Tips & resources
Cart the kids or increase your payload for local trips with a cargo bike. They’re not as big and heavy as you think, especially when you’re assisted by an electric motor.
The family vehicle
A cargo bike is perfect for local trips with a small amount of cargo or with kids and pets. They aren’t just big boxes on wheels – they can be very sporty, with nimble handling and quick acceleration. Especially with an electric motor, a cargo bike is a very competitive alternative to a car for an active family.
Gary Cookson of Cargocycles finds families are the main buyers of his cargo bikes. “The customer base has been fairly consistent: family with a couple of kids somewhere around 5 or 6 years old. They don’t want to drive or it’s impractical to drive, they normally would ride and now they have to factor a couple of kids in. So they’re dropping at schools, dropping at kinders, dropping at creches.”
Cookson sees that electric motors have a lot to offer with cargo bikes. “It got to the point where you could only do so much with cargo bikes and that’s when we introduced electric bikes. The obvious thing to do once you start running out of legs is to add a motor.”
Which cargo bike?
The name cargo bike can mean a wide variety of bikes developed to carry more than a standard bicycle. Whether two-wheeled or three, with a box in front or a long rack behind, with the addition of an electric motor or not, there are formats of cargo bike for carrying all sorts of cargo weighing up to 100 kilograms.
Longtail cargo bikes have an extended rack out back that can be fitted out in a variety of ways, such as with child seats and room for big saddlegbags. This style of cargo bike rides just like a conventional bicycle. The Yuba Spicy Curry is a very popular example of this style.
Box bikes have the frame extended in front of the handlebars to carry a box or tray. These cargo bikes have different handling from a conventional bicycle, which takes a few rides to get used to. It’s hard to go past the Reise and Muller Load for excellence in this category.
Cargo trikes have the big box at the front with two wheels either side. Being a tricycle, when you get a bit of speed they can start to tip over on corners. Unless they tilt, that is, such as the Butchers and Bicycles Mk1E, which leans into the corners like a conventional bicycle to give a superb ride with all the advantages of a trike.
All of these premium cargo bikes carry the Bosch eBike System, providing subtle but powerful assistance to your pedalling. You can choose from to 40% extra power to 250 or 300% extra, depending on the Bosch system you have, which you’ll find very welcome on a hefty bike with capacity to carry another 100kg. It’s not just hills for hills either, the motor is great for getting you up to speed quickly from an intersection, minimising the slow speed wobbles when taking off from the lights.
When you try a premium cargo bike for yourself you’ll realise that they offer advantages that can transform your lifefstyle:
- They are much smaller than motor vehicles, requiring less room to park and giving you better access to your destinations.
- Costs for vehicle purchase, maintenance and insurance are much lower for a cargo bike than for a car.
- While drivers face health challenges from being sedentary, cargo bike riders improve their health through active operation of the vehicle.
- Human-powered cargo cycles consume no fossil fuels and generate no pollutants from fuel combustion.
- They also produce considerably less noise pollution than motor vehicles.
Cargo bikes are just one alternative to a backpack for carrying your gear on the bike. Our ‘Beyond the backpack’ article lays out other options.