GUIDE: THE 5 ESSENTIAL DECISIONS WHEN YOU BUY A CARGO BIKE

Cargo biking is more than a simple investment, it is a choice of transporting yourself, your dear ones and all that other stuff under your own power.

Photo: Larry vs Harry
Photo: Larry vs Harry

While the bike reviews contribute with key information on the specific bikes, there are still some key questions, that has to be answered before you go along and get your new cargo bike!

I therefore decided to point out what I find the 5 essential decisions you need to make before you buy a cargo bike:

1. What kind of cargo do you need to transport?

It seems like a pretty obvious question, but I some time see people that forget to do an in-depth analysis of this vital parameter. If you go through the following 3 steps, you will probably get a little closer to your basic needs:

A) Everyday transport
Analyze your basic needs during daily commute and transport. Do you need to carry your children, do you pick up groceries, etc? I realized that I almost every day carry things around in town on my daily commute (kids, groceries, artifacts etc).

B) Special transport

Is the cargo bike strictly for commuting or du you need it for special transports? I have come to enjoy bringing my waste to the recycling station by cargo bike even though it means 2 or 3 trips. Other special transports I have seen is flagpole-carrying and cargo bike kitchens. Thank you Lars BarfoedMatthew Donna, Velopakman and others for showing great (never saw it coming) examples.

New match up at recycling stations: Trailer vs. Cargo bike! Photo: VELO\\CITY
New match up at recycling stations: Trailer vs. Cargo bike! Photo: VELO\\CITY

C) Touring
Take also into account if you plan to use your new cargo bike for touring or longer trips with certain transport requirements.

2. Electric og “pure foot pedal”?

Cargo bikes – even unloaded – can be heavy – sometimes all the way up to 50 kg. The Electric motor can give you a much needed extra push. Expect the cost to increase by €1000-1500 when you add motor and battery to the non-Electric variety. Consider the following points:

A) Your shape
Of course you have to ask yourself whether your are in shape to carry all that stuff around. Are you ready to carry 2 kids up that hill to the kindergarten by pure foot pedal power or do need a little help? Even if you are not in shape, maybe you dare to take the challange.

In this step it is also relevant to consider whether the sweat is dripping off your skin after a 15 minute commute or you can do your commuting without “sweat issues”.

B) Terrain
It also depends on the local terrain in your area. Eventhough Denmark is completely flat, I live in city with some pretty steep hills,  and compared to Copenhagen I have quite some hilly drives. With an 8 % ascending it is tough to push a 50 kg cargo bike. The electric bike let you fly up the hills.

C) Distance
Another important issue is distance. The electric bike just increases your distance per drive dramatically. With the Electric bike you can easy go on 50-60 km trips and reach destinations you never thought of going to by bike.

3. 2-wheeler or 3-wheeler?

The number of wheels is significant design chioce and have a huge impact on drive ablities of the bike, the width and to some extent safety.

A) Drive ability

As I briefly discussed in an earlier post EXCELLENT PIECE OF CARGO BIKE the 3-wheeler can be tough to manuevre and the drive ability of some models are so-so. I will not go further into that here. Do a test drive on your own body to test the drive ability. That’s far the best, so if you have the chance to try different models before you buy, do it!

The 2-wheeler acts more like a normal bike and some of them really adds on amazing driving skills. A real pleasure!

2016-09-27-15.07.12.jpg.jpg
A 2-wheeler with amazing driving abilities! Photo: VELO\\CITY

B) Width

The importance of the width issue is really depended on your surroundings – how much space can you demand from the common infrastructure, where you ride? Be aware that the discomfort from other cyclist unable to pass you, can be worse than the discomfort you feel, when there is not enough space to pass a really slow rider just in front of you. The width of the 2-wheeler is pretty much the same as a normal bike (the width of the handlebar is desicive). It is typically 50-60 cm while the width of the 3-wheeler, where the front wheels often are on the outside of the box, is around 80-90 cm.

C) Safety

I will not make a judgement on which is the safer bike – a 2-wheeler or a 3-wheeler.  It all depends on motoric skills,  driving styles and abilities. The fact that you can stand still and keep the balance on the 3-wheeler is a nice feature in heavy traffic and at stops. The 2-wheeler acts a little more like a normal bike, but is still different. The difference in how you turn a 2-wheeler compared to a 3-wheeler is interesting but takes quite a bit to describe. Again, have a test drive if possible.

