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How to choose a cargo bike

Nighthawk cargo in action

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. This is a fact that many are eager to dismiss – so why is it that it seems like a modern-day invention, where were the cargo bikes a couple of decades ago? The answer seems to lie largely in the legislation of different countries and also the shift in mindset. After reading It’s all about the bike by Robert Penn (highly recommended read) over the Corona lockdown, I can’t help but agree that the bike was a strange thing to use as a practical means of transport in many countries from about 1960s to 2000. Robert’s example in the book illustrates this well – he talks about living in Wales where you only commuted on a bike if you had lost your driver’s license. He describes going to a pub on a bike, a bloke pulled him aside and asked what he had done to lose his driving license, he replied he just likes cycling better. A year later the bloke pulls him aside again – did you kill someone with your car that you still don’t have your license? If regular exercise and commuting on a bicycle were seen like this, how odd would a cargo bike have been..? Luckily we are coming out of this tunnel from the other end, people want to keep happy, live healthy for longer, be environmentally friendly by traveling less distance without petrol and in the end saving money by ditching the car or public transport subscription.

Long John cargo bike

Kaspar riding Nighthawk Cargo
Nighthawk Cargo

The first and perhaps most popular type is the Long John type cargo bike. This type of a bicycle was first invented in Odense, Denmark (oddly enough, that’s where we first started) in 1923 by the Smith & Co Company (known today as SCO). Long Johns are best for people who like to have a fast, nimble, and stylish cargo bike. The cargo area is relatively aerodynamic and since it’s in front of the bicycle, it’s perfect for not only hauling packages but also children as they are visible and easy to communicate with. Depending on a manufacturer’s geometry, riding this bike can feel like riding a normal bike or take a couple of hours to get used to it. Since it’s as narrow as a regular two-wheeled bike, a Longjohn is perfect for countries with not-so-many proper bike lanes.

Trike

Family riding Trike
Trike / Bakfiets / Kastenfahrrad

Probably the second most popular cargo bike type is a tricycle with 2 front wheels and a box in-between, also known as Trike / Bakfiets / Kastenfahrrad. This version of a cargo bike is often the choice for families when both parents share a bike as 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

Long tail cargo bike
Long tail cargo bike

A bike that’s not so popular in Europe, but seems to be no.1 choice of cargo bike in the US is a Long Tail cargo bike. Also a two-wheeler, this bike has effectively an elongated rack in the back. The ’rack’ itself is a part of the bike frame, making it rigid. The strength of this bike lies in its dimensions – frame as narrow as a regular bike and only slightly longer. This makes it easy to store the bike and to carry it up and down the stairs. However of course the cargo ability is not comparable to the forementioned bikes. It is easy 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’.

Bicycle sidecar

Bike with a sidecar
Promotional sidecar bike in action

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 normal 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. For years I have been riding fixed gear, single-speed, road, and sidecar bikes, and loved it. But after commuting more than 10 km one way every day, in the evenings I felt like not wanting to commute much more, perhaps needing to take a third shower too. With an eBike I estimate that my yearly mileage has grown by 30-40% just because I never need to think whether I want to ’go there’ on a bike, I just do it 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.

So how to choose the right cargo bike

Firstly, 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 in general – cheers to this! Next, think about what you plan to do with the bike – daily length of the commute, how hilly or windy is your region, what will you carry.

Choose Trike if: commute is up to 5 km / 3 miles one way and the road is not too hilly/windy and not too bumpy. Or if you need to carry 3 or more children, speed is not an issue and you want to share the bike with your partner.

Choose Long Tail if: your only cargo is a bag that can be strapped to the frame or a child on a child seat.

Choose Sidecar if: you want to stand out or advertise your business and you do not need to carry children.

Choose Long John if: you want a bike that feels like a normal bike and goes fast with enough cargo space for 2 children and space to spare.

