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Biospeed Aerus Bike Case Review: How I travel with my bike

A Bit of Background:

If you travel as much as I do for work (150,000+ miles last year), you’ve got no choice but to get creative with your training.  There’s simply no way you can be competitive at all three sports without actually training in all three sports (disappointing, I know…I keep hoping that Pasta Eating can be substituted for swimming).  Of course, some sports are easier to train for while travelling than others.  In the past I’ve talked about how I train and travel, but I wanted to spend this post and focus on the bike segment.  Running is easy – you can run just about anywhere on earth (ok, Haiti was a no-go for running).  Swimming though, albeit a logistics and financial pain in the butt to find a pool, can be done with a bit of homework.  But cycling…that’s tough.

See, many hotel gyms these days have transitioned over to EZ-Boy recliner type stationary bikes.  And while Spin bikes are on the rise in higher end American hotels, they haven’t made it to the international scene yet – nor to the ‘Hilton Garden Inn’ type hotels I’m usually at while stateside.  Further, none of these really solve the long-ride problem.  Weekday rides I can get away with on a stationary bike at a hotel, since it’s primarily an aerobic experience.  But for the 2-6 hour (or longer) Ironman and Half-Iron type rides, you just need a real bike.

Hence…bike transport.

My Previous Solution:

I’ve got a long and storied history with dragging my bike around the country and world.  My first experience with this venture was over three years ago when I did my first half-iron triathlon (The Big Kahuna), down in California.  Not knowing what I might need long term, I simply went to Performance Bike nearby and picked up their $200 bike case.  Seemed sturdy and simple enough.  So into the case Mr. Bike went.

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But, after just a few trips I started to notice something.  This bike case is a piece of crap.  Really…crap.  The hinges started to break.  The handles started to snap.  The locks become inoperable.  They had taken every build short-cut they could with it – and my bike case was slowly disintegrating – and with it, putting my bike in further danger each trip.

A Better Option:

So, I started looking around for an alternative.  While the Performance case was cheap – it lacked long term life.  Other cases on the market however, lacked cheap – but appeared to be built like tanks.  It then starts to become a cost equation.  If I spent $400-600 on a case, will it last three times as long as the crappy Performance case?

Before I finished mentally debating that – I started hearing murmurs about new soft cases.  These cases were slowly making the rounds on the pro scene, and also infiltrating the age groupers as well.  The benefits were actually more than meets the eye.  First, the case was a bit smaller – easier to manage and drag around an airport with a simple shoulder strap.  Secondly, it was easier to pack.  And third – most importantly – it didn’t scream ‘Bike Case’.  In fact, it didn’t scream anything at all.  The word ‘bike’ isn’t anywhere on it.

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And that my friends…is the key.  You see, when you arrive at an airline check-in counter the world around, the first thing they do is scope out your luggage (ok, usually they scope you out first, especially if you’re good lookin’).   If you have something that looks like a bike case, they immediately start to find the fee table for it – often costing upwards of $150 each way (yes, some airlines like Southwest and JetBlue are cheaper though).

But the soft case…not so much.

In fact, out of the 20-30+ flights I’ve taken with it over the past year, only once have I been charged a bike or oversize fee.  To them, it looks like a big bag – one that barely weighs 20-25 pounds.  Some airline agents have said it even looks like a ‘portable massage table’ (which are fee-free btw).  When asked what’s inside, I’m usually pretty generic: “Equipment”.  Or, if pressed “Equipment while working”.  All technically true.  As a related side note, simply placing your wetsuit draped long-ways over the top of the bike has immediate visual benefits should airline inspect occur.  Oh, and you don’t need to worry about TSA.  They’ll no doubt open the case every time, but since the soft case easily opens for them to peek inside, they’re quickly happy without damage to your bike.