4. The money issue

The cargo bike as an investment is discussed in TOP 5 REASONS WHY YOUR CARGO BIKE IS A (WAY) BETTER INVESTMENT THAN YOUR CAR!.

The simple question is: How much are you willing to pay and what will your investment mean to you financially?

A) Repayment

You often recieve a decent repayment when selling a used quality cargo bike. In TOP 5 REASONS WHY YOUR CARGO BIKE IS A (WAY) BETTER INVESTMENT THAN YOUR CAR! I gave an example of a realistic repayment scheme for a quality cargo bike showing a loss of only €300-400 in 5-8 years regarding the maintainance and bike conditions.

B) Willingness to pay/Quality

This is crucial. At first I was about to buy a cheaper cargo bike model. I then changed my mind, when I was looking into the budget with one less car (now I’m sharing a car). I saved so much money that it was obvious that I could go with a high quality bike and still it would be incredibly cheap comparing to my baseline!

I never regret it. The pleasure of riding a well designed bike with great driving abilities make me do more trips and errands by bike!

C) The risk

There’s always a risk when you have to leave your new cargo bike outside. I guess it is like that in most countries. Get an insurance if possible. The terms of my insurance means that I will be repaid 80 % of the bikes total cost if stolen. I will look into preventing cargo bike stealing in another post.

5. Design

Let’s face it. Cargo biking is also a matter of style!

A) Personal design preferences

Do you like simple bikes, well-crafted and slim lined bikes or just a robust bike? I guess that this point is somehow subjectiv!

B) “The look” (or how it make you look)

The cargo bike does not just have a look in itself, it also changes the look of the driver. Thus some cargo bikes make you look sporty, other  relaxed, casual or like a grandma and some just make you look “cool”. If “the look” matters to you, try to google some pictures of different cargo bikes with drivers and imagine yourself in that silhuet!

C) Functionality

Do you want a bike ready-to-use or do you want to show off some craftman skills and do the final preparation yourself – attaching boxes, canopys or even a kitchen. It can be fun but it can also be a time consuming project.

Other important functionality features could be: Is the battery easy to attach and remove? Maintainance issues etc. Think about the way you expect to use your bike and come up with a list of minimum requirements regarding functionality.

Other factors and manufactures…

I have pointed out what I find the 5 essential decisions when you buy a cargo bike. Of course there may be more important decisions to make before you go on to buy. For the feinschmecker it can be advanced technical specs or in the example of the family carrier, it can be speciel safety features. Details on motor and battery could be another chapter for further studies.

You can also find great help in well-written reviews and test drives on cargo bikes like:

Cargo bike review: The Family Roller Coaster by Butchers & Bicycles

Verdict:  Brilliant assisted cargo bike that’s fun to ride, with masses of load space

… from a range of manufacturers such as:

Butchers & Bicycles

Larry vs Harry Bullitt

Zigo Leader

Babboe City

Gazelle Cabby

Urban Arrow Family

Nihola Family

Christiania Bikes

Good luck in the hunt for yout next outstanding cargo bike!!


2 thoughts on “GUIDE: THE 5 ESSENTIAL DECISIONS WHEN YOU BUY A CARGO BIKE

  1. I second building your own.

    These box bikes are good, but they are expensive, unless you live somewhere flat, you will get a more useable bike if you buy a Yuba Mundo with ebike / electric motor. A good battery on its own can cost £400.

    If you have a garage you can build you own cargo bike from a normal bike in a short time, a MIG welder costs less than £100 on ebay. Or as with the guy above bamboo. . . who knew.

    This is the long tail I built:

    http://dorkythorpy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/diy-longtail-cargo-bike.html – Cost £300 / 350 Euro

    This is the long tail ebike:

    http://dorkythorpy.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/diy-long-tail-e-bike-chapter-1.html – Cost £1200 / 1400 Euro (With 25ah Battery at £700)

    Of course it is a steep learning curve, but if you have the time and the determination you can build a first rate bike for 25% cost of a ready made one.

    I think for most to spend £2500 on a bike is rather a stretch, especially when you can buy a half decent car for the same amount. For most I think a cargo bike is a car supplement, if I were to buy a “Bullit” for example I would have a bike worth more than my car. Which if I have a meeting 100 miles away I know I will have to rely upon.

    I think this is some of the problems that prevent the wider adoption of cargo bikes.

    Like

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