How to Choose the Best Cargo Bike for You
2016 07 19
You’ve done your research. You want to do it all. Carry kids. Carry cargo. Get rid of your car. It’s clear that a cargo bike is a good choice for your lifestyle.
Now what, though? There are lots of cargo bikes out there. Lots of different makes and models. Lots of different styles. What cargo bike will fit your bill?
As with anything, you’ll want to start with your preferences and where you live. Are there lots of wide open spaces? Is there good bike infrastructure? Is space a little tight in your area? How comfortable are you riding a bike? How comfortable will you be riding a larger bike that handles quite a bit differently from your regular bike?
I’ll be up front and say that any cargo bike can work in pretty much any environment. Just like cars and bikes, the type of cargo bike you buy doesn’t limit where you can take it. I saw a fellow the other day tooling around downtown Guelph on a fat tire bike. This may not seem strange but fat tire bikes are designed for snow, sand, and serious off roading. They are beasts to use on pavement with a massive amount of friction from their balloon-like tires. But this fellow was using it all the same. Maybe he liked it. Maybe he didn’t have the cash to buy a second bike better suited to the urban environment. Maybe he only took it on pavement rarely. Whatever the reason, he made it work.
So, knowing that you can’t really go too wrong when you buy a cargo bike, we’ll look at the pros and cons of the bakfietsen/box bike and the Long John. These are two of of the main cargo bikes you’ll see on the road.
Bakfietsen or Box Bike
The Wike Bakfietsen / Box Bike style Wike Super Trike
Two wheels up front, one in the back, and cargo up front. I would personally guess that this type of cargo bike is the most popular out there. But is it right for you?
The Bakfietsen / Box Bike is an extraordinarily stable piece of equipment. The two wheels up front make it virtually impossible to tip over. Of course, you could tip it if you were motivated enough but generally speaking, you’ll be hard pressed to get one of these on their side. The two front wheels also make it a very good choice for snowy climates. I have no problem riding my bike in the snow, sleet, or rain but I have also tipped over on a mild corner in slippery conditions. I have a recumbent bike with two wheels up front and one in the back just like a Bakfietsen / Box Bike and I can tell you that I am much more confident it in slippery conditions. Two wheels up front definitely make things much more stable in snowy climes.
Of course, the Bakfietsen / Box Bike keeps the load nicely centred between the wheels making it that much more stable.
Downsides? Well, the Bakfietsen / Box Bike definitely takes up more space. The box might be similar or even identical dimensions to a Long John box but the front wheels obviously need some space. Bakfietsens / Box Bikes are also a little more complex to build and will weigh more because of this. With a regular bike, your handlebars are directly connected to your front fork. Turn the handle bar, turn the fork, turn the bike. Bakfietsen / Box Bikes have to turn two wheels at once when you turn your handlebars so they are not quite as straightforward from the mechanical side. They operate similar to a car, really.
Bakfietsen / Box Bike pros: Great stability, great in less than ideal cycling conditions.
Bakfietsen / Box Bike cons: Heavier and more complex than a Long John. Need extra space to both use and store.
The Wike Long John style Big Box Bike
The Long John has a very long wheelbase with the cargo perched between the rider and the front wheel. Initially, these look precarious and difficult to ride but rest assured, they are stable and any rider with a decent amount of cycling experience will quickly master the Long John. Knowing that, is the Long John your dream cargo bike?
With the single wheel up front, the Long John is very manoeuvrable. Yes, it will definitely have a much wider turning radius than your regular bike but it will turn quickly and easily. The cargo is nicely centred on the frame so balance is good. Be sure to even out your load to help with balance, though.
On top of manoeuvrability, the Long John is narrower than the Bakfietsen / Box Bike. If you’ve got limited cycling infrastructure, narrow bike lanes, or tight spaces on your route, the Long John may suit you better as they often aren’t much wider than a regular bicycle with panniers (what some call saddle bags).
