Sunday, September 23, 2012

Long Tail Tales

While I neither own a cargo bike nor intend to own one any time soon, I love the the idea of them and like to live vicariously through those who have them by asking about their experiences. The cargo bike owners/shoppers I talk to are mostly North Americans and I notice that overall they are opting for long-tail bicycles over front-load box bikes. In large part this is because these cyclists tend to live in hilly, bike-unfriendly suburbs that do not lend themselves to the comfortable but unwieldy box bikes. Long-tails, on the other hand, are said to handle with the maneuverability and responsiveness of regular bikes, while allowing room for extra cargo in the extended rear. At Interbike this year there were long tails from all manner of manufacturers, roughly half of them, it seemed, touting electric assist. But rather than feature every random concoction, I will focus on some trusted manufacturers that have come out with updates and new designs.

Yuba Boda Cargo Cruiser
Yuba had its new "midtail cruiser" on display, the Boda Boda. Named after African bicycle taxis, this model was created in response to requests for a slightly shorter wheelbase and a lower stepover. Featuring 26" wheels, fat tires, swept-back handlebars and derailleur gearing, the aluminum-frame bike weighs 35lbs, is rated to carry over 200lb, and retails for $1,000.

Yuba Boda Cargo Cruiser
The Boda Boda is described as comfortable, in that it "rides like a European townie bike – upright and casual," yet "will get you there and back, even in hilly San Francisco." Studying this bike I admit skepticism regarding that last part, but I am willing to keep an open mind and will gladly test ride a Boda Boda if the opportunity presents itself. As I stood next to the bike, a couple of women came along and talked at length about how delighted they were with the lower step-over; the bike looked friendlier and more accessible, they said.

Yuba Mundo
The original Mundo model was on display as well, fitted with Yuba's frame-mounted Bread Platform front rack (rated for 40-50lb). Though I rode a Yuba Mundo a couple of years ago, the short ride did not leave me with an impression I can now recollect, so I would like to try again. Owners overall seem very pleased with this bike and describe the handling as speedy.

Yuba Mundo with Full-Size Suitcase and Rok Straps
Between the Mundo, the Boda Boda and the various accessories available with the bikes, Yuba offers a range of choices at comparatively reasonable prices. I loved seeing this enormous suitcase strapped to the side of a Mundo with the help of Rok Straps. Who says you have to compromise on luggage when traveling by bike?

Xtracycle with Side Car
Xtracycle, the company that originally introduced the long tail concept, exhibited a range of bikes and accessories that practically turned their booth into theme park. Xtracycle makes two main categories of products: the Free Radical, which is a bike extender kit that can turn almost any normal bike into a long tail, and the Radish, which is its own line of integrated longtail bikes. The big news at Interbike was that Xtracycle will now be releasing a new bicycle model to supplement the Radish line - the EdgeRunner. This bike will have a mixte-ish, unisex frame and you can see most of it up there on the shelf in bright blue. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball on this one and have no decent pictures that show the entire bike. Mea culpa, and I hope you can imagine the last, long tail bit of it...

Xtracycle with Side Car
...which looks just like this. This is a taupe version of the same model, and yes I only have pictures of the rear! What you see attached to the bike is Xtracycle's new folding side car accessory. 

Xtracycle with Side Car
The cargo platform is fairly light, easy to install (onto an existing Xtracycle system), is rated to carry 200lbs of weight, and folds up when not in use. It looks very cool, though I do wonder how the bike handles on turns with the sidecar addition. Unlike most sidecars, this one pivots - but I imagine not so much when loaded with 200lb.

Xtracycle with Rear Box
There were other prototype add-ons on display, like this slatted rear box that can be used for both cargo and small passenger transport. And yes, this is yet another incomplete shot of the new Xtracycles bike - this time in a gunmetal finish.

Xtracycle Radish
Also on display was a spruced up step-through Radish (there used to also be a diamond frame version, but I think they've done away with it?), in a new sunflower-yellow colour with matching stem. The steel Xtracyces are heavier that the Yuba bikes (40lb for the Radish), but are rated to carry more weight (350lb).

Xtracycle Radish
This yellow Radish was fitted with a prototype Party Deck platform that includes built-in speakers and a beer keg stand.

Xtracycle Radish
It's funny to observe how aesthetics can affect a bike's curb appeal. The yellow Radish is much more striking than the original beige/brown version and people flocked to it. 

Xtracycle Radish
Visitors took turns hopping in the saddle, and I confess to riding it down the back hallway until a security guard gave me a look. I'd been wanting to try a Radish for some time, but the local bike shops do not carry them - so I talked to the Xtracycle fellows and they'll try to work something out. Based on my brief exposure to it, I really like this bike and would love to try it out on the road. Maybe even with a sidecar...

Tern Xtracycle Cargo Joe
But the pièce de résistance of the long tail displays at Interbike was the collaboration between Xtracycles and Tern. Yes, that is a folding long tail you are looking at: the Tern Joe with an Xtracycle Free Radical rear extension. And yes, I rode it very briefly - but I can't really get a sense of a bike like this within the confines of a trade show. I am hoping a proper test ride will be possible in the near future.

Tern Xtracycle Cargo Joe
The result of the Xtracycles and Tern collaboration is the Cargo Joe: a 26" wheel folding longtail with an aluminum frame, hi-ten steel fork, and derailleur gearing, available in 3 sizes. Here is a blog post from Xtracycles showing it loaded up with a bunch of weight.

