EVOC Bike Travel Bag XL
This purchase: Freestyle XTREME for £341.99 (cheapest I’ve found)
Manufacturer’s specification: Click here
Spending money on something whose only purpose in life is to facilitate the transport of a bike gives potential for quite an uninspiring review and also leads to the painful consideration of where one’s priorities lay. So let’s just gloss over the facts that bike bags are boring and this one is bloody expensive and get down to it…
Out of the box it struck me that the construction materials were just the right side of sturdy. Tough, lockable double-ended zips, a multitude of strong handles and a rugged-looking outer material giving reassurance that the bag had been made to withstand a reasonable level of abuse: a bike bag’s primary feature has to be rugged survivability.
There is a hard plastic/nylon carrier for the rollers that I suspect might not withstand a solid direct impact but it looks strong enough to shrug off a drop from shoulder height and to withstand pushing and shoving around on a conveyor belt. Aluminium and nylon sliders on the underside as well as large in-line skate wheels with roller-bearings complete the external features. The level of internal padding and reinforcement is good; I’d guess the padding itself is around 35mm thick and tough nylon casings are present here and there.
The inner material is a little disappointing; it’s that coated nylon canvass you usually see on cheap tarpaulins. Not the most forgiving when in contact with shiny paint. We shall see how this turns out…
When folded up on delivery and for subsequent storage the bag is reasonably compact but is still going to be difficult to sneak away out of sight. It won’t fit under any of our beds and you can’t exactly tuck it away in the back of a wardrobe. That said I don’t want to leave it outside in the garage to go mouldy so I’m going to have to make a space for it somewhere. On the plus side though, it’s still more compact than a rigid box.
When the bag is “made up” it has a good level of structural integrity itself and holds a good, solid shape. However, it doesn’t take much to deform that shape. With a bike packed inside it holds-up very well and doesn’t deform very easily at all; to the point it doubles as a handy mobile seat when mooching about the check-in area waiting for your oversize baggage desk to open.
Assembly is pretty self-explanatory; open the shipping packaging, pull bag into shape, zip up. Voila… more or less. There are eight pieces of semi-rigid plastic (four tubes, four battens) that need to be inserted into specific sleeves within the bag. These then serve as reinforcing/protection and form part of the bags structure. Essentially, two battens are inserted to each end of the bag, giving it an upright strength and form, and two tubes are inserted into each of the wheel “bag” covers offering some protection from crushing and impact damage for your wheels. Inserting these plastic tubes for the wheel covers was very easy but the plastic battens for the ends of the bag are located in snug little pockets that took a little fiddling about to properly secure. Once in position, all these battens and tubes are held in position by Velcro tabs. It all works very neatly.
Internally, the bag contains a separate, dedicated soft pouch for the forks and handlebars (kept in separate padded compartments). This pouch has two buckles and straps for securing things into position. The pouch itself is then strapped into the main bag and holds the bars and front end of the bike steady and secure. There is then a moulded raised platform roughly halfway along the interior base of the bag onto which the bottom bracket shell of the bike frame should sit, with provision on the “drive-side” of this moulded frame for the chainset and rings to sit without obstruction. The moulded base is attached by Velcro to the rigid base of the bag liner, so it can be moved into optimal position depending upon the bike being packed. Initially I felt this seemed like a weak design, without having a solid (metal) platform to lock your bike frame to but it actually seems to work well.
There are two red buckled straps that run from beneath the moulded base, up over the top tube/seat stays and over the chain stays. These two straps do a good job of holding the bulk of the bike in a locked position, with the front end already strapped down. There are then two red Velcro straps that wrap around the top tube and down tube, respectively, and “tie” it to the inside of the bag, adjacent to where the bike wheels will be stored. The frame is then securely held in position but will also be sandwiched between two bike wheels with additional protection offered by their inflated tyres still attached to the rims and packed either side of the frame!
It’s almost like it was planned… As for these integral wheel bags, they are probably the most specific fat-bike feature, being large enough for a reasonable 4.8 inch tyre on both wheels, and by default can also accommodate 650b+ and 29er+ sizes. There’s a sturdy, lockable double-ended zip that runs two thirds of the circumference of each “bag” allowing you enough access to jiggle each inflated tyre and rim into position (tip; put the wheels in before you put the frame in). Each bag has an 8 inch nylon-reinforced area in line with the hub on the inside surface adjacent to the bike frame and a reinforced area on the outward-facing surface, in line with the hub/rotor. It’s clear EVOC intend for you to keep your rotors attached to the hubs. The plastic tubes that slide into each wheel bag are positioned in such a way that they sit either side of a 203mm rotor perfectly, offering additional support alongside the toughened nylon patches. All told though, I still voted to remove the rotors.
Similarly, removing the saddle and post worked better for me; it did all fit with the saddle in position but dropped, but rather than have the saddle sitting proud (no pun intended) and waiting for a heavy impact, I decided it’d be safer to remove it entirely and pack it within the bag, lashed down by the forks. No problem; and only an additional 5 seconds of time required when building the bike back up!
EVOC don’t make any suggestion that your rear derailleur, rear drop-outs, front fork drop-outs, stem or seat/post are exposed and vulnerable, but these points of your bike represent the impact points should your bag be dropped (or kicked, or stood upon). Personally, I don’t want to test the strength of the reinforcing and padding in these vulnerable areas so opted for further dismantlement; this adds a little time either side of your trip (25 minutes at first attempt but I’m sure this will be improved upon) but also for me, greater peace of mind. I’d rather do this than try to bend a rotor back into shape with an adjustable spanner, or source a new mech in a holiday village…
Similarly, I decided to add padding to the mech hanger, the rear brake caliper and the top of the stem. All areas that would, if dropped a certain way, hit the deck first and I suspect take a 30kg loading right where it hurts. This padding strategy didn’t ultimately add any weight as I used stuff I was going to pack for the trip anyway (water bottles, first aid kit, Crocs, inner tubes). Still, I’d like to see EVOC add a little more reinforcing at the corners and impact zones.
