Cargo bikes are human powered vehicles designed and constructed for transporting large loads.
The first cargo bikes were used by tradesmen for delivering their goods and were simply heavy duty bicycles with the addition of a rack for loading up the bread, milk and fish! While bicycles have been a mainstay of cargo and people transport in Asia pretty much since the bicycle was invented, the concept of bicycle as load carrier has only made a comeback in the west fairly recently.
The European nations that have been doing it longest (some would say best) are Denmark and Holland, where ‘bakfiets’ – literally ‘box bikes’ – are standard transport for many families with children, and individuals who want a quick and convenient way to move themselves and their stuff about the city.
Cargo bikes are a fantastic way to transport the family. The mundane journey becomes an impromptu adventure, you can make the journey via the lakeside or cycle-path rather than choking with the cars on regular roads. And you can load up all you need for school, sports day, or the shops.
One more cargo bike on the road usually means one less combustion engine. Cargo bikes (well, all bikes) ease the burden on the environment caused by cars and trucks.
The more bikes are used for everyday journeys and errands, the less pollution is pumped into the air. And more bikes on the road make for calmer, safer more human-scale traffic too. Good for everyone!
A cargo bike can save you a heap of cash. If you only replace the car for short journeys around town, you’ll save money on petrol and parking.
If you go ‘all the way’ and make your cargo bike a car replacement, then you can add on all the extra savings made from having no insurance, mechanics bills, licensing and WOF. Either way it’s a big win financially, plus if you use your cargo bike for business you’ll get a load of priceless good karma advertising to boot.
Types of Cargo Bikes
The long john is characterised by the extended frame in front of the rider and linkage steering arm connected to the front wheel. These bikes have either a platform for strap on loads or a box for passengers or goods. They’re great for carrying kids or large loads at good speeds and have an extra wide stand to keep the bike stable while loading up.
Made famous by Xtracycle and Yuba these bikes are recognisable by their extra long rear carrier. Designed for carrying large loads behind the rider these bikes have become popular as kid movers and recreational transport. Their simple design makes them the most affordable entry in to cargo bikes and they offer a familiar ride to a ‘normal’ bike. They’re also perfect for couples or friends to travel together on one bike – lots of fun!
Xtracycle are the original innovators of the longtail category, and their bolt on longtail kit, the FreeRadical has been a hugely popular way to get loaded up without the cost of buying an entirely new bike.
The kit can be added to your existing bike, transforming it easily into a load carrying juggernaut. While not as stiff or built for such huge loads as bikes like the Yuba Mundo, it’s great way into cargo biking.
It’s also an open source system, that has been adopted by other manufacturers, notably Surly with their Big Dummy, so the wide range of accessories and parts available, are interchangeable.
Fine examples: Xtracycle Freeradical
Well known as the “Butcher’s Bike” or the “Postie bike” it consists of an easy to ride robust bike with large factory fitted carriers on the front and rear of the bike. Usually has a super wide stand to keep the bike stable while loading goods. Great for medium loads and inner city deliveries.
Fine examples: Omnium Cargo
Front Loading Trike
With the rider at the rear and 2 wheels at the front a front loading trike can accommodate very large loads. Made famous as an ice cream cart these bikes can be adapted for many uses both industrial and personal. The 3 wheels make it super stable so kids and luggage can be loaded without difficulty. Not a fast vehicle, but extremely versatile.
Fine example: Christiania Bikes 26″
Rear Loading Trike
The pick up truck of the bike world, rear loading trikes are mainly used as commercial delivery vehicles (for large loads by bicycle messenger companies), and in specialist applications such as large resorts. They offer a familiar riding position and simple construction and can handle very large loads. They are an evolution of the traditional Asian rickshaw.
Fine example: Cycles Maximus