Cargo Bikes: Haul Stuff on Two Wheels

@sunrise604 hauls a Christmas Tree home by bike

@sunrise604 hauls a Christmas Tree home on her Surly Big Dummy

Cargo bikes made a bit of a splash in the news last week when the Associated Press ran a story on some Seattleites and how they use their bicycles to haul kids, groceries, and other bulky items.

Cargo bikes have always intrigued me. They seem like the logical next step for someone who uses their bicycle to commute back and forth to work: a bicycle that you can use to get things other than yourself around the city. When I drop my kids off at school, there is a parent who glides up on her Yuba Mundo with a kid or two on the back, and I look on enviously.

Cargo bikes are just bicycles that are built to carry something more than just the rider. Generally speaking, there are three styles of cargo bikes: the longtail, the bucket, and the porteur. Porteur bikes are usually (but not always) ordinary-looking upright-riding bikes with a large platform on the front of the bike.

Porteur style cargo bike

Bucket-style cargo bikes, on the other hand look completely out of the ordinary. These are upright-riding bicycles with a large bucket in front of the rider, low to the ground. There are several that I see regularly in Vancouver, including one that rides the False Creek seawall. They can haul a fair bit of bulky cargo or kids.

Then there are the longtails. Longtails are growing quite a bit in popularity. Longtails are ordinary-looking bike frames with longer rear frames, built to accomodate elongated rear racks and other cargo accessories. In addition to the Yuba Mundo I keep seeing around, I see a fair number of Surly Big Dummys on Vancouver roads too.

Surly Big Dummy

There is a whole ecosystem of accessories that’s growing around the cargo bikes as well. Xtracycle is both a manufacturer that makes many accessories for cargo bikes and an open specification for others to make things that will fit cargo bikes made by different manufacturers. The Big Dummy is one of these bikes that meets the Xtracycle specification, and Xtracycle makes both bikes and conversion kits. Yes, you can convert (or have converted) a “normal” bike into a longtail cargo bike. In addition to the conversion kits, you can get seats for both adults and kids, rear handlebars, large cargo bags, even a sidecar. Most manufacturers also offer e-bike versions of their cargo bikes, to provide you with a little extra oomph as you’re hauling your stuff around town.

The downside to cargo bikes, however, is pretty much what you might expect. They’re heavier (but maybe not as heavy as you might think), larger (finding someplace to park it and your other bikes in your 400 sq ft “garden suite” might be an issue), and more expensive. You might pay anywhere from $1000-$5000 for a cargo bike, depending on which one and how many features and accessories. Drop by Mighty Riders on West 4th to talk to them about the Big Dummy. You used to be able to get Yuba cargo bikes from Whoa Nellie on Main St … but I see that they shut down in early November. I’d suggest starting with their website: http://yubabikes.com/

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other type of cargo bike (yes, #4 of the 3 styles) that you’ll see around Vancouver. That’s the Shift Urban Cargo Delivery bike:

Photo by Stephen Rees on Flickr

Have you every driven a cargo bike? What’s the largest thing you’ve ever taken on a bike? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.

2 Responses to “Cargo Bikes: Haul Stuff on Two Wheels”

  1. Bill Barilko says:

    I used to regularly shop @ SuperValu down on Marine Drive near Main St and haul close to
    50# worth of groceries back to Kits-luckily our local No Frills have eased the pressure (!)

    Did haul 2 x 20# bags of bird seed home last week easy enough but there’s an art to it-have expandable panniers, go slow and carry lots of bungee cords.

    Also don’t mind looking homeless once in a while.

  2. […] a minivan replacement. I love that the article spawned a complimentary piece north of the border: Cargo Bikes: Haul Stuff on Two Wheels with a photo of a mom (Hi, @Sunrise604!) hauling a Christmas tree by cargo […]