Looking at our spring and summer that will have us stuffing bikes on trains and airplanes to get out and ride in some new places and return to some old favorites, we thought to give another thought to how our bikes would happily and safely make the trip. Whether it was our road and cross bikes that usually traveled by air, or the occasional trip to rail some far off mountain bike trails, we needed something up to the task of protecting just about any of our bikes. Taking a cue from the pros, we’ve started to test the newest AeroComfort 2.0 TSA bag, with its soft-side construction and built-in wheel bags, and are curious to see how it will stand up over time. Our experience so far hasn’t been without a little hiccup, as there are definitely pluses and minuses to a soft case, but our bikes have made it safely to their destinations.
Having refined the AeroComfort for more than 30 years, Scicon has established itself as an industry leader and has earned the trust of the professionals riding at the top of our sport. With four Scicon-sponsored European pro teams racing their way across California this week, some interesting infographics recently popped up in our inbox breaking down the logistics behind the race. 96 bikes in Scicon AeroComfort bags have made their way across the Atlantic and through countless transfers to bring these four teams to the start lines, and so far none have seen any damage in transit. Fly with us across the break to get more details on this newest iteration of the Scicon’s soft bike travel bag, to get a glimpse at what the pro teams pack, and find out what we think so far…
The big teams can certainly put a bike bag through its paces more in a year than we would expect to in the life of our travel bag. But they are pros and do it all of the time. We are more concerned with how easy it will be for us amateurs to pack, unpack, and figure out where to stuff the bag in our garage when it isn’t traveling. And to see how it survives our ham-handed abuse.
Details & Actual Weight
The 550€ AeroComfort 2.0 we are testing has been a market mainstay since its original introduction in 1984. Since that time it has kept its distinctive overall shape but has progressed quite a bit to the one we have on test. The basic premise remains of using a rigid base, called the anti-shock frame, on which the bike is attached with standard quick release skewers. This gives a solid base for the four rolling casters, but means it is not compatible with thru-axles and the layout results in a packed bag with a pretty high center of gravity.
While the lack of thru-axle compatibility is a bit disconcerting, the AeroComfort MTB version does work with either thru-axles or quick releases, but does require removing the bike’s handlebar, which also results in a smaller packed bag. We asked Scicon if the traditional road bike bags like this one can be retrofitted with the thru-axle friendly base frame, and were pleasantly surprised with the response. They actually have had a small batch of the anti-shock frames made for this bag that include both QR and thru-axle compatibility with cross bikes in mind. They are not yet standard, but are available by request.
The big Ripstop Nylon bag has a full length zipper around its circumference that opens up like a clamshell to clamp the bike quickly onto the frame, strap it down, then drop wheels into the 2 integrated wheel bags that make up the side panels, and zip it up. It even includes a helpful diagram inside that walks you through the simple process. The bike is simply secured inside the bag by a set of 4 straps cinched down on the tops of a standard road bar and the saddle, neither of which need to be removed for travel (we didn’t even have to lower our saddle, although that is size dependent), and over the toptube. The bar and toptube get an extra padding element, and the saddle a stretch neoprene cover, that protect them from the tie-down straps and any outside pressures. After the first time we used it, we could go from hopping off the bike to having the bag secured and ready to stuff with all of our other gear in under five minutes.
The entire bag is reinforced with high density foam throughout and uses local reinforcement at stress points, like the plastic cups on the outside of the wheel bags that protect the hub ends and keep them from piercing the inside or outside of the bag. The rigid base frame and QR that the rear wheel attaches to also includes a small metal loop to protect the rear derailleur (and therefore hanger alignment) from outside impacts. It does nothing to protect a standard cable housing loop, so we felt better removing our mechanical derailleur just in case. With a Di2 drivetrain, we just had to be careful not to snag our wires when (un)clamping the rear end. Pro tip: Just unscrew the rear derailleur or hanger and velcro it to the chainstay. You save few grams, leaving the metal protector, and get a little peace of mind.
The TSA name in the version we have on test signals the inclusion of a TSA-approved combination lock that loops through the main zippers to secure the bag from casual theft. It doesn’t offer much security, but is better than nothing.