P.S. – TSA and the airlines are not the same entity.  TSA doesn’t give a hoot about fees, airlines do.  TSA oversize checked baggage inspection comes after check-in has completed and is done in a separate area that you drag your bag to.  Always be upfront and honest to TSA.  Always.
Secondary P.S. – Always check-in online prior to arriving at the airport, and just note how many bags you have as you normally would.  Agents usually don’t want to re-do baggage fees if you’ve already done them online.  Trust me on this one…
Third P.S. – Airlines won’t likely reimburse you for the cost of the bike anyway.  And they won’t do it even if it’s their fault (which it never will be).  Lots of messy details of course, but in short, you’re likely to walk away with nothing.
Fourth P.S. – Always approach the ticket counter with the bike case behind you slightly out of view.  It should be the last item you give them – after they’ve printed out the bag tags.
Fifth P.S. – This may sound like I’m trying to avoid bike fees.  I am.
(Note: I’m all for reasonable bike fees…but you don’t even want to get me started on the state of US aviation bike fees today…that’s a post for another day.)

So how does it stand up?  Well, I’ve had pretty good luck.  My bike has largely been unscathed.  I’ve had a few minor cable tension related issues, but nothing that couldn’t be quickly fixed with a multi-tool.  And, I suspect those are mostly because I’m usually in a rush to pack it up.  Speaking of which – I can pack/unpack this case from the end of a workout in about 10-12 minutes.

My Packing Scheme:

Before I show you my packing scheme – I want to point out that I know it’s not perfect.  I know I could spend more time and make it perfect.  I know I should detach the rear derailleur.  I know I should do this or that…but…I don’t.  Simply because in 99% of situations, I just don’t have the time I wish I had.  I’m usually rushing from a race or workout straight to the airport.  And the other 1%?  Because I’m lazy.

So, I make up for it by padding the crap out of it.  After all, my race bike is damn expensive.  So what better parts to use than super-cheap less than a dollar pipe insulation foam from Home Depot?

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One night The Girl and I went down the street to the big orange Home Depot and simply grabbed a whole pile of long 8’ segments.  We then cut them up as needed using scissors.  In theory, I could be really organized and label where each section goes using a marker.  But in reality, I just figure it out on the fly each time.

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These then get wrapped around the different bike parts.  They stay there just fine.  For the top tube, the bike bag came with that funky blue thing – which I use as extra padding.

For the crank, I simply have a big ole’ chunk of bubble-wrap to protect Mr. Quarq.

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The rear derailleur I pull up against the bike frame using Velcro.  No, not ideal.  Yes, I should take it off.  I know…I know.  Do as I say, not as I do.

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Pickup a pack of Velcro at Target, it’s a couple bucks and you’ll find never ending ways to use it in bike packing.  For example, strap your aerobars back against the padded frame to prevent scratching.  Loose aerobars and brake handles will flop around and scratch.  Ones tightened up against the frame don’t.

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The wheels simply slide in the two main side pockets, and I’ve had no problems with their placement.  The bag also includes two more pockets for shoes (to the left of the wheel below) – which is where I can also stash goodies.

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And finally, all my spare parts that I detached from the bike go in a Ziploc bag next to the shoes in the above pocket.

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Oh – and because the case is wide enough, I don’t even need to detach the bike pedals – sweet!  My non-aerohelmet fits perfectly where the rear wheel goes – protecting it.  And my seat simply fits upside-down right behind the fork.

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Finally, a word about potential damage.  It goes without saying that a soft-shell bike case is fundamentally more vulnerable than a hard-shell one.  I know from flying enough that bags get the crap beat out of them.  Most baggage handlers don’t differentiate between a bike and a suitcase.  I’ve winced as I’ve seen my bike tossed through the air from luggage cart to belt out on the tarmac.  And I’ve seen the story about one guy who had his soft case and associated bike torn up by Delta.  But, what I haven’t seen is any of those things happen to me…yet anyway.

I also counterbalance that against the costs associated with flying with your bike.  Take for example, The Girl’s bike.  On a trip this summer her derailleur hanger got bent a bit, and she had to get a new one (btw, always travel with a spare if you can, it’s a few bucks and they’re designed to bend so your frame doesn’t).  She was using the soft-shell case.  Had she been using the hard-shell case she would have been charged $300-$500 round trip.  Her bike fix costs?  $40 at the LBS.  A month later, another trip.  This time, to Vegas.  Had she taken a hard-case to her Vegas Tri, that would have been another $300-500 in bike fees.  At some point you have to balance the potential cost for bike damage (usually pretty low), compared to the cost to transport your bike. All food for thought.

