I am trying to decide which bike case to buy for traveling with my bike. This is generally for domestic travel, usually on AirTran or Southwest (I.e., airlines that are fairly bike-friendly - $50 each way for the bike). I am trying to choose between the Thule 699 case or one of the softsided cases (Pika packworks or similar). I've used the Thule before and it's fine - it's kind of a beast but it gets the job done. I'm intrigued by the soft cases, it looks like I may have trouble with them - the Southwest bike policy says they'll only accept soft cases at their discretion, and Airtran says the bike must be in a "box" ...
Anyone with experience / advice? Thanks!
It doesn't matter which hard case you buy. As a frequent flier with my bike, I've owned cheap-ish hard shell cases from Performance. Just wrap the crap out of your bike with bubble wrap and foam and take photos.
Never used a soft case because I put a lot of gear in my hard case.
My vote is for a soft sided case. I wrapped my bike in bubble wrap and threw it in a hockey bag to avoid the $400/rt fee on United. Hard cases = fee.
Worked out well for me, but I wasn't too concerned about little dings (don't know if I got any...just saying).
Pika pack works soft case. It's non descript and fits a wide range of frame sizes. It also smaller than most airlines oversized measurements. When they ask you what your carrying just say, "exercise equipment." To try and avoid the fees.
Well, wouldn't work domestically but if you fly international British Airways is the most bike friendly airline, no charge if it is your 1 piece of free checked luggage and doesn't exceed 23kg. There aren't many airlines that charge you zero bucks/euros/etc for a big piece of luggage like a bike box/case.
I use the Trico Iron Case, it's very solid and has 3 layers of foam separating bike and wheels. May be a little big for some but I like it, makes me feel good about the safety of my carbon whip. Have made 2 Prague trips with it.
I'm telling you and everyone out there in the entire universe, it's a fine case. It is.
Hard bike cases have wheels. Those are invaluable when you have to haul your bike bag/case for long walking distances ... like from the airport to a train and then from the train station to your hotel in Europe. When you travel for races, you have a lot of gear and normal clothes to worry about. Carrying everything on your body is sometimes not practical. It's something to consider.
After trying both hard and soft cases, my vote would be for a soft case. They are just as protective as a hard case, way lighter than a hard case (which makes walking around less of an issue), AND much easier to avoid the exorbitant airline fees with.
Never, EVER tell the ticket check folks you have a bike in your luggage (add your creative luggage excuses here) and you will save yourself enough cash over a few flights to make back the money you spent on that awesome soft case...
Thanks to all -- this advice is very helpful.
I use the Trico hard case bike box for both international and domectic travel. It has worked well for me. If you are going domectically, you may also consider shipping your bike via FedEx. It's not very expensive and it save you from dragging it around the airport.
You can't argue against the protection of a hard shell case versus a soft shell. You are taking a larger risk with a soft shell, but how large is always a source of debate. For aluminum not a big deal, if you wrap in bubble wrap odds are in will be fine. However, I wouldn't be as trusting with carbon. While I don't think baggage handlers are all bad and deliberately throw luggage on top of bikes and soft shell cases, you just never know. However, from what I've read, most of the pro's travel with soft shells in order to save money, and the machines they are riding are usually the latest and greatest.
Hard shell cases are hard to get past customer service to avoid the bike charge. Rumor has it one person who was traveling with his wife switched the components around in the two cases so neither bike was complete. When they tried to charge them the fee, he challenged them to make a rideable bike out of the parts in any one case. The rumor goes on to say that he was not made to pay the fee after a 30 min discussion.
FedEX insures the case and contents vs UPS which only insures the contents. Not a huge deal unless the case is damaged and FedEX tends to be a couple bucks cheaper. But, that really depends on where you go to ship it out. I've been charged anywhere from $65-95 depending on location and how far you are shipping. But, its also one less piece of luggage to wheel around. Just be sure whereever you send it to has hours that will work to pickup around your race schedule.
I rent out hard shell cases if you are in need, just FYI. May add a soft shell case in the future but haven't had anyone ask for that yet...