Our ethos here at UKXCNews in terms of testing is to make sure a product is testing in race conditions. So - no ‘spins around carparks’ on bikes and no trying on of clothes in the warmth of the house. How can we comment on a product’s race-worthiness unless we’ve put it through its paces for real?
Our dilemma then was how to test a bike bag!
We quickly realised that simply putting a bike in it and evaluating it was no good – we had to take it to a race, and realistically had to fly with it (any excuse to go abroad!)
So – the Axial Pod went to Poland, to the Sudety MTB Challenge, via a trip down the M11, our friends at Easyjet, and a very small Polish hire car.
The obvious element that makes a bike bag fit for purpose is whether it actually protects your pride and joy during its journey. We also considered the following factors though.
- Is it easy to pack / unpack?
- Is it comfortable to carry / move?
- How tricky is it to store when not in use?
- How robust is it over time?
The Axial Pod is one of the latest bike bags from the British company Polaris. It’s a soft case bag (with a hard bottom), but has a transformational element to it. There are two strips of poly-carbonate material that slide into sheaths on the top of the bag and Velcro together to form a robust top frame for the bag. As well as providing some strength to the bag itself, these enable the bag to sit upright on its own, and be unzipped easily to access the contents if required.
The outside of the bag is finished in a very resistant rip-stop type material, with a number of strategically placed handles for either carrying or pulling. One corner features some fairly chunky wheels, which we were pleased to see were set a reasonable distance apart to provide some stability for standing and pulling.
The inside of the bag is a real treasure trove in terms of design for functionality. The ‘loading’ and securing of the bike is very well thought out in terms of straps, Velcro and buckles. There are a good number of pockets and an accessory bag too.
Different bike bags/cases often require a different level of disassembly of the bike, some of which can get rather annoying.
The Axial Pod requires removal of wheels and pedals, which isn’t exactly problematic, and removal of bars and saddle/post. The bars and post have defined ‘home’s in the bag, separated from other parts by padding. Disassembly is therefore relatively simple.
The frame and components are very securely held within the bag itself in defined locations, with adjustable straps and Velcro. This seems to be something that regular bags don’t offer, and was a real confidence booster in terms of the bag’s overall ability to protect.
It’s worth noting that the UKXCNews' race bike of choice was an XL 29er for this trip, and the Pod coped admirably with the frame size.
The wheel ‘slots’ at the front of the bag are surprisingly roomy. Many bags seem to have been designed around 26” wheels or skinny 700c rims, and trying to fit a chunky tyred 29er wheel is problematic.
The Axial Pod swallowed up two 29er wheels with 2.25 tyres (deflated) with some ease. This meant that the tyre remained seated on the bead, so the tubeless integrity remained. Trying to find a track pump or a compressor before a race abroad to reseat tubeless tyres isn’t always easy!
Polaris sensibly recommends adding additional padding to the bag in the form of clothes etc, which is usual practice for most bike bags.
In use, the bag is easy to move, and doesn’t topple over like some wheeled bags do. The handles seemed to be in the right place at the right time when it came to lifting.
The bag arrived in Poland in perfect shape, as did the bike inside. The story was the same for the return journey, which ticks the box in terms of protection. The interior organisation straps also meant that everything was in the same place in the bag as when it was packed.
The Pod even managed to squeeze itself into the world’s tiniest Kia hire car as the photo shows!
Perhaps one of the least often considered elements around bike bags is what happens to them when they’re not being used, either at home or on a trip. They are pretty big things, and can take up space in that small hotel room you’ve had to book to be able to afford the trip! Luckily the pod folds in on itself once the polycarbonate sections are removed, taking up a lot less space.
It’s great to be able to review and use a product that’s obviously had so much thought and clever design work put into it. The Axial Pod is built really well, and inspires confidence in use.
The £299 price tag is on a par with other similar bags, but the Pod seems to have the edge in terms of quality of design and build.
When you consider the cost of many bikes out there these days, this sort of price tag is minimal compared to replacing a bike or component, and should be viewed as an investment.