I have travelled with my own mountain bike to countless mountain bike races and riding destinations over the past 14 years. Bike hire is always an option, but if you’re going to compete, or do more than riding for a few days in one place – taking your own bike makes more sense. I’ve used a variety of bike bags and boxes, but for the past year I have almost always used the Thule Round Trip Pro.
The Thule RoundTrip Pro has a firm base that wraps up the side of the case, not unlike a bathtub. Two wheels are recessed in the sides at one end – which helps stop them breaking off. The larger diameter wheels tend to negotiate the tricky terrain of some airport forecourts, and they mount a gutter quite well. Descending a gutter needs a steadier hand lest the bag tips.
Inside the bag, there’s a solid mount for your bike. An alloy bar has a fork mount at one end and a cradle for your bottom bracket shell at the other, with a strap to hold it down firmly. This alloy bar clips into the base of the bag, providing a rock-solid placement of your bike in the bag. If your bike has lots of room to move, it generally leads to damage, What is really nifty is a stout junction unit that attaches to the bar and 3 alloy legs that slide into the sides of the bike bag. Put these together for a tripod, and add that alloy base bar to the top and you have a very professional bike stand for packing, and rebuilding your bike. It does come at a price – the bag weighs 9.77kg.
The sides of the bike bag are just reinforced nylon, with strong handles attached. The bag tapers to the top, and is scalloped around the edges too. It’s surprisingly compact, but is limited to bikes with a wheelbase of 116cm or less. Fine for your marathon race bike, gravel bike or road bike.
For strength and structure, folding core flute inserts slide into the sides of the bike bag. They’re a snug fit, and give the bag its shape. They zip in place so they’re not going anywhere. A big benefit here is by taking them out and folding them up, the bag stores to about the same size as a golf bag. I have never played golf, or been up close to a golf bag but it seems to be about the same size. This is a real benefit for storage at home, or in a hire car once your bike is in use.
There are no internal pockets – but there are two wheel bags that will happily take 29” wheels with tyres on, that have small internal pockets for quick releases.
But how do I get my bike into the Thule Round Trip Pro?
1. Set up the bike rack by placing the three legs in the junction box, making sure the feet are oriented the right way, and tighten them up with the dial.
2. Remove the base bar from the bike bag by pulling the strap in the middle. It hinges from the front of the bag. Now clip it into the junction box on the tripod – somewhere near the middle. Ensure the fork mount has the right adaptors for a QR, 15 or 20mm axle. They’ll be in the bag when new.
3. Remove your front wheel and lean it against the base of the stand. Put a disc brake tab between the brake pads if you have one. A 20c piece or folded business card also works – you just want to prevent the pistons and pads being pushed out too far.
4. Fit the bike to the base bar, securing the fork in the mount and adjusting the bottom bracket cradle to suit the length of your frame. Depending on the length of your bike, you may need remove the rear wheel before doing this. Use the strap to secure the bike. If you haven’t yet, remove your wheel and fit another disc brake tab.
5. With both wheels at the base of the stand – go and find your wheel bags. You can choose to remove your rotors to prevent damage, or place them facing in when they go in the bike bag. I don’t deflate MTB tyres for air travel.
6. Use your rear quick release or thru axle and either some custom cut pipe, or a specific travel axle to secure the back end of your frame. I also wrap the chain over the axle.
7. You can remove your rear derailleur and wrap it in bubble wrap and secure it to the chain stay or even the travel axle that you have put in. I’ve been fine without doing this thanks to the protection of the base of the bag, but it’s a very good precaution.
8. Remove your pedals using the appropriate tool, be it a 15mm spanner, 6 or 8mm Hex key. Turning towards the back of the back on each side will undo them. They may well be very tight. Place them below the stand.
9. Wrap some bubble wrap around the brake levers and shifters on each side of your bike, and secure it with tape, a strap, or elastic band. At this point, you might choose to note your suspension air pressure and deflate the fork and rear shock. I have heard it’s not needed, and also heard it should be done from different suspension gurus. Err on the side of caution, and don’t forget to note your settings and pack your shock pump.
10. Mark the position of your handlebars on your stem, and then undo all the bolts off the faceplate, replacing the bolts and faceplate once the handlebars are removed. Put some padding around the centre of the handlebar. At this point, you can put some frame padding anywhere else you’d like it. Main tubes and light swing arms are good to cover.
11. Strap the handle bar to the fork and top tube – how you do this will depend on the length of your brake hoses and cable outer.
12. Remove the base bar from the tripod stand and fit it into the base of the bag. The front clips in first and the rear fits with an audible click.
13. Place your pedals, any tools you have used, and accessories you have removed in the base of the bag. It’s a good place for your shoes too.
14. Take the base tripod of the bike stand apart, and fit the connection unit on top the base bar, and slide the legs into the sides of the bag through the elastic loops.
15. Fit the wheel bags on either side of the frame – ensuring the bottom of each sits down inside the ‘tub’ of the base.
16. You may need to lower your seat – or remove it – to get the bag to close. If so, mark your position and wrap it in bubble wrap to place it in the base of the bag.
17. Zip the bag closed and take a good look around to make sure you haven’t left anything out!
This is pretty similar for any bike bag of this style. You can use this bag without the stand in it – and it is under 7kg. I do that mostly, but it’s not as stable, for the bike or when wheeling it. But it does mean I can have my bike and other bits under 20kg. I just use some foam in the base and a chunk of it under the bottom bracket shell.
All the best for your future travels!