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Cargo Bikes – A Brief History

Cargo bikes also known as freight bikes started out, unsurprisingly, as a way for tradesmen to easily transport their goods around without the need for a horse, or to pull the carts themselves. Originally, they are simply ordinary bikes with large carriers. Carriers are attached at either the front or the back. It wasn’t too long before bicycle manufacturers began to manufacture specially designed cargo bikes that were just the thing that businesses needed.

Cargo cyclists in front of Posten
Bicycle messengers of By Posten company (The City Post)

Copenhagen

Freight bikes were particularly popular in Copenhagen during World War II. That was when King Christian X would ride through the streets without a guard of soldiers, to provide some much-needed morale to citizens. However, he did have an unofficial guard, in the form of freight bike messengers from the Achilleus company. (Source: Copenhagenize)

King Christian X and Bike Messengers
King Christian X and bike messengers from Achilleus company

Motorized transport

As the twentieth century rolled on, motorized transport became more accessible to the average consumer. Freight bikes fell out of fashion in Europe and America. However, elsewhere in the world, and particularly in Asian countries, they remained a popular choice for people who needed to get goods from A to B cheaply. In recent years, though, they have started to make a comeback. People in the West start to adopt more eco-friendly lifestyles. They are a fantastic way of getting the job done in a more environmentally friendly way.  You’ll now find that plenty of people have adopted this greener method of transport.

Our take on the cargo bike is of course the Sidecar Bike and the Nighthawk cargo bike.  The first one-off project reached our friend Jeremy in the UK

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Long time, no see – we’re not dead, just busy.

It’s been a while since we last had a moment to properly sit down and write something. And no – we have not been lazy, quite on the contrary – there’s just been so much happening. So we will try to cover the 5 biggest leaps that we’ve taken since May.

  1. The beautiful ladies’ bike – The question ‘Do you have a bike for women?’ has been asked countless time. It took us time, but it’s here. A beautiful women’s bike in what we like calling Rivera Yellow. It boasts a gorgeous lugged mixte-style frame, a nice front rack and mudguards as standard. If you like it, act fast, we currently only have one left!
    Pastel Yellow Bicycle KP Cykler
  2. The Perfect Urban Bike – We curated the best bits of some of the most popular configurations to create The Perfect Urban bike, which we launched through Kickstarter. The project was a large success, we hit our goal fast, after which it slowed down a bit, but we’re very thankful for everyone’s support. Along the way we learned a few new lessons which we will discuss in another blog post to help others with crowdfunding.
    Features of the perfect urban bike by KP Cyclery
  3. Sidecars – We started building sidecars for different bicycles. We are in the process of testing a universal way of mounting the sidecar on almost any bike, and we’ve created a completely one-off for a client in the UK. Unlike other sidecar we’re making, this one does not allow the bike to lean in corners. This was a request by client as it will be installed on a chopper bike, and the goal was to make the ride more stable at low speeds.
    Custom Sidecar for Bicycle
  4. The Bike Hanger 2.0 – Based on feedback and our own ambitions, we’ve continued to develop our most popular product. Tests of our innovations have been very pleasing, and we are nearly ready to start full production of the 2nd generation Bike Hanger. As to do so will require a little boost – we will be preparing an Indiegogo campaign very soon.
    KP Cykler The Bike Hanger in Black
  5. New name and currency – And the biggest news will be last. Our image will get a little overhaul as our client base is growing rapidly outside of Denmark. We will be slowly transforming from KP Cykler to KP Cyclery to have a more sticking name and brand outside of our beautiful Denmark. With those news, we have updated our online store and changed the currency from Danish Kroner to Euros.

Thank you for reading. Hopefully the next post won’t have to wait this long. I hope you’re all having a wonderful summer and it is as warm where you’re reading as it is here.

xx
Kaspar

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Hangers, Sidecars and Bikes – news from all the fronts

It’s been quite busy over the last month to say the least. There was a huge order of our Bike Hangers by Monoqi from Germany of just under 100 units, production version of The Sidecar Bike finished and a new version of our bikes is rolling out.

