Cargo Bike Roundup

First, thanks all, for your help with my cargo bike review that I’m writing for Urban Farm Magazine. For those of you not familiar with the new crop of cargo bikes here’s what I’m writing about:

Longtail Bikes

Xtracycle FreeRadical

The “longtail” revolution began with the invention of the Xtracycle “FreeRadical” back in 1998. The FreeRadical extends the back wheel and allows for the installation of two huge pannier bags and a seat. You provide the bike–I used a cheap 1980s era hardtail mountain bike. I’ve had my FreeRadical since 2006 and can’t say enough good things about it. I can easily pack four bags of groceriesin the generously sized bags and still easily glide through traffic in Los Angeles. And I’ve used it to go bike camping.

A few years ago Xtracycle teamed with Surley to make the “Big Dummy” a bike frame with a FreeRadical welded in. This reduces the shimmy under load that happens sometimes with a DIY FreeRadical/bike combo. Xtracycle also started producing their own bike/Free Radical combo called the Radish.

Yuba Mundo 21 Speed

Some other companies have since introduced products very similar to the Big Dummy and Radish. One that I really like is the Yuba Mundo. It’a a very sturdy bike with fenders and a two-legged kickstand.

Kona Ute

There’s also the Kona Ute.

Trek Transport

And, in this now crowded longtail market, the Trek Transport.


Bike Trucks

Cetma Cargo

If you can afford one, these are probably the best option for hauling kids. Your cargo or passengers have a lower center of gravity (important especially as those kids grow). Plus, with the passenger seat up front, you can keep an eye on them!

Other Options I’m not Reviewing

When I visited Copenhagen a few years ago I saw a lot of big cargo trikes like the Christiania Trike above. I’m not looking at these because I have my doubts about how practical they are in most US cities. We just don’t have the kind of bike infrastructure they have in Northern Europe. Plus, a lot of Root Simple readers wrote to tell me they don’t handle well on turns. Please correct me if you think I’m wrong. I’m also not considering trailers, because that would be another article.

While not cheap, all of these bikes are less spendy than a fancy carbon fiber racing bike and a lot more useful. My Xtracycle has allowed us to get by with just one car between me and Kelly. While I realize that cargo bikes aren’t practical for everyone, I suspect we’ll be seeing more of these beasts on the road soon.

And, a bit of a tangent here, but if you don’t know the story of Freetown Christiania, where the Christiania bike is made, it’s entertaining.

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9 Comments

  1. Sorry I missed your call for opinions. Hubby and I both have Xtracycles, his on a used mountain bike frame and mine on a longtail frame he custom built to my measurements. (Photo here)

    He’s hauled heavier loads than I and more awkward ones. They include an interior door, two boxes of books, full 5 gallon water bottle on each side, and 150 pounds of oranges in burlap bags. He has also hauled a trailer behind his with an additional 7 full 5-gallon water bottles on it. Yes, that was a SLOW ride!

    Oh, how could I forget? He also once hauled my bike to me when the car broke down. And he did Bike Swap several years here by bike only, hauling a couple of bikes and a load of gear to sell.

    Now, however, we both have an electric assist on our bikes. This has turned them into true workhorses and more practical for even heavier loads and the hilly area where we currently reside.

  2. My husband has an Xtracycle and loves it. Right now he uses it to haul himself to work and our two kids to school (one in a typical child seat on the back and one in an ibert seat on the front) and can also fit four pannier bags on it for school/work supplies and groceries. He gets a lot of comments and stares as he bikes uphill on the way home loaded down with all that kid/cargo weight. We’re expecting our thrid child any day now and he can hardly wait until she is old enough to go on the bike – she’ll go on the front and the two younger ones will go on the back. Who needs a minivan when you’ve got Xtracycle?

  3. First time I’ve seen one that looked like it might even be practical in less populated areas where we have to go a few miles to get local supplies. Thinking it would be a good thing to have. Wish I knew someone who had one so I could try it out.
    Cathy Geary

  4. I have the Trek Transport and love it. It’s my “SUV bike.” ;) Mounted a double-length milk crate on the tail and put dogs, groceries, whatever in it. The fold-down panels on the sides are great too. Have had 150+ pounds of compost loaded up and it still handles ok. Oh, and one time I put an extra bike on the back. Bike on a bike!

  5. I LOVE my Xtracycle Radish. If I’d had a frame I liked a lot, I would have done the kit, but my last really loved bike was stolen a few years ago. I routinely haul moderate loads – six year old, sometimes his bike too, plus gym bags, school stuff, groceries, etc. The one and only time it felt overloaded was with 4 5-gallon buckets of compost plus the 40 pound child.

    I see a lot of them around town, with as many as 3 kids on the back, so I know a lot of other parents like them too.

  6. Do you think you guys might make a book just about cycling sometime? Something that I could leave in a coffee shop for inspiration? I’m thinking something along the lines of all the great notes and quotes from The Urban Homestead + the flickr pool from http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/ (rather stylish picture of Amelie type women peddling around Europe in fantastic shoes with adorable children in tow) + DIY projects, like converting bags into panniers (I have these two $15 army surplus bags that I still haven’t put on my bike. I know my spouse could figure it out in about 5 minutes, but that kind of improv is not my personal strength. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OC3EWA/ref=oh_o04_s00_i00_details).
    Just something to capture how cycling is really more fun than driving. Something that would appeal to women (the New York Times had an article a few months ago about how cycling lags with women who are more likely to wait for infrastructure to make it a safer-seeming activity). I did look up the individual cycling books quoted in The Urban Homestead but the reviews on Amazon were mixed enough (one was found to be too ‘political’ and another sometimes came across as scary apparently) that I don’t think any one of them is just right for leaving in a coffee shop. Not to mention their covers don’t make cycling look all that pretty.
    I ride an orange townie around with my toddler in a Yepp seat up front. The cycle shop in town says it’s generated interest for them and that’s been my experience at the playground/coffee shop/library and such. Just a book to further nudge things would be great. *Or* if you know of a book and can recommend one, that’s just as good. Thanks !

  7. We own a Madsen (http://www.madsencycles.com/) and love it. We have four kids and it carries all four of them, with seatbelts in the bucket for each kid. The seats are removable for carrying cargo and the bucket has a 400 pound capacity.

    Hills are a bit tough with a full load, but for the most part, we’ve loved our bike.

  8. Here in the Netherlands, when people need to move large, heavy, or awkward items like furniture, they borrow bikes with big wooden platforms on the front from the stores. These things are great for deliveries.

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