Bike cases were once the almost exclusive domain of the travelling elite athlete but a surge in cycle tourism promises to bring a major market upheaval.
It’s not that long since the appearance of a bike box or bag in an airport’s oversized baggage collection point could inspire a confident enquiry about the owner’s upcoming sporting event. The 1990s brought a proliferation of bike cases – then a recent transition from the commonly recycled, good old cardboard box – as the emergence of triathlon in particular lured competitors to travel interstate and overseas.
Bike boxes and bags had a largely uniform task at the time – to transport increasingly elaborate and expensive road racing bikes, padded and protected by plastic bags filled with training and racing apparel and other clothing that could risk potentially coming in contact with bike lubricants.
“This new breed of cycle tourist not only brings heightened demand in the bike case market, it will require manufacturers to rethink and broaden the scope of their products.”
The boxes and bags also evolved rapidly as competitor’s stepped up their expectations on how they should protect their prized steads and help transport all their other race and travel gear.
Then the bike case market received a further surge in momentum as mountain bike competition took hold, and another breed of travelling cyclist was born.
The tyres were fatter and the forks wider but otherwise the purpose was largely the same, protect the expensive race machine from home to the race venue – and back.
However, the latest wave of travelling cyclist is bringing much different demands and requirements, as bike tourism rapidly gains popularity.
As Covid travels restriction eased around the globe, bicycle tourism could resume the momentum that had been building during the previous decade. In fact, the cabin fever incited by pandemic lockdowns – not to mention the much-ruminated, Covid induced ‘reflections on what’s really important in life’ – appear to have added further appeal to the notion of seeing the world by bike.
This new breed of cycle tourist not only brings heightened demand in the bike case market, it will require manufacturers to rethink and broaden the scope of their products. It offers great opportunities for manufacturers to reimaging how their boxes and bags can secure all the items of the bicycle tourist (including those items the tourist haven’t yet realised they ‘need’).
The rising number of cases and bag for folding bikes is one manifestation of this trend, as travellers skip from pedal power, to trains, to buses, back to their bikes and so on. The solutions for these global bike commuters include the invention of the bike bag that quickly converts into a convenient backpack and, in turn, can be worn while riding on the bike.
These ‘Hop on Pop’ possible permeations of bike-in-bag, then bag-on-bike promise a period of exciting innovation and market generation. There is great opportunity for divergence, not only in functionality but also in aesthetic style as bike tourists shun the ‘sporty’ for the ‘stylish and bit groovy’ – in keeping with urban and adventure culture trends in other facets of cycling equipment.
That element of style could also further drive the development of bike case accessories such as the compartmentalised luggage bags, shaped to fit strategically in an around the packed bike. While box cases were once very much just a means to an end – a tool to safely reach the race location – they promise to become more a part of the adventure and bring a corresponding level of convenience, order and aesthetics. The hasty and ad hoc cramming of random clothing around the bike, partly just to offer additional protection, is much less likely to be tolerated.
While there will always be some adventurers who will enjoy travelling rough and minimalist, most relative newcomers attracted to the growing list of rail trails and other cycling destinations are likely to desire plenty of comforts and accessories – including an additional bike fashion accessory.
And there lies another case for clever product design and marketing.