Electric bikes, AKA e-bikes, are constantly rising in popularity for good reasons. They’re easier to ride and require far less effort to ride through challenging situations — yet you retain the benefits of a bike and its eco-friendliness.
The issue, however, is with transporting them. Not only do e-bikes come with unconventional frame designs and are much heavier than traditional bicycles. That pushes riders like us into the endless pursuit of finding the best way to transport electric bikes.
As with most things, I can’t give you a one-size-suits-it-all solution. Nonetheless, this article will try to provide the best alternatives for each scenario and use case. Let’s get moving.
The Hurdles We Need to Overcome When Transporting E-Bikes
Electric bikes come in different designs, most of which require some improvisation for transportation. Knowing the distinctions and unique properties can help you pick the right transporting mechanism.
One of the biggest issues with carrying e-bikes comes from step-through designs. This design lacks a top tube — once a popular frame choice for women’s and kids’ bikes. These days, plenty of e-bikes utilize that shape due to the ease of riding the bike.
But the mounting options become much more limited due to the absence of a top tube.
Another typical style in electric bikes would be fat tires, sometimes called “fat bikes.” As the name suggests, these tires are unconventionally thick — usually four inches or wider. These tires help gain superior traction and stability while riding.
Mountain e-bikes also come with wide tires more often than not, although their tires aren’t as wide. But despite the benefits, these wheels also limit the mounting options when carrying them.
Another issue with electric bikes is their weight. Compared to a traditional bike, these are easily twice as heavy. That means… regardless of your vehicle’s type — it has to handle more weight now. This can make mounting trickier, increasing unwanted movement and securing issues.
This is why you must be wary when looking for a carrying mechanism for e-bikes. You should know your bike’s requirements, measurements, and weight.
Ways to Transport Electric Bikes
Don’t get me wrong. You’ll find several ways to transport electric bikes. But one method might not suit everyone. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you. Let’s look at the possibilities — gradually rising in difficulty and cost.
Transporting the E-Bike in the Vehicle’s Back
This is the most cost-efficient option, assuming you already have a few conveniences. First, your vehicle should have enough space in the boot.
Many electric bikes should easily fit in the car’s boot, especially if you can push the car’s passenger seats a bit forward. Smaller cars would fail to do that, unfortunately.
If not, try removing the front wheel if your electric bike allows it. Turning the handlebars around is even easier, as you can avoid taking the wheel off that way.
Assuming the bike now fits, put some blankets beneath it to prevent damaging it (and the car). Make sure the bike won’t move around while you drive, as it can harm a device full of electrical components. You could use straps or other securing elements to hold it in place.
Furthermore, you could carry the e-bike upright without taking the wheel off if you own a truck. You only need a few bungee cords and straps to hold the bike in place.
However, ensure the pedals are conveniently positioned, and the front wheel isn’t wobbling around while driving.
Both of these are highly cost-efficient methods of carrying an electric bike, but only if your vehicle suits it. If not, let’s move on.
Bike Racks for E-Bikes
The next alternative is using a bike rack to transport the bike. This is undoubtedly one of the most popular ways, but you do have to spend some cash. There are many ways to mount a bike rack — the car’s roof, trunk, or hitch.
Most roof racks block the vehicle’s rear end in one way or another. This is problematic if you want to access your trunk or use the hitch to transport other items. Getting a roof rack for an electric bike is a great way to alleviate that.
You can mount them in many ways — using a proprietary mounting tray, a vacuum seal, or just on a naked roof. These bikes are pretty stable, and you don’t have to worry about the weight.
Since e-bikes weigh more than most traditional options, a roof rack can help reduce that headache. If you’re worried about the stability of a heavier e-bike, you could opt for thru-axle racks as well. These require removing the bike’s front wheel, which some people find annoying. Make sure you’ve got the right combination before taking the plunge.
The issue with these racks is getting the bike up there. Given their weight, you’ll have difficulty lifting and mounting them — especially for vehicles with higher roofs. Hence, ensure you can work with your e-bike’s weight before getting such racks.
Another risk factor is that the bike is susceptible to damage when going through tunnels or garages with low roofs. If your vehicle’s height is already pretty high, steer clear of these racks (pun intended) to avoid damaging the bike.
Users who have electric bikes with removable batteries and front wheels tend to opt for roof racks, as that reduces the weight significantly. Furthermore, they can often hold up to four e-bikes without space or weight concerns, which most usual mounting mechanisms can’t provide.
