How to Travel with an Electric Bike

It’s fun to ride your e-bike in your hometown. But what if you want to bring your electric bike on vacation out of town?

The good news is, you can travel around the world with e-bikes. There are different instructions you must follow for traveling by land and plane. Let’s look at how you can travel with an electric bike in California.

Options for Traveling with eBikes by Car

Trunk Bike Racks

This is an excellent option if you are traveling by regular car. A trunk bike rack helps you pack your e-bike in style.

Moreover, trying to stuff e-bikes in your car is easy as pie. A better alternative is to use a trunk mount e-bike rack.

The best thing about e-bike racks is that they work with all cars. You don’t have to worry about installing anything fancy on your car. The make and model of your car are not that important.

The designs for most trunk mount racks are universal enough to work with most cars. Moreover, you can easily remove trunk mount racks when not in use. They are not a permanent fixture on your car.

Mount racks can be packed and stored easily when not in use. Just make sure that the mount can support the weight of your e-bike.

Most e-bikes weigh between 30 to 100 pounds. So the trunk rack should ideally support at least 100 pounds of weight. Unfortunately, the heavier you go, the pricier they get.

Need an excellent fuss-free option for your e-bike? Check out the Yakima HoldUp Hitch Mount Tray Bike Rack.

It can hold two e-bikes at the same time. Just make sure that the total load capacity doesn’t exceed 60 pounds.

The Yakima is easy to use and stores your e-bike in a few seconds. Look them up on Amazon for more information.

Hitch Racks

A hitch rack is a popular method of transport used by e-bike owners. It is very convenient and easy to install. Simply lift your e-bike onto the tray and drive to your destination.

Hitch racks are placed into the car’s receiver tube. Most racks are compatible with receivers that are 1.25 to 2 inches long.

Newer options can lock to your hitch and hinged to fold out of the way. This is a great option when you’re not using the racks.

Many hitch racks also come with integrated locks. This will secure the bikes to the rack. They often feature arms that extend over the front tire.

Hitch racks are not without their disadvantages. The most obvious is that they will make your car a bit longer.

This can be very dangerous for inexperienced drivers. Reversing the car and parallel parking will be more difficult.

Tailgate Racks

Tailgate racks, as the term suggests attach to the sides of your car. The car, in question, is usually a pickup truck.

Tailgate racks let you safely drive with several bikes in tow. They also have a very high loading capacity.

Simply install the rack over the tailgate and attach it using webbing straps. Sensible loading of the rack will allow you to pack in more e-bikes.

Pack Your eBike (for Flight)

If you fly with your e-bike, you’ll have to pack it properly.

Don’t just show up at the airport with your e-bike. Instead, you should plan before getting to the airport. Make arrangements with the airline before boarding the flight.

You can use a hard-shell case or an e-bike bag. In any case,  make sure your e-bike is properly and safely secured. You don’t want any e-bike component breaking in transit.

Note that your airliner may ask you to remove the wheels, bars, and pedals. You might also have to deflate the tires and suspension.

We recommend leaving a little pressure on the tires. This will ensure that the rims have some cushioning.

Nearly all airports and air carriers place a limit on battery packs. You might not be allowed to carry the battery on the plane.

Even if you’re allowed, the battery capacity may be limited to under 100Wh. This is a problem because most e-bike batteries have a capacity of 250Wh or more.

You could make requests with the air carrier by sending in your application. However, the chances are that the application may be rejected.

There are a few tricks you can use to get around these restrictions.

Bring Smaller Batteries

No rule restricts you from bringing in several smaller batteries. You can bring several 100Wh batteries to make bigger batteries at the destination

LiGo is a battery maker that sells such products. You can assemble their battery modules into larger e-bike batteries.

You can increase the capacity and change the voltage depending on your needs. Note that you may be subjected to extra scrutiny for bringing several batteries.

That is to be expected. This technology is still relatively new. So expect to pay a premium for using such batteries. Moreover, these batteries may not be compatible with your e-bike.

Rent a Battery at Your Destination

This is a great option if local outfits at your destination rent e-bike batteries. This may require a  little research to track down the right retailer.

We suggest scouting out potential e-bike companies before reaching your destination. If possible, contact them to learn about the batteries they provide.

Discuss rental prices, duration, and compatibility options. You might also require services to mount and dismount the e-bike batteries.

The outfit may charge you extra depending on the labor required. If renting the battery costs too much, consider renting the e-bike.

The table below gives you an idea about rental prices for e-bikes.

Battery CapacityRent
250 Wh$15
350 Wh$25
500 Wh$100

Most businesses will require a minimum rental period of 6 days.

Shipping the Battery to Your Destination

You can transport the battery to your destination – that is, if you’re very adamant.

Shipping an e-bike battery will require you to label the package as “Dangerous Goods”. This will instruct workers to handle the e-bike battery properly.

