What is a Cargo Bike?
Cargo bikes are structured to carry more than just a single passenger. They are sturdy, making them capable of transporting heavy loads and sometimes multiple people. Cargo bikes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but most will feature a lengthier wheelbase with an added storage compartment at either the front or the back of the bicycle. Some cargo bikes are electric, featuring a pedal assist feature that makes it easier to climb hills or transport heavier loads.
Cargo bikes function just like a regular bike, so individuals can still travel as they would on any other bicycle. However, the sturdier structure of a cargo bike makes it better for carrying things without worrying about balance issues.
With the increase in population density in urban areas, cargo bikes provide a versatile, economical, and sustainable alternative to a car. They are, easy to park, better for the environment, and cheaper on the pocketbook.
Types of Cargo Bikes
Cargo bikes come in a number of different styles. Each style is specifically designed to serve a specific purpose for transportation. When shopping for one, individuals must consider the intended purpose of the cargo bike to decide which style will best meet their needs.
Two-wheeled vs. Three-wheeled Cargo Bikes
The first decision that has to be made is whether the cargo bike should have two wheels or three wheels. Again, that decision will partially be made based on the intended use of the bike.
Two-wheeled cargo bikes are more often used by individuals who will be riding alone but frequently transporting a load with them. The cargo compartments are designed to carry quite a bit of weight, so it is often possible to carry a child on one, but most people find it more difficult to balance it safely with a second passenger.
Individuals who plan to transport children or other passengers may want to look more heavily into a three-wheeled model. This model tends to be more stable, providing an easier method of travel for multiple people.
Longtail bikes tend to be the most lightweight of all cargo bikes. They are 12-16” longer than a traditional bike and have a cargo space at the rear end. Items can be stored in this space for transport or in bags that can attach to the storage compartment. The longtail bike can be purchased with a number of different wheel size configurations, from 20” to 26” in front or back.
Longtail bikes can be more difficult to transport and to store, and they do not have quite as much storage capacity as a bakfeit. However, when considering a non-electric cargo bike, longtail bikes can be one of the most affordable options if you do not need a massive amount of storage room.
A mid-tail bike is exactly what the name sounds like – it is a mid-sized bicycle. It is not as long as a longtail bike, coming in at somewhere between 4 and 8 inches longer than a standard bicycle. A mid-tail bike is much easier to transport because it can be placed on a hitch rack or attached to a vehicle. It is also much easier to find an available parking area since it will not stick out quite as far.
Mid-tail bikes still offer plenty of cargo space, so they are preferable to a regular bike if you are needing to transport items, although the cargo area may have a lower weight limit than larger bikes. Many people also prefer these if they have older, taller children since passengers sit behind the rider.
Front-Loading Bikes (Bakfeits)
Front-loading bikes, also known as bakfeits – a Dutch word meaning “box bike”- or longjohns, feature a compartment between the handlebars and the front wheel. This space is generally designed to hold boxes or other storage containers. The design of a front-loading bike makes it a good choice for transporting bulkier items. The box style cargo space also makes it easier to pack items without having to worry as much about securing everything and working to balance the weight.
Many families do choose this style of cargo bike because they can place children or pets in the box area. This is preferable for many parents because they can see and talk to their children easily. While this style tends to be a little more difficult to maneuver, it does provide greater storage capacity.
Front-loading bikes do take up more space than most bikes, so it is important for you to have adequate space for storing it. You will also want to consider whether most of the locations you will be riding to will have a place for you to park a larger bicycle as well.
Electric bikes, sometimes referred to as e-bikes, feature a battery that provides an extra power source. This power is usually generated by the rider as he or she pedals. This option can be helpful for those who are not as physically able to ride a bike, especially if needing to tow additional cargo. It can also be of great benefit to those who plan to ride a longer distance or will encounter hilly terrain, as it can help to eliminate the worry of overexertion.
Things to Consider when Buying a Cargo Bike
Before you can begin to look at cargo bikes, it is important to know exactly what you can afford to spend. Establishing your budget early on can help to steer you in the right direction of bikes that you will actually be able to purchase. Additionally, you will want to consider the cost of any additional accessories that you may need to purchase to make the bike work for you. This will help to thwart any unexpected expenses that you may not be prepared to cover.
Obviously one of the main things to be considered when purchasing a cargo bike is the storage capacity that is going to be needed. For people who need a great deal of cargo space, a longtail bike will provide the most options for storage.
