How to Travel with an Electric Bike? [Helpful Tips]

It’s fun to ride your ebike 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 ebikes. 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 ebike in style.

Moreover, trying to stuff ebikes in your car is easy as pie. A better alternative is to use a trunk mount ebike rack.

The best thing about ebike 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.

YAKIMA, FullBack Premium Trunk Strap Bike Rack for Cars, SUVs and More, 2 Bike

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 ebike.

Most ebikes 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 ebike? Check out the Yakima HoldUp Hitch Mount Tray Bike Rack.

It can hold two ebikes 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 ebike in a few seconds. Look them up on Amazon for more information.

Hitch Racks

Hitch rack is a popular method of transport used by ebike owners. It is very convenient and easy to install. Simply lift your ebike 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.

Allen Sports Deluxe Locking Quick Release 4-Bike Carrier for 2 Inch Hitch, Model 542QR, Black

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.

Sklon Tailgate Bike Pad with Built in Anti-Theft Locking System - Securely Transport Up to 6 Mountain Bikes on Most Full and Mid Size Pickup Truck Models - Black Honeycomb (Large - Full-Size Pickups)

Tailgate racks let you safely drive with several ebikes 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 ebikes.

Pack Your eBike (for Flight)

If you fly with your ebike, you’ll have to pack it properly.

Don’t just show up to the airport with your ebike. 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 ebike bag. In any case, make sure your ebike is properly and safely secured. You don’t want any ebike 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 ebike 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 ebike 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.

Unit Pack Power Ebike Battery - 48V Electric Bike Battery for 1000W/750W / 500W Motor Bicycle - Lithium Battery Pack - Ebike Conversion Kit Battery (48V 13AH UPP)

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 ebike.

Rent a Battery at Your Destination

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

We suggest scouting out potential ebike 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 ebike batteries.

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

The table below gives you an idea about rental prices for ebikes.

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 ebike battery will require you to label the package as “Dangerous Goods”. This will instruct workers to handle the ebike battery properly.

Note that shipping batteries will prove to be expensive. The shipping charges for an ebike 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.

48v 10/14/20/25Ah ebike Battery for Electric Bicycle/Ebike Battery, which 48 Volt Lithium Battery Charger, for 1000W 750W 500W /Electric Bike/Scooter Battery/Electric Bicycle/Ebike (48V 10A 200W-800W)

Here are a few rules that must be followed with ebike 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 ebike 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 ebike.

Preparing the Rest of the Electric Bike in California for Flight

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

Let’s discuss some viable options here.  

Cardboard eBike Containers

Cardboard ebike containers are simple boxes for your ebike 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.

Aophire Folding Bike Bag Thick Bicycle Carry Bag,Bike Transport Case for Transport,Air Travel,Shipping (26 inch)

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

Most airlines don’t insure or cove damage for ebikes in cardboard boxes. Use the cardboard boxes at your discretion.

The airline is not responsible for any damage your ebike incurs in transit.

Soft eBike Bags

Soft eBike bags come in a wide range of 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 ebike bags for your flight. If you can, try to rent ebike bags instead of buying them. 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.

Evoc BIKE BAG lightweight bike transport bag, almost all bikes (incl, separate compartment for wheels, FORK MOUNT stabilisation, extra-wide chassis, 280l, max. wheelbase 126 cm), Black (100411100)

By all accounts, though, ebike 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 ebike. 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 are 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 ebike 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 ebike 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.

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Tips for Packing Electric Bikes in California

It is essential to protect your ebikes 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 ebike bags. Here are a few things you should do to prepare:

  • Wrap your ebike 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 ebike frame to prevent it from moving.
  • Pro tip: Photograph all components of the ebike 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 putting the ebike together after inspection.
  • You might be asked to deflate the tires – make sure to 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 ebike like you would any other cycle after removing the battery. Have you ever traveled with ebikes – whether by car or plane? Please do share your experiences with us!

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