Another concern should be with the locking mechanism. If the rack’s locking capacity isn’t sufficient, you may have to use additional straps and cords. Again, the higher weight means movement can be more drastic — requiring better tie-downs.
A trunk rack does a solid job if you don’t transport your e-bike too frequently and don’t want to spend a fortune.
These latch onto the trunk of your car with hooks and straps and don’t require hitch receivers, either. Such racks are lightweight, and you can find different designs for your bike.
Due to their design, you can’t get to your vehicle’s back without removing your e-bike, significantly limiting access to its trunk. If this is an issue, trunk racks are a no-no. They are usually not as stable as roof or hitch racks either.
Considering that electric bikes already weigh more, stability can be an issue on bumpy roads. That concern grows more significant with multiple bikes. And keep in mind that you can carry two bikes at best in most cases, although some support three.
For heavier electric bikes with fat tires, ensure you’ve got the rack and the bike tied down properly. Otherwise, trunk ranks are notorious for scratching up cars and bikes, especially with added weight.
What I like about carrying my e-bike with a trunk rack is its mounting ease. The bikes are pretty easy to mount to it, especially compared to roof racks. However, most of these racks won’t have ramps to help you raise the bike if that’s something you prefer.
Hitch racks are the most popular style of racks, be it for e-bikes or traditional ones. These are connected to the vehicle’s hitch receiver, but how you mount your electric bikes differs drastically.
If you’re worried, the hitch’s weight capacity shouldn’t limit whether you can carry your e-bike. That’s because even the lowest hitch class can easily handle a couple hundred pounds.
While these can be classified into different categories, we’ll look at the most obvious and necessary ones — platform and hanging bike racks.
Platform Hitch Racks
Platform hitch racks for e-bikes provide your bikes with a platform to rest on. Too simplified?
Well, these hitch racks usually hold electric bikes at two points — through the wheels and the frame. While some can combine the two, some only rely on clamping the wheels. This is sometimes common in e-bikes, as many of them don’t come with traditional top tubes (such as step-through or children’s bikes).
Along with superior compatibility, these racks also allow users to minimize frame contact if that’s what you want.
The best thing about these racks is that they provide a stable bike platform. For heavy bikes like these, this platform helps reduce swaying.
And since even the basic hitch classes can handle a decent bit of weight, platform racks can easily carry multiple bikes.
You can find plenty of platform hitch racks to carry four bikes without worrying about the weight limits. However, frame and wheel clamps are better for maintaining superior stability.
These racks are already pretty low in height, so it’s a great way to transport heavier e-bikes without a ramp.
Many of these products can work with multiple wheel sizes and suspensions, especially mountain electric bikes and bikes with fat tires.
Since it doesn’t hang onto the car’s trunk like trunk racks, there’s little risk of scratching and scuffing.
Hanging Hitch Racks
Hanging hitch racks are often called mast-style racks, as you hang your bike to a mast-like device. As the name suggests, these solely rely on a hanging mechanism and don’t have any platform or tray for the bikes to rest on.
These racks tend to be lightweight and compact, which is why I enjoy them. A hanging hitch rack for e-bikes would take far less space behind the car than platform racks.
Furthermore, you can mount them comparatively easily; many models support folding mechanisms. These racks are also much more affordable than platform racks.
Hanging racks also provide more ground clearance, even with large electric bikes, which some users require.
However, I’d recommend using a platform hitch rack for electric bikes. The tray or platform provides sufficient support for the added weight of e-bikes, and the stability also receives a boost. This keeps the bikes secured.
Many platform racks even support ramps, which is helpful with heavy mountain e-bikes. In contrast, some users even remove their bike’s batteries to alleviate weight concerns. If you have a large e-bike, this introduces more trouble than it’s worth.
Another issue is compatibility with hanging racks. For instance, a step-through bike would require an adapter to work. Using a platform rack and holding the wheels with the clamps could help avoid that extra expense.
Hanging hitch racks are always lagging in terms of compatibility.
My Last Words
There we have it — the best way to transport electric bikes for different bikes and use cases. Not all solutions will suit you, as your vehicle, e-bike, and budget will vary. If you can make do without a rack, that’s great. Butif you have to get a rack, I recommend investing in a platform rack or a roof rack over trunk racks, as they’re more stable and can handle more weight.