Tern Xtracycle Cargo Joe
The simple fold takes about 30 seconds, with the frame unhinging in the middle.

Tern Xtracycle Cargo Joe
The folding bike then rests on the floor via a kickstand-type contraption under the bottom bracket. 

Tern Xtracycle Cargo Joe
The retail price $1,000 for everything shown here, including the waterproof bags. Adding fenders and lights will increase the cost, but even with that taken into account it seems like a great value. As an owner of a Brompton that I often use as a mini-cargo bike, I can attest that having a bike that hauls weight and stows away compactly is invaluable for someone who lives in a small space, eliminating the problem of storing an enormous cargo bike. And while the Cargo Joe's fold is not minuscule, it nonetheless allows for easy storage, as well as for being taken on trains and in cars.  The possibilities are pretty amazing, especially for those who do not own a car. 

Yuba Mundo
As far as overall trends for long tail cargo bikes, the main ones I noticed were lower step-over heights and a move toward greater compactness. If this reflects the nature of the customers who are buying the bikes, my guess is that there has been demand from more women, more apartment dwellers, and more multi-modal commuters. I am excited by the possibilities I am seeing with these bikes, and look forward to following the development of long tail designs in the years ahead.

62 comments:

  1. I am a Bullitt man myself: http://www.larryvsharry.com/english/. I am also a man who has never met a pannier that he has liked.

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  2. I love to hear from those who use long tail cargo bikes. What do they use them for, what kind of terrain, any issues with gearing--anything they'd like to share would be appreciated. The prices seem very reasonable.

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    1. All terrain, off road, single track, curb hopping, jumps. If these guys can do this ride one can certainly ride it around town: http://www.ridingthespine.com/gear/xtracycle.html

      I ride it as a car replacement (though I have 3 -- long story) over all terrain including SF.

      I think my lowest gear is 26x27 but lot of people have much lower because it can't hurt.

      The ride of these and the seating position is extremely comfy with a ton more set-up options than a normal wheelbase bike permits. Sitting bolt upright w/a short stem long bars or hunching a bit, both work.

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    2. Ditto GRJ, other coast. I ride mine to work 2 or more times per week, ten miles one way unless I take the shortcut over the hill (300 foot climb, short stretch at 10%). For short trips, I use it like a car; it can carry a passenger, it can carry lumber, it can carry groceries. It has carried a shrubbery, firewood, and 4 8-foot 4x4s (though not all three simultaneously). It especially handy for places that lack parking, like Cambridge and Somerville.

      Gear choices, it's nice to have a low gear or three. I use an IGH, but that's not required, just nice. My low gear is 20 gear-inches, my highest is 105 (actual gears are slightly higher because of very fat tires). I use the highest gear much more often than the lowest gear, but it's nice to have it when you need it.

      Notes on V's report where it may be unclear: the Yuba Mundo (not the Boda Boda, but "a Yuba bike") seems to have the highest load rating among longtails. You have to be careful when comparing "load ratings" on these bikes; some include the rider, some do not. And the Radish is not entirely "integrated"; it's a weird short frame plus a FreeRadical extension.

      I think the popularity of longtails may be a result of cost; they're cheaper than the box bikes. I know people who own both, and for around-town-errands (especially with kids) they're easier. I've also met a guy with a bakfiets who rides his over the same hill I do. However, I also understand that no-hands is simply not an option with a box-bike, where it may even be easier on a longtail. The long rear end seems to make everything happen a little slower, which allows you to pretend that you are more skilled than you really are -- better track stands, better slides, better no-hands. But bunny hops are much harder.

      As far as maximum load goes, that depends. You need to have tires that are rated for that kind of weight, and you may yourself need to be large enough to act as a counterweight. Some loads (shrubberies, for instance) are just plain off center on a long tail (a flat bed or box bike would win big here) and you have to get comfortable with riding your bike out of plumb. Long loads (8-foot hunks of wood, kayaks) work better on a longtail than a box bike (I think) but you have to be willing to deal with weird oscillations. My worst-case-ever load was just a couple of weeks ago -- 160lbs of lumber and 110lbs of passenger (riding side-saddle, as a counterweight to the lumber, because like an idiot I forgot to install the left-side wideloader). Cargo weight was 270, cargo+rider was 490, gross vehicle weight was 550.

      The EdgeRunner looks a lot like a cross between Xtravois 1.0 (http://clevercycles.com/bike/xt/xtravois.html) and Xtravois 2.0 (http://clevercycles.com/blog/2011/09/22/xtravois-2-0-our-oregon-manifest-bike/)

      The EdgeRunner looks fun. So does the sidecar. I would worry most about braking with a heavy load; it would torque the bike somewhat.

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    3. Thanks for the replies. The Tern looks nice and I'm now wondering how many variation on the rear cargo racks there are, or is it simply left to ones creativity?

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    4. @anon - the "longtail standard" allows a certain amount of customization and creativity, but the constraints of folding might limit you a little. A wideloader would get in the way of a fold, for example.

      The thing I'd like to know about the LongTerm is how much it flexes.

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    5. There are more and more variations now but Xtracycle pioneered it in the states. They have an open-source platform, meaning it's usable by anyone. What sets it apart is it's accessories, illustrated above.

      Basically there is a standard rack that fits most "normal" bikes, Xtracycle-type and ground-up designed long tails.

      The Xtracycle add-on is called the Free Radical and is best applied to 26" mountain bike-type frames, of which the Tern Joe may be considered a folding variant.