Note that shipping batteries will prove to be expensive. The shipping charges for an e-bike battery will usually cost an additional $100.

The battery should be a common product and not a do-it-yourself material. The manufacturing and performing testing records should be readily available for the battery.

Here are a few rules that must be followed with e-bike batteries:

  • Each battery must be protected from potential short circuits. They must be placed within an inner packaging to enclose the battery. Next, place the battery in a second layer of packaging.
  • The SOC (state of charge) for batteries must not exceed 30% of their rated capacity.
  • UN Specification Packaging is mandatory
  • The battery must have been manufactured following industry regulations.
  • You are required to label the battery correctly.

Shipping the e-bike with the battery will be classified under Class 9 and UN341. The latter is in reference to equipment containing lithium-ion batteries.

This would be more expensive than flying with the battery removed. You are, after all, paying for both the battery and the e-bike.

Preparing the Rest of the Electric Bikes in California for Flight

Now that you’ve dealt with the battery, you still have to deal with the e-bike. The standard methods for packing e-bikes (without batteries) are the same as regular cycles.

Let’s discuss some viable options here.  

Cardboard eBike Containers

Cardboard e-bike containers are simple boxes for your e-bike for transportation. They have several advantages – and a few disadvantages.

For one, they are easy to obtain. You can probably find a few cardboard boxes lying around in your basement.

You might also be able to secure them for free from any retailer or shop. Most cardboard boxes are massive containers with a lot of room for storage.

The only problem is that they are fragile and vulnerable. Cardboard boxes are particularly vulnerable to high humidity.

They can be punctured easily, and the handles are usually the first to go. eBikes placed in cardboard boxes require additional padding for more protection.

This can increase the time for labor and expenses to package your bike safely. Large cardboard boxes also cost you a lot.

Most airlines don’t insure or cover damage for e-bikes in cardboard boxes. Use the cardboard boxes at your discretion.

The airline is not responsible for any damage your e-bike incurs in transit.

Soft eBike Bags

Soft eBike bags come in various sizes, colors, and features. Most come with wheels to make traveling with them more manageable.

The cases are small enough to fit into cars without any problem. However, most airlines will require a liability release for bikes packed in bags.

eBike bags are also costly. Prices start at around $500 and can go up to $1000 or more.

You might be able to rent e-bike bags for your flight. If you can, try to rent a bike bags instead of buying one. This will save you money in the long run.

You can also buy larger bags to make packing easier. Some bags also come with additional protection, such as internal padding.

It is recommended to add additional padding to the interior of the bags. eBike bags are usually lighter than hard side cases.

However, e-bike bags are heavy, oversized, and will incur massive luggage fees.

Try to buy smaller bike bags. They are designed to avoid oversize fees charged by airliners. These bags are often more challenging to use.

Packaging is challenging and may require you to dismantle the e-bike. For example, you may have to remove the pedals, wheels, handlebars, and fork.

They should be safe if you provide enough padding to the components.

Hard Sided Cases

Last but not least is hard-sided cases. They range in size, price, and design.

Note that hard-sided cases are costly but offer more protection. Some are designed to be compact, but the packaging is challenging.

Others are huge and heavy. On the flip side, they let you travel with your e-bike almost fully assembled.

All hard-sided cases protect against impact. Package handlers are likely to play rough with them due to the expectations of durability.

Soft e-bike bags are more convenient to use compared to hard cases. However, hard cases often come with multiple handles and wheels to make transportation easier.

Unfortunately, most airliners will charge an oversize luggage fee for moving hard-sided cases.

Tips for Packing Electric Bikes in California

It is essential to protect your bikes and prepare them for baggage screening. Carrying a massive bag will set off alarm bells in almost any airline.

Customs officers might stop you to inspect the bike bags. Here are a few things you should do to prepare:

  • Wrap your e-bike and its components in padding. You can use bubble wrap to provide lots of padding. Use zip ties to secure the padding in place.
  • Use a wrench to remove the pedals and pack them carefully.
  • Use a hex key to remove the handlebar.
  • Attach the wrapped handlebar to the e-bike frame to prevent it from moving.
  • Pro tip: Photograph all components of the e-bike before putting it into the bag. You can use the pictures to file a claim with the airline if something goes missing.
  • Fill extra spacing in the bag or case with padding.
  • Zip-tie all components inside the case. This way, the officer won’t have trouble assembling the e-bike after inspection.
  • You might be asked to deflate the tires – comply with the airline.
How to Travel with an Electric Bike
How to Travel with an Electric Bike

Wrapping Up

It is possible to travel with electric bikes in California. However, traveling by air is relatively more complicated.

Most airliners won’t allow you to carry battery packs rated at 100Wh or more. It may not be convenient to remove the battery pack.

We recommend renting out battery packs once you reach your destination. You can pack your e-bike like you would any other cycle after removing the battery.

Have you ever traveled with e-bikes – whether by car or plane? Please do share your experiences with us!

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