With cargo bikes, you can enjoy all the thrills, excitement, and health advantages of riding with the convenience of a minivan. Need to drive children to school, carry your paddle board to the beach, or conduct errands? Introducing the cargo bike, a popular bicycle model in European cities that is gradually gaining ground in the United States.
What Is a Cargo Bike?
Bikes designed to haul huge objects and frequently two or more passengers are called cargo bikes. The bikes come in a variety of sizes and forms, can have two or three wheels, and frequently have a longer wheelbase than a typical bicycle. They also include room for lugging stuff in either the front or back. Pedal assistance is a feature of electric cargo bikes that makes carrying heavy loads more comfortable and hill climbing simpler. To suit your particular carrying requirements, you may customize cargo bikes by adding child bike seats, panniers, boxes, rain coverings, footrests, or even racks for a surfboard or paddle board.
Why purchase a cargo bike? You can do anything you could do on a bicycle with a cargo bike, but because of their durability, they can carry more weight without tipping over. The largest bikes can carry up to a few hundred pounds of goods. (For the maximum carrying capacity, refer to the bike’s specifications.) Families use them to transport children (and all of their belongings) to local destinations like parks and schools; they are practical since you can carry both an older and a younger child at once. As a quick, enjoyable, and ecologically friendly way to get around town without having to worry about parking, cyclists are choosing them.
Different Types of Cargo Bikes
There are three popular types of cargo bikes:
Longtail bikes: These have an extended rear rack that rests over the back wheel and allow you to transport children and other items. Families with many children frequently use them. Children can either sit on a bench on the back rack or ride in child seats that are put on that rack.
Mid-tail bicycles: Compared to longtails, these small utility bicycles are shorter. Some have a similar length to a conventional bike but can carry more weight. They are simpler to store, move, and carry; some of them fold up. They might not be as adaptable for larger families because they might not be able to handle many kids.
A box or container that fits low in the gap between the handlebars and the front tire can be used to carry your cargo on front-loading cargo bikes, also known as bakfiets, which is Dutch for “box bike.” These bikes are popular with families since they can transport children and dogs up front where they can keep an eye on them and because discussions are usually more comfortable. Although they require some practice to ride, they are surprisingly simple to control.
Cargo Bikes: Electric Assist or Not?
Many cyclists now find cargo bikes to be more practical and approachable thanks to the addition of electric aids, especially those who ride in steep terrain or aren’t used to carrying hefty loads. The advantage of electric cargo bikes is that they let riders pedal farther and quicker. Some bikers discover that as a result, they ride more frequently and that getting into an e-cargo bike for a short journey around town is no more difficult than getting into a car. Parents are also discovering that riding an electric cargo bike is simpler and less of a burden than pulling a trailer or carrying children in a bike seat.
The drawback of e-bikes is their high cost. From $2,000 to $5,000, some are nearly twice as pricey as a typical cargo bike. They are also heavier, making it difficult to transfer them by automobile, fit them on buses, or lug them up a flight of stairs.
For an e-bike, you might need a license, and the class you choose will determine where you can ride. This depends on where you reside. According to their top aided speed and whether they have a throttle, the majority of e-bikes in the US are divided into three classes—1, 2, and 3. An organization that promotes cycling, People for Bikes, maintains a state-by-state e-bike guide that details e-bike laws across the nation.
Tips on Riding a Cargo Bike
Even while it may seem strange at first to ride a cargo bike, most individuals easily take it up after a few trips. Following are some general pointers for riding:
- Ride-wise, mid-tail bikes resemble touring bikes a lot. They seem quite solid, but it’s a good idea to avoid piling too much baggage on the back because this will make the bike feel unbalanced.
- For novice cargo bike riders, starting and stopping could be the hardest obstacle. The bike may lean further to one side when you begin to pedal. But the more you do it, the more naturally it will come to you.
- Additionally, it takes getting used to toting hefty loads. You don’t want to get on it right away with children or other passengers and begin cycling through traffic. Before hitting the streets, test your luggage or passenger carrying skills in a level, secure place. Get a feel for the bike’s handling and braking. When hauling heavy loads, make cautious to brake more gently and sooner.
- Make sure your load is balanced, secure, and stable while being within your bike’s carrying limit.
- Longer cargo bikes are extremely stable, but when riding, be aware of where the back wheel will be as you turn to avoid cutting the corner too closely.
- Start with a smaller assist on an e-assist cargo bike, then increase the assist as you go. Beginning in a higher assist can be unsteady and jarring. Position it gently.
Tips for Cargo Bike Maintenance: In general, even if you only make short excursions every day, cargo bikes need to be serviced more frequently. They should periodically be inspected for wear and changed as necessary because they are heavier bikes that frequently have longer chains. You put more strain on your brakes while you’re riding a bigger bike hauling cargo, so you should check them more frequently as well. Follow the instructions provided by your cargo bike’s manufacturer for maintenance.
Cargo Bikes for Hauling Kids or Other Passengers
Families are embracing cargo bikes as a fun new way to travel with several kids on two wheels. Some of the bikes can support numerous children, making them durable enough to carry more than one youngster at once. Depending on the bike, there are several ways to transport children: Younger children should be restrained in a bike seat; older children can sit on a bench or shelf on a rear rack, in a front bucket, box, or container.
- For rules on carrying passengers, consult your local and state bike legislation. Bike laws are listed by state on the League of American Bicyclists website.
- Verify that your child bike seat is compatible with your cargo bike before purchasing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between the ages of 12 months and 4 years old who can sit comfortably without assistance and whose necks are strong enough to hold a light helmet can ride in a rear-mounted kid bike seat.
- Children older than 4 years old should have a handlebar for the passenger or something similar, as well as a place to rest their feet. You can add handlebars, a ring handle, safety bars that enclose the passengers, or foot guards to personalize your cargo bike.
- In order to shield young children’s feet from the wheel and gears, add panniers, wheel covers, or other protections.
- Get comfortable putting and taking off your kids from the bikes. Don’t let kids ride bikes alone unsupervised.
- Be careful that steering will be affected if you are hauling cargo. When riding a bike with children, explain to them what you expect of them (no wriggling or leaning), and why (kids are helping to keep the bike stable and still for a smoother ride). They should not wave their arms around and should keep their weight concentrated on the bike.
Learn more: Tips for Winter Bicycling