So there ya have it – how I transport my bike.  It’s not perfect, but it works for me.  And with my rate of only one trip out of 20+ being charged for carrying my bike, and all of them coming out with the bike happy – I’m happy!

(P.S. – The soft case is made by Aerus (Biospeed) and costs $280.  I paid full price for my case last year, and the company has no idea who I am.  There is a new one out there by Biknd that I saw at Interbike, which looks great – but also clearly looks like a bike case, thus only solving half the problem.)

(Another P.S. – A brief word about bike rentals.  While renting is occasionally an option – it’s actually more difficult than you might think.  Most road bike rental places in the US…suck.  The bikes are usually old and crappy, and unlike anything you’re normally riding.  Further, they tend to be really expensive compared to how much time you’re actually using it.  Third, you’re still stuck bringing much of your own gear like shoes and potentially helmets.  Fourth, reserving and picking up the bike tends to be a giant time-sink – especially if you’re on a tight work schedule and the bike shop is only open during daylight hours 15 miles away from you.  Finally – in the case of long-distance triathlons specifically – the most important factor in doing well will be how comfortable you are on your bike for 5+ hours.  Doing long-rides on a rented bike isn’t ideal long term.)

Ok…no more P.S.’s, I’m done now.  Thanks for reading!

Now Available on Clever Training!

Update April 2015: After a long-time coming, Clever Training now sells the case directly – the same one I use.  Best of all, DCR readers save 10% with the DCR Coupon Code DCR10MHD – plus get free US shipping to boot!  And of course, it supports the site here. It’s still the same case I use for all my travels with my bike (as well as what The Girl now uses too).  Works great for both of us, and still maintain my usual ratio of non-fees using the tips provided above.  Enjoy!

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169 Comments

  1. Luis

    Ray,
    Thanks for the tips. After reading the review I decided to buy this case but cant seem to find an online retailer that still has it… Any guidance on where i can find one?
    Thanks,
    Luis

    Reply
  2. Ken Modica

    Hi Ray,

    I’m searching for a bike bag and wondered if you have an update to this post since the biospeed is discontinued. What would you recommend? Happy Holidays!

    Reply
    • No updates, though, my understanding through a few comments here is that the bag is now sold under a different name but is otherwise identical. Check out some of the comments above.

      Reply
  3. Cornel

    Has anyone used ShipBikes.com?

    Reply
    • LeftyAce

      I’ve used them to print a discounted FedEx label, and everything went super smoothly. The bike was in a hard shell Tri All 3 case I got on craigslist. Only drawback to the fedex approach is time, I think it was 5 days each way, whereas checking it on the plane gets the bike where you are when you get there.

      Reply
  4. Annie B-E

    this article was so helpful, thank you! We have been agonizing about how to get our bikes to/from Italy this summer (plane and pay exorbitant fees? ship and worry about customs, damage, etc.?). this solution is a great way to avoid all the hassle. your packing advice is awesome (pipe foam? Brilliant!). And it’s VERY helpful to know HOW to deal with those pesky Delta ticket agents. Thank you so much for publishing this.

    Reply
  5. Gabe

    looks like this bag has been replaced by this SWIFT OCHRANA

    it’s not in stock :( may just send out my bike in a box

    Reply
  6. TJ

    I keep the soft case behind me as I approach. I also have a $20 folded up in my hand. I put my arms on the counter “in the aero bar position”. If they look at the case and ask if it is a bike, I show the edge of the $20 and say no. Never had to pay the bike fee. Usually don’t get asked. Every time I was asked and showed the $20, it was taken. May be pure luck. Not my original idea.

    Reply
  7. Chris Maki

    Hey Everyone. I have an update on the Aerus Bike bag from Blue (link to facebook.com) not only did I find it but I also just got mine. Here is what you need to do to get one: find a local Blue dealer (I know this is silly) and have them order the bag. That’s the short answer.

    The dealer may give you some hassles but if you are persistent you can get them to order the bag. It’s $425 and Blue will not sell it to you (no matter how much you ask or need it for a race in two weeks). All that said, I did get the bag and Blue was very helpful. Steve Harad from Blue (you can find him on the facebook page above) got me started with Blue and the Blue helped me find a local dealer here in the Northwest. Good luck!