When looking at cargo capacity, you also need to consider what you will be transporting most often. If your plan is to be carrying items that are temperature sensitive, you will need to find a bike that has a cargo space that will allow for that. If you are planning to use the bike to transport children, you will want to consider a bike that will place them in the safest location for you, and you will also want to think about the fact that your children will continue to grow so you want to allow for that in the bike’s weight limit so you don’t have to turn around and search for a replacement in a couple of years.
Chances are, if you are purchasing a cargo bike, you have plans to spend quite a bit of time on it. You want to be sure to purchase a model that suits your needs but will also last. Look for a cargo bike model that is constructed with durable materials that are not necessarily heavy but are built to last. Additionally, make sure the bike you choose has tires that will hold up on whatever ground you will travel. You do not want to purchase a bike with cheaply made tires will puncture easily, leaving you stranded and needing a replacement.
Another thing to consider when selecting a cargo bike is the level of maintenance required to keep it running smoothly. All bikes are going to need some amount of regular maintenance, but various components may cause a bike to need more than the normal amount. From keeping batteries charged to lubricating the drivetrain or airing up tires, this upkeep is essential to prolonging the life and function of your bike. Find out exactly what is going to be needed on any bike you are considering and make sure you are able to perform that maintenance or that you have access to someone who can take care of that for you.
When you make the decision to purchase a cargo bike, you want to make sure that the one you choose will function the way you want it to. First, you want to determine what equipment is standard on the bike that you prefer. If you find that it does not have exactly what you need, you also want to make sure that whatever optional accessories you may want are available for the particular model you are interested in.
There are a number of different accessories that you can purchase to make it as effective for your lifestyle as possible. You may want to purchase a particular bag or crate to fit on your cargo space. If you are planning to carry passengers, you may want a cargo bike seat. In some cases, you may want a cargo bike trailer. Some models will come with lights and fenders as part of the standard package, but others will not. It is important to decide which specific accessories you need or want so you can make sure they are options for the bike you select.
Another important thing to consider is how others feel about the bike you are considering. Obviously selecting a bicycle is a personal decision because everyone needs something different. However, it can be helpful to know if others have been satisfied with the product in the past. Having a heads up about potential problems can help you to avoid purchasing a bike that will not live up to your expectations in the long run.
Best Two-Wheeled Cargo Bike
The Mongoose Envoy Cargo bike is an excellent choice if you’re in the market for a two-wheeled bike. It is lightweight, with a frame building of tectonic T1 aluminum and two sizing options that you can choose from, depending on your height. It also offers a wide range of gears and works well through both hills and wind.
With an extended frame and two large sized cargo bags for transporting items, the Mongoose Envoy provides functional transportation for just about anyone. It can also be customized with a number of different accessory options for added cargo capabilities.
Best Three-Wheeled Cargo Bike
For a three-wheeled bike option, the Schwinn Meridian is a top-rated choice. The low stand frame allows riders to easily step through, making it easy to get on and off as needed. The padded seat and adjustable swept-back handlebars provide for a comfortable riding experience. It has a single speed drivetrain and both front and rear braking systems, allowing riders to easily maneuver it.
One of the best features of the Schwinn Meridian, though, is the large rear basket. The basket provides riders with an oversized area for cargo, and it can be folded away as needed when not in use. This particular bike also comes with a limited lifetime warranty for as long as you own it.
Best Electric Cargo Bike
The Addmotor Motan M-350 is a pricier model, but is a popular choice for an electric cargo bike. It is a three-wheeled option, providing stability and making it a great option for larger individuals. It also has a headlight and taillight that will allow you to ride safely at night.
As far as cargo space is concerned, the Addmotor Motan has it all. There are oversized cargo areas at both the front and rear, allowing you to easily transport just about anything. The front basket adds the extra convenience of being able to easily access items even as you are riding. The rear space includes a waterproof bag so you can protect your items from the weather as you are riding.
Best Budget Cargo Bike
Cargo bikes can be pricey, but there are definitely budget options out there. The Barbella Adult Tricycle is one of the most popular budget cargo bikes on the market. It is well-constructed with an iron frame and will support a total weight of up to 350 pounds. The three-wheeled design gives it stability that makes it much easier to ride and control, and the padded seat with a backrest makes it a comfortable choice.
For carrying things, there is an iron basket at the rear of the bike. The basket folds down for easy storage when not in use. The large wheels give you a smooth ride while helping to protect your cargo from unnecessary jostling and moving.