Velosurance bicycle insurance

Velosurance is a national insurance agency founded by two cyclists in response to the insurance needs of bicycle riders nationwide. We partnered with an A.M.Best “A” rated, US insurance company to provide a multi-risk policy offering protection to all types of cyclists.

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The most popular ways to travel with an e-bike

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You can add more bikes later
bicycle transportation 28 Jun 2024 By Travis Reill

Summer is here! The beach, mountains, forest, desert—whatever the location—is calling your name, and it is time to answer that call. Considering the ever-growing popularity of cycling, there is a good chance that the vacation you have been looking forward to involves a bike. There’s a clear trend of cyclists shifting their spending away from gear and equipment to cycling experiences. Some figures show that global post-pandemic travel experiences are up 65% compared to their pre-pandemic numbers. In 2022, cycling tourism was a $117 billion industry, by the end of 2023 it had swelled to $128 billion. What these numbers say is that the consumer has purchased a bike during the pandemic, and now he is ready to take it on an adventure. And, for many, that means booking a cycling-focused vacation.

Keeping with the theme of “booms,” the e-bike market is on fire, and it’s no surprise - in just a few years e-bikes have gotten faster, lighter, more capable, and accessible. There’s also clear evidence that e-bikes are here to stay, as seen by a nearly 40% surge in e-bike usage since the pandemic ended, with much of that usage taking place on cycling vacations. Trek Travel, a bike-traveling agency, a subsidiary of Trek, reported that 33% of their travel guests last year used e-bikes as their bike of choice while on vacation.

scenic bicycle vacation

With your upcoming vacation in mind, there is a good chance that you might consider bringing your e-bike along. If you are a cycling family vacationing together, you might be bringing a small fleet. Whether you are road-tripping, catching a plane, or shipping your e-bike to your vacation destination, here’s everything you need to about traveling with an e-bike.

Traveling by car

If you aren’t going far, driving is the easiest way to get to your vacation spot and bring your e-bike along. Recent survey data shows that a quarter of all Americans intend to take a vacation this summer, with 63% hitting the road in their cars. If you are traveling by car, there are three common ways to transport your e-bike.

On the tailgate of a truck

Nearly half (47%) of US families own a truck. If you’re in this segment, you’re in luck because trucks make awesome bike haulers. Tailgate pads allow multiple bikes to be transported in the bed of a truck while leaving plenty of space for cargo. With the back of the bike in the truck's bed, the front wheel and fork are hung over the tailgate to the outside of the bed, resting on the pad covering the tailgate. These pads usually come with a strap to secure the downtube of the frame and the fork. Depending on the truck and its bed size, some tailgate pads will hold up to six bikes, while other options will carry four, two, or even just one bike.

Tailgate pads are the least expensive of all the bike transport options, are the easiest to install, and might also be the easiest to use. Unlike other bike racks, tailgate pads have no weight limit, so carrying multiple e-bikes won’t be a problem. However, they do have some downsides. First, tailgate pads don’t secure bikes as well as the other bike rack options - while robust, the straps that hold the bike in place do wear out and have been known to come loose, resulting in bikes coming in contact with each other and getting scratched up.

Other than bikes shifting around, some tailgate pad users complain that the pad can rub and scratch the paint on their tailgate and that the pad itself makes rub marks on your bike. Applying protective film to the frame of the bike that comes in contact with the tailgate pad is a popular solution to this problem.

bike in a pickup truck

Rooftop rack

Rooftop racks have been around for just about as long as the automobile. Rooftop racks are an excellent option for smaller cars, vans, and SUVs. The word “smaller” is used intentionally here because to use a rooftop bike rack, you will need to lift your bike above your head and onto the roof of your car. This is not an easy feat with a regular bike, but when considering that most e-bikes weigh between 42 and 60 pounds (19-27 kg) the task becomes really challenging and possibly dangerous.

Another significant issue with transporting e-bikes on a rooftop rack also comes down to the weight. The total combined weight of two average e-bikes and the rack itself could easily tip the scale at over 100 lbs (45 kg) and may approach or exceed the maximum dynamic roof load of your vehicle, potentially rendering it unsafe. If a single e-bike is all you ever plan on transporting, a handful of rooftop bike racks rated for 45 pounds (20 kg) is available; consider removing the battery if your bike exceeds this weight.

