One of the knock-on effects of the boom in road cycling as a recreational sport has been the huge increase in cycle tourism and, as recent posts by Wheelsuckers’ members testifies, there is no corner of the earth that is immune to exploration.
For many of us, trips abroad are now an essential part of our cycling calendar and with new cycling nirvanas being discovered every year and innumerable travel firms offering bespoke cycling trips, it appears that the appetite for overseas travel show little sign of debating.
For some, however, the issue of transporting your bike can be as stressful business. And it’s understandable. Weight restrictions dictate that even a hardshell bike box can only be manufactured out of lightweight and relatively unsubstantial plastic or metal, and when you bid farewell at check-in, you can only hope that the baggage handler at the other end is in a benign mood.
On a recent trip to Mallorca, Dave Nash had the opportunity to test out a recent addition to the market, the Bonza Bike Box, but how would it fare in the hands of the baggage handlers at Gatwick and Palma Airport?
So the Bonza Bike Box arrived on my doorstep, a bright electric blue and two thoughts immediately crossed my mind: a great colour that even the most myopic would spot coming round the carousel, but a shape and design uncannily similar to others on the market.
Derivative? Well, yes, but let’s be honest, there are only so many possible manifestations a bike box can have. Given the nature of the contents, a bike box is always going to be an awkward bulk of luggage to wheel around an airport, so purely for ergonomic considerations, this is a shape and size that offers relatively easy manoeuvrability and the safe packaging of the precious contents.
Familiar in looks it may be, but the Bonza is a well-designed box with several clever flourishes that ensure your bike will not only withstand the worst a baggage handler can throw at it (no pun intended), but also allow you to transport it with relative ease through airports and hotel lobbies.
Dimensions, weight and design
The Bonza Box dimensions are 124cm x 94cm x 34cm, which makes it small enough for a small hatchback (rear seats down) and with a weight limit of 32kg will allow you to go up to the weight limit of some airlines, including Easyjet. (It’s worth mentioning that the Bonza Bike Box website has a really useful Airline Transportation Guide, with up to date information on the weight limit and prices of many airlines.)
The box is hinged at the base, with four recessed wheels (more on them later) and a total of four catches to secure the lid once your bike is packed. All four catches have facility for a small lock or cable ties. The wheels are stored in the lid of the box and Bonza have made the dimensions of their moulds large enough to accommodate all wheel sizes, from a 26” mountain bike wheel, to a 29r.
Nice detailing, though the World Champ rainbow stripes looked a little ragged after one trip.
A dense, decent quality foam sheet is placed over the wheels once in place, to ensure there is no direct contact with the bike and the base of the box is lined in the same foam on which you lie the frame. There are a total of NINE straps to hold your bike and saddle stem in place, or other contents you want to pack around the bike frame.
Packing your bike
The designers of the Bonza have also incorporated TWO anti-crush bars to mitigate against the vulnerable areas of your bike and components being damaged if the box is sitting under a load of luggage or if it manhandled during the loading/unloading process. (So confident are Bonza of the indestructability of their box, that there website has a video of a packed Bonza box being thrown out of a first floor window! And surviving. The insinuation being that even if your box drops out of the hold and falls onto the tarmac below, you will not need to contact your insurers!)
The wheels are packed first and this is where the clever innovation of the anti-crush bars comes in.Bonza provide two skewers and two anti-crush struts – one set for the rear wheel and one for the front and clearly marked. Having taken off the quick-release lever and deflated your tyres, the front wheel is inserted first and the skewer provided is threaded through from the outside of the lid, through the wheel. The strut is then screwed onto the end of the until tightly fixed (this is done by tightening the skewer with an allen key from the exterior). The process is then repeated for the rear wheel, with the cassette nestled in a circular recess.
Once firmly tightened, the two struts stand proud of the hubs
Screwing the struts on is a little fiddly the first time you do it and you have to contort yourself a little to insert enough pressure so that the skewer is accessible to begin screwing on the strut. Once securely in place, however, you have two anti-crush bars centrally place over your wheelset, thus providing optimum protection for the wheels and your frame. Anti-crush bars are not unique, but by using two of them, the Bonza provides reassurance that the box will be adequately braced if dropped or compacted.
A sheet of good density foam protects your wheelset against your bike frame.
Then it’s the turn of your bike. With a standard road bike – mine is a 54cm frame – you will need to remove the pedals, saddle stem and the bars, before laying the frame flat. It took a little experimenting to position the frame so that it lay in line with the straps and with the rear mech not sitting too close to the side of the box.
