Monday, November 12, 2012

When Do We Need a Cargo Bike?

Two Bromptons on an Xtracycle
I am thoroughly enjoying test riding the Xtracycle Radish I have on loan for review. What impresses me the most is not so much its hauling capacity (which I take for granted since it is, after all, a cargo bike), as its handling. The Radish is a great ride. It is fast. It is geared for hills. It is easy in stop-and-go traffic, remaining stable when starting and stopping. It is lovely on dirt trails. It likes to keep its line, and I can even ride it no hands - no easy feat for me on most bikes! In other words, I really, really like it.

So now I find myself manufacturing tasks in order to have excuses to ride this cool bike and test its hauling capacity. I should load it up with some Bromptons (done - too easy). I should use it to bring home a Festivus tree. I should borrow some neighbourhood children. I should take the cats skiing. All this brainstorming makes me aware that I don't, strictly speaking, actually need a cargo bike as part of my daily routine. "Don't need a cargo bike?! But you're car free, of course you need a cargo bike!" a friend exclaims. Two years ago, I would have agreed. There are groceries, the hardware store, photo equipment, art supplies, disassembled bikes, large packages. But after all this time, I've adapted to having limited hauling capacity and now only rarely need to transport large or heavy loads. The Radish is a bike I want to need, but in reality would use only occasionally.

On that note, I am curious how often cargo bike owners actually ride theirs cargo bikes. Is it your main ride or a supplementary bike? Do you find yourself riding it more or less frequently the longer you own it? "Soon you'll find all sorts of uses for it, and won't be able to do without," I am told. Yeah, that's exactly what I'm afraid of!

62 comments:

  1. I have a one-wheeled touring trailer that I hook on to my regular bike when I need to haul something bulky or heavy. It can't haul as much as a bakfiets, but it'd give an Xtracycle a run for its money. It pulls great, it's way cheaper than buying another bike and it takes up way less space, too. Unless you're hauling cargo all the time, I'd highly recommend a one-wheeled Bob Yak trailer.

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  2. whose pink brompton?

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    1. Husband got tired of the raw lacquer and had his painted.

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    2. You got me. The pink Brompton belongs to Harris Cyclery.

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  3. Christine and I have been carfree for two and half decades, raised kids & did all the usual stuff without ever owning a cargo bike. Used trailers for some stuff but I haven't really used the trailer for years.

    Yeah, when you have a cargo bike there seems to be a strong urge to cargo stunt with it but stunts aren't the same as needs.

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  4. When I first got back into biking, it was an old beater jamis from CL...about two months later, an xtracycle was added...
    while it fit as a short tail, as a long tail it was just too small. i still rode the crap out of it...it was my only bike, but it was too small

    I upgraded to a larger frame...and eventually, when employed at a bike shop, took the plunge and scooped up a Big Dummy Frame

    By that time, I had a couple of single speed and with the growing knowledge of shop work was patching together something new every few months, riding it for a while and then passing it on to friends and strangers...

    Lamont (my big dummy) has seen several iterations, and i still commute on him, but not as often as I once did, more like once a month...not thrice a week like "the good old days"

    If you have survived this long without one, and the Radish hasn't convinced you...then save your space and get a trailer (or a friend with a dummy who lives close enough to swing by with a six pack of beer and some good will)

    pics of most of the iterations at http://www.flickr.com/photos/26259416@N05/sets/72157616582374565/

    and

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26259416@N05/sets/72157622494057893/

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    1. Oh the Radish has convinced me of itself. I would rather have it than a trailer, but ultimately don't feel I "need" either.

      By the way, I've ridden a Big Dummy and didn't like it; the Radish feels different.

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    2. Didn't like it how? I have been looking at the Big Dummy and would appreciate your feedback.

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    3. [First to get this out of the way: just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you won't; I would encourage you to test ride it.]

