Rise of the ultimate city cargo bike


When talking about hauling stuff through cities, cycling may be settling in on the optimal form factor. The midtail bicycle seems to be having it's moment in the sun. Could the compact cargo bike be the design that is the tipping point for family and commercial urban transportation?

The lure of a cargo bike whether it be a longjohn, trike or longtail is it's ability to allow you to go car free and bring your people or stuff along. The challenge comes when you have to walk your bakfiets along a crowded sidewalk, get it in an elevator or store it in your apartment.

via Jonnyvolt Instagram

I heard everyone had fun here but you can see where this could get sticky right?

So if space is tight or if your needs require more than standard panniers but less than a full sized rig check these out. I've listed them in order of what I've ridden or when I first discovered them. Make your way until the end. You'll see how each model adds something to the category.


I first saw the Stretch use as a food delivery vehicle so I had to take one for a ride.




Spicy Curry v1, this one needs revisiting as the electric drive system has been changed to Bosch. Here's my review of the original.

The Benno is like a long electric bmx bike with racks. It is a fun ride. 


Juiced U500 ODK is a fun ride that is super strong.


By now you may be able to see some of the hallmarks of the midtail. In terms of overall length it sits between a standard diamond frame and the stretched longtail. The front or both wheels are smaller as well. The result is quick steering and a nimble ride. 

The rear cargo deck and top tube stand over height are most times lower than other bikes as well. This makes for even easier loading and easy handling for smaller riders. If your capacity needs are not extreme and desire for a smaller footprint is important this may be the ticket. Check out a few more options.


The handmade Beavertail by Cycletrucks from Sacramento, CA.




Cycletrucks does it again with the S.U.B.


While the Haul-a-Day doesn't fold like other Bikefriday models, it's top tube does telescope to various lengths. 


Yuba's Boda Boda is short but has 26 in tires


Radwagon by Radpower Bikes is a 26er as well




Cero E-Cargo



Felt Tot'em 

Felt Bruhaul when the Tot'em isn't enough




  Tern GSD (Get Stuff Done)

The Tern GSD rounds out this list for a reason. It is the most recent interpretation to hit the U.S. market. Looking at all of the models you can see how it builds on the best of the midtail segment. There is one near me so hopefully I will be bringing you a review soon.

Did I miss any important midtails that are in production? I did leave out a couple that are no longer available. If space is limited and hauling is a priority give a midtail a try!

What bike should I buy? A cargo bike for your current situation

A while back I was waiting for my cleaning at the dentist's office and I picked up the April issue of Bicycling magazine. The issue was a buyers guide in which they asked, "What bike should I buy?". Of the thirty seven scenarios and the chosen bike for each one only one was a cargo bike. 

I know magazines only have so much real estate and they have to focus on what sells but I think they could have shown bikes that haul a little more love. Here are some of the scenarios where the best answer is a cargo bike.


I want to keeping an eye on small kids while we are riding



While I started out riding my mountain bike pulling a Burley trailer with my two oldest kids in tow, I was never quite comfortable out on the streets. With them riding so low around cars I was always looking over my shoulder at stop lights to make sure drivers were leaving ample cushion. There was also the inevitable bickering on longer rides. Shouting backwards for peace while pedaling is not my idea of fun. 

All these issues are covered with a longjohn. Your kids are in front of you so you can keep an eye on them. The conversations about what we are seeing seem to keep friction at bay. While you're not any more protected from cars you just feel more secure being able to see the little ones while you ride.

I want to deliver more than legal documents



When high bandwidth Internet became ubiquitous we thought the bike messenger business was done for. Cargo bikes have breathed new life into the industry. You can find companies delivering fully catered meals to whole office buildings down to a quick bite by bike. Bike based last mile delivery services handle tasks like delivering office supplies, flowers, laundry and a whole host of boxed goods of varying sizes.  


I want to carry cargo but storage space is tight


Cycletrucks S.U.B.

You gotta love a Brompton or Dahon for their tiny footprint which is great on buses, trains and in small living spaces. However, sometimes you need more hauling capacity but still have to manage that city apartment and train ride.

Enter the class of cargo bikes represented by models like the Cycletrucks S.U.B. This bike give you most of the rear hauling capacity of a full sized longtail in a compact frame. There is a beefy front rack to complement the rear cargo area. Not only is it small, it stands on end for storing in tight quarters. 


I want to run a mobile micro-retail business



If you have a brand that sells products, food or beverages and want a unique vending experience try a trike. While you do have to check local regulations for selling on the street having a branded trike for private events will definitely leave an impression.


