Friday, 25 April 2014

How useful is a Cargo Bike?

How useful is a Cargo Bike? - Into


Have you ever fancied buying a cargo bike, but are not convinced how useful they are? Well I will try and tell you just how much use you will find a cargo bike. For a variety of purposes.

How useful is a Cargo Bike? - Kids - Usefulness 5/5


When I chose to equip myself with a cargo bike, being able to carry my kids around whilst enjoying a bike ride was top of the list. It seems a no brainer to combine two things you love doing; cycling and spending time with the kids.




Some issues to watch out for are:

1- Weight - My two daughters weigh around 40 kilos, and that is OK (I am 13 stone and moderately fit), even living in a very hilly area. Of course I have to push up some of the hills I would usually ride on a normal bike, but these are few and far between.

2 - Kids Age - If your kid is already riding a bike, then they may not want to give up that freedom and go on the back of dad's cargo bike. Of course 0 - 6 year olds will be fairly happy to do this, but any older and operhaps the window of oppertunity has gone. However, a kid who can ride 2 miles to the shop, may not be able to ride 6 miles to a nice picnic spot, so their is case for cargo bike owner ship there.

3 - Seating - Obviously there a child seats around, and some of them will fit of cargo bikes. But loading up two kids in the child seats on the back of a cargo bike is not for the faint hearted. As soon as one kid is seated the cargo bike will become top heavey. If your older child can climb in themsleves then this is no big deal.

Even with the above consideration using a cargo bike with kids is great. They both love going for rides, even in really foul weather (so long as they are wrapped up) and we can stop whenever they spot somthing interesting and have a chat about it. They get fresh air, I get exercise. Win, Win, Win.

How useful is a Cargo Bike? - Car Replacement - Usefulness 3/5


There are three main draw backs here;

1 - Slowness - A car is a lot faster than a bike (rural), over flat terrian and short distances this is less of difference. But in a rural area even for every day trips / school pick ups, I would be spending far to much time on my bike.

2 - Weight - Carrying anything heavier than about 100kg when there are hills invloved is bad news.

That being said even in a rural area I can usually replace every 3rd car journey with a cargo bike journey, whether this is popping to the shops with the kids, or going to the playground etc., post office trips . . .  It all adds up.

If you intended to replace a car with a cargo bike, I would suggest a battery powered - ped-elec, as it is much more likly to represent a relaistic alternative.

How useful is a Cargo Bike? - Big Loads -  Usefulness 5/5


As mentioned above heavey loads OK up to abot 100kg, of course this depends on gearing. But for large bulky items or long items a cargo bike is very handy. Planks of wood, large boxes, bath tubs ((perhaps (not cast iron ones)). You could lug all of this with ease on a cargo bike. 



This a prticularly useful for post office trips where parking would normall mean you have to carry your parcel the lat 100 - 200 metrs anyway. You can park up right outside.

How useful is a Cargo Bike? - General Use -  Usefulness 4/5


If you just use your cargo bike for genral use, i.e. when a normal bike will do is it any worse, well yes a little. But not much.

1 - Trains. I have never tried. . . but . . putting a 3 meter long cargo bike on a train would probably raise a few eye brows.

2 - Turing Circle - Turning a cargo bike around will take most of a double width road, and on a narrow road will invlove stopping a getting off and picking the bike up.

One thing that is not a problem is the weight, in fact even my DIY cargo bike which must wiegh 30 kg, doesn't really seem to be any more difficult to ride, than a normal bike. The only differnce really is the lower gearing which limits unlaiden top speeds.

How useful is a Cargo Bike? - Conclusion

If you want to work out some thing's value then divide its cost by the number of times you will use it. This is why I never  initially purchased a cargo bike, they are quite expensive (£500 or more for just a frame) and I was not sure I would use it very much. How wrong I was!

In the end I built my own cargo bike modifying and old steel mountain bike, primarily because I thought to invest in a proper one would have been a waste of money, but cargo bikes are really useful, and very usable too.


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2 comments:

  1. Great article.
    Just three things to add:
    1) if the cargo bike breaks down / gets a puncture, it is unlikely to go in the back of an estate car (aka "combi" aka "station wagon"), even if you take the wheels off, so your spouse/friend/whatever had better have a roofrack if you ring them up to rescue you :-)
    2) we have "halfway" islands in the middle of some of the roads locally to help the rider to cross. In some cases, the islands join two sections of cycle path. The islands aren't usually big enough for a cargo bike, so route planning becomes more important, and crossing some roads is likely to take longer
    3) get a spell checker :-)

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  2. Yes I often have people comment on my spelling. In fact I think the word "spelling" is no. 5 in my key word list!

    Worthy comments. Thanks.

    I did have a puncture once, caused by the rear tire rotating on the rim under heavy braking and ripping out the valve.

    Pushing the bike with a flat tire with two kids on the back was a good work out. Still only about 3 miles, so I was lucky.

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