Seeking Opinions for a Cargo Bike Review

A Christiania trike

I’m reviewing a few cargo bikes for Urban Farm Magazine and I’m interested in hearing opinions from you, our dear readers. Leave a comment or send me an email. Let me know what cargo bike you have and what you think about it. What do you haul? Did you give up a car? Note: I’m not reviewing trailers, just cargo bikes.

I have an Xtracycle that I’ve used for years and am very happy with. But there’s a lot of new options out there.

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  1. About 4 years ago, we weren’t using our car within DC much, but we did if we had to take kids to the store or anywhere else there were parcels to move.

    We tried a friend’s trailer but it didn’t meet our needs. I can give you some particulars about drag and track width and anxiety over the trailer’s visibility and whatnot, or how it sort of diminishes the joy in being on a bike, but I think it suffices to say that it just wasn’t the right solution.

    We decided to build an Xtracycle, which was an instant success and made those in-town trips easy and joyful. We started having weeks where the car didn’t move. Pretty soon I built another one ’cause the first one was so fun and useful.

    Last year we put somewhere around 6k miles on the two Xtracycles, and about 3k miles on the car (most of out-of-state road trips). Last summer we took a shuttle with the Xtras and camping gear up past Cumberland, MD and spent the week riding the 184 mile C&O Canal Trail with the kids all the way down to Georgetown (and ultimately right to our door).

    This fall I liberated one of the mountain bikes I’d used for a donor frame and replaced it with a Big Dummy. The upgrade is astonishing.

    The word on the street with the cargonistas is that the Xtracycle/Big Dummy option is perfect for hauling kids and groceries. At a certain weight, it starts to flex a bit, and at that point the Yuba Mundo becomes the platform of choice in the longtail world. It’s heavier, but heavier duty as well. Inexpensive, very smooth, and rock-solid capacity into the hundreds of pounds.

    I’m also interested in checking out a Larry Vs. Harry Bullit, they look like a great, hackable front-loading bike that can do some commuting, camping, touring.

  2. Is that an Xtracycle in the picture? Is it what you use? Does it have the three-wheel configuration like the one in the picture? What do you haul in the up-front container? How far do you haul? Is it street/traffic-legal,not that it really matters to some people and some towns? It just does not look like it would fit our few bike paths in this town, marked three feet from the curb. I see no handle bars. I don’t have a bike, but when I have 3 surgeries, I hope to get one, but I won’t be giving up a car. I would have little to haul as this town is not bike-shopping friendly, sitting on two major highways that intersect in the middle of town with no sidewalks to shopping.

  3. Just as a general observation, I don’t like front loaders. Maybe they work better in flatter places like LA, but in the hilly NW they become very hard to control, either uphill or downhill. Having tried a few cargo bike styles I settled on strapping a couple milk crates to my beater mountain bike and a low-profile, two-wheeled trailer. That configuration got me and my full-sized drum kit to a number of gigs all over hilly Seattle. That doesn’t really help, I’m sure. If it really comes down to it, the xtracycle is the way to go for a cargo.

  4. Ches–thanks for the link love. Got your awesome blog in my reader now. And feel free to do self promotion. Cats can help with this.

    Chiggins–thanks for your opinions! And I’ve camped with my Xtracycle as well. It’s like car camping with the advantages of backpacking (no people).

    Practical—no, that’s a Christiania bike. It’s from Denmark (Or the piratical republic of Christiana, if you prefer). It’s street legal. And, yes, it’s a bit wide for my tastes too. Would probably work in Portland or other bike friendly cities, but I like a narrower bike for places like my hometown of Los Angeles. Biking here is a challenge but doable if you follow a few simple rules and plan alternate routes.

  5. i have the Schwinn 26-inch Meridian 3 Wheel Tricycle which I use for marketing when it’s not either raining or 105 degrees. Of course the market is about 1 mile from my front door so it’s not like I’m taking the ride of the century on it. I’m in Burbank and I see a couple of these out on the road from time to time. Great ride.

  6. I have a Madsen bucketbike.
    I am quite happy with it, but as I exercise-induced have asthma, I don’t get to use it as much as I had hoped to. I can use it for trips of less than two miles without starting to wheeze- so basically, I ride it to church and the park. Still, I know that if something happens to the car, I can still get to the grocery store, library, dentist, even the pediatrician- I will just have to plan to be wiped out afterward!

  7. are you aware of CETMA cargo? This guy up in portland is probably building the best practical cycling stuff around. I’ve got one of his front racks and it is amazing how much utility it has added to my bike. I have heard (but never ridden) that his complete cargo bike is in the top 3 best cargo bikes in the world. How cool is it that they’re made in the US by a dude in his shop.
    links to the other 2 that I have ridden below.

    Frontloaders generally are better than xtracycles – stronger, see your load, lower CG, centered etc… but I personally don’t like most of the 3 wheelers like the christiania you’ve got pictured. they tend to have real stability issues turning at speed, like say an evasive maneuver. I say load up front but on 2 wheels. there’s my 2 cents.

  8. I am not fond of front loaders. It’s like the basket on my handlebars got inappropriate with a giant radio flyer wagon, or something, and I lose maneuverability as a side effect.

    I have a Davon commuter bike (this one: with a nice rack over the rear wheel, with nifty bungees attached to it. I have seen people use these racks w/ paniers attached to them as well. After a certain point one is kind of pushing the envelope on is this a bicycle or is it a 2-wheeled VW Microbus. On a regular city bike, I’m not so wild about racks like these because I am a short-statured leg-swinger and get tired of smacking my leg against whatever is strapped onto the rack.

