January 2013
A Guide to Cargo Bikes at Mother Earth News

A Guide to Cargo Bikes at Mother Earth News

Car-free living is even more possible with the right bicycles designed to haul everything from groceries to children.
In this excerpt from On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life (New World Library, 2012), Finley Fagan explains the different kinds of cargo bikes and their benefits.

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Taste cargo cycling, cheap and easy
For those wanting to get a taste of cargo cycling, a cheap and easy way to start is to make a regular bike more cargo-friendly with any combination of racks, bags, child seats and baskets. Play around and see what your bike is capable of carrying and what errands it can conquer. People in the developing world have been mastering this skill for decades.
Read More: Learn about transporting cargo without a specifically modified cargo bike, or increasing your carrying capacity with panniers, bags and weigh distribution in Shopping by Bike: Tips and Tricks for the Commuter Cyclist.

Bakfiets: a new English word

Perhaps the most iconic image of cargo cycling is a parent riding a two-wheeled bakfiets laden with children (bakfiets is a generic term for any “box bike,” whereas Bakfiets is a popular Dutch bike company).

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Handling becomes second nature
If you feel the desire to increase your cargo capacity with a heavy-duty cargo bike or trike, the good news is that handling becomes second nature after a brief adjustment period. The extra weight makes for slower starts and slower stops, but riding is not difficult on flat terrain once you have built up momentum. For hillier terrain, consider stronger brakes and lower gearing, and choose between an electric assist and an extra-buff pair of legs. On your wheels, fatter tires, beefier rims, and more spokes will help cushion loads. Keeping your load low and balancing it on both sides will enhance stability.
Nowadays there is a cargo-hauling option for almost every kind of terrain, use and budget. So, what’s your cargo beast of choice? Here are some of the options.

European models from Bakfiets, WorkCycles, Monark, and Bullitt are available in North America, along with a growing range of locally designed bakfiets that address the demand for lower price tags, lower bike weight, or lower gearing for hilly terrain. These include a nimble cargo bike from Bilenky, the Cetma Cargo bike, Joe Bike’s Shuttlebug, CAT’s Long Haul, the super-stylish Metrofiets, and Tom’s Cargo Bikes, with their DIY hillbilly charm.

Read more about Longtails, Cargo Tricycles & more:

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life, edited by Amy Walker and published by New World Library, 2012.

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Book Cover Courtesy New World Library

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