Posts Tagged ‘cargo bike’

We would be remiss to not talk about cargo bicycles during the Zombie Apocalypse since we are partnering up with Mike Cobb’s Cargo Bike Disaster Relief Trials and because some groups in PDX are embracing them as disaster response vehicles. Cargo bikes basically break up into two major categories, longtails and front loading designs.

Longtail

The Xtracycle is arguably the grandaddy of the current generation of cargo bikes in the US. It made it possible to retrofit extra cargo carrying capacity to your current bicycle without the expense of a custom build. It brought cargo biking to the masses in an easily accessible form. Since then, other bike companies have created integrated longtail systems like the Big Dummy, Kona Ute, Yuba Mundo, etc.,

The Xtracycle due to its various add-ons and modular system make it amenable to lots of strange sized cargo from ladders, to other bicycles or even to other passengers. Because it uses standard wheel sizes, parts are fairly easy to come by (except for those tandem length cables). However, because the cargo is distributed like 2 large panniers one must be aware of left-right weight bias or suffer a tippy ride. Other interpretations of the Xtracycle longtail design suffer from the same issues. On the upside, longtail bikes tend to be more affordable and generally lighter in weight than front loading counterparts.

Pros:

-Xtracycle can be added on to pre-existing bikes
-fairly standard componentry
-modular and expandable system
-ability to carry passenger

Cons:
-must be careful of left-right weight balance
-must upgrade to strong, high-spoke count wheels in the rear for truly heavy loads
-not good for very large and heavy objects that will throw off balance

Front Loading Cargo Bike
Front loading cargo bikes are becoming more and more popular every year. The bakfiets originally imported by CleverCycles in Portland were one of the first bikes to introduce the concept to the US market. Since then, more and more models have become available from Bullits, CETMA, Metrofiets, Bilenky, etc., They all employ a design with a cargo area between the handlebars and smaller front wheel (usually 20 inch, sometimes 24 inch) connected by some extended linkage system.

One of the main advantages of a front loading cargo bike is that it is particularly good at carrying very heavy and dense materials without worrying about any left-right balance issues. Like longtails they are also capable of carrying passengers. Because some have a defined box, they are not optimized for carrying very large or oddly shaped objects, though some have an open flatbed which are more versatile. Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks of front loading cargo bikes are the price. They are generally cost-prohibitive for most people. There is also a question of some non-standard components like spokes, tubes and tires for 20 inch wheels, as well as some concern as to how to fix a broken linkage arm (brush up on your welding).


Pros:

-small front wheel means more strength for heavier loads
-weight is always centered on the bike
-capable of carrying passengers


Cons:

-expensive to own
-not good for bulky items
-non standard parts
-generally heavier, so not good if you have to portage the bike