Are you considering flying with your e-bike to your bike touring destination?

Trying to work out whether flying with an e-bike/e-bike shipping will work for you?

Shipping e-bikes is not straightforward, which is why this article is here to help.

It explains the issues around flying and shipping bikes internationally, provides tips for overcoming the problems (especially the issues around flying e-bike batteries) and offers some alternatives to e-bike shipping in case it turns out that shipping your e-bike overseas isn’t, in fact, for you.

We hope it helps!

This article assumes you’ve decided not to hire your e-bike overseas. If you’re not sure if that could be a good option for you, read this article on hire v buy first.

This article includes details of products and/or services that we have used ourselves or which we would consider using. Some are paid features or include affiliate links where if you click on a link and make a booking or buy something, we may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.

The big picture

Most e-bikes can be split into their frame and the battery; this is going to be essential if you want to fly your e-bike. If you can’t remove your e-bike battery, scroll on down to the alternatives section below.

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway from the start: never fly or ship your e-bike where it is prohibited. For example, never state it’s not an e-bike or state it doesn’t contain a battery unless that’s true. Not telling the truth in this scenario may result in a fine, jail time and potentially even causing a plane crash.

Moving on!

Flying the frame as luggage

Make sure that the airline will take your e-bike without its battery, before you book.

It might be necessary to dig further than just the policy on the website to do this.

For example, online, some airlines allow you to bring your e-bike as oversized baggage, with the battery removed. Some airline websites are silent on this subject. Some specifically say no e-bikes.

However we have had experience of a couple of airlines where the website policies say no e-bikes because they are assuming the battery is part of the bike. We then called the airline and asked if they would carry an e-bike without its battery (the battery being transported by other means – see below). They said yes, as then they treat the e-bike as just a bike frame, like any conventional bike.

So it can be worth taking your research further than just your airline’s website policy.

If you are relying on a telephone call confirmation, ask if they will send you an email to confirm this so you have it in writing in case of any issues.

Also try and work out whether you’re going to incur excess baggage costs (and if so, roughly how much) and get your packing right. More on that below.

Flying the e-bike battery

The frame is relatively straightforward. The e-bike battery is where it gets hard.

The International Air Transport Association regulates airlines and it has strict rules on lithium-ion batteries. Airlines have to comply with these rules and in summary, they effectively prohibit flying with e-bike batteries, which are lithium-ion batteries, as they are over the threshold size of battery that can be carried. The reason for the concern is that lithium is highly flammable and can get very hot which might cause a fire.

As a result of this, e-bike batteries have to be shipped separately as hazardous goods, which is both complicated and expensive.

But if you want to go for it, shipping electric bike batteries internationally is possible. We’ve got some tips below – as well as some potential alternative solutions if you decide it’s too difficult!

About to fly with e-bikes

E-bikes all packed up and ready to go at the airport

Tips for flying e-bike batteries and frames

Tips for flying your frame

So, you’ve checked your airline will accept your properly boxed e-bike, without the battery, as luggage.

The next step is to familiarise yourself with the airline’s size and weight restrictions.

Always check the airline’s exact requirements, but typically for oversize baggage, the total size, adding height, width and length of the box should be no more than 157 cm. The total weight should not exceed 23-25 kg including the e-bike shipping box.

E-bikes are both larger and heavier than conventional bikes and so may well exceed either of these limitations. Exceeding those limits is possible, but will incur extra baggage charges. Baggage charges vary greatly between airlines and depend on the class of ticket purchased. If carrying your gear separately you will most likely be charged an excess baggage fee. It is best to contact the airline’s customer service in advance for clarification.

If your boxed e-bike exceeds either the size or weight limitations another option is to partially disassemble your bike, such as removing tires or other components and placing them in other luggage. You may incur an extra baggage charge; but it may be less than the oversize or overweight charge.

Other tips

  • Large heavy boxes may get thrown about by baggage handlers at airports. So it’s a good idea to pack material such as foam blocks or bubble wrap around your bike to prevent chafing or damaging parts.
  • Electronic components should be removed and stored safely or bubble wrapped as well.
  • Tires need to be deflated so as not to explode in low pressure cargo holds.
  • There are a few other things you’ll need to consider removing too. This article on flying with your bike has more information.
  • Arrive at the airport early and be prepared to have the box opened, fully inspected and then resealed.
  • If there is a bit of weight and space to spare, especially if the bike is in two boxes, add in your panniers and other gear to take full advantage of what will most likely be an expensive baggage fee.

Tips for flying e-bike batteries

You’ve got yourself happy with flying the e-bike frame. Now it’s time for the really hard bit; arranging for the e-bike battery to be transported on a specialist cargo plane.

Here is a general guideline of how we did it when we shipped our bikes from Canada to Europe. You’ll need to double-check, but we believe a similar approach applies when shipping between other destinations. Brace yourself, it can be painful, may take several weeks and is expensive!

Packaging and documentation

The complexity of packaging and shipping hazardous goods means you’ll need to locate a hazardous goods packaging and documentation company.  Packaging material and boxes must be certified as well as the packing of the battery itself by a certified hazardous goods agent who signs all the documentation. You cannot do it yourself.

Shipping an e-bike battery overseas

Ideally, that same packaging company would handle shipping the battery package, brokerage, and delivery to your desired location.

However, if properly packaged and documented by a certified agent, it is possible to handle the shipping via FedEx yourself.

