Polaris Axial Pod Review
So, a new bike bag, the Polaris Axial Pod. Here at Dirt we are forever packing our bags and heading off with test bikes and equipment which is great, but with the best will in the world we don’t really look after stuff like it was our own. So when this new bike bag arrived we had the idea to test it using a civilian, we decided a good friend of Dirt Mr Sean Manley would be the perfect candidate, he loves his bike and was heading to Canada so these are his thoughts. The bag would then have to protect his pride and joy, something a lot of mud sweat and tears went into paying for and he would be pitched against the might of the infamous international airport baggage handlers, the stakes were high.
Words & Photos: Sean Manley
A bit about the bag
The Axial Pod is a new soft case bag from the British company Polaris, the base is reinforced similar to the current market leader Evoc, however it has a nifty trick up its sleeve. The upper soft case is reinforced with two ‘removable’ plastic strips, these strips slide neatly into place and Velcro together to form a robust frame, this adds strength to the bag and keeps it upright and allows easy access and transportation. When you have finished with the bag or reached your destination you can simply remove the reinforcement strips and the bag folds down to about half size.
The outer fabric is a super tough high denier which should stand up to a fair amount of abuse and the bag has a large number of cleverly placed handles to allow you too pull the bag along or allow the airport baggage handlers to hurl your bike around with ease. The reinforced base has some chunky wheels set within the width of the bag to provide stability when pulling.
Once the reinforcement strips are in place the inside of the bag seems really well thought out, similar to the Evoc there is a pre-formed platform to place your frame onto and loads of straps and buckles to hold everything in place along with 2 wheel compartments, accessory bag and pocket.
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 for tools and pedals.
So on paper at least this new bag seems to stack up to the current market leaders The civilian chosen was heading out to Canada (I guess someone has too) and was taking their own Specialized Enduro 29er in large (should be a good test for any bag). Travelling with bikes always seems a bit of a faff, the amount of preparation to take your bike apart and build it back up at the other end is all part of that so I was greatly relieved to find that you only have to remove the wheels, pedals, bars and post to use the Axial pod and all these parts have their
own individual slots or securing system inside the bag.
The frame is held very securely, resting on the pre formed block in the base with chunky retention straps the rear mech is given more than adequate space and overall the retention system is really solid, being a 29er and a large bags have come up short in the past, however not the Axial pod, although I did turn the forks 180 degrees for peace of mind. The bars are 800mm and in combination with the high 29er front end didn’t quite fit into the slot at the front of the bag, but the retention system with a quick mod of tape still held them securely in place. The pedals and tools all fitted neatly into the accessory pocket. The wheel slots are cleverly designed and quite roomy, I travelled with 2.35 x 29” wheels (discs removed) and because I run tubeless I didn’t fully deflate and they still fitted in (just) even though the outer zip didn’t close fully the wheels were held and protected, once zipped into the bag using the burly oversized outer zip the wheels add to the stability and protection of the whole bag.
The trip (economy of course)
Manchester airport to Vancouver, firstly at the airport, with the bag packed out with a few tools/spares and some clothes it weighed in at 32KG nothing the international baggage throwers at the airport couldn’t handle. The slog from the car park to the check in was another proving ground for the bag usually taken in 100m dashes with severe arm pump, unfortunately on this count the Axial pod was no exception.
Due to the fact the wheels are in line with the bag its still topples over although not as easy as some, plus unless you weight the bag completely evenly it does track to one side, on the flip side there are no wheels sticking out to get knocked off so I guess you have to weight that one up. The pulling handles seem to be just in the wrong place and the wrong way around, if they were 5-10 cm lower and across the bag they would be perfect, I say this because I’m 5ft 10 and lifting with the upper handle meant the bag dragged on the floor, the lower handle with the weight of the bag and handle orientation dug into the hand, the other hauling handles were in perfect positions. The bag arrived in Vancouver after being hurled into the collection zone, the frame, wheels, bars and everything else intact, all held in place despite the best efforts of the baggage handlers, the same was true on the return journey. Overall I was very impressed with the security of the fixings and protection of the bag. The 800m arm pump special was repeated at the other end on the way to collect the hire car.
Not to be over looked, what happens to the bag when you’re not travelling? At home they take up precious attic or garage space and whilst away they clog up the much needed room in the apartment or studio (especially important in trips to the French Alps) so this is where the Axial pro has a true acecard, simply removing the reinforcement strips and storing them in the base allows you to fold the bag in half and save a ton of space, clever Polaris.
The bottom line is that the Axial Pod is a well thought out, well build soft bike bag with adequate reinforcement and great protection for your pride and joy to keep it safe from those nasty baggage handlers that seem intent on bending and breaking frames and components , it also has the benefit of not taking up too much storage space when not in use. I had one or too little gripes with the position of the handles and wheels but they are still well and truly fastened to the bag unlike some other brands. At £299 it’s right in the mix of things and as a civilian who has to pay for bikes and kit, certainly worth a look if you are in the market for a new bag with great protection to survive cattle class baggage bashing.
Colours: Black/Greeen, Blue Print, Green Print
Polaris 01246 291 100