There’s a myriad of cargo bikes out there. Each has its own purpose and a user alike. How to choose the right cargo bike for you?
Why are cargo bikes getting more and more popular?
Cargo bikes have been around for about a century, but this is a fact that many are eager to dismiss. So why is it that it seems like a modern-day invention? The answer seems to lie mainly in the legislation of different countries and also the shift in mindset. A bike was a strange thing to use as a practical means of transport in many countries from the 1960s-2000. Luckily we are coming out of this tunnel from the other end. People want to keep happy, live healthy for longer and be more environmentally friendly. By traveling less distance with petrol, we would save money by ditching the car or public transport subscription.
Long John cargo bike
The first and perhaps most popular type is the Long John type cargo bike. This type of bicycle was first invented in Odense, Denmark, in 1923 by the Smith & Co Company. Same place we first started. Long Johns are best for people who like to have a fast, nimble, and stylish cargo bike. The cargo area is relatively aerodynamic, and it’s in front of the bicycle. For example, it’s perfect for hauling packages and children as they are visible and easy to communicate with. Depending on a manufacturer’s geometry, riding this bike can feel like riding a standard bike. Since it’s as narrow as a regular two-wheeled bike, a Longjohn is perfect for countries with not-so-many proper bike lanes.
Probably the second most popular cargo bike type is a tricycle. This bike, also known as Trike / Bakfiets / Kastenfahrrad, has two front wheels and a box in-between. This version of a cargo bike is often the choice for families when both parents share a bike. It’s more easily adjustable to fit a smaller and larger rider by only rising or lowering the seat. The handlebars stay in the same place as they are attached to the box. Another consideration is the number of children. Three or more children usually don’t fit into the front of a Longjohn.
The down-side is that these bikes are usually slow. When steering, the handlebars move away from the rider, and at slightly higher speeds, they will feel like tipping over because they don’t tilt.
Long Tail cargo bike
The Long Tail cargo bike is not so popular in Europe but seems to be the no.1 choice of cargo bike in the US. Two-wheeler as well, this bike has a long rack in the back. The rack itself is a part of the bike frame, making it rigid.
This bike’s strength lies in its dimensions because the frame is as narrow as a regular bike and only slightly longer. The size and weight make it easy to store and carry it up and down the stairs. However, the cargo ability is not comparable to the bikes mentioned above. It is comfortable to sit up to two kids on the back with child seats, but everything else like a school bag would need to be held by the child or somehow strapped to the frame. When hauling any other type of cargo, it needs to be in a bag, again strapped to the frame with no possibility of ’just tossing it on there.’
Lastly, if you want to stand out, then there are options like a sidecar. They are relatively uncommon, but you wouldn’t believe the number of looks we have gotten in Copenhagen when riding this thing around. Every day, someone would pull up on the side and say,’ Hey, wow… A sidecar… I’ve never seen one before… That’s super cool!’
With slightly less cargo space than Long Johns or Trikes, this option is perhaps not as practical, but it turns heads like nothing else. And when allowed to tilt, it feels like a regular bike, only a bit wider. However, carrying children is not safe because of the proximity of the wheels on either side.
Electric or not
I had been skeptical about e-bikes for years, but I love them now. I have been riding fixed gear, single-speed, road, and sidecar bikes for years and loved it. After commuting more than 10 km one way every day, in the evenings, I felt like not wanting to commute much more and perhaps needing to take a third shower too. With an eBike, I estimate that my yearly mileage has grown by 30-40%. I never need to think whether I want to ’go there’ on a bike because it’s just as fast and convenient as a car. So if you aim to live car-free, sweat-free 5000+ km per year everyday life, then yes, go electric.
Choosing the right cargo bike
In conclusion, If you’re even considering a cargo bike, you’re already doing the best thing possible for your health, the city you live in, and the environment – cheers to that! Next, think about what you plan to do with the bike: the commute’s daily length, how hilly or windy your region is, and what you will carry.
Choose Trike if:
- The commute is up to 5 km / 3 miles one way.
- The road is not too hilly, windy, and bumpy.
- You need to carry three or more children.
- Speed is not an issue, and you want to share the bike with your partner.
Choose Long Tail if:
- If you’re carrying a child on a child seat or
- Your only cargo is a bag that straps to the frame.
Choose Sidecar if:
- You want to stand out or advertise your business.
- You do not need to carry children.
- You wish to use your bike as a normal one.
Choose Long John if:
- You want a bike that feels like a standard bike.
- Goes fast
- Has cargo space for two children and room to spare.