In 2010 I went to Europe to ride with the Cancer Voices group of Les Dix Alpes. To carry my bike I purchased a budget style bike bag. It was fold-up style, with rudimentary internal pockets and very little protection. It had no wheels and a basic shoulder strap with no padding. With my bike, shoes, sleeping bag and clothes packed inside it weighed 26kg and turned out to be something of a nightmare. I still shudder when I think of how I carried it in a London heatwave, through airports, on the tube and finally through the streets of Pimlico to my hotel. It’s no exaggeration that I was stopping every 100 meters to swap it onto the opposite shoulder. I can’t even begin to describe the loathing I felt for it by the journey’s end and that bag has sat on the shelf ever since.
For my first trip this year I determined to do things a little differently. If not a hard case, at least my case would have wheels. Fortuitously I was approached by the distributor of BIKND bike cases. “Would I be interested in testing one of their cases?” Yes indeed I would.
The Helium is an interestingly-designed case. As you can see from the pictures, it completely unfolds into a nearly flat package. This makes packing very easy. Each side holds two wheels and has an inflatable bladder along the length of the bag. The base is solid resin with a quick release mount at one end. The bag also comes with a bracket to stop the stays from being damaged, a pad for the bottom bracket, chainring cover, fork covers and a hard panel at the front for extra protection. Two zip pockets for tools, etc are easily accessible from the outside of the bag when it is done up.
The real beauty of this bag is that once you have your bike frame installed, it is cocooned snugly not only from external damage but also from damage by your wheels, which are held in place by a nifty device which slots through the axle and prevents movement. Another sleeve goes over the top of this for extra protection. The bladders then flip down over these. Therefore, moving from the outside when packed you have the outer cover, wheels, wheel sleeve, inflatable bladder, externally accessed zip pockets and the bike frame. That’s a lot of protection for a soft bike case!
The slight downside, as with many bike cases, is the weight. Despite being named the helium, this case tipped the scales at 11.4kg unpacked. The bike I was taking weighs around nine kilograms, which doesn’t leave much room for extras under your 20kg baggage allowance. Interestingly, over three kilograms comes from the inflatable bladders on each side. These are made from very heavy duty plastic to prevent popping by overzealous baggage handlers. I made the executive decision to remove these and use the mesh pockets that hold them to carry my clothes. This way, with judicious apparel selection and heavy use of bathroom sinks for laundry and a fair amount of deodorant, I was able to keep the total baggage weight down to 23.5kg. I wasn’t charged once for excess baggage, which made a pleasant change.
Landing in Europe, I opened the bag to see how everything had fared. The bike itself was fine, however, the quick release mount had snapped off the base frame of the bag. Closer inspection showed that it had snapped diagonally. My first impulse was to think that the plate could be made of a stronger metal. But upon reflection, I wondered just how much force would be needed to snap such a thing? Visions of airport baggage handlers forcing my bike into the cargo hold via brute force come to mind and now I think I’m very lucky that the bike itself was undamaged! Better to have the bag break than the bike I’m thinking.
As for the rest of the trip, using the BIKND Helium was a breeze. Even after Spanair put a ‘Spainair in the works’ by deciding not to put it on the flight for three days, it still came to me in good condition. The bag fitted into every hire car and having four wheels to pull the case along was a delight, even through the crowded streets of Paris from the train station. The Metro was no problem and pulling it through the airport was a definite improvement compared to the shoulder bag. Actually no, not a definite improvement, a vast improvement. The two easily accessible zip pockets on the top proved to be an interesting boon as I was able to put heavy stuff in my daypack and then transfer it discretely to the bike bag between being weighed at check-in and taking it to the oversize baggage gate, though of course Bicycling Australia doesn’t condone such deception.
So was there anything I would change about the BIKND Helium? Yes, three things. Firstly, the inside bags that hold the bladders are made of mesh which just happens to be the exact size to get a cable end through, but not out of. That was most frustrating! Secondly, some sort of handle on the side of the bag to assist loading it into a car or onto a luggage rack would be nice. Lastly, extra clips to hold the hard end down during storage would be a nice touch. But apart from these small quibbles, I have to say the BIKND Helium is a very good bike bag.
Distributed by: GPI Sports and Fitness
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