I want to be a faster first responder in crowds




When a health crisis emerges speed is often the best medicine. So if you are trying to get me to the hospital please use a plane, train or automobile. But what about getting to the injured in the first place, especially in a crowded venue? 

Bike please! It is much faster than trying to get people to move , so an ambulance truck can crawl through a sea of people. The EMT can carry more equipment to handle a broader range of cases than what is in a bag they would be running to a victim with. More and more events are contracting with EMT services that are patrolling by bike. 



I want to get my brand closer to my target consumer


Butchers & Bicycles

Cargo bikes offer marketers a practical and novel way of interacting with consumers. Like mobile billboard trucks they can put your message on the road. The advantage is advertisers can move among pedestrian traffic where motorized vehicles can't.

Similarly, the right cargo bike can double as a kiosk for giving away samples. When your event is over you simply ride it away.


I feel safer on three wheels



Whether you have balance issues due to a medical condition or age sometimes having a third wheel is the added stability you need. An adult tricycle or bakfiets can do the trick while allowing you to haul your weekly grocery shopping at the same time.

The cargo bike can be a star mobility tool in many everyday situations. So you can consider a bicycle more often that you think when looking for transportation that meets your needs. 

Used Cargo Bike for sale: Urban Arrow & Cetmacargo

Update:

Now it's really raining cargo bikes in Los Angeles!

Here's a custom painted Cetma longjohn for $3,500.00 o.b.o. This unit only has 50 miles of use.  Local to Venic, Ca.
Contact Lane at Cetmacargo for details. 
Hello all! If you are in West Los Angeles or willing to make the trek you could become the proud owner of a cargo bike.
This is a 1 year old Urban Arrow. It comes with Bosch middrive electric assist from the factory.
Asking price is $4,400.00.
Please reach out for details if interested!

Fourteen questions to ask yourself when buying a cargo bike


A young family contacted me and asked for some advice on picking a cargo bike for their transportation needs. Over the course of messages on Facebook, email and a great discussion over Skype we narrowed down to a few options for them to try. 

I have reviewed cargo bikes and even shared ideas on how to afford one. What is overdue is a list of questions to ask yourself when trying to pick one. So here are fourteen issues to consider when selecting a cargo bike.

Budget:

What are you able to spend on the right bike?

After evaluating your situation the RIGHT bike may be more expensive or different that what you expected. Pay for the right bike.

Are you open to a used cargo bike or strictly new?


Often people grow out of their cargo bike or they didn't consider their needs properly before purchasing. This leads to good deals on Craigslist. Do your best to make sure it's not stolen. If the deal is too good there is a sad family somewhere near by. 

Where will you do most of your riding? City, country, streets with car traffic, cycle paths, hills or flat terrain.



Adding electric assist makes a big difference in the price point. It will also increase your enjoyment and range of use. Fortunately there are quality aftermarket options, so you can make that investment later if necessary.


Cargo type & Capacity:

Will you be replacing a car or purchasing this instead of a car?

A high capacity cargo bike with electric assist can replace many a car trip. If you need a car a smaller cargo bike may fit the bill for a car-lite life.  

What will be your typical loads?

Think about the age and or special needs of your kids, the type of boxes and bags you will typically carry. Some longjohns have the advantage of low CG of the cargo area and the ability to be used as flatbed transport.


Storage & Security:

Where will you store the bike? Garage, shed, in your home.

All the value and uses of a large cargo bike aren't worth it if you don't have a safe weather proof place to store it. 

If storing inside your home, will you have to carry the bike up any stairs? 

There is something to be said for a bike that has a small footprint and is lightweight. 

Are you able to or will you travel on the Tube, train or buses with the bike?

If you are multi-modal get a bike that fits on bus bike racks and in trains. You'll still be able to carry all the groceries home. 

Cycling Experience / Lifestyle:

How much experience do you have cycling as an individual?

If you're not comfortable with two wheeled options while carrying kids and cargo there are trikes that instill confidence. What you gain in stability you will loose in agility. This can actually present a tipping hazard for some. Ride a trike to get a feel of it for yourself.

What bike best fits your body type and strength level?

Cargo bikes are not light and your point is to haul stuff and or kids on them. I've seen lengthy conversations amongst mostly smaller women about how to get on and off certain bikes without falling or dumping their kids in the process. Test ride

How comfortable are you with DIY bike maintenance or are you close to a good bike shop?



Basic bike maintenance is pretty straight forward. If you really don't want to get greasy look for models with internally geared / infinite rear hubs with belt drives. The other grime free option is an enclosed chain guard. Your skirts and right pant leg will thank you.

What type of set up have you used to bike with cargo or children thus far?