      I've ridden the Big Dummy twice (two different bikes), but not sufficiently long to warrant a review and didn't have my camera so no pictures. Both times I remember it feeling sort of heavy and sluggish, even though one of them I rode with the bags completely empty. It just didn't "move" in the way I wanted. I know lots of cyclists who love their Big Dummy, but it did not impress me.

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    4. It's a bloody Surly after all. I have a few friends with them and have extensive ride time on theirs and others.

      They ride to firmly for one person all the time. Ideally it should carry heavier cargo/kids frequently for the ride to smooth out. Otherwise it follows modern carmaker philosphophy: make it stiffer because wiggle is bad and uncontrollable.

      The Radish is fun and resilient, by contrast. YMMV.

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  5. When we were childless and carless we also used a trailer simply because it was quite easy to switch from bike to bike and they were fairly cheap and easily stored. With kids off to college and no car once again, I'm scratching my head wondering if cargo bikes might be best or just getting another trailer. I worry that for long rides ( more than 10 miles) the Radish would be too inefficient.

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    1. I rode the Radish for 15 miles today and could have happily kept going. For an upright bike, it is as efficient as one could hope for IMO.

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    2. I have no doubt that for an upright bike it's as good as any, but my concern is for the long transport rides up hills and across long windy stretches....I guess it all depends on where one lives.

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  6. Question about trailers: I can see how they are a good choice for children, pets, square-ish boxes, appliances, and piles of groceries, but it seems to me they will not fit the kind of long objects an Xtracycle is ideal for. Am I wrong about this? When I do need to haul stuff, it so happens that the shape of the stuff lends itself to the Xtracycle system pretty well, which is another reason I am finding the Radish so appealing.

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    1. Yup. The load is optimized to follow you and take up a minimal width profile, like a surf board. Within limits, of course.

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    2. Something not mentioned: a trailer adds another large drag element, the third wheel, and a larger width element. Something to consider on one's choice of routes.

      Much of what I ride is Non-frastructure. Trailer wouldn't fit or would tip.

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    3. To answer this point by point:

      Kids -- depends. Vehicle is longer, kids can't see but for your rear tire. Perhaps unappealing. Plus you can't talk to them.

      Pets -- depends on the size.

      Square boxes -- depends on how big/how wide your infra is. Less than 1.5ft. fine.

      Appliances like refrigerators? Have fun either way.

      Groceries -- super easy on LT. Part of the deal with Xtra bags is modularity. You figure it out. BTW stupid plastic one use shopping bags fail miserably on so many levels, including trying to pack the little amoebas into other bags.

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  7. I think cargo bikes are the new road bike or mountain bike -- do you really need one? No, not all cargo bikes are created equal.

    The only true test is to ride one, have one, adjust one's life to one.

    Say you were to ride this to Mike's shop instead of the Rawland. Which one weighs more, carrying the same stuff. Which one is more efficient, more relaxing, etc. If it is at all comparable then oh boy you're in trouble.

    As you know I ride it everywhere. You touched on the fundamental difference between a "normal" bike and a long tail: they are supremely comfortable and relaxing, enable a new level of slowness and seeing.

    I love the delta between my really fast bike and the LT, but the ones in between do nothing for me.

    This is what we did yesterday: pop up carnival with life-sized human mouse trap rube goldberg contraption. Long ride home on the estuary? No prob, perfect oppty to crack open a beer I'd been carrying all day for this moment. Cold. In cooler.

    Oh, forgot something at the store. It's a bag of jasmine rice. 25lbs.? Hit it. Stop at taco truck. Chips suck? Get a big bag of the good ones at the store. Dump dump dump into the bike. Run into a friend and want to go out instead? Leave it in the bike and do it. Hit the single track with nesting killdeer in the sanctuary? Sure!

    Sidewalk scavenging? My tool chest is a root cellar that had been sitting on the curb, now in the living room. Guess how it was carried.

    From a purely academic/pedantic slant, the long wheelbase allows you to set it up as a racier or Dutchie version very easily without much compromise.



