paltry 6kg (without accessories), there’s no glue or staples used, and according to BikeBox, the 83 x 77 x 7 cm (or 76 x 67 x 7 cm) folded size is small enough to fit in the back of a Fiat 500 – without folding the seats down.
In the event the BikeBox is damaged beyond repair, the polypropylene material is fully recyclable.
Inside the BikeBox is a convenient secondary box for small parts, shoes, and other tidbits.
All that being said, the BikeBox is substantially more affordable than most dedicated travel cases, but it’s still not exactly cheap at R2,700 for the smaller size, and R2,900 for the bigger one, including accessories. At current exchange rates, that works out to about US$180-200, or about AU$265-285. Although BikeBox is headquartered in South Africa, local distributors are also set up in the United States and Europe.
“I do agree that the price is slightly on the high side from what I would like to sell it,” Collins admitted. “However, sourcing my materials in South Africa makes even a corrugated plastic box rather expensive to produce.”
Wheels attach to the underside of the BikeBox with Velcro strips for easy attachment and removal.
As someone who flies with a bike on a fairly regular basis, I have to admit that I’m quite intrigued with the idea, particularly given that I live in a relatively small house with limited storage space. Will BikeBox succeed where others have failed? That’s impossible for me to say, but it sure is nice to have some more options.
Would you consider using a BikeBox or something similar over a traditional case?