Think about the pros and cons of what you have experience with. Make sure your cargo bike selection has or improves upon the pros and address the cons. A nifty looking concept may not keep you happy over the long haul.

Do you want to make cycling as transportation a long term lifestyle?

Some people start because of kids then once the children are riding their own bikes they go back to a standard single person bike.

What cargo bike options to do you have access to for test riding now?


While there are some very good cargo bikes and trikes that can be purchased online a test ride is always recommended. Unfortunately, options are still limited in many areas. 

Taking an hour plus drive could be a great last use of your car if that's where the nearest test rides are. Otherwise, keep reading user experiences and reviews here on CBL. Find owners near you on forums and FB groups. Many are willing to let you take their bike for a spin.

I'm happy to talk one on one about your specific situation. Are their any other factors a newbie should consider when trying to pick a cargo bike.


Rolling with Xtracycle Edgerunner for the Carlsbad Half Marathon

Xtracycle Edgerunner 8e


It is not often that I get to review a cargo bike in a near real world setting for more than a few hours. Recently I got the chance to spend the day with a Xtracycle Edgerunner 8e. After toting around kids, equipment and stuff here's my take on this quality machine.


North County Family Bicycles

Thanks to Chris and Chelsea at North County Family Bicycles for setting me up with a bike for race day. This shop has great staff and choices like Juiced Bikes, Tern, Yuba and of course Xtracycle. Now on to the Edgerunner 8e.

Retail Price: $4,999.00

Pros:                                                   Cons:
Versatile cargo bags                           Accessories can add up quickly
Smooth shifting                                   Kickstand was a little stiff when folding
Solid battery life                                                    
Clear detailed LCD display                  

The Setting:

This past January my wife ran a half marathon in the Southern California beach town of Carlsbad. As usual we made it a family affair by taking all three kids who were nine, six and almost four years old.


Carlsbad Half Marathon Course
Carlsbad Half Marathon Finish Line

The race day gear:


  • Two kids.
  • Four helmets.
  • Extra layers of cloths for everyone.
  • Snacks and water.
  • My wife's pre and post race layers and gear.
This list has become so much shorter now that none of the children are babies.


The Edgerunner 8e


Xtracycle makes longtail bicycles. Longtails carry the majority of their loads behind the rider. Decoding the name Edgerunner 8e reveals the bike has an eight cog rear cassette and Bosch mid-drive electric assist model system thus 8e.

The unit I had is part of a rental fleet so it was relatively spartan in accessories compared to what is available from the manufacturer. The ones it did have were welcomed. 

  • The standard two legged kickstand.
  • Rear deck and the accompanying Magic Carpet.
  • Two huge CarryAll bags.
From a rider's perspective it feels like riding any other city bike. The top tube is not the lowest but provides easy step over for my 6'2" frame.

Handle bars are slightly swept back. The grips are well cushioned with a flat palm section near the ends. All combined, this makes for a comfortable upright riding position. 



The brake levers, gear shifter and e-assist controls are well placed. Riders can access everything and keep their eyes on the road.

Saddles are obviously an important part of the riding experience. The Xtracyle branded unit didn't disappoint. I offered a nice balance between sporty and comfort. 

Hauling Ability

My day's hauling responsibility consisted of putting my nine and six year old on the back of the Edgerunner. In the side bags we had a backpack with my wife's pre and post race clothes, a leg massager, water bottles and protein bars. There was one extra helmet as my little one hung out with grandma instead of riding with us.

If the rental unit would have had a Hooptie install I would have felt more comfortable putting the three year old in between the older kids. 



When I picked up the bike I also got a kids bike for my oldest child to ride. The CarryAll side bag swallowed the front tire of the kid's bike. The included straps cinched for a secure fit. The bike tracked so well on my ride from the bike shop to our hotel you I almost for got it was there.

A grocery run for a family of five (six to seven full grocery bags) is well within the capacity of the this longtail. 

The Bosch Mid-drive

Bosch mid-drive motor on Xtracycle Edgerunner

Zipping around a marathon course with two kids is no small feat. Bosch delivers smooth and substantial wind in your sails with their 350w mid-drive e-assist.

Electric assist does just that. There is no throttle. The computer senses how hard you are working and magically lightens the load. You do have controls increase or decrease the amount of assist the motor provides.


Bosch Electric Assist Locking Battery on Xtracycle Edgerunner


Starting the day with 80% battery life on this 400w 11Ah unit was just enough to return to the bike shop with the help I wanted when I wanted it. I probably covered about 20 miles of hills and flat terrain with kids and gear.

I was able to break twenty miles per hour while towing a 2nd bike up a slight grade. In normal riding it was more about not breaking a sweat going up hill with kids and gear on board.