    Riding like Jan and Kent on surface streets with periodic use of trailer is great. I think the main difference between built-in cargo capacity 24x7 is the lack of planning and/or pace required. I love lack of structure, we have so much to see.

    Don't think of it as a cargo bike. Think of it as a fun bike with a huge X factor.

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  8. Oh yeah to answer your question the cargo bike started out as a pleasure/weekend bike only due to massive weekday road riding.

    Now the road bike gets used only when doing speed work or when I have something light to pick up 14 miles away. As a reality check the Radish is quite a bit lighter than many Euro-utility bikes.

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  9. I've probably put 10,000 miles on my xtracycle over the past four years, doing everything between grocery shopping to riding brevets (it's kind of slow for brevets, though, so I've switched to bobtail bikes for randonneuring.) The amount of use it gets comes and goes; there are months where I use my porteur bike for most of my in-town riding, other months where I use the xtracycle instead, and the occasional month where I use my midlifecrisismobile (the rando bike) for in-town errands.

    Originally the xtracycle was attached to a first-generation Trek 1000, but, alas, after about 9000 miles I managed to break the glue joint on the nds chainstay, so I had to retire that frame and move the Free Radical (et al) over to a Trek 400 frame of the same vintage.

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  10. Oh yes, the cargo bike is addictive. I built my xtracycle saying "I'll ride it 3 days a week and keep running the commuter bike the other days" But as Jim said the ability to pick up pretty much anything on a whim is SO useful. But you know what finally did it? the realisation that my steel frame karate Monkey/Xtracycle with balloon tyres just feels better. Cruising over rough roads carrying whatever I like is just more enjoyable than what I had before.

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  11. ride my Big Dummy about 4 days a week, 52km round trip mostly but trips to the shop and carting stuff as well. It's not a fast ride but it seems to handle whatever I throw at it so I'm happy.

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  12. Cats + skiing = worth waiting for.

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  13. I'm a teacher that commutes by bike, so at least once or twice a week, I'm carrying file boxes, or project equipment, or some such other thing. I can get by with my touring bike equipped with folding baskets on the rear rack and my messenger bag, but it certainly would be nice to have all that stuff on the bike.

    That said, I don't know if I need a long-wheelbase bike that would carry half the neighborhood for this. If so, I'd probably just xtracycle my MTB commuter.

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  14. Main ride. It gets probably 95% of the miles.

    I am riding it more frequently now, but that is not entirely because of its cargo-ness; a few years ago I decided that I would try changes, and whatever ended up with me riding more, I would keep that change. That's how it got platform pedals and a substantial chain case. If I could figure out how to put a really convenient lock on it for the front wheel, I would ride it that much more.

    The initial main reason I rode it so much was that most of my rides are commutes to work, and my pack is too heavy to be comfortable on my back for the whole trip there and back, and I never much liked panniers. That was initially an xtracycle, more like the Radish you tried.

    Beyond that, commuting to work (10 miles) meant that if I wasn't prepared with fenders and light, sometimes I would regret it, so the cargo bike got fenders and good lights. And then I tried Big Apples (which won't fit on most bikes anyway), and they were both faster and more comfortable, and also very slow to lose air, so the bike become ready to ride more often in more conditions. If I was uncertain about conditions on the return ride, it made sense to take the big bike, even if I didn't need the cargo capacity. It's got a wider range of gears than the 3-speed because of the possibility of hills, so if I don't know for sure where I'm going, it's a better choice for that, tool

    The combo of long wheelbase and fat tires also gives it a little bit more flexibility than my other bikes. If I want to light it up over rotten surfaces, I can, no problem. Slides are a little slower and more forgiving, so I can recover. I can't bunny hop it, but I can ride it up and down curbs with ease.

    And because I ride it so much, it's the bike I'm used to riding, so I feel safer, because that's what all my reflexes are trained for. It's always ready, tires are always inflated.

    My experience pretty much echoes GRJs; it's a (big) fun bike.