The last major knock on rooftop racks is that having anything on the roof of your car will significantly affect your gas mileage. With two bikes mounted to the roof rack of a Honda Accord, the car saw a 35% reduction in fuel mileage when cruising at 65 MPH.

bicycle car roof rack

Hitch rack

If your vehicle is equipped or can be retrofitted with a tow hitch, a hitch rack is likely your best option for transporting an e-bike. While there are a number of hitch rack designs, for the context of this article, we’ll focus on the tray design, where both wheels of the bike sit on top of a narrow platform or inside a tray, and the bike is secured by the wheels or frame with a combination of ratcheting arms and/or straps. There are many variations of this design, each with its own advantages and compromises. The most significant advantage of this design is that you don’t have to lift the bike nearly as high when compared to the tailgate pad or a rooftop rack. Some hitch racks even have folding ramps that allow you to roll heavier bikes into position instead of lifting them up.

Even though hitch racks are significantly stronger than roof racks, you still must be cognizant of the weight you’re planning on carrying. Most hitch racks are designed to carry conventional bikes, which rarely weigh more than 30 lbs (13 kg) and as such, the weight limit for most hitch racks is 40 to 60 lbs (18 - 27 kg) per tray. Your particular e-bike may or may not exceed the limit of your specific rack. When shopping for a hitch rack, look for the e-bike-specific “heavy duty” version and consult with the manufacturer's specifications to confirm the maximum carrying capacity.

Whether using a standard or an e-bike-specific hitch rack, you should remove the battery when transporting your e-bike. Removing the battery can shave up to 20 pounds on your e-bike's overall weight, which can put it well within the weight limit of most hitch racks. Lithium-ion batteries have been known to combust when left exposed to direct sunlight for a long time or damaged in an impact. With the battery safely stored in a cool place inside your vehicle, you protect it from both unnecessary sun exposure and physical damage in case of an accident. Finally, having the battery disconnected from the bike will minimize the chances of the motor getting triggered accidentally when loading and unloading the bike.

bicycles on a hitch rack

Traveling by plane

Your summer plans may have you traveling a bit further than you can reasonably do in a car. Airlines have been quite accommodating to cyclists with reasonably straightforward rules and pricing structures, so taking your e-bike along should be easy, right? Right?!

Before we go much further, let’s address the bad news first: flying with an e-bike is notoriously difficult and most often simply isn’t worth it, and it’s all because of batteries. According to the FAA, in 2023 alone, over 60 battery fires were reported on commercial airplanes. While many things can cause lithium-ion batteries to catch fire, the main culprit is a process known as the thermal runaway. It can occur without warning, possibly due to overheating, water damage, improper packing, exposure to X-rays, and a gamut of other factors.

Because of this, the FAA enforced a strict limit of 160 wH maximum capacity on batteries that can be carried on the plane, but that’s not all. According to the FAA, lithium-ion (rechargeable) batteries are limited to a rating of 100 wH per battery, but with the airline’s approval, passengers may also carry up to two spare larger lithium-ion batteries (101–160 Wh). This takes out nearly every full-powered electric bike on the market.

So, what kind of e-bikes can you fly with? With even the smallest and most lightweight folding e-bikes shipping with 300 wH batteries, your options are limited to e-bikes that can be equipped with range extenders, many of which fall under the 160 wH limit. This means you’d have to leave the main battery at home and rely on a battery extender alone. The good news is that you can carry 2 range extenders if you take them both in your carry-on luggage. The question is, what kind of range can you expect out of this setup? While it will vary based on your weight and the level of electric assistance you select, in most cases, you’d struggle to get more than 10 miles out of a single 160 wH extender.

In some instances, removing the battery and leaving it at home isn’t enough. Some airlines have realized that it can be hard to know if the battery has been removed, so they’ve turned e-bikes away altogether. Before you bring your bike to the airport, confirm the e-bike rules with the airlines for all the legs of your itinerary.

cyclist in airport with a bike bag

Ship your e-bike

If your travels take you on an airplane, and your e-bike must go as well, you might find it less of a hassle to have your e-bike shipped to your destination. You can choose from several shipping companies that will typically charge you $75 to $200 to ship your e-bike domestically. Depending on where you’re shipping the bike and how large and heavy your bike box is, these fees may exceed $200.

Shipping your bike via a specialty service like Ship Bikes and Bike Flights will be a smoother experience than taking it to your local shipping store. These companies are third-party service providers that rely on FedEx and UPS for actual delivery but have the advantage of volume pricing, so you’re likely to receive a significant discount compared to the prices you’d be able to get on your own. They are also well-versed in the nuances of shipping e-bikes and can even deliver a bike box to your house!

