The answer is complicated, because you have to pass through TSA and meet fairly strict requirements.
It is possible to bring your electric bike on a plane or a train, provided that you meet the criteria. For one, folding electric bikes are more likely to be accepted by major airlines and train companies.
Larger electric bikes are tougher to get on board, but it can still be done.
It depends on weight, your battery, your certification (yes, there’s a potential certification involved), and how much you’re willing to pay in packaging fees by your local UPS or USPS location. Let’s get started by talking about the weight of your bike, and how it impacts your answer.
How Heavy Are Average Electric Bikes?
Even lightweight models can sometimes range in the 35-45 lb range, where standard electric bikes are around 50 lbs, and as you can imagine, that’s going to be a big cost if you’re packing it for your flight.
Most airlines charge per weight on your bags, which is why you’re supposed to pack light on the way to a destination to account for the cost of bringing back souvenirs.
Most of the weight in your electric bike comes from the motor and the battery/housing. When you take the electric components out of your bike, you drop the weight by about 30%.
There’s a trick that you can use to make your bike lightweight for packaging, and save a ton of money for a round-trip flight.
What Can I Expect to Pay for Packaging?
It’s not cheap to fly your luggage, and make no mistake, your bike is going to be viewed as luggage. Not all airlines charge per pound for your luggage.
Instead, they use weight brackets to determine what you’ll pay with flat, fixed rates. Checked bags (that you bring to your overhead storage at your seat) are going to cost less than checked luggage.
The average cost for an overweight bag (50-70 lbs) is about $100.00. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit your bike and all the components you need in a bag that weighs under 50 lbs, but if you can, more power to you.
Packaging is also going to be tricky, since you can’t just bring motors and lithium-ion batteries on a plane due to TSA restrictions. These are considered dangerous goods, and will require a specific license/certification in order to package properly.
So Can You Take Electric Bikes With You on Planes and Trains?
You can have UPS or the USPS package and ship dangerous goods so that it can be there when you arrive at your destination (or fly with you, in some instances).
The problem with that is the associated cost. It’s going to be expensive, which is why we recommend taking an online course and getting your dangerous goods certification completed before deciding to travel with your electric bike.
So can you bring them aboard? Yes, with stipulations. The question you need to ask yourself is if you want to bring it on board after reading all of this.
If you’re a major electric bike enthusiast and don’t want to rent from a service, or the city you’re visiting doesn’t have an electric bike kiosk, then it’s best to wrap this into your total travel costs right from the get go.
Dangerous Goods (DG) Training and Certification
So we know that lithium-ion batteries are considered dangerous goods, but just how dangerous are they? Dangerous enough that you need a special certification if you want to avoid paying sky-high packaging fees from UPS and the USPS.
Luckily, you can achieve this training for a very low cost, which will come in handy if you plan on travelling at least two or more times with dangerous goods in the near future.
Your dangerous goods license is set to last for five years in total, and the cost of the course can vary depending on which provider you go through.
A site like dgitraining.com allows you to customize your learning through classrooms, online courses, webinars and additional course mediums in order to achieve this certification for more than just air transit-related packaging mastery.
The TSA changes information regarding dangerous goods on a fairly regular basis. They likely won’t alter lithium-ion battery information (unless a new type of battery dethrones lithium-ion in everyday gadgets), but it is still good to check out their list of prohibited items to be absolutely certain before you ready yourself for a flight.
Another thing to consider is domestic versus international flights. Domestic flights in the United States are going to have very similar policies with a few oddities here and there, but international flights can get tricky.
Some countries are actually more strict than the United States when it comes to airport security protocol. It’s important to research and understand the policies of everywhere that you’re flying during your trip, and to look these up in between trips to stay up-to-date on all necessary information.
But Wait, My Phone Has a Lithium-Ion Battery
Yes, your phone, tablet and your laptop all have lithium-ion batteries and you can bring those along.
Those aren’t seen as dangerous goods because the batteries are housed in regulated technology, i.e. you’re not just holding a bunch of lithium-ion batteries and waving them around (that would be odd). They’re housed, and they are also a lot smaller than the lithium-ion battery in your electric bike.
You can check the online information for the airline service that you’ll be flying and find out if they will allow you to separate the battery, and bring it on board as a carry-on item. Some will allow this, but it’s important not to bank on this as a main strategy.
The TSA treat pedal-powered bicycles as just that: simple bicycles that cause no harm. If you can effectively remove the electric components of your bicycle and bring them in a carry-on with you, then you can forego the entire dangerous goods training and everything that comes with it, if you wish.
We still recommend going through with that training for a few reasons.
For one, you don’t want to have to disassemble your bike, then reassemble it at your destination, then do that again to get home. It’s best to leave it together in one piece. It’s a hassle to set things up, makes your carry-on bag weigh a ton, and eats up time in your trip. You want to enjoy your electric bike during your trip, not see it as a burden.
What Are Folding Electric Bikes?
Folding electric bikes are easy-to-store, compact and lightweight electric bicycles that are optimal for long distance travel. Folding models might come with a few light restrictions on speed, but come with a ton of other benefits that make them the more viable option for travellers.
Folding electric bikes have an average lower maintenance cost than traditional electric bikes, because there are slightly smaller motors and batteries.
Folding electric bikes also come with smaller wheels, which attribute some of the lightweight description that most folding bikes are associated with.
The goal is to provide a lightweight, fast solution that offers more mobility than a standard electric bike would.
Many major cities and destinations are putting rentable electric bike kiosks all over the place, and while those are a better (and cheaper) option than renting a car, you can benefit from bringing along your own folding electric bike for the ride.
Why Folding Electric Bikes Are Better for Travel
Folding bikes aren’t simply more compact; they come with a slew of other benefits that aren’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind.
- Hotel Storage: Most hotels aren’t going to want you bringing a bike inside, but you don’t want to get stuck paying for expensive taxis to take you around town, either. That’s where your folding bike comes in handy. You can either fit it in a suitcase or simply carry it beside you when you go into your hotel room without catching any flak by the receptionist.
- Eliminate Chance of Theft: Staying in a city that you don’t know so well? Bike locks are easy to break through if you have the right tools, but nobody’s going to be able to get their hands on your bike if it’s actually with you in your backpack or hotel room.
- Saving Money: It’s cheaper to bring your folding bike with you for most destinations than it is to rent a car when you get there, or take an Uber from places to place. You’ll be able to save money while getting a more intimate view of the sights.
- Easier Maintenance: Folding bikes are crafted on the design idea of versatility and mobility, which also makes them fairly easy to maintain. If you run into problems with your electric bike while you’re abroad, it’s nice to know it won’t be difficult to diagnose and fix the problem.
Be sure to check out our reviews of best folding electric bikes on the marker.