    I'm not surprised that you get a different feel from the Radish; it *is* a smaller bike. I certainly noticed this when I upgraded from xtracycle to Big Dummy, but I am a larger person whose riding style includes "breaking things", and my first impression of the BD was "wow, I was riding a noodle".

    20 mile days are common, longest day that I can recall was an even metric century (to Lexington and back, plus a 50 mile ride).

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  15. I originally built up my xtracycle as a means to pull my kids in the trailer, and still carry a bunch of stuff. when they were old enough (4 years old), they started sitting on the back, and are still doing so three years later. I now primarily use it for the occasional shopping trip and the twice-a-year bike camping trip we take. And honestly, because it has dynamo lights and is super comfortable, I'll ride it around town, but it's too big and upright for my 40 mile RT commute. If my commute were shorter, I'd be all over this and would have the exact same attitude that GRJim states above.

    If you've gotten by this long without the cargo bike, then i think you can do without. It is nice though to be able to casually grab 2-3 bags of groceries and paper towels and not really think about it.

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  16. We single wage slaves with no kids probably never need cargo bikes.

    I last had a car August 2004. With every passing year the need to move lots of stuff becomes less urgent. Nearly every book I could ever want to read is now available online. Even illustrated novels (ok, comic books) are better on the Retina IPad. While my fellow audiophiles may well drum me out of the ranks, I am convinced high definition down loads sound as good as wax.

    I've not yet figured a practical and safe way to get my shirts and suits back from the inconveniently distant green cleaner. Not sure a cargo bike would help there. To keep from folding you would need to lay out some large flat board of some sort on the back. Doable no doubt, but more trouble than taking the bus a few times a month.

    My LBS has a cargo bike. I see car free families with them. For a lot of us though, they are more than we would ever need. Porteur rack in front of a nimble 650B bike is just fine.

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    1. Depends what you mean by folding; you can lay them over the snapdeck, with both ends of the clothing package in the two freeloaders (the large fabric bags). I've done this, and the results were good enough for me. That seems like it would be competitive with a bus trip.

      If you wanted to do better, it would require a small amount of DIY; you'd want something taller in back that you could attach the hangers to. Hacking it would be easy, graceful and nice would require some thought.

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  17. I just got a Yuba Boda Boda a few weeks ago and find it's perfect for getting the kids to school, then me to work, and it's a really nice ride even without the weight. I've got grocery shopping on it and to the library with both kids on the rear deck.

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  18. I haven't gone for a cargo bike just because when I really think it through I'm just not likely to utilize its capacity very often. Of course, I have a truck so if I'm hauling a lot of stuff or helping someone move I wouldn't be needing a cargo bike anyway.

    I'd also like to state, for the record, that you'll never need it to bring home a Festivus tree, because Festivus is celebrated with a pole. Frank would be raining down blows upon you if he read this.

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  19. I generally take out the Bullitt on Sundays. I don't generally run errands any other day, though, so I guess I use it every day I need it.

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  20. My xtracycle earns its keep not for the cargo "stunts", as Kent puts it, though those are satisfying.

    It's actually the little things like grabbing a few bags of groceries. As many commenters have pointed out, you don't need a cargo bike for that. It's true. But the xtracycle just makes it easy. There's no real thinking about what bag goes where. Just toss 'em in and go.

    I liken it to an SUV. I can get a lot done with my one car, a Toyota Corolla. But certain things would just be a hell of a lot easier with an SUV or a minivan. There'd be less complicated trunk tetris. The analogy breaks down with (some of) the downsides. I'm not bothered by my xtracycle's relative inefficiency. It wasn't that expensive. I have a place to keep it.

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  21. Ditto to @JB. Like the suburban mom with 1 kid and a minivan the size of a Manhattan apartment, you don't really "need" that space, but it's nice to have and does come in handy occasionally especially when something unexpected comes up.

    My Xtracycle has definitely become my main transport choice, even when carrying nothing. The ride is decent and I purposely built it up with practicality in mind (for urban setting meaning make it ugly, no Brooks saddle, etc.)