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  3. Ah yes, way better.

    The Boda reps a newish category called mid tails; the Kona MiniUte has been out awhile.

    I rode it, very nice ride quality despite being alu (yeah I'm looking at you Globe), feeling mellow like steel. It's pretty light and more efficient than, say, a Public. Hey you don't know our SF infra -- most bike transpo corridors are flattish. Google the Wiggle. This thing climbs way better than the Mundo and I rode it despite it looking like a teenage girl's beach cruiser. Hey look a welded to frame rear rack! Who'd want that? The high rear rack to include e-assist is unfortunate for kid-hauling but for the rider with just one this is a pretty good deal without going Mundo overkill which, btw, handles flats just fine.

    So when you lean a bike with a side car that has a pivot the load stays right there and the bike PIVOTS like normal. Shocking! There's a vid somewhere of this Xtra device. Anyway it's genius.

    The diamond Radish was v1.0, gone. The yellow gives the bike a lot more personality and hence reflects a different vibe than Xtra's utilitarian non-cute past.

    I rode the EdgeRunner. Awesome.

    I did not ride the Tern, but as mentioned before talked to a guy who owned one. He asked if I wanted to see it fold so I said sure. We pulled over and before I could get my bike on the stand it was folded, I'd say 10+ seconds. Totally rad. $1k is a screaming deal.

    Someone should attach a FreeRad to a Brommie...

    BTW this foldocollabo is just plug and play. You can attach the thing to so many bikes and not:

    a) look like a bike dork
    b) wear normal clothes
    c) stink to high heaven

    There are a kajillion of these things in pdx and around here; tying together some loose threads infra is exploding and, as such, so are cargo bikes being ridden by "average" people.

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  4. oh btw the Yuba front rack is called a Bread Basket, not that it matters. What does is that it's a FRAME MOUNTED rack, defining carrying-capacity integration of a different sort.

    That is all.

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    1. I thought it was Bread Basket too, but in fact it is the Bread Platform. Here is a bike shop lamenting about this.

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    2. The Bread Platform was for v.1-3 of the Mundo, unavail here in the states as far as I could tell.

      The Bread Basket fits v4.0 and is here: http://yubaride.com/yubashop/product.php?id_product=70

      Dunno about that Joe Bike guy.

      Oh yeah I rode a Mundo a few times with one, works great. Of course.

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  5. i find the boda to be interesting because it built out of lighter aluminum tubing. one of my major reservations about long/mid-tails is that they are almost always built out of cheap, heavy, steal tubing. nevertheless, a 15-20 mile round trip with 1000-1500 foot of elevation gain on a fully loaded boda boda would still be painful. that overly relaxed geometry would kill me!

    i converted my 90s era mtb (triple butted tange with xt dt) to a grocery hauler by adding a rack and fenders for $50. as it stands my 90s era mtb conversion weighs in at 30 lbs and is faster and a better climber than any commercially available long/mid-tail.

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    1. I think you're mistaken about the longtails and steel. I read "cheap, heavy" to mean "hi-ten". A Big Dummy is made of CrMo, and the main triangle is double-butted. Yuba and Madsen are hi-ten, but that's nowhere near "almost all".

      And Googling for info, what do I find, but REI, offering a Madsen: http://www.rei.com/product/840060/madsen-bucket-cargo-bike-2013 . Holy bleep, when did that happen? And what a coup for Madsen.

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  6. Maybe Chicago is more convenient than other cities. Going on 8 years now without a car and I have never needed cargo space than what I can fit atop (and on either side) of my Pass Stow rack.

    If I ever bought a cargo bike, my preference are the cycle trucks such as this made by Ahearne:

    http://www.ahearnecycles.com/cycle-truck-info/

    Of course I have only ever ridden one long tail - the Surly Big Idiot. Did not like the ride and handling of that thing. Possibly one of these small shop creations would win me over.

    Skeptical though. Cycle trucks are so simple. Plus, extra long chains just seem like a breakdown waiting to happen.

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    1. I'm not sure that you really understand how things fail, if you think that extra long-chain is especially prone to failure.

      Because it is long, the angle that it makes to cogs and chain rings is reduced, and that is good for reliability, not bad. Because it is longer (by about 50%), each link makes 33% fewer trips around the chainrings, cogs, etc, which wears them out more slowly. You *do* get more overall stretch as the chain ages (50% more) but that is not usually what makes a chain unusable if you have a tensioner; rather, it is the wear per link.

      I'm curious what makes the Big Dummy's ride/handling unpleasant to you, since most people who've tried mine like it, and I like it a lot myself (and I've used many bikes over the years).

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    2. Matthew - Don't dismiss all long tails based on not liking the Big Dummy. I've tried one some time ago and found it sluggish. But then I've tried other bikes with the Free Radical attachment, as well as a Yuba Mundo and a Maderna, and those rode completely differently. Visually I dislike them all equally, so I feel I am pretty neutral here. I hear the Xtracycles house brand is pretty zippy and can't wait to give it a proper try.

      dr2chase - As far as the Big Dummy, the feedback I hear is 50/50. Maybe it's a simple matter of just being overbuilt for some.

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    3. Look, it really doesn't matter to me if a person likes or doesn't like a bike based upon a 5 minute test ride or whatever, but there's something to be said for working with the bike and learning to ride it in a different fashion, something I always harp on but seems to fall on deaf ears constantly, as illustrated by the comments here. Yeah the 5 minute expert viewpoint.