    A little persistence and you too can have an Aerus Bike bag.

    Reply
  8. Hi All-

    Just as a heads up, Clever Training now has the case available for purchase. They’re expecting delivery shortly. The units do qualify for the usual 10% DCR discount as well, plus free shipping. And of course, it supports the site too. Product page here: link to clevertraining.com

    Enjoy!
    -Ray

    Reply
  9. gabe

    Just an FYI – via southwest – with the Aerus Bag – YOU WILL BE CHARGED – i am sexy and i had a smile and yet my bag was still considered over-sized hence a $75 charge.

    such BS when people fly with their golf clubs that are oversized.

    THIS IS BIKE RACISM!

    Reply
    • You weren’t sexy enough. I generally have good luck on Southwest…

      Reply
    • Gabe

      hmm..

      what do you say when they ask “is this a bike?”

      i said it was work equipment. The Male Attendant responsed that the bag is oversized so i’ll have to charge you for that.

      (shakes head)

      Reply
    • I try to avoid it ever getting to that question. 😉

      If they ask, I respond the same ‘work equipment’. I’d have to double-check Southwest’s policies, but I think technically it’s not considered oversize (unless it’s really overpacked).

      Reply
  10. John Chico

    DCR, Great site. Are there any bikes this would not work for? I have a Cervelo P5 six SRAM Red 2013 and some things I was reading was that when you disassemble this bike for shipping you have to remove the fork from the head tube because there isn’t enough slack in the shifting cables. Someone listed the steps to disassemble and pack the bike on a separate forum; I have listed the steps below. Would this be an issue for this travel case?
    Thank you.
    John

    1.remove stem cap (4 bolts)
    2. Loosen stem bolts
    3. Remove the brake from Fork ( one bolt)
    4. Remove the brake fairings (3 screws each)
    5. Remove the fairing on top of the brake (3screws)

    Then drop the fork and remove the bar to side of the frame.

    Reply
    • Rusty Cook

      Hey John, I’ve done the disassemble the front end of the P5/6 thing successfully. A word of warning, you need to be meticulous and very careful with the hydraulic brake lines. I’ve never kinked the brake lines but have heard horror stories of such. To help the folding down of the Magura head-set/bars I carefully cut a slot in the back of each of the ‘packers’ that raise the height of the base-bar and I’ve 3 of the 5mm ones. The slot was just wide enough to pass the hydraulic brake line through yet not massacring the ‘packer’ or their structural integrity. Can send you pix if yr keen, write to me at rustyacook@hotmail.com if your interested in more detail. I’m thinking of getting a Helium or Jetpack made by Biknd for my Kona assault this year, hang the fees I just want my bike there in one piece. cheers, rusty

      Reply
  11. Craig

    “I’ve winced as I’ve seen my bike tossed through the air from luggage cart to belt out on the tarmac.”

    With a steel or aluminium bike you would be able to see any resultant damage, but with a carbon bike the damage could be a non-visible crack. Especially worrisome in the fork area.

    Reply
  12. Rick Chambers

    Thanks for the write up and great site! I just ordered my bag today and look forward to trying it out.

    Reply
  13. Carlton

    Just ordered one today from Clever Training. Thanks for the info. I think this will be a much better solution than the hard case I was using.

    Reply
  14. RL

    Here’s what happened a few minutes ago with United in SFO. Guy questions me if it’s a bike and I answer equipment. Guy asks me to open the bag and called his superior. I opened the bag and showed him the inside (obviously a bike) but while I’m doing this his superior tells him the bag is oversized and it doesn’t matter if it’s a bike or not, and told him to charge me the $100 oversize fee. Since I had already paid $35 for the checked bag, he charged me $65. Fair enough. Now I want to see if everything gets to my destination undamaged and in a few days the bag will face the ultimate challenge: an international flight.

    Reply
  15. Andy W

    Interesting comments on how to get away paying the bike fees with airlines.

    When I travel I tend to pick airlines where sports equipment is part of your baggage allowance and therefore no fees. I recently came back to the UK from Australia and paid nothing extra. Well Done Emirates.