Downsides to the Long John are their length and the fact that you are rolling on two wheels instead of three. And I’ll always say that the Long John is easy to learn how to ride and has similar handling characteristics to a regular bike. But if I lived in an area where I was delivering cargo on snowy weather, I might think twice about a Long John over a Bakfietsen / Box Bike.
Long John pros: Highly manoeuvrable (relatively speaking), smaller footprint
Long John cons: Still need some practice to ride properly, pretty much as stable as your regular bike but not as stable as a Bakfietsen / Box Bike.
So there you have it! Two of the most popular cargo bike styles out there. If you’re looking to buy a cargo bike, either one of these should fit your bill.
Top 4 Reasons Why You’ll Love a Cargo Bike
2016 07 04
Cargo Bikes. You’ve probably seen them zipping around town. Big cargo bin on the front (and, occasionally, on the back). Sometimes two wheels two wheels up front, sometimes not. Whatever they are, it’s clear that you can haul a lot of stuff with them.
If we’re being honest, they can look a little ungainly. I mean, all that weight on the front? And how on earth can you manoeuvre it?
Fear not, good friends! The cargo bike has been around for a long time. Until now, it’s been something of a niche product but with the world becoming more and more urban these fantastic cargo and people movers are poised to become a much larger part of the city landscape.
But you’ve already got a bike! It does everything you need. And we agree. A cargo bike is fantastic but not for everyone. But here at Wike, we’re pretty sure that there are a lot of people that could use a box bike but it isn’t on their radar. So here are four reasons you’ll love a box bike.
It can replace your car
Let’s face it: this is the promise every bike manufacturer and green advocate has made about bicycles since the automobile displaced bicycles as a perfect mode of transportation at the turn of the century. But the reality is, a bike it primarily designed for transporting one person in a spectacularly efficient way. You can most definitely extend the usefulness of you bike with a bike trailer and other accessories but at its heart, the bike is one-person machine. And a one-person machine with no real room for passengers or cargo is not doing to replace a car. Don’t get us wrong. It absolutely CAN replace a car or at least one of your cars but there are times (sometimes many times) when you need the cargo and passenger room. No modern urbanite is going to deny this.
Enter the cargo bike. Load it up with kids or (of course) cargo. Or both! Lock it up just like you would your regular bike and don’t worry about someone taking off with the box. Many cargo bikes are large enough to handle even furniture if that’s what you need to get to other side of town. With massive amount of cargo space, a cargo bike truly can replace your car.
While you certainly can get a purpose-built cargo bike, most can double as something else. Kid carrier and cargo carrier are a common way of maximizing a cargo bike. And, in some cases, you can order specialized boxes for your needs at any given time. Kids grown up? Swap out the kid-specific hauler and swap in the cargo box.
They’re more stable than you think
I know that most people are a little nervous about riding a bike filled with cargo. But while it might seem unwieldy and difficult, cargo bikes operate in much the same manner as your regular bike. The weight is properly centred on the bike which makes it easy to manoeuvre. Now, we’re not saying it will be a cakewalk but, just like a regular bike, a little practice goes a long way. Depending on your cargo bike, you may need to get used to a longer wheelbase and how the bike handles. Take a few practice rides where you’ve got plenty of room and no cargo. Once you’re confident, load it up and practice some more! In no time you’ll be on your way. And keep in mind that it’s best to keep as much weight as close to the ground as possible. The more weight at the bottom, the easier your cargo bike will be to manoeuvre.
Other vehicles respect you more
As an avid cyclist, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been brushed up against by passing cars. Of course, this is more of North American phenomenon because I had no issues at all in the Netherlands with their separated bike lanes and other future thinking bike projects. But in North America, you’re pretty much fighting for space for at least part of your journey.
But with a box bike, cars will most likely give you a wide berth. Whether they’re afraid they’ll scratch their paint job or believe you have less control, they want to give you space.
So there you have it! Cargo bikes are more than just a novelty. Give them some consideration if you’re looking for a way to replace your car. Sometimes a regular bike just won’t do!