    Having a kid was the real impetus for the cargo bike and I suspect that's true for a lot of owners. Standard kid seats on bikes are fine for little ones, but you hit the weight cutoff pretty quick. And there's just always stuff to haul with a kid. We do a lot of trips with the kid and his bike on my bike for the traffic heavy/too hilly sections and then he can ride when we get to the good parts.

    I'm intrigued by the new mid-tail versions that might be a better balance of haul almost anything without being a little ridiculous for 95% of trips.

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  22. I have a Boda Boda for commuting. Being able to pick my son up on the way home is great. But he is 8, so I recently purchased a Bike Friday tandom for weekend trips since he prefers to ride with me.
    The Boda Boda is much more comfortable to ride than the hybrid I have. The upright position means no more hand pain. Plus it is fun to ride.

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    1. I have a Boda Boda as well with the peanut shell for taking my 3.5-yr old to preschool on my way to work. I appreciate being able to haul child + library books + groceries + etc. Like the comfort of sitting upright & enjoying the scenery.

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    2. My wife and I purchased a Madsen bucket bike this summer to shuttle our 2 & 4 year old around. This was quite literally my wife's first entry into biking and she loves it. Great thing about the Madsen is the ability to graduate from the bucket to a longtail like cargo bike. Glad I have my other bikes but life with kids and the "bucket" is a whole lot easier than a trailer.

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  23. Bought my xtracycle to haul 2 kids to school across brooklyn. Now one is 9 and other is 7 and they still let me take them-perhaps the biggest change to my cycling habits in my whole life. I love finding stuff and tossing it on the back and I would never part with it now I'm used to it. i still have other bikes that get more luv but the X gets the most use. PS never committed a cargo "stunt" unless that includes taking 6 bags of groceries from the store

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  24. I don't need a cargo bike because I have a car. BUT, as the owner of a 120-year old fixer-upper of a home, if I didn't have a car, a cargo bike would be a must-have. I simple have to haul to much home repair/improvement stuff not to have either a car or a cargo bike.

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  25. I'd certainly rent one for those occasional times when it's needed -- or a trailer -- since I no longer have a car, yet have projects around the house which require lumber or large bags of 'stuff'....Hmm...perhaps I should buy one and make it available for rent :)

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  26. About borrowing the neighborhood children, just be sure to bring them back. You could get a lot of bad pub if you dont.

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  27. I doubt that a cargo bike could ever replace the versatility of a set up utility bike and cargo trailer.

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    1. It probably can't, but it still has its place. Even if you don't do the ridiculous feats of cargo that the longtail community is fond of it's still nice to have just a bike that you can use to do shopping for a family with and still ride a century on (sometimes with groceries -- I've taken the scenic route back from the donut shop a few times with a couple of dozen donuts in tow, and after 75 miles of transit the surviving donuts were none the worse for wear.)

      Think of a longtail as a light pickup truck. Fast, maneuverable, can carry more load than a sedan, but you're not going to use it for moving house unless you can't afford to hire a cargo van from U-haul.

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  28. I guess cargo bikes are like padded shorts, if you need them, you know it.

    The realization came to me the day I tied grocery bags to my kids and told them to hold on tight.

    I have not gotten my cargo bike yet, I am waiting for Xtracycle EdgeRunner to arrive at LBS in the spring.

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  29. It's my main ride. I have a Dutch Delivery bike (short wheelbase, front rear/racks). It's easy to carry stuff (my computer to work) and has lights fenders and a chainguard, so it's just "easier" to take every day. It's a little slower than other bikes (11mph average) but that's OK, I spend less time changing flats due to the big kevlar belted tires. It's also nice not to have any excuses when you need to pick up some milk at the store on the way home. I couldn't do that on my other folding bike.