    The bag I use is – link to sciconbags.com – and it is brilliant. I don’t have to totally dismantle the bike, only take the wheels off and store them in the side pockets then the frame bolts to the rack in the bag. Your seat and handlebars remain where they are and do not have to be taken off.

    Andy

    Reply
  16. Bradley S

    Thanks for the post Ray. I have a soft case and was thinking about a hard case after seeming all the pros using them after a recent half Ironman in Vietnam.

    I like the pipe insulation technique. I’ll have to hit the hardware store if I ever update my bike as it is an entry level bike, so a few scratches would only give it some character.

    Reply
  17. Joe

    what about insurance? Won’t airlines only pay like $2,000 or something silly like that if they lose or maim your bike? If you have a really expensive bike the only way to do it is packing it and mailing it fully insured. Otherwise you may be out of luck…….

    Reply
    • True, but they’ll only pay that same amount if they loose it in a fancy case as well.

      The problem with mailing it, is that the various services simply take too long for most people at rates that are affordable for those sizes.

      Reply
  18. Matt

    Thanks for this info. I’m in the market for a bike bag prior to an international move, but unfortunately the Aerus Biospeed is $425 these days and I can only find it on Amazon. These bike bag prices are ridiculous. I know I know, the bike price is even more ridiculous. But… ugh.

    Reply
    • Fwiw, if you buy through Clever Training (see sidebar) you support the site and with the DCR discount code it’s 10% off, so $382 instead. Still pricey of course…

      Reply
  19. JB

    Greetings. I tried to get the Aerus Biospeed Bike Travel Case via Clever Training, but alas they were back ordered. I seem to have gotten one of the last units available on Amazon.com. This came from Amazon’s in-house ‘warehouse deals’ – discounted due to some cosmetic damage to the bag. As far as I can tell there is no actual damage to the bag. Seems mint or near mint to me. I was very frustrated that there were no directions in the box.

    Did others get directions in the box?

    Ray – might you have some directions that you could scan or forward by email?

    I wrote to Blue and I found it totally bizarre that they claim to NOT HAVE DIRECTIONS for how to pack the bag. I had a lot of back and forth (3 emails on each side) with them and their advice was to “watch the videos on YouTube.” And they weren’t even pointing me to official Blue videos – just “videos on YouTube.” And yes, those videos will be helpful and I would have watched them regardless, but still, for an expensive purchase like this, even on sale, one would think you would get directions. Moreover, it seems insane to me that Blue seems to not have direction in house. They didn’t fail to reply – they did reply, and promptly, to say instructions don’t exist. Again, this just seems strange. Can anyone help with “official directions”?

    Thanks!!!

    Reply
  20. claus Norup

    Hi Ray

    I travel as much as you do and got tired of the soft bags and all the protection kit needed. I bought a hard case from BikeBoxAlan in the UK and got it shipped to Singapore for 500 GBP which in my view is a bargain. I have been traveling with it for a year now and it is doing very well.

    Reply
  21. Marco

    Do you still utilize this case? If so, are you still having luck with avoiding fees and having an undamaged bike??

    Reply
    • Yup – still use it! I don’t quite travel as much with my bike on planes here in Europe as I did in the US, but with that in mind, I’ve been pretty lucky for those trips that I have taken it.

      Reply
  22. Given the airlines oft-demonstrated willingness to charge oversized baggage fees for anything in excess of 62 linear inches, I’m really surprised you haven’t run into issues. These days, oversized fees can be as high, sometimes even higher than the fee charged for a bike. Are you a 1K with United? Perhaps they’re being more lenient with their best flyers (regarding oversize fees), but as far as bike fees go, even GS elites on United are getting charged every time (this comes from a number of my GS customers). –Mike Jacoubowsky, Chain Reaction Bicycles

    Reply
    • 1K MM

      However, generally speaking I find that if the conversation gets to the point of it being noted as a bike bag – one has lost the battle. Rather, keeping it tilted behind ones back until the last second (post-bag tag printing), and keeping it generic as ‘sports’ equipment is really the key more than anything else.

      Reply
  23. Jenn

    Huge help! Thanks so much, Ray!!!

    Reply
  24. I have been successfully using a hard case. A review of my case is in the blog below.
    http://bikeboxalan.blogspot.com

    Reply