We have found FedEx will accept a hazardous goods package from an individual that is properly packaged with certified documentation (not all the courier companies have the same policy on this).

This might save a bit in the cost of shipping plus give you complete control over where it is being shipped to and how you will connect with it when you arrive there with your bike.

Customs

There is one final hurdle however; foreign customs.

Customs agents in foreign countries clearing hazardous goods assume such goods are being imported for commercial purposes, not individual use.

FedEx will act as the broker in the foreign country, but require additional documentation from you, such as your airline ticket and intended personal use.  Otherwise, customs fees will be applied to the shipment based on the value of the battery.

Once cleared FedEx will deliver the battery to a destination of your choice or hold it for pickup at one of their locations.

Other considerations

All told, this may take several weeks to accomplish – so ship the battery well in advance of your arrival.

Also bear in mind that if your bike is going back home at the end of the trip, you’re going to have to complete this process again going the other way!

Transporting an e-bike by car

Have a think about how you’ll transport your bulky e-bike box once it’s off the plane!

Alternatives to flying your e-bike

Read the above and decided you might not want to fly your e-bike battery after all?! Here are some alternatives.

Find a different way to get your bike to your destination

Can you avoid flying and take the bike overland yourself?

How viable this is will depend on how far you’re coming. Obviously Canada or the USA to Europe by boat is unlikely to work!

But if you’re travelling from the UK, within Europe or within the USA, some combination of ferry, car, bus or train could be feasible.

Use a shipping company to ship your e-bike

There are companies who offer various door to door shipping options for e-bikes.

If your e-bike is staying within one country or region, ground transport shipping could be a viable possibility (including battery). For example BikeFlights will ship e-bikes by ground service within the contiguous US.

Even if you’re going internationally, we believe there may be options to ship your e-bike (including battery) by ground and sea but we haven’t looked into these in detail. Of course, this isn’t going to be a speedy option!

Read more on this option in our article on shipping bikes within a country.

Hire an e-bike battery in your destination

If you take your e-bike as oversized luggage on a commercial flight without the battery, one solution is to attempt to hire a battery from someone that rents e-bikes with the same kind of battery upon arrival.

This is not a common service, as businesses usually prefer to hire out the entire e-bike and you’ll have to work out how to get the battery back to the owner at the end of your trip. This approach could also get expensive for an e-bike touring trip extending many weeks – it might be better to buy your e-bike battery (see below) so you have something to sell at the end.

However, we’ve included it here as a possibility in case for some reason this is attractive to you. Note also, while there are many manufacturers of e-bikes, there are far fewer e-bike battery manufacturers.  This should mean that as long as the battery is exactly the same type it can be used on any e-bike that uses that exact same battery. However we don’t make any promises!

Buy an e-bike battery in your destination

Another option is to buy a battery from an e-bike dealer in the destination location.  They can even be bought online. Again, as mentioned in the e-bike battery hiring section above, make sure you’re buying exactly the battery you need and that it will fit your bike.

The downside of this approach is that you’re going to have to sell or dispose of the battery at the end of the trip. However, if you’re storing the bike overseas between trips, this isn’t such an issue and so buying a battery in this case can be a good solution.

Buy your e-bike in your destination

To my mind, the ultimate solution is to buy the e-bike in the overseas country to begin with. Use it for as many trips as desired. Store it between trips. Then either leave it with a dealer to resell or sell it online as used.

As absurd as this initially might sound, high quality e-bikes hold their value and are relatively easy to resell. Compared to the cost of flying an e-bike back and forth several times and hiring or buying a battery, this may in fact prove to be the most economical solution of all.

If the e-bike is left between trips in a foreign country it does present one new problem however, which is storing the e-bike between those trips.  If you have family or friends in that country willing to store it between trips, that is ideal.

The next best solution is to find an e-bike dealer at your destination city who is willing to store the e-bike between trips.  They may be willing to do this for a small fee, especially if also hired to do the inevitable servicing, bike repairs and miscellaneous purchases between trips.

Short of that, there are storage facilities in most cities, although monthly storage rates might prove to be a bit expensive.

The downside of this approach is that leaving your e-bike in a foreign country between trips does mean you don’t have your e-bike to ride at home. If that is not desirable, you could just leave the battery overseas and take the e-bike back and forth between trips. As already discussed above, this will require some admin, disassembly and boxing – and oversized baggage charges are not cheap.  But at least, with batteries both at home and overseas to use, the e-bike can be used all the time.

Group of ebike cyclists in Garmisch, Germany

Leaving our e-bikes with friends in Germany!

Final thoughts

This extensive discussion outlines the complexities of shipping an e-bike and also shows why it’s worth really thinking about how much e-bike touring you’re going to do in the destination (one-off or multi-trip) and investigating the e-bike hire solutions before rushing to ship your e-bike overseas.

If you decide you want to hire an e-bike rather than deal with the issues outlined here, here is some further reading for you:

 

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John Vincent is a retired tech entrepreneur. He continues to mentor young entrepreneurs and is a guest lecturer at universities on entrepreneurship. His wife, Darlene Horne, is a retired teacher.

They are both avid cyclists. They live in British Columbia, Canada, which allows them to cycle on their conventional road bikes year around when at home.  They cycle tour on e-bikes during the spring and autumn months in Europe. Their view is that while many cyclists go on vacation to cycle, they prefer to cycle on vacation.

Last Reviewed: 21 March 2023

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