You're gonna need a bigger rack: Heavy electric bikes need beefier hardware

You're gonna need a bigger rack: Heavy electric bikes need beefier hardware

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BEND, Ore. – America’s most popular type of electric transportation in 2022 was not a car, it was bicycles. Electric bike sales surged past 1.1 million last year, up from 880,000 the year before. There were only about 800,000 electric cars, SUVs and trucks sold last year. At the same time, e-bikes are expected to eclipse traditional bicycle sales by 2027.

There are many reasons for their popularity, especially among those who live in a place where commuting or errand-running on a bike is possible. Electric mountain bikes are also extremely popular, however. Quite simply, they allow you to easily enjoy the downhill and flat bits without the pain and sweat of the uphill ones.


There is an issue, however, especially for mountain bikers who typically must transport their e-bike someplace rugged to ride it: They are very heavy. Even a high-end, lightweight and expensive e-bike like a Specialized Turbo Levo SL is pushing 40 pounds, which exceeds the weight capacity of many bike racks. The Gazelle Ultimate C380+ I recently tested weighs 55 pounds (pictured below and throughout this article).

But wait, you might be asking, my two-bike rack can apparently hold 70 pounds. Why can’t I just put one 55-pound bike on it? I had that same question, so I reached out to the engineers at Yakima.

“Each (bike) tray was tested and we can’t safely say that a bike exceeding the per-bike limit would be OK,” a company spokesperson conveyed to me. “Often times it isn’t the entire system that fails during our testing, but one small part or piece of a tray.”

As such, even though my liftgate-mounted Yakima Full-Back 2 (pictured above) can carry two bikes at 35 pounds apiece and therefore 70 pounds, I can’t use it for the 55-pound Gazelle. I also wouldn’t be able to use the Yakima Exo Double Up I reviewed two years ago – it topped out at 50 pounds when mounted on the bottom or 40 on the top deck (though perhaps if I removed the Gazelle’s battery it would be fine).

In short, you’ll need to look closely at your existing rack’s specifications when buying an e-bike you’ll need to transport, or look closely at rack specifications when buying a new one. Luckily, rack makers such as Yakima, Thule, Küat and others are increasingly developing racks capable of carrying heavy bikes.

For my recent outdoor adventuring road test to Oregon featuring the Honda Pilot TrailSport, I wanted to bring along an e-bike since, as described above, they’re becoming an increasingly popular part of outdoor adventuring. The Gazelle would be the e-bike for the journey, but to get it there I would need one of those more robust racks. Per usual, I turned to my fellow Oregonians at Yakima and their new StageTwo hitch-mounted rack. It’s capable of holding two bikes weighing 70 pounds apiece. It also accommodates bikes with wheelbases up to 52 inches, though even that weight and wheelbase capability isn’t enough for something like a Radpower RadWagon 4 that’s so popular among parents in bike-friendly places like my road trip destination of Bend, Ore.

According to Yakima, the StageTwo wasn’t originally intended to carry e-bikes. It was originally designed to carry three conventional bikes, but when the company made the decision to have it carry only two, they didn’t change the spine’s strength. Engineers put the new version back through their testing process and found it could safely carry heavier bikes.

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