      You dislike the way longtails look? I suppose you're the kind of person who would come around to it if you, y'know, rode and lived with one for awhile. Like with your 7 and Brompton. Why even go there again regarding aesthetics -- you wrote something about the aesthetics of utility or something.

      Jan, I guess I have to repeat myself: the thing PIVOTS!

      The chain breaking comment is silly; guys ride paper thin 11 speed chains through the Giro, Vuelta, Tour or whatever putting way more stress on it than you can imagine.

      Anyway if you're worried about a chain breaking on a proven design I think you're grasping at straws.

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    4. Oh sure I'd ride them and use them if I needed one of them. But I still have an opinion on the way a bike looks. I don't dislike how all long tails look as a category, just those I named. I like the looks of the Xtracycles. I like the Brompton too, I just think that I look silly on it. The Seven I'm neutral about.

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    5. @V - I'm willing to believe overbuilt for some, but from my POV that's better than underbuilt for me.

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    6. Dr Chase: My concerns about the long chain have more to do with things getting caught in there and mucking it up. The only time I had a chain fail a piece of wood (or metal, it was dark) got caught in the chain and pulled the chain apart when the debris went through the cog. I suppose there may be some great physical principle to the contrary, but seems to me the longer the chain the more opportunity for debris to get caught in such chain.

      I borrowed the LBS Big Dummy for about a week when I was doing some work on my apartment, so I have some degree of experience with it. My issue with the Big Dummy is similar to my issue with the Long Haul Trucker: Surly uses something close to plumbing pipe on those bikes to assure they meet every possible rider's needs. The Workman Cycle truck I rode seemed more lively.

      To V's point, it could well be that were I to try some of the small shop long tail built more for my needs I would be more keen about them.

      Nonetheless, I've heard great things about Ahearne's cycle truck. Ahearne is committed to bike only lifestyle, so if I were going that route it would be hard to pass up the opportunity to buy from him.

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    7. i get lazy, a few weeks on a sub 10kg racer and my brompton feels elephantine, like walking through mud, i know it's unfair to compare, and i do use the brompton for some ginormous serious way beyond design parameter cargo work, but somehow the idea of buying a heavy cargo bike just doesn't seem like fun

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    8. @Matthew J - in all my methods of bike destruction, I have never managed to accomplish debris-in-chain, so it never occurred to me. I did break a chain once with a bad shift and too much torque, so I do carry a chain tool and a few spare links, just in case. The chains DO wiggle a lot, but mine always seemed to stay out of the dirt.

      There are some options for the care and feeding of longtail chains if you're concerned about droop; right now, I use a strong (Rohloff) tensioner to keep it from flopping around, and I did once look into some Terracycle idlers, but they did not work well with the chain case, and also were a little noisy.

      I still think you're reaching a little bit to hate on longtails or Surly, not sure why. You've had one chain failure from debris. I've exactly had one chain failure in a lifetime of riding. I've had many more flats, dented a few rims on potholes, and twice I have even torn my handlebars in half. Two or three times I have had a brake cable failure. I've had a couple of pedals fail mid-ride. Chain failure is NOT common case, even on a longtail. It is not one of the things that their owners talk about. Bitching about unloading the bike to flip it over and fix a flat, that, they talk about.

      I also don't quite get the "plumbing tubing" remark -- in the hierarchy of tubing, I thought that 4130 CrMo delivered quite good bang-for-buck (Grant Petersen agrees, and I thought he was THE alpha curmudgeon), and the main triangle is even double-butted. The tubing could not be smaller; the bike does get wiggly with large loads. Yes, there's better tubing, but the improvements beyond CrMo are marginal.

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    9. i'm a hater! ;) Did not mean to be that hard on them.

      I personally think for most cyclists a well sorted truck is the better freight option. The size of the long tails, the weight, the long chain, etc. make them more a proposition than many cyclists, especially those who work and shop in densely popluated urban areas need. As I concede elsewhere in this thread, in the more sprawling West Coast population centers long tails appear to be viable.

      My current bikes - as well as all the bikes I've owned since '06 are customs with light tubing to match my fairly wispy build. I sold my Riv after getting my first custom because I felt the ride was a bit numb for my liking.

      Nothing against Surly or their owners. But they are not for me.

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    10. Well as a longtail Surly BD rider in the midwest who hauls his kid to school, continues on to work, and catches roadies I can say your assumptions are way off base. First time I rode a BD I felt it was tandem-like. Now I'm used to it and can swoop around obstacles no problem. No it isn't my only bike but it has more miles than my others, including the fast roadbikes. It is fun, practical and strong, and expands my options for carfree days.

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  7. I rode the sidecar at the Oregon Manifest that seems to have inspired the Xtracycle. The problem when you put a heavy load on the sidecar is simple: The hinge is on one chainstay, so the load pushes the bike down on that side, and you ride lopsided. Add to that the one-sided drag of the sidecar and the extra width in traffic, and it doesn't seem like a brilliant idea. However, I am sure it will draw a lot of attention when you pull up at the grocery store and unfold the trailer...

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    1. The crucial question is how close to the centerline of the bike that hinge is, and where the load is. Carrying lumber with a longloader puts the cargo center of mass about 18 inches out and some distance up. Speaking from experience, 225lbs of torque is unpleasant, but I rode a couple of miles like that before adding my human counterweight.