The weight of the bag empty is 9.6kg according to EVOC. Fully loaded with my Genesis Caribou, a few tools, Stan’s fluid, oil, water bottles, the dreaded Crocs, frame bag and helmet the overall weight was just over 30kg: sufficiently under the limit to get it on a return flight from East Midlands to Geneva for £30. At this weight, the number and location of carry handles become important as man-handling a squishy 30kg lump can be a bit awkward; however it was easy to pick-up and move for one person, whether it was for loading into the back of a car, precariously lashing it onto a Land Rover’s roof rack or dropping it on the check-in desk scales.
One possible risk that I mitigated myself was the lack of a brace between the dropouts at the end of the front fork blades and across the rear dropouts. These two voids, in my mind at least, seemed like an area that might suffer under an extreme weight (whether under a pile of suitcases or under a chubby baggage handler).
After Chamonix I’m now conscious that I am not the only person to resolve this potential issue with the solution I found, but at the time I felt quite the mechanical genius… Essentially I cut some 10mm threaded bar to the same length as the respective hubs (front and rear), added four M10 nuts and four M10 washes to each; slotting them into their respective dropouts, bolting them into position forming a strong, solid brace across the dropouts. It may be unnecessary. It may be overkill. I don’t care; I’m sticking with it.
It is abundantly clear that from the ground up EVOC have designed this bag around a long wheelbase, 4.8 inch tyre’d behemoth, whilst keeping within airline limits for oversize baggage. Even without extensive dismantling, my modest Genesis Caribou 19”, fitted straight in with only the handlebars removed from the stem, pedals removed from the cranks, wheels taken out of the frame and forks and the skewers removed from the hubs: a five minute job. Whilst I opted to dismantle further, if packed as EVOC intended I still had another 20 cm of lateral space in the bag which would be sufficient for most rigid fat bikes and any of my other bikes.
I now have a bag that will accommodate anything from a delicate road bike, to a carbon full-suss trail bike and of course The Fatty. I’ve read elsewhere that very tall riders with extra-large bikes might face trouble, but you’d really have to push it to run out of space in my opinion.
The problem is less one of space, more one of airline weight limits; don’t be tempted to fill the bag to the brim…
This is a well thought-out design that is clearly a considered evolution of the predecessors in the EVOC range. The bag appears to be light, capacious and strong where it needs to be (for the most-part). It functions well for the intended purpose.
Whilst the instructions direct you to minimal dismantlement of your bike I still feel that an element of discretion and common sense is required when considering the survivability of your pride and joy in a squishy bag.
As an overall comment, many of these reservations and weaknesses I highlight above would apply to any bike bag and probably most hard cases.
A four hundred quid bag represents an expensive purchase, no matter how you cut it, but if you plan on using it more than a couple of times and can’t find a rigid bike box big enough, then it is definitely worth a look. The bike bag can be had for a lot less than the RRP if you shop around but given that this is the price of a pretty good wheelset you’re going to have to offset that expenditure with the number of times you’re going to use it, make a personal judgement call… and then suck it up!
Other than the time investment, this was by far the greatest investment I made in our recent excursion to Chamonix (not even surpassed by beer!); in isolation a one-off cost that makes no sense. However the bag has proved perfectly fit for purpose: no damage at all to any part of my bike and both bike and bag arrived home without a mark. This outcome obviously also depends upon the level of respect baggage handlers lavish on the bike bag and its contents but based on this one trip I am 100% satisfied with the outcome and the functionality of this purchase.
To be objective; on our recent trip to Chamonix we deployed an assortment of techniques in order to ensure the safe arrival of our steeds. All of them performed to their intended purpose. However I will say, given this was my first trip with a bike in bag; I did note that I was comparatively quick to assemble, disassemble and pack my bike on arrival and departure.
And my bag looked nicer!
Build quality: 5/5
Although I would need a longer-term test period to fully gauge this.
Some additional reinforcement might be beneficial at potential impact points, though no evidence of need currently.
Value for money: 4/5*
This is a question of an individual’s relative perspective*; for me I paid what I consider to be a fair price (£340) for the best fat bike specific solution available in the UK at this time. Alongside fair peace of mind; I’m a worrier that prefers not to worry; I think this was a good deal.
- Some alternatives
Acquire a fat bike cardboard shipping container from a bike shop, a roll of cling wrap and a roll of bubble wrap; maybe £40? This would have been my fall-back option.
- Make one yourself; or pretend you’ve made it yourself having coerced a useful friend/wife combo into making one for you.
- Pay a specialist bike shipping company to handle everything whenever you travel (might only be a U.S. option)
- Crate Works or similar corrugated plastic bike boxes (certainly big enough, but not cheap and in my opinion might not offer much more protection over a bag, if any at all; the stuff can be brittle)
- Solid bike box; e.g. Bike Box Alan. Involves varying degrees of disassembly and are not fat bike specific (currently) but do arguably offer more protection if packed right. I did actually try a box from “Alan”. I could have got my Caribou into one but it would have involved essentially a complete strip down (down to headset/BB level!!): Not the end of the world but an utter ball-ache when all you want to do is crack open a beer/go for a ride at your destination.
- Other bike bags; e.g. from CRC, Planet X, EVOC (not the XL), Vaude etc. Smaller, but a lot cheaper.
…Horses for courses.