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  30. I have a Yuba Mundo that I can't imagine not riding all the time. Part of the appeal is that I bought it used on craigslist and it was pretty tricked out with fenders, dynamo hub, front/rear BM lights, fat frank tires, chainguard. All that stuff makes for an easy bike to ride. Slow because it is so heavy, but easy bc it is highly visible, super dependable, and like GRJ I never fail to have room for extra cargo. the long wheel base combined with those tires (and the velocity rims!) makes for a super sweet ride. It takes a bit of effort to get it up to speed, but once there it rides really sweet. So I guess I'd split the appeal 50/50 between its ability to carry just about anything (I've hauled 300lbs of gravel in rubbermaid containers strapped to the side) and the sweetness of the ride (which is a combo of ride-quality and ease of use due to the dynamo lights etc...).

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  31. Wanted to through out some big cargo bike LOVE. I rode an Xtracyle attached to lower end Raleigh mountain bike frame for 2 years. I heavily customized the bike including adding a nuvinci hub. I carried my two kids everywhere, including the backpacks, library books, groceries for a family of four, my guitar etc., etc...I LOVED that bike, it was rock solid. But my kids got bigger and bigger and are riding there own bikes. I got divorced and instead of shopping for four I was mostly shopping for one. Eventually I noticed that I just wasn't using the bikes capacity all that often. Not being the type who like to have alot of stuff, I sold the bike and replaced it with a Brompton. I love my Brompton too, and it carries a surprisingly large amount of stuff well, but the Xtracycle will always have a special place in my heart. It aloud me to do so much and live without a car.

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  32. I know of someone who has an extra cycle bike as her only bike. My husband had kids and no car for years, but hauled them all in the trailer, one was willing to ride a trailer bike, but all refused to learn how to ride bikes,and went off to live with mom with car. We sometimes think about having a trailer to haul heavy stuff, but have never needed it. We've been able to carry pretty much everything with panniers on commuting or touring bikes from bags of potting soil, plants, bamboo poles, bike frames, wheels, tires, big pumpkins, 25lb bags of rice, giant bags of cat foot, cat litter,recycling, regular grocery orders, wetsuits, etc.. The only things that I know would not fit, would probably not work on a cargo bike either, so that is what the bus is for. Oh and I live in the country to, so my rides are fairly long.

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  33. I don't have one. Yet.

    However, I am very intrigued by the mid-tail bikes (something like the Kona Minute, for example) which are much longer and much more over built than a mountain bike commuter, but not as large and hard to store inside as a full on long tail cargo bike. Space is limited (five bikes, plus a recumbent and the kid's growing bike collection and counting in the basement - thank goodness for the walkout!!)

    Would I use it? Yes absolutely. It would become my main around town bicycle in a heartbeat. My mtn bike commuter would become my dedicated winter bike.

    Very interesting read all - your comments, as well as the original article, reflect a lot of what I am and have been thinking. Do I need a cargo bike? No. Would I love a cargo bike and use it all the time just because it is cool? In a heartbeat.

    Oh, and it would also get used for, well, cargo...

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  34. I build flatbed trailer from a kid hauler trailer to haul cargo. Wheels come off and it folds flat. That's prettty handy for taking on a bus. Don't think most of the cargo bikes can be put on a LA Metro bus rack. Certainly expands the range I can go to get things. The trailer on a commuter is faster than a cargo bike too. Distances are pretty long here in LA, so 40 miles round trip crosstown is pretty common.

    The next improvement from flatbed is to make tray cargo modules, but that may be very simple to do in the form of milk crates or the bigger rubbermaid plastic boxes. Portable grill? Cooler? Surfboard rack? Mulch hauler??

    The trailer is much more practical than a cargo bike. It stores easily and there's one less large bike in my bike garage. And there's a vast cost difference. Not to forget the pleasure of making your own custom bike accessory.

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    1. You use trailers differently; I've owned three kid trailers (one with a seat hitch, and two at-axle hitches), and two long tails (xtracycle and big dummy). I ended up liking longtails better, though I have wondered whether it would be worth owning a trailer for some really obnoxious loads.