      Eyeballing the sidecar suggests it should do better; the hinge is maybe 9 inches from the centerline, so if the weight is loaded in the middle of the side car, only one quarter of the torque compared to the same load with long-loaders (since the weight is shared equally between sidecar wheel and hinge).

      I am pretty sure that having the hinge very low (unlike the manifest design) is also important. I don't think you can generalize from one data point here; for example, I've used trailers that attached at the rear axle, and one trailer that attached at the seat post. Axle attachment was just fine, seat post attachment was pretty awful.

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  8. Here is what I'd like to understand about the Xtracycles sidecar: Will it still pivot if loaded with, say, a stack of large boxes, or will the shape&weight of the cargo prevent it from pivoting? I am trying to picture how this would work, with large boxes against the side of the bike.

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    1. Do I hafta do all the heavy lifting around here?

      I can't find the video because it's hard to find. Ross flips it up without releasing a detent.

      Of course something obstructing a pivot would obstruct the lean a bit. It's called working with the load.

      Don't make R turns fast, you can go faster if the load is heavy and the boxes permit. Lean off the R of the bike if necessary. It's moto riding w/ or w/o sidecar 101.

      Big tv to the recycling? Not a problem.

      Boxes full of packing material? Ride different.

      But...I can't see widespread usage of the sidecar in that the wide loaders can handle much of the same capacity. It's not a bakfiets but a helpful accessory.

      I didn't understand your aesthetics comment but oh well.

      4,3,2 and 1...you're going to change your mind about "fiddly"* Xtra straps.

      *circa whenever in the past.

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    2. I think even a little pivot would greatly improve the turn into the sidecar side, and I imagine you can lean a great deal on opposite turns, cornering like a boss ;)

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    3. @V - I'd have to ride one and play with it to say for sure, but I'm sure "it depends". My guesses include that you would leave room for tilting the bike when loading boxes, and that if you were loading so many boxes that this was an unavoidable issue, that you are *probably* not going faster than 15mph, and *probably* not bombing around turns. And ultimately, you don't actually need to tilt the bike to turn; you could put yourself off-center instead, though that does put some side-load on your wheels -- in just the same way that I side-load my wheels riding off-axis with a shrubbery or poorly-loaded lumber. And it's a cargo bike, so you are supposed to be running a sturdy set of wheels (yet another reason you might want an IGH instead of a derailer on one of these bikes).

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    4. They should really design the sidecar pivot to be at the bike's frame centerline. i.e., one pivot in front of the rear wheel, and the other pivot behind it (as opposed to having the pivots slightly to the left of the wheel). That would eliminate the torque applied onto the bike by the sidecar.

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  9. Thank you for the report. The new Xtracycle EdgeRunner looks great - a much needed update to Radish. The frame looks like more ready for cargo right now. Xtracycle has some pictures of this bike on their blog and it looks like an electric assist fits there nicely as well.

    Since you didn't take a complete picture of the bike, at first I didn't realize that the rear wheel on EdgeRunner is smaller than the front one - just like on Madsen.

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    1. Here's the deal: the Radish is great as a light-duty hauler and is indeed zippy because it has a light cromo frame with non-burly components.

      The EdgeRunner is purpose-built to loads low on the top platform; if you can read between the lines that applies specifically to kids. Simply put even caning it out of the saddle in a full sprint without a load throwing the bike around the back end just disappears.

      There's an entire hierarchy of longtail weight capacities and loading preferences already, so to be fair each are good at different things. If I live at the top of a 1000 ft. hill and my kid's school was at the bottom and I didn't have to ride with it/her/him up it I'd get a Radish. Horses for courses.

      REI, based in Seattle, getting Madsen is pretty huge.

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  10. Argh. Found it.

    Okay someone tell me this is such a stupid design and a low trail bike is better for carrying a human: http://vimeo.com/41176761#

    Yeah the pivot looks like a problem.

    Got a dog? It leans.

    Got a box? Are you smarter than the box?

    The thing costs as much as a night in a passable hotel and people are naysaying it. Jeez.

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    1. Not naysaying.

      If one needs to carry a person around on their bike (usually the people I go around with have their own ...) or, more likely regularly carry a lot of big things about, sure it seems a handy option.

      But then factor in considerations such as the size and weight of the bike. For instance, I live on the third floor of a condominium building with no garage and a narrow strip of sidewalk fronting the street. I would have to rent a storage space to use it.

      Not surprisingly, most of these bikes are built on the West Coast, where, San Francisco duly excepted, the cities are more akin to what we call suburbs east of the Mississippi. If you have enough surplus space you can keep one of those things around for the one or two times per year you actually need it, and wider, more empty streets on which to ride it, probably are a good solution.

      On the other hand, those of us who live in more densely populated areas are more apt to turn to solutions developed for densely populated areas such as low trail bikes with porteur racks.

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  11. I ride a Yuba Mundo V.3 that was custom outfitted by the previous owner with dutch-style handlebars, a sprung brooks saddle, an 8-speed Shimano Alfine IGH, a dynamo lighting system, velocity rims, disk brakes, and Fat Frank tires. I wasn't crazy about the aesthetics of the Yuba, but with the Dutch Bars, white Fat Franks, and IGH, it has a cleaner, more European look than the Terminator-style look of the stock Yuba.

