Not everyone is a bike expert. Some people can tell the difference between a dual-suspension and a hardtail or a road bike and a hybrid, while others are just getting back on two wheels for the first time in a decade and may be surprised to learn that bikes, along with their equipment and attachments, have changed.
There are more options than ever for bikes to suit whatever your needs are, one of which may be a cargo bike.
A cargo bike is simply what it sounds like – it carries cargo or freight. Whereas a typical bike is designed to just carry the rider, a cargo bike is designed to carry additional things.
What can I carry or do with a cargo bike?
For whatever reason we chose to opt for a bike over a vehicle, it needs to fit our lifestyle. That may mean accommodating the children in our lives who need to get to school, go to soccer practice, or be dropped off at daycare.
You may just want to take your little ones for a stroll to the park before they get old enough to ride their own bikes. These kinds of cargo bikes make for a great way for parents to bond with their children as they navigate and observe the world around them.
Everyday tasks might seem daunting if you only have a bike to get them done with, but cargo bikes can help with these errands. It can feel less like a chore and more like a fun outing as you get items ticked off on your to-do list. Cargo bikes are great if you need to transport things like:
- Bags of groceries from the store
- Boxes of goods to a friend’s house
- Firewood to a bonfire party
- Your furry four-legged friend after a long day of chasing balls
- Your latest treasure you found on a nature trail
- Furniture! This may seem impossible, but cyclists from Portland managed to move most of a house using bikes.
When your job requires you to zip around, a cargo bike may be a suitable option. They can be used to deliver all sorts of business equipment and materials, including tools, building supplies, newspapers, and other work-related cargo.
You can even turn your cargo bike into a lemonade stand! If you want to provide top-notch service, advertise your business, and eliminate expensive fuel bills while avoiding traffic jams and parking tickets, there’s likely a cargo bike out there that can help you do just that.
Types of cargo bikes
By now you have probably realized that cargo bikes can help you move a lot more than you first thought. However, you’ll need the right kind of cargo bike for the right job. There are different types of cargo bikes to consider if you want to move quickly, efficiently, and safely.
With two wheels at the rear instead of just the one, tricycle style cargo bikes are very versatile. They can be used to carry passengers much like the pedicab or cycle rickshaw that are popular in Asian countries but are also used to carry freight.
The frames of these bikes are built sturdy so they can carry heavier loads or multiple passengers. These make for an excellent alternative to walking and with the potential bonus addition of a knowledgeable guide at the helm.
Longtails are cargo bikes designed in a way just like how they sound. The rear of these bikes have extended frames to allow for racks or frames to carry goods or passengers, more than traditional panniers or bike bags can carry. They are essentially longer bikes and can be great if you are transitioning to using a cargo bike for the first time.
Whereas a Longtail bicycle is longer in the back, Long John’s are longer in the front. Sometimes called cycle trucks, front loaders, and more traditionally as “box bikes” these cargo bikes hold their cargo in front of the bike, usually with a long platform, basket or box located low in front of the handlebars.
This style of cargo bike is well suited for carrying freight, young children, or whatever goods that can fit on the front.
This is just a few examples of cargo bikes and their designs. There are many different types and styles, sometimes borrowing elements from other cargo bikes making an abundance of options to choose from:
- Butcher’s or baker’s bikes store cargo in a two-wheeled box frame mounted on the front frame of the bike
- Donkey bikes carry loads in both the front and back of the bike.
- There are even bikes with four wheels instead of two or three!
Cargo bike accessories
Bikes are an incredibly adaptable piece of technology and cargo bikes are no exception. Different versions can be found across the world, usually designed to fit the needs of a particular geography or culture.
Cargo bikes continue to evolve and are always being adapted for different needs.
- Bikes still require pedaling, but electric motors make this chore a little easier. The Yuba Spicy Curry is just one example of a motorized cargo bike capable of making your bike life easier, but with less strain on your legs.
- No one likes biking in the rain, so it’s nice when you can prepare for the weather. Rain covers help ensure your ride is a dry one.
- If you don’t have enough money to buy a cargo bike, you may be able to build one. Instructables.com has a great article on how to build your own cargo bike.
Cargo bike history
Cargo bikes are used around the world, but their origin appears to have begun in England around 1877. English inventor James Starley helped turn the traditional bike into a more box bike design that helped moved goods through urban centers although they were also used in rural areas to transport farm goods.
Cargo bikes grew popular in European countries, particularly the Dutch-named “bakfiets” when they became critical to merchants, craftsmen, and factory workers. Today, they are a normal sight in European culture, especially the Netherlands.
Although cargo bikes would eventually be replaced and overshadowed by the convenience of the rising automobile, their reliability has brought about their resurrection in both applicability and redesigns. There is even a cargo bike festival that celebrates the brilliant machine.
When a regular bike won’t cut it, perhaps a cargo bike may be what you’re looking for. Today, they can be used as an environmentally-friendly alternative to automobiles while still enabling you to live a functional life.
These innovative machines may be built with two wheels or three, or perhaps they store cargo in the front instead of the back cargo, but there is likely a cargo bike out there for you that is capable of moving practically anything you can think of.
Find a cargo bike today that suits your lifestyle and enjoy a pleasant ride while you spend time with your family, get some work done, and connect with your community.