Your e-bike will likely fall under a particular battery-powered vehicle classification known as UN 3171, which allows it to be shipped via ground without paying any hazmat fees. Being dishonest about the fact that it is an e-bike in hopes of getting it shipped via air can result in hefty fines and even jail time. Shipping e-bikes internationally is significantly costlier and requires that the battery be shipped separately from the bike.

Receiving the bike at your destination is another logistical item you’d need to resolve. If you’re short on time, you’d want your bike to arrive before you, or at least on the same day. While both FedEx and UPS have an excellent track record, they also give themselves somewhat generous delivery windows that may or may not work for you, so having someone receive the package is optimal. Most hotels will happily receive a package for you, and so will many bike shops, who would also assemble the bike for you and ship it back for a fee. If neither option is available, you can call the shipping company with your tracking number and request that the package be held at a nearby facility, from which you can pick it up yourself. Beware that UPS does not deliver on Sundays, while FedEx does.

Because of e-bikes’ extra weight, they will require a large, sturdy box for shipping. You may be able to source a bike box for free in the local classifieds, but it will likely not cut it because it’s not designed with e-bikes in mind. The shipping company will likely refuse the package, or you’ll significantly increase the chances of your bike getting damaged in transit. In case you wonder, bikes get damaged in shipping all the time – in 2017, one bike company reported that 25% of their bikes were damaged during shipping. Proper e-bike boxes are significantly larger and made with thicker cardboard than regular bike boxes or have one box stacked inside another, like the Russian nesting dolls. With a little bit of luck, such a box can be found at your local bike shop, as there is a good chance they have a few around that are just waiting to be recycled. If luck isn’t on your side, you can order a proper bike box from a bike shipping company.

Along with a sturdy box, you want to have proper packing material to ensure your e-bike isn’t bouncing around inside the box. An easy way to do this is to zip-tie foam pool noodles to both sides of the frame, essentially wedging the e-bike in the box without making the sides of the box bulge out. Pool noodles are cheap and can be cut down to fit specific parts of the bike. Other than making sure the e-bike can’t move side to side or front to back, ensure that parts aren’t going to contact the frame or other components inside the box. Using extra cardboard or other packing material between the wheels and frame will help everything stay put and not damage anything during transport. A bike case can also be used to ship a bike.

Lastly, be prepared to charge your e-bike once you have received it at your destination. The typical procedure shipping companies follow is to have your e-bike battery at about 30% capacity when your bike is shipped. Ensure your battery is secured and will stay in your bike during shipping, as a loose battery could easily be damaged and start a fire.

bicycle in a box

Renting

If you’re traveling to a reasonably popular destination, renting an e-bike there might be significantly easier and possibly cheaper than alternatives.

Most bike shops will allow you to reserve a bike rental weeks and even months in advance. Some bike shops or bike rental services will even deliver an e-bike to you. E-bike rentals cost around $100 per day, which could have you spending less to rent an e-bike for the duration of your stay than paying to have it shipped. Plus, there is no risk of your bike being damaged during transport.

Renting also gives you an opportunity to try new e-bikes and get one that might be better suited for your vacation adventure. Maybe your e-bike is a hardtail, but the trails at your vacation destination are rougher – rent a full suspension. Is yours more for cruising sidewalks and bike paths? Rent an electric gravel bike and hit the dirt roads. Depending on inventory at the bike shop or rental service, you may even be able to rent several e-bikes during your stay, allowing you to test ride many different options.

E-bike Battery rental

It could be a long shot, but if the battery is the problem with traveling with your e-bike, leave it at home and rent one at your destination. If your e-bike is built around a popular motor, bike shops at your destination may rent batteries just like they rent complete bikes. However, before you go reserving a battery rental, ensure that the airline you are traveling with allows battery-less e-bikes.

Consider insurance

E-bikes are a lot of fun and are equally as expensive. If you recently bought an e-bike, it just might have been the most expensive bike you ever owned. Unfortunately, thieves know this too. In North America, a bike is stolen about every 30 seconds, and fewer than 5% are ever recovered.

Specialty bicycle insurance exists specifically to address the needs of cyclists, including those riding e-bikes. The policy from Velosurance covers Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes for theft as well as crash and accidental damage, even if it occurs when the bike is being transported on the back of a car, by an airline or a shipping provider. Optional coverages like medical payments, uninsured motorists, and liability can be added to address specific risks that you, as a rider, take on every time you throw your leg over a bike.

A bicycle insurance quote can be gotten on this website in less than 5 minutes, and most policies are issued within a business hour.

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