      The main advantage of the trailer is that if you don't need it, you don't drag it. The main advantage of the longtail is that you've always got it. I am pretty sure that this is why you find the longtail fans being (largely) people who say "I ride it all the time" -- the whole point is that you don't have to plan whether this is a trailer trip/day, or not, you just go. Other people are okay with all that planning, and for them a trailer makes much more sense.

      You put a longtail bike on a bus by removing its front wheel and stuffing its forks forward where that wheel would normally go. The wheel goes in your sideloader. (I have never done this, but I have seen videos. Since the bus only has room for two bikes, I cannot depend on it, so I don't.) I think this is a minor pain, but no worse than folding a trailer (I've folded trailers). Trailer or bike, this assumes that you can carry your cargo with you on the bus, which for some of my loads (four 8' 4x4s, or 3 bags of mulch) would be darn difficult.

      By-the-way, if you have never used bike X, it is a good plan to ask "can X do Y" or "how do I do Y with X" rather than assert "X cannot do Y" or "I doubt X can do Y". Seriously, just ask. I may have made this mistake myself, but I try not to. Think of all the uninformed "bikes cannot do Y" claims you've seen from people who've never seriously tried a bike, and how annoying that is.

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  35. In the Netherlands and Denmark that have by far the largest numbers of cargo bikes per capita most are family vehicles. A few are ridden by folks without kids and small businesses (photographers, handymen, gardeners, caterers etc). But I'd guess that 75% of the larger cargo bikes Workcycles sells are primarily ridden with young children and all the stuff associated with them.

    Our 2-wheeled bakfiets and Fr8 live outside and are both ridden daily, for the school run, for shopping, to go camping or to the beach/park/playground/playdate/picnic, to carry my track bike to and from the velodrome, and of course to go to work in between the other stuff.

    Having ridden that bakfiets for four years now (since a month after our first child was born) I seriously cannot imagine how a young family could do without one here. Well of course I can but it sure would make a lot of things harder and less fun.

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  36. I've often thought it would be great to have a cargo bike with a good set of lights for getting to and from local music gigs. I have a commuter bike with a front rack that easily accommodates my mandolin case when I ride to band practice, but for solo shows I have to bring bulkier gear especially for Celtic music shows where I'm playing the harp (it's a small one, but still both bulky and relatively delicate).
    I've rigged up an old kid trailer into a flatbed and used that for a few shows but it seems like a cargo bike would be more elegant.

    One of my dreams is to organize a Northeast tour where I can travel by bike from gig to gig, after reading about Ben Sollee's success, I think a cargo bike would make it very possible.

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  37. I've always thought that the perfect job for a cargo bike would be as a loaded touring or expedition bike. I'm waiting for someone to bring out a cargo touring bike, with relaxed geometry, drop bars, cantilever or disk brakes, a front rack, and the usual slew of brazons.

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  38. I know a few Bullitt owners who ride only that one bike. It's an extremely fast cargo bike.

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  39. In 2007 I added an Xtracycle Freeradical conversion to a 1988 Specialized Rockhopper I'd previously used as a winter beater. With mostly new components and a fresh powder coat it was like a new bike.

    I built it so I could do most of our household grocery shopping and pick up our weekly farm share during the summer months. I had tried to do all the errands on a couple of different bikes, but was always frustrated with the handling of a loaded down bicycle. Its never been a problem since getting the Xtracycle. Awkward loads are no longer an issue. It's my errand bike. I ride it when I know I'll be shopping or need to carry a load. I ride it 1-3 times a week. I also make numerous trips to the local home center during the gardening season.

    We have one car in the household. Without the Xtracycle I think there would have been many times I would have jumped in the car to run an errand rather than take a bike. Now I almost never drive the car. Maybe once a month, twice during the winter months.