On the outside of the bag there are both a sturdy clip-on shoulder strap (that can be put on either side) for carrying the packed bag and a loop strap for pulling the bag along its wheels. Both are removable and can be stuffed in a small outside pocket next to a strap for attaching the airline’s baggage tags without having to open the main locked compartment. An integrated luggage tag is also stitched on the outside of the bag, but to be honest it is so low key that we didn’t even notice it the first time we packed a bike in the bag, and when we did find it, it seemed like it was the least secure element to the whole bag.
The complete travel bag with all of its attachments, straps, pads, accessory bags and all that we needed to haul our standard road bike weighed 8.97kg.
So what do we think after spending a bit of time with the AeroComfort 2.0?
The ease of packing really is great. Simply pull the wheels off your bike, drop it in, tighten the straps, and it is packed. Since the base mount uses standard QRs, you’ll never end up somewhere having forgotten to put them in the bike case. (We will not necessarily admit to having done that ever in the past.) Either use your regular QRs to clamp the bike onto the base frame, or use those included and rest assured that you will have a spare. The reliance on the quick release interface does limit the number of bikes that we can put in this bag, but like we said above a thru-axle version is available, and we’ve learned we could even upgrade this bag if we end up with only thru-axle road bikes in the future. Pro tip: Clamp those QRs tight or even replace them with internal cam ones. They are what is keeping the dropouts and derailleur safe, so don’t risk it.
The overall weight is pretty good for such an enormous and well-padded bag, for a definite savings over a big rigid case. Fully loaded with an ~8kg road bike, floor pump, shoes, and a few kg of tools/spares in the included essentials bag (strapped in between the fork legs), the whole thing was still under the typical 23kg airline limit. Space wise, there is still plenty of extra room inside, and with less tools it wouldn’t be a stretch to fit in another pair of wheels with or without wheel bags inside too, if you remove your pedals.
Potentially worrisome though, by not removing/adjusting the bars, the primary contact points when the bag inevitably ends up on its side are the shifters and handlebar drops. The padding around the bar and hoods seems pretty good, but we would still feel more comfortable loosening the shifters’ bar clamps, which wouldn’t really be very convenient.
It is also best to remember that a bag this large isn’t going to be very easy to move around. I personally most often travel with coupled bikes that fit in S&S’s suitcase-sized hardshell. This is a different animal all together. Even with the shoulder strap shortened to its absolute minimum, climbing/descending stairs was a chore. We wouldn’t wish such a task on our shorter riding buddies. Our shortest tester, while still pretty tall at 178cm/5’10” was still banging on steps left and right. Then when pulling the thing through the terminal by the tow strap rolling on its wheels, maneuvering remains a balancing act. The packed bag tended to drift whenever it was moved even remotely quickly. The layout of the bag put the weight well forward, with the front wheels set back under the fork tips. This lent a tendency to tip forward, and definitely taught us to pack as much extra weight (tools/shoes) as low as possible and in the back between the chainstays.
The only real downsides we have run into so far have been related to its size. It is big, at 120cm long, 46cm wide and about 100cm up from the ground. Loading it into a car with other bike bags was very much a tetris-like experience. And lying flat on its trip through airport handling, it’s wide enough to bump and scrape up against pretty much everything an oversized airport conveyor belt can find.
Probably because of this, on the way home on one of its first trips the main zipper of our tester seems to have gotten caught along the way and pulled out a small section of seam. The bag was strong enough not to be torn, and so the bike and everything inside made it home safe and sound, but it warranted breaking out needle and thread for a minor restitching, and made us double check inside. We can’t really fault Scicon for rough baggage handling, but it might be nice to see something like an oversized zipper garage that could hide and protect all of the zipper pulls during transit, so this wouldn’t be possible. Pro tip: With that lesson learned, we now position the zipper pulls locked together in the back of the bag, in the bend between the saddle and rear axle, which limits possible contact with anything external.
So far the AeroComfort has met our expectations, and survived a couple of trips protecting our bikes. We will keep throwing it in cars, van, trains, and planes and see how it stands up to the tests of time. We haven’t traveled with a mountain bike in it yet (and it is supposedly not 29er friendly), but when we get around to stuffing some fatter tires in we will report back, too.