Once happy that the mech was not vulnerable - and I swathed it in bubble wrap for good measure - the plentiful straps, which are a good length, are used to hold the frame and handlebars firmly in place. (One bit of advice I suggest is to strap the brake levers down with electricians tape, as it makes the bars and levers more compact and easier to pack down). Once fastened, the frame is held really tightly in place, which provided the pre-flight reassurance I was looking for that the frame would not bounce around in transit.
Bags of clothing stuffed around the frame and a little extra protection on the rear mech and chainring, ensured the frame and components were well protected and the weight still came in under 32kg!
Closing the lid takes a patience as you have to allow for the anti-crush bars. If, like me, you pack a lot of stuff around your bike, then it takes a little trial and error. A target on the foam, that shows where the struts will sit, would resolve the issue. Once negotiated, however, the lid slips easily into place and the four catches can be fastened off.
In conclusion, the ant-crush struts, the decent density foam and the provision of nine straps, coupled with the hard plastic shell, which feels robust and substantial, combine to provide reassurance that your bike is going to arrive at your destination in one piece.
Transportation and transit
A quick word on transporting the box. Firstly, the wheels are recessed into a cavity, which make them less vulnerable to being knocked and damaged. It’s a great bit of simple design that shows the designers are alert to possible dangers when in transit. The bearings are also of very good quality and the box is wonderfully manoeuvrable around a full 360 degrees.
I found the lower end of the box the optimum place to hold and drag the box – no need for a strap to drag the box, though it would be good to have that as an option, but no strap is provided.
Negotiating fellow travellers, entering and exiting lifts was really straightforward and much of that is down to the balance and the smooth running of the wheels. One of my party had a market-leading hardshell box and, in comparison, the Bonza was definitely the more manoeuvrable of the two.
So how did the Bonza Bike Box fair once it left my sight at the check-in at Gatwick. Well, the good news is that my bike (and the box) emerged at the other end intact and undamaged, which is the main thing. There was some superficial damage to the box – mainly the rainbow stripes which circumvent the lid, but other than that there only minor scratches and marking to the exterior. Once opened, the bike was exactly where I had lain it. Wheelset and rear mech both safe and sound. Always a relief, that!
So the Bonza Bike Box di job it was meant to, but . . . on taking the Bonza off the carousel at Palma airport two of the side catches had failed to hold together in transit, which was a rather worrying on initial inspection. Fortunately, the main top latch was securely fastened with a large lock. I’m going to give Bonza the benefit of the doubt on this failing – my box was filled with several bags of clothing and accessories (the box weighed 30kg in total to be exact) so perhaps it was more the pressure from the inside that had caused the catches to spring apart?
On the return leg I played it safe and used three zip ties and the issue was resolved, but when I took the box of the carousel at Gatwick, the fastening latch on the latch I had secured with a lock had fallen apart and was just clinging on.
I would advise using padlocks or cable ties for extra security and peace of mind.
Are the latches the ‘Achilles Heel’ of an otherwise excellent addition to this competitive market? Possibly. They do have a slightly insubstantial feel – a case of weight considerations compromising strength and durability? For the catch to disintegrate on the return leg suggests the build quality is a little below par.
One other very small gripe is the poor Instructions included in the box, which were sparse and unclear, but an informative video on the Bonza website provides clarity on how to fit the anti-crush bars and pack your bike.
At £475 the Bonza Bike Box sits in that mid-price point area and if you are prepared to fork out nearly £500 to ensure your bike is transported on your travels without fear of it being crushed and broken on your arrival, then it’s definitely one worth considering.
Good colour options, including bright pink, green, yellow and purple
Clever and effective anti-crush mechanism
Adequate hardshell casing and good density foam
Plenty of straps to ensure your frame stays securely in place.
Excellent wheels and manoeuvrability.
Easy to pack.
Maximum contents weight of 32kg
Conforms to baggage handling restrictions.
Overall good design and looks great.
Catches and closure mechanism have room for improvement.
Poor instructions for packing.
Prices start at £450 but boxes can also be hired at a rate of £5 per day. (Bonza will deliver & collect the bike box from your address, with a £60 delivery charge paid at the checkout)
More information, including the video of one of their boxes being dropped out of first floor window, is available on the slick looking Bonza Bike Box website.
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