    The ride quality is comparable to my buddy's Velorbis - heavy, smooth, and with very low rolling resistance. Once I'm up to speed, I don't know how I'd stop it without the disk brakes. I carry two kids on the back (a 6yo on a Yuba seat pad and a 3yo in a Yepp Maxi seat that is awesome) along with groceries for a family of four. It is very stable once you're moving, although like any heavily loaded bike it can be intimidating immediately after stopping or before starting. I've also carried 300lbs of gravel in rubbermaid totes strapped to the sides - my understanding is the max cargo capacity is around 400lbs. Again, with the gravel it wasn't hard to ride once I got going.

    I'll second the opinion above that price factors into the popularity of the long tails when compared to the uber-elegance of a bakfiets. But for me it was also that a longtail handles more like a bike and I'm a bike-rider. I haven't ridden a bakfiets myself, but I've ridden a Bullit and a bunch of trikes and found them to handle like a different kind of beast than a bike. I'm sure I could've gotten used to them, but given that the used, cutom-outfitted Yuba with comparable bells/whistles was less than half their price and very comparable in ride-quality to a city bike, I went that direction.

    If I had the cash I would've liked to have gotten a Big Dummy because they handle a bit more like a touring bike (IMHO) than a city bike (like the Yuba) and therefore seem a bit zippier to me. But the Yuba can carry more stuff and seems more stable with the two kids. Plus it's actually pretty zippy with the Fat Franks which roll really nicely and are nearly indestructible (I pulled a shark-tooth sized piece of glass from my front tire and it never made it to the innertube). I'm just excited to see so much diversity in the burgeoning cargo-bike category. A great resource is http://chicargobike.blogspot.com -- super nice people as well! They own a bakfiets and a bunch of other amazing cargo bikes (including an Onderwater tandem).

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  12. I should also add that the aesthetics of the the Yuba (especially as mine is outfitted) have really grown on me. And the ride quality is really pretty great (again,this has a lot to do with my rims, tires, handlebars, and brakes). For the first three months I found myself riding it all the time - for short 1-2 mile rides and for my daily commute (which is 9 miles each way...and for which a 50+lb bike would normally seem ridiculous). But it rides really nicely - although not the lightest steel, the frame geometry and wheelbase just eat up the road shock on urban streets.

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  13. The edgerunner looks ridiculously fun. I've been riding a Big Dummy for a few years, if I were starting out now I'd definitely go for it. I may anyway in a year or two. There are too many niggles with the Dummy for me to be perfectly happy with it. It's partly front end geometry, I think it'd handle better with a mid-trail fork rather than the current one that is in the 60's with Big Apples. Geekhouse built a custom fork for my Cross Check to do the same thing an I love it, I may have them build a fork for the Beast in the spring.

    But by the time you add e-assist & some other goodies to a BD, you're well above what the Edgerunner is priced out at.

    E-assist, and a 20" rear wheel are very attractive with a 3 1/2 year old and a younger one on the way. I've tried front loaders and while I like the look and having the kids up front, the handling just feels wrong to me.

    The side car looks pretty cool and the price is nice, especially as it comes in right around where some front racks do.

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  14. Thank you so much for writing about this! I am currently looking for a midtail to ride with my nearly-three-year-old. I've been riding a Raleigh Robin Hood ('69) step-through frame with my son in a CoPilot Limo child seat. That seat only goes up to 40 lbs, though, and he's quickly getting too big for it. Plus, there is only so much I can fit in my front basket (a large Wald 137) without completely messing up the handling. As it is, I have a hard time on hills. In the mornings, I ride to preschool, drop him off, then ride to work. I'm awaiting the arrival of the Yuba Boda Boda to Ferris Wheels in JP. I test rode both the Workcycles Fr8 and the new Gr8. Both were smooth as butter on the flats and felt awesome with both kids (total weight: ~85 lbs) and a heavy pannier. But try even getting over a curb or up a hill and there was trouble. I also test rode a friend's Xtracycle and the Mundo a few months ago. The Xtra was OK but flexed under a lot of weight, and the Mundo had a high top tube that I found difficult to climb over with so much weight and height on the rear rack. I am hoping the Boda Boda works for me! If not, I may consider importing a Japanese "mama chari" -- they seem like incredible bikes. Though the cost of getting one to the US is crazy.

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  15. I wonder if there could ever be a Zipcar-like concept for long tail and cargo bikes, successfully (profitably) applied. Think of it as zipcargobike. The reason I wonder is that I would have a hard time, buying for myself, that is to say justifying the total cost of ownership given that the bike would sit idle for much of its life. It's not exactly a daily thing that I buy 100 lbs. of groceries or 200 lbs. of peat moss or what.

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    1. Bingo!

      Martina from Swift Industries is working on a bike rental for travelers project.

      Renting cargo bikes to people who at most need them a few times per year (off hand I would guess at least 90% of the people who ride bikes) would make an excellent side line.

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    2. For Germany and Austria there is a website that lets people list their cargo bikes and the conditions for renting them. They only started recently but I think it's a great idea. I'd never buy a cargo bike myself but I'd be happy to rent once every once in a while. Velologistics

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  16. With respect to the popularity of cargo bikes in North America, I think that a big problem preventing the widespread use of either longtail or front-loading cargo bike is the relative lack of high quality bicycle amenities in most cities here.

    With that out of the way, I feel that there is something missing from the analysis of the cargo bike market at the start of this post.

    Front-loading cargo bikes offer numerous benefits, but come with two major drawbacks: cost and cost. Front loading cargo bikes are huge, and do not ship well making the landed cost for the bikes quite high. This is passed on to the customer in very high retail prices.

