So I am traveling to New Zealand, I have an XL Surly ECR, it’s a bloody big bike with bloody big wheels, I’m going for three months and I need to carry everything I’m taking with me on my bike, and I need the bike to turn up unscathed. I thought about using two bike boxes gaffer taped together, I thought about buying a hard shell case and while pondering these options Singletrack kindly offered me the loan of the Polaris Axial Pod, which is something between the two.
I picked it up and was immediately concerned about it fitting in the car. It did. I got it home and tried to read the sparse instructions. I took the wheels off my enormous bike, removed the handlebars and pedals and took the seatpost out – and it fitted… just.
I fitted some dropout spacers and fabricated some home-made cardboard structural supports for the front and rear drop outs to allay my paranoia about the bike arriving crushed. Once the frame was fitted and strapped in securely, I looked at the wheels. 29+ wheels are enormous, there was no way they were fitting into the wheel pockets.
So I sat and had a brew and thought about it. Tyres off, inner tubes out, tyres loosely around the rims, cardboard fitted around both side of the hubs, a bit of effort and in they went, zips not (too!) stressed; out they came again, discs off, Rohloff gubbins off, both discs put into cardboard and stashed in the disc-sized pocket, pedals, skewers, etc. stored in the included storage bag, finally the stiffening sheets fitted and all zipped up. Hurrah, it worked!
And then I added the bikepacking bags, the front and rear rack, the panniers, the camera bag (I did say the bike was carrying everything) and then most of the stuff that was going in these bags, plus a helmet… It did all fit in – but it weighed 45kgs.
Pleased with myself, I sat back and enjoyed a beer.
A few days later it finally dawned on me that there is a weight limit for airport travel. In the case of my flights that limit was 32kgs, so I had to remove about 15kgs of luggage and put this into a separate bag. This actually made the Polaris feel less solid (as you can imagine), so I then filled the gaps with bubble wrap and headed off to the airport.
The usual airport stress ensued but £200 in excess baggage fees saw me on my way. 26 hours later I was relieved to see the bag again; a quick check revealed no external damage and upon getting my bag checked for bio hazards (as is the way entering New Zealand), everything looked undamaged internally. The hotel build confirmed nothing amiss; the bag had done its job, and I remembered to take a photograph of the set-up so I could replicate it coming home.
Fast forward three months and I’m refilling the bag for the return journey, less concerned now with it reaching its destination in one piece. Into the airport and the bag is easy to negotiate through the various taped barriers that airports delight in using; the straps are comfortable (I’m now able to appreciate these design features being significantly less stressed than the outbound journey) and the wheels are a godsend.
30 hours later and I’m waiting at Heathrow arrivals for the bag to come out of the oversized luggage hole. Finally it arrives, looking a bit misshapen. My heart sinks; a quick check over reveals some external damage to the fabric, so I unzip the main compartment and am relieved to see nothing obviously wrong. Once home I take a long look at the bag. There is no damage at all to the bike or the wheels, and although the bag has obviously been abused somewhere along its journey, it has done its job well.
The external damage occurred where the hubs sat against the inside of the bag. Despite having cardboard fitted around them, the pointy bits rubbed against something and the fabric isn’t quite tough enough to withstand this. I should say that the hubs are standard 100mm and 135mm hubs so nothing unusual – maybe this area could be beefed up in future models? One aspect of the bag that I didn’t need was the fact that it packs to a third of its size, I tried this out just to see and can confirm that it certainly does pack substantially smaller than its full size, so should you need to store it between flights then that’s a big bonus.
The bag worked very well, was easy to fit the bike into, the internal strapping and foam pads made for a snug fit but let’s face it, it swallowed an enormous bike, and an enormous load, it stood up to almost 50 hours of flights and was easy to navigate around a crowded airport, and it fitted into a Ford Fiesta.
|Product:||Axial Pod bike bag|
|Tested:||by Steve M. for nine months/half the planet.|