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  40. My Christiania is actually my go-to bike -- I ride it far more than my other bikes (Pilen and Bella Ciao). It's partially because I have kids, but beyond that, when I'm out and about I like the ability to stop and grab things that I need (or spot on the side of the road) but hadn't necessarily planned to procure when I left the house.
    Yesterday, for instance, it was three huge stumps that a tree company had just cut and I now plan to use for garden seats. Totally random, but a great find and would have been an impossibility on any other bike.
    In a roundabout way, what I'm saying is that if you aren't that organized, cargo bikes are great. They allow for flexibility and convenience for people that don't always plan ahead.

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  41. I've been looking forward to your review of the Xtracycle Radish and am pleased to find that you also liked it. I'm a middle-aged Mom of 5. Not surprisingly, my main mode of transportation is a mini-van. I'm new-again to cycling and bought two new bikes last spring; a Radish and a Giant Escape "0". I'm pretty sure I have the only Radish in my small, western Kentucky city and maybe the only one in the Commonwealth. If forced to choose between keeping one or the other, I'd pick the Radish every time. It makes combining errands and exercise so easy and so fun. I just got in from an eleven mile round trip to the grocery. It's a brisk, sunny day here and I think I smiled the whole time.
    Does everyone "need" a long-tail? I'd like to think about that question this time next year when I'll know if mine is/was a novelty or the real deal. Right now, I do think there is great potential for such bikes for many of the able-bodied among us. My husband and I are trying to figure out how we might effectively incorporate Xtracycle conversions into our Church's benevolence ministry.

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  42. Matt-

    We use our bakfiest to commute to school and twice a week to music school. Our music school run is three kids, two cellos, one guitar. It works well though the instruments need a good tuning in the winter when we get to class.

    If carrying greater than one child I would skip the Radish and have more carrying capacity. OVer time children have plenty of stuff and the more capacity you have the easier it is to stay on the two wheels.

    We carried our guys pretty much in every permutation of kids on bikes, seat on back seat on back plus handlebar etc. Bobike makes seats to carry children from the handlebar seat - 6-12 months on up to an elementary school child. Mixing those seats can work well if you don't wan to get a cargo option. I wish our cities had enough quality infrastructure for children to be out on their own bikes but right now in Chicago for us it needs to be a mix of kid carrying bike and them on their own rides to stay on two wheels.

    I do wish we had a IT chair for our Brompton....

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  43. I ride an xtracycle (added to a donor bike) everyday. My favorite part of the bike is that it rides/feels like a "normal" bike. I haul a 1st grader to school every day (5ish miles each way) and I use the x to grocery shop, haul my guitar, etc. but the x is always ready to be a normal bike and/or a cargo bike as the situation demands. I have tried trailers too, and I hate dealing with wide turns, extra locking cables, and extra width. When people ask me if I "need" a cargo bike everyday, I ask them if they "need" the trunk in their car? Would you want to have to remember to put it on every time you were going to haul anything? I love my x and only ride my other bikes when I have a specific reason to.

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  44. As someone that's been riding a Yuba Mundo for about 3000 miles / year for the past three years, I can say that having a cargo bike is neither frivolous or just some hot new fad.

    I've hauled lumber, groceries, drunk friends, kids, furniture on all kinds of terrain over all kinds of distance with it, and I love it.

    The funny thing is, now I'm looking for a smaller, lighter bike because my commute is essentially 10 miles downhill one way and 10 home uphill. While I can do it on my Mundo, there's plenty of gears, I'm looking for a little more speed. The problem is, I can't find a bike I want, because I'll be limited by what I can take. If I take layers for work and my computer, I can only get one bag of groceries on the way home. I'm considering getting a Yuba Boda Boda (it's a midtail) and adding an internal triple to the front.

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    1. Think about the possibility of e-assist on the cargobike. Geared e-assist hub has plenty of torque uphills. Steep hills made it really challenging for me and my son to ride either the Xtracycle or our BikeFriday Tandem on a daily basis. The e-assist made it possible to ride the steep hills on our way to his school.

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