Thus far we have been selling the Hangers to resellers like Steel Vintage Bikes from Berlin, Jooks from Tallinn, Westside24 from Düsseldorf, Omniia.dk, Monoqi and others for just a few pennies staying in our pocket after production. As there is more and more interest from resellers, then we will be pushing the price up next week from approx 100€ to about 120€ per Hanger (coupled with the launch of The Bike Hanger 2.0 – more on that soon). That means it is a good idea to order one from our webshop now 😉 Above mentioned shops will still have it for about 100€ until the current stock sells out.

The Bike Hanger on a wall with a bicycle - KP Cykler

At the same time we’ve had great news from here in Denmark. Having just finished the first production-ready Sidecar Bike, we’ve taken it to the Danish Cycling Federation’s shop (Cyklistforbundet) close to Torvehallerne in the middle of Copenhagen. You can go and test it there + they will be stocking our Bike Hangers from June. There was more Sidecar news from Bike Rumor, as to our surprise we were featured on their website – http://www.bikerumor.com/2016/05/19/hang-bike-wall-like-trophy-kp-cykler/

KP Cykler Sidecar at Nyhavn Copenhagen

Lastly, perhaps the biggest news of the 3. We are just about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for our latest creation – The Perfect Urban Bike. We’ve noticed people getting slightly confused on all the different options we offer for building a bicycle. So we’ve created the ultimate package – puncture protection tape as a standard to save you from annoying flats; steel frame for a lovely ride;  Brooks leather as standard; our Porteur bars for a good speed/comfort balance; Kickshift for no maintenance gears and of course smoking looks. All this comes in at modest 6995 dkk (approx 935€). Here’s a preview link for you (yes it’s not live yet, but we love you, and should get the first look).

KP Cykler Perfect Urban Bike Kickstarter Cover

That will be it for now, stop by our new bike studio at Ingerslevsgade 103 when in Cph 🙂

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Leaning Sidecars

It’s been a little while since the last post – we’re looking to get back into it now as we’ve successfully moved the shop to our new location in Copenhagen (Ingerslevsgade 103, Kbh 1705 if you’re curious to stop by ;) ). Here’s a piece on something that’s been cooking for a while – leaning sidecar history.

Leaning sidecars were first invented by Freddie Dixon, an English motorbike racer, way back in the 1920’s. Dixon was the first to figure out that by having the sidecar passenger control the tilt of the car with a lever, instead of the sidecar being rigidly fixed to the bike, it was possible to take turns a lot faster, and he used this idea to great success in his motorbike racing career. Leaning sidecars were further popularized in the same decade in American motorcycle racing, although now the focus was on having the sidecar wheel tilt by itself, giving the bike rider control. The technology used in these tilting sidecars has come a long way, and we have now been able to come up with our very own leaning sidecar for a bicycle, allowing you to easily carry goods around without knocking the bike itself off balance.

Leaning motorcycle sidecar

Leaning sidecars have many advantages which they can bring to your bike-riding, that make them an excellent choice for anyone who wants to be able to carry things on their bike with ease. With a leaning sidecar, riding the bike feels normal, and you aren’t constrained by having to compensate for the added weight of the sidecar. You’re able to take corners as you normally would, leaning in and taking them faster, as the sidecar is able to tilt freely to match the curve of the corner. Furthermore, since the sidecar is able to move independently, you don’t have to worry about holes in the road knocking you off balance – the sidecar can move over these without affecting the stability of the bike itself. On a three wheeled bike, you might notice that the bike rocks around when moving over holes, but this is not a problem with a leaning sidecar.

At KP Cyclery, we’ve specifically designed our leaning sidecar bike to match the demand springing up for more efficient, effective bikes. With more and more households choosing not to have a car, it makes sense to enable your bike to carry goods such as groceries home easily. You’re sure to be impressed with how much weight it can cope with – in testing, we even managed to fit an armchair onto it!

Sidecar Bicycle by KP Cyclery from above
Our version of the leaning sidecar

Stylish and functional, this bike makes a great choice for those who want to cut through urban congestion with ease, and carry goods around safe in the knowledge that they are still doing their bit for the environment. The only constraint on what you can ferry around is your imagination, so you’re sure to find that it adapts to your particular needs perfectly. If you have good balance, and hang on tight, you can even fit a person on it, so it really is suitable for everyone. We look forward to seeing what you can do with yours!