Traffic & Excited Children

My previous Marathon SAG vehicle was a longjohn so I was excited to put 8e through race day paces and see how this longtail compared.

Maneuvering and storing the bike was easy. Since it is no wider and only a bit longer than a standard bike there was no problem moving through crowds or hotel corridors.

Safety

If you have them you know kids will eventually get the wiggles. Putting siblings on the back of a bike together is a real test of it's stability. The Edgerunner didn't fail to impress. At a standstill the kickstand was a rock.

Getting underway from a parked position with a load did prove to be a slight challenge. The kickstand took a bit more effort than expect to rock forward and flip up.

Braking is a confidence building endeavour. Front and rear mechanical disc brakes felts solid. Whether I was bombing down a hill solo or loaded with kids and stuff, I always stopped when I wanted.

Verdict

Having the Xtracycle Edgerunner 8e was a great 1st in depth experience with a longtail. Longtails are a great choice if you want a cargo bike that behaves most like a traditional bike and carry all your people & stuff behind you.

Unless you prefer having your very small kids in front of you or your typical loads require a low CG this may be the bike for you. 

The Bosch mid-drive electric assist only adds to the utility of this bike. With an electric motor you truly have a car replacement option for almost any task within a fifteen mile radius.

Thank you as well to Homewood Suites in Carlsbad, CA for the secure indoor bike parking!





HDTV's by cargo bike is just too easy the way it should be!

Mission accomplished! The first #bikepossible retail giveaway is in the books. A luck winner received and Samsung 32" LED HDTV. This was a great opportunity to showcase the power of the bicycle as tool for local commerce.



Entry winner Owen met me at Santa Monica Bike Center for the hand off. He showed up on a Xtracycle Edgerunner. This was quite and advantage for him, as it devoured the TV would out the slightest hiccup.



Take a look at a few shots of the tie down.






Owen road off into the sunlight on the bit of protected bike lane no less for his viewing pleasure. ENJOY!


Thanks to Santa Monica Bike Center for providing the back drop for this fun meetup!


Cargo Bike: Your One Stop New Year's Resolution Shop


Here is what the Neilsen rating firm determined were the top new year resolutions for 2015.

It's that time of year again. Whether you call them resolutions, goals or plans as the year comes to an end we get focused on taking action for the new year. Let's take a look at the most popular resolutions. You'll quickly see that a cargo bike can help you achieve all of them.

This list has cargo bike written all over it!

Stay fit and healthy


Duh, you are riding a bicycle. If you replace a modest 25% of your car trips with a bike ride you are going to be in better health over the course of the year. By the way, it is estimated that over 60% of car trips could be replaced with a bicycle.

Loose Weight

The Dutch word bakfiets means box bike. Loading the box with groceries, laundry, kids and more will make each pedal of the crank count for more calorie burning. Biking as a form of transportation will help you be more in tune with the type and quality of food you fuel yourself with. 

Boom weight loss!

Enjoy Life to the Fullest


A full life is about great relationships and energy. Getting out of the car for routine errands and trips is an automatic energizer. Riding a bike around town makes you more aware of your environment. You are more likely to spontaneously stop and check out a new store or event in the neighborhood when parking spaces and fees are not an issue. Overall, traveling through your community at the speed of bike makes you more connected to it.

Spend Less and Save More


Here is the rough math. According to AAA the average cost of operating a car in 2016 is $8,558 in based on 15,000 miles per year. If you bumped your cycling up to replace 50% of your car trips there is a savings of $4,279. Pay $2,000 for a reasonable outfitted longtail and there is $2,279 in year one savings for you! 

Year two gets even better. Take good care of your ride and you can count on that savings for twenty years or more.

Spend More Time with Family and Friends


You're already spending time with your kids while schlepping them around in the car. So what's the big deal about doing it by cargo bike you say? The quality of that time is a huge plus for cycling here. Trust me, this is way more fun for everyone. Kids love the unobstructed view from the seat of a longjohn. Talking about what we are seeing together is a delight. There's no fussing over buckling into car seats either. Upon arrival, lock up and leap out. The front door to the grocery store was a few easy steps away. Our lunch date was a success!


Get Organized



Traveling by bike in some ways is not as easy as hopping in the car. At least not for unorganized procrastinators (post author included at times). You do have to think a bit more about your route to stay stress free and efficient. Considering the gear you will need for the kids and destination will cut down on lugging unnecessary weight. A plus is that if you plan for the previously mentioned factors you may win on time compared to a car. This is particularly true for trips across town.

So there you have it. A cargo bike that can haul 80% of what your car or SUV can for 95% of your typical trips. This makes it the Swiss Army Knife of new year resolutions!