    Rear loading cargo bikes can flat-pack and reduce significantly the shipping costs associated with front-loading bikes.

    I have ridden many, many, varieties of cargo bikes: Workcycles, Babboe City, Christiania, Nihola, TrioBike, XtraCycle Big Dummy, Xtracycle FreeRadical conversion, Yuba Mundo, Gazelle Cabby, as well as a couple of no-name chinese cargo bikes and trikes and a pedicab from Main Street Pedicabs in CO.

    Front loading bikes offer minimal amount of torsion (frame flexing and twisting) while pedaling hard under load. The cargo trikes I've ridden are always very stable at low speeds but are sluggish overall, and get pretty dangerous at high speeds if care is not taken when cornering.

    Rear loading cargo bikes can serve as long-distance hauling bikes with all sorts of drive train setups. This is great - until you start using the bikes. They require a DIY ethos to get stuff strapped on, steady, and rolling safely. You really can ride them almost like a normal bike - but the stock builds from both Yuba and XtraCycle all need some additions and modifications to really meet the heavy demands cargo riding with kids and to support a household requires.

    Two wheeled front-loading cargo bikes are my personal preference as they allow as much bike-like handling while under load. They are very unstable at low speed - making them a cyclists bike and not as easy to ride for novice bike riders. Overall, these appeal to all but the wildest eyed dads who insist on mountain bike gearing on their cargo bikes and who opt for the XtraCycle or Yuba. All other buyers, in my experience, prefer the cargo trike over most other options (unless terrain makes that not a viable option).

    Sorry to wax on so long here. I think that the load capacity and riding qualities of these bikes has little to do with their sales stats in North America. I think that long tails are the only (barely) profitable means of selling cargo bikes while the US Dollar rides high as the reserve currency of the world. Other styles of cargo bikes have a much wider mass market appeal - but only at significantly lower prices that widespread domestic production can provide (when our currency is cheap enough).

    Some day soon, the dollar will be weak enough and our cities and towns will be bike-friendly enough to make cargo bike riding a normal part of life here. Until then, long tails will eke out a living while the rest of the cargo bike universe slinks along in the Portlands and New Yorks (bike friendly, rich, cities) of this continent.

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    1. Just FYI, CETMA makes a shippable front-loading cargo bike. It comes apart in the middle. They also sell some nice-looking front racks.

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    2. Babboe does the same this year with their City. It comes in two bike boxes and a smaller flat box with the wood panels for the cargo box up front. As a result (and due to the slightly cheap specs on some of the Babboe components) the bike is $1,000 less than a Workcycles, Nihola, or Bullitt. It is still $2,500 - much less than a stock Yuba of Xtracycle conversion.

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  17. Ah, cargo bike by Extracyle feature in this WSJ video...

    http://live.wsj.com/video/a-field-guide-to-two-wheeled-friends/571A1789-E806-4E29-8880-D60F707EB9FF.html#!571A1789-E806-4E29-8880-D60F707EB9FF

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  18. I like the "Zipcargobike" idea! Although Zipcar has mocked transport cyclists in the past in their (tongue-in-cheek?) ad campaign, they are often present at bike events and certainly understand what it takes to run a rental fleet very well, including cargo vans. They are a local company to Boston area, as far as I understand. Perhaps if there is enough demand in Cambridge/Somerville, they would consider it.

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  19. Per usual, some interestingly strange comments from the peanut gallery.

    Just got back from a 27 mile errand ride...let's see: bunch of milk in the coolers, stayed there all day. Colder, in fact, than the store frigo.

    7lbs. tomatoes. Same deal.
    Peppers
    5lbs. squash
    2 six packs
    12 things of tofu...heavy!
    2lbs. coffee
    10lb dog

    Felt heavier before the load than later, but I ended up passing everyone on the road uphill into the wind so whatever.

    Let's see, cargo trike 27 miles with a 17% hill at the end...I don't think so.

    Cycle truck? No also.

    To each their own. I'd love to have an e-assist Xtracycle Truck, something Joseph Ahearne had fermented on awhile ago.

    Just saw all manner of poorly engineered big name racks but the strongest of which are probably the Giant ones you can't by because they're OEM on Vias or the BioLogic ones on Terns. The Tern Joe? Lot of bike for the $.

    Ah the WSJ continues its downward spiral with this fine piece of "journalism".

    Somervillain, the Xtracycle components are all modular around the Free Radical, so while ideally the centerline would be a good spot to pivot a sidecar it would get in the way of a primary load-bearing member. To do so would necessitate a complete redesign.

    Anyway there's a heavy duty FreeRad just out than has reportedly carried the planets Pluto (always a planet to me) and Mars but the rider complained of a lopsided load.

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    1. GRJ, I think the plan would be to locate the pivots on the centerline, but below the through-tubes. Right now it plugs in, doglegs down, sticks out a little, and then there is a hinge. Suppose it stuck inward a little towards the centerline? Main problem I see is consistently clearing the chain, but I think you could go under it. Would that still fit with a 20" wheel? Maybe not.

      I notice that the hinges right now are pretty low, and I am guessing that you don't want the side force interactions with the cart to be very high above the ground -- you don't want to be moving the cart much if you tilt, but whatever moving occurs, you want it to be your choice, not the cart's.

      Might be fun if the sidecar came with an e-assist. 17% grade loaded would be an awful lot of work.

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    2. I need to test ride this side car.

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    3. What you are overlooking is that most people who use bikes as primary transportation do not live anywhere that requires a 17 mile trip for any sort of supplies, let alone groceries.