**Rasmus K, if you’re reading this and haven’t checked you inbox, then do so, you just won a set of magnetic lights.

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5 impressive Sidecar hauls

Ever since we finished the 1st Sidecar Bike prototype in mid-November 2015, we’ve been throwing everything at it to test its limits. Here are 5 different loads we’re most impressed about.

Sidevogn Cykel i Odense Havn

5. Groceries – perhaps it’s not as impressive as the rest, but it rightfully deserves a place in the list. You can probably relate to this one if you’re like 44% of Danish households and don’t have a car. The weekly grocery run can be quite annoying if non-motorized, especially if you end up buying something larger you didn’t plan. Carrying it on handlebars can be hassle, but throw it on a Sidecar and you’re not even thinking about it.

4. Ice hockey gear – us, hockey players, are known for having a crap-ton of armor. Without a car, it’s almost impossible to transport. But luckily a sidecar can easily handle one large bag, just make sure to strap it properly.

Sidecar Bike transporting ice hockey gear

3. Two sidecars – or rather the material for 2 more sidecars. I must say I was a bit nervous about loading the 2,7 meter long steel pipes and wooden planks on the Sidecar Bike. But the 4 km ride turned out to be smooth as a baby’s behind.

2. Six frame sets – instead of taking the van, I thought of seeing how well the Sidecar Bike can handle a longer ride – 14,5 km one way to be precise. The climbs were a bit slow, and I admit that I got a bit pissed after chasing a group of roadies for a few kilometers without being able to catch them..

Sidecar Bike taking 6 bicycle frames to Otterup

1. My lovely fiancée – this one was more for fun than anything, but it does work. You can see her filming the ride on the following video:

From heavy to super long to super high, our Sidecar Bike has not fallen short with any cargo we’ve thrown at it. It has been far more valuable and versatile than we first imagined. As we produce all Sidecar Bikes in-house, it can be customized for practically any special cargo, but what would you use it for?

Our Sidecar Bike: http://kpcyclery.com/product/the-sidecar-bike-by-kp-cykler/

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Sidecar Bike – How does it work?

A sidecar bike is a great way of extending the capabilities of your bicycle. By having a sidecar, you can easily transport cargo that is simply too large for panniers and racks. But have you ever wondered how a sidecar bike works? It seems like a miracle that it is able to stay attached without causing the bike to tip over. However, there are two simple methods which are used to keep everything balanced- sidecar lead, and toe-in. In this article, we’ll explain just how a sidecar bike works, so you won’t be left wondering anymore.

KP Cykler sidecar bike

The “sidecar lead” refers to the horizontal distance between the rear wheel of the bike, and the rear wheel of the sidecar. The greater this distance, the less of a risk there is of the bike and sidecar tipping over. However, a bigger sidecar lead will also cause the sidecar’s tires to wear out more quickly, so it’s important to get the sidecar lead just right.

KP Cykler Sidecar Bike Lead

The other way that a sidecar bike stays balanced is known as “toe in”. The weight of the sidecar means that the bike will be constantly pulled towards it- something that could pose a big problem if it isn’t dealt with. To counteract this, the sidecar will typically be tilted slightly towards the bike itself. The bigger the sidecar, the more toe in is required, both due to the increased weight and because of the wind resistance that could knock the bike off balance.

KP Cykler Sidecar Bike Toe In

As you can see, it requires a lot of skill to get the balance just right. We’ve worked hard to ensure that every measurement on our sidecar bikes is just right, so that you can be sure of a safe journey, every time.

Motorcycle sidecar setup: http://www.steves-workshop.co.uk/vehicles/bmw/sidecar/sidecaradjustment/sidecaradjustment.html

Our Sidecar Bike: http://kpcyclery.com/product/the-sidecar-bike-by-kp-cykler/