  9. I’ve been using an Xtracycle conversion on a mountain bike for a couple years now and they’re great. But there are some limitations.

    The conversion kit is a great, low cost option if you’ve got a donor bike or can find one cheap. They make great grocery getters and all around errand runners. They ride very much like a normal bike and I don’t hesitate to use it just to get around even when I don’t need the hauling ability. They’re a bit heavy, but you can get it up a flight of stairs if needed. (But you wouldn’t want to every day.)

    For kid hauling, I thinks it’s pretty good for mid-sized kids and older with a stoker bar and foot pegs. For younger kids though, the Xtracycle kid seat is pretty pricey and doesn’t really work any different from a kids’ seat on a normal bike.

    You can carry a lot, but the rear end does get a lot of flex when you get more weight on it. The pre-built long tail frames don’t really have that problem so much. Also, it’s a bit hard to carry anything bulky because the cargo area is split up by the back wheel.

    I went with an Xtracycle kit because I needed the full gear range of a mountain bike (I live in the Los Angeles hills too.) A lot of the front loaders and pre-built long tails come with internal gear hubs or smaller gear ranges. Fine for most areas, but I needed to climb some real slopes.

    I’ve ridden a bakfiets and they are really nice. The low center of gravity and big cargo area makes it really nice to use. Nothing better for kid hauling. You plop them in, you can see them and talk to them while you ride, they get the best view in the house, you can put on a rain cover, etc.

    The front loaders’ handling feels a bit weird, at least at first and I don’t think you can really tear around on them like a long tail. (Though I have seen Bullit races!)

    I’ve tried some of the three wheelers too and can confirm they really can’t be ridden too fast. Great if you don’t have the strength or confidence to handle a two wheeler or if you need something with a really stable platform (work bike). But you won’t want to just jump on one to tear around town.

    I think it’s important to recommend getting a solid two-leg kick stand. Makes life a lot easier when you’re loading anything.

    Lastly just want to say how much having one of these changed my relationship to the bike, much more than I expected. Even if you’re used to carrying stuff around in panniers, backpack, etc. the cargo bikes really just shift the way you use the bike because you can just head out the door with some of the same lack of pre-planning you can get away with with a car.

  10. If you wanted to go for a short trip down to San Clemente, iCargoBike ( usually has some really nice cargo bikes in stock, as well as some European commuter bikes. I’ve considered getting a Gazelle from them, if it weren’t for the whole “paying for it” side of the deal.

    I also tried out an electric Yuba Mundo there and it was a great bike. The electric helped immensely with the hills there, and I love that you could just throw just about anything on the back. Another longtail bike that interests me is the Xtracycle Radish because of its versatility for use by different riders (so that both my boyfriend and I could ride it) while being fairly affordable.

  11. My trailer, made by a guy up here on in the San Juan Islands, is one of my favorite toys ever. With a small amount of weight on it, I forget that it’s even there. With my granny gears, I’ve carried up to 100lbs up and down steep hills on a regular basis. It’s carried a drum set, amplifiers, cases upon cases of produce, and once, my wife. In my opinion, if you’re trying to carry anything more than a regular milk crate on the back of your bike can fit, a well-built aluminum trailer is the easiest and most efficient way to go about it. And when you’re not hauling anything large, you leave the trailer at home!

  12. I also have the Xtracyle kit. I haven’t ditched the car yet because I have a pretty long commute (that’s a different problem…) But when I took a week off for a stay-cation, I used it exclusively. Worked great for taking my son to school – great conversation starter!

    I got the stoker bar and wanted the footsies, but they aren’t compatible with the Kickback center stand. I did find a hack – mountainbike handlebar ends make great foot pegs.

    Some folks would probably consider this cheating, but some of the hills around here might otherwise entice me to use the car. So I also added an amped electric rear hub. For me, that actually makes it faster and more convenient to use the bike in so many situations.

    I agree with maxutility – cargo bikes just make it easier to avoid the car.

  13. I’m also not a huge fan of the front loaders. I feel a lot more natural with the trailers and less anxious about what I cannot see. You can find some pretty durable ones for the hilly areas!

  14. I love my Madsen, can just throw stuff in the bucket including my son, who was four when I got it. We have had it for 18 months and it is my car replacement. It is heavier than an xtracycle, and when my little guy is riding on his own, I might switch to an xtracycle and pass the Madsen on to someone with little kids. Here’s a blog post I did about the bike earlier this year.

    Looking forward to your review!

  15. Erik – many thanks to you and all who posted. Frankly, I had never heard of a cargo bike nor was I familiar with their economy and utility. With gasoline predicted to be $4./50 a gallon next year, I could be a convert.

  16. Erik–I started a gardening business a couple of years ago using a Kona Ute (electric model with integrated motor) and pulling a Wike Landscaping Trailer. I’m not doing much gardening any more, but still use the bike as our “second car” daily to take my daughter to and from school and run errands. It has worked beautifully. Purchased from Splendid Cycles here in Portland–they have a number of great cargo bikes for sale, including the Bullitt.

  17. I know you didn’t want to hear about trailers, but I can’t help adding that, like John, I love trailers and can’t imagine laying out the big bucks for a cargo bike. Trailers are versatile, you can build them yourself for cheap (i made one to haul my old aluminum canoe and spent less than $50 including $25 for a brand new trailer hitch), they can often be used as carts without the bike, and most importantly you can leave them at home when you don’t need them. Cargo bikes are cool, but I think most people would do just as well or better with a trailer.

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