      The beauty of shopping by bike in the city is it becomes so much easier to get away from the suburban WalMart and Aldi's stock up mentality. Shopping via bike makes every day or every other day stops to pick up a few staples from the store or Farmers Market in season wholly viable. Rather than keeping tofu and tomatoes for a week, you can eat freshly made or picked that day. So much better.

      Even for a family of four, Ahearne's cycle truck has more than enough cargo space for the urban lifestyle I, and many others, prefer.

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  20. When ZipCar was small I ran into a guy on a bike who worked for them. At the time the primary way they managed their far-flung fleet was by bike. When I suggested they might consider renting cargo bikes, as I was on mine, he said they'd been seriously considering it.

    I'm sure they grew too fast to include such a side track, but now established maybe they can revisit this.

    Oh yeah until then there are foldable cargo trailers that slide under a bed, perfect for a Brommie, or a Burly Travoy, which does the same.

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    1. Leaving aside issues of where to put the trailer when stopped at the shopping or pick up destination (not an easy feat when, say, the Farmers Market is in the only parking lot for blocks), if the under bed real estate is taken up by the trailer, where does one store all the treasures transported by said trailer?

      Long tails and trailers as daily solutions make sense where people have more real estate than urban cyclists east of the Mississippi. And as I say above, urban cyclists quickly find they don't need significant cargo capacity to live a healthy well supplied life style.

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  21. Well, if you had a family of four (two of which need to be carted around...on a cycle truck?) and judging from the size of the average American I'd say he'd EAT IT.

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  22. I know I sure dig my TREKstracyce (Xtracycle :p),lovely post!

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  23. Were you able to check out Worksman Cycles at Interbike? Extremely curious to hear your opinion on these budget Made in USA bikes.

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  24. Thanks so much for such a thorough and thoughtful post! We are excited to get a Radish in your hands for a near-term review. Below is some additional information to address questions posed by Constance, or missing information (like photos, etc.).

    EdgeRunner - full photo: http://twitter.com/totcycle/status/247814880156086272/photo/1

    Does SideCar handle okay in turns? With weight? - here's a pic of me (Nate) carrying our electric advisor (Michael Bock) on the Mobile Social ride in Vegas. Like any heavily loaded cargo bike - the first few seconds take a little getting used to, but then your body quickly learns how to compensate, and then thrive! Carrying Michael was an awesome demonstration of capacity and ride-ability under load:

    http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/150382_10152124762850514_1238707260_n.jpg

    Spruced Up Radish(es) - done by our customs tech, Cemil (pronounced Jameel) Hope. Not a new color. Just a custom one-off with all kinds of custom accessories. We offer customization services here: http://www.xtracycle.com/customs

    CargoJoe - the fold takes about 5 seconds if it's not your first time, and we strongly recommend the KickBack with the CargoJoe - makes folding easy and bike stands stout even when folded. Folks from Tern told me they could fit the folded CargoJoe in a Prius. Now that's sustainable!

    Thanks so much all! Here's to the future of LongTails in the bicycle industry! We so value your feedback and support. - Nate from Xtracycle.

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  25. This is for anyone who wants to palaver about cycle trucks vs. long tails...

    Civia Halsted 2011 -- meh. Load moved around a bit, bike did not hold speed well. 2012 model said to be more stable. It's a QBP product.

    Soma Tradesman -- did not ride. Reported f/f weight...17lbs.!

    Note inherent in the design is usually a slack sta, in the above cases I think about 69 degrees. Too slack for my climbing jones.

    Add an Xtra to a Truck perhaps the geo would change in a purpose-built item but who's crazy enough to do it...

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    1. Not sure I care about cycle trucks -- I tried a frame rack on my old Raleigh, and it works okay, but the Big bike is nicer (for me, of course).

      What I am curious about is whether you think cargo bike rental is really feasible. My main concern is that I didn't just go out and haul a great huge load -- I started "small", and worked my way up, and in the process got comfortable with ridiculous loads.

      Someone who's only got to carry 50lbs just once, they'll probably try to make do with a Timbuk2 XL bag or something like that. If they're renting a "cargo bike", they're probably looking to carry at least 100 lbs.

      Seems to me that a low-attached trailer would be a better bet for rentals. I've used those pretty well loaded, and though I like them less for everyday use, the learning curve is much easier.

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    2. Depends on the area, but even still...

      In SF the bike coalition offered usage of a Bikes at Work or somesuch trailer as a membership perq, yet few people used it. Small apartment dwellers have few things, after all. Moving? ZipCar/UHaul, though regular cyclists in the city get stronger over time due to the hills; a full trailer over flat terrain not a prob.

      Another local shop had a free community trailer, many more people used it due to its let's say community-specific overall friendliness.

      Trailers still cost $ to purchase and would be used infrequently by most; the cost/benefit analysis would have to be done individually.

      Preaching to the crowd here if you have a fun cargo bike there is no thinking you just get on it and go like a normal bike, should one have storage.

      As an experiment I took off about 25lbs. of stuff I normally carry on it and it flew but realized lower tire pressures would have been ideal, of course.

      One can get a lot of different personalities out of a single bike.

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  26. Let's see..

    Oregon Manifest criteria: carry a six and a bagel or something. Jan's conclusion: sidecar doesn't work.

    Real world app: http://www.bikeradar.com/gallery/article/through-the-lens-interbike-2012-35364/21

    I hate it when things work.

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