If your neighborhood has any kind of cycling culture, you've probably noticed that cargo bikes are gaining in popularity. But they're not just for transporting "stuff." Most cargo bikes on the market come with optional extras or customizations so they can be used to safely transport children as well. They're a green and practical way for families to ease up on their car dependency while still being able to carry more than a small bag or two. They come in handy especially when the number of children is greater than the number of parents who can bike them around. Here's our round-up of nine family friendly cargo bikes that will get you and your tribe around town by burning the calories rather than fossil fuels.
Which cargo bike design: longtail or bakfiets?
First things first: cargo bikes come in two basic designs: the longtail (or Long John) and the bakfiets. The longtail style is fairly self-explanatory. They look very similar to a regular bicycle except they are much longer in the rear end. Bakfietsen (or box bikes) are based on traditional Dutch designs and carry their load in front. For basic models, longtail-style bikes are generally cheaper than bakfiets-style bikes, but bakfietsen can usually carry a bigger load. For transporting children, the bakfiets style does also have the added advantage of allowing the rider to see what their passengers are up to without taking eyes off the road. Another cargo bike design feature of note: They also tend to have a lower center of gravity than regular bikes, making them more stable when carrying a load.
This is the Dutch classic and a multi-award winner for child-friendly cargo biking. Imported from the Netherlands, the Workcycle Bakfiets comes in short-base, long-base and trike versions. A long-base model can carry up to three children, with a total load-bearing ability of over 300 pounds divided between the front box and the rear frame, not counting the rider. Loads of safety features include a fully enclosed chain case, dynamo lighting front and back, and a four-point kickstand for added stability. Seating and belts for two come as standard, and an extra bench seat and belt and a passenger canopy are optional extras. Pricing starts at around $3,499 for the short-base bikes and $3,599 for the long-base version.
Yuba makes two ranges of longtail cargo bikes: the mountain-bike-like Mundo and the cruiser-style Boda Boda. Both ranges also have electric versions available. The Mundo is the heavy-duty workhorse range, featuring a solid, one-piece steel frame and designed to take all a lifetime of carting cargo can throw at it. The Boda Boda is a lightweight model: just 35 pounds before optional extras are added. A bamboo back deck and cork handle grips come as standard, and a fitted toddler seat or monkey bars can be purchased separately. All Yuba bikes come with wheel skirts as standard to keep little fingers away from fast-moving spokes. Boda Boda basic models start at $999, and Mundo basic models start at $1,299. Upright child seats are $239, and a set of monkey bars and padded seats will set you back around $210.
Cetma cargo bikes are handmade with loving care in Venice, California, by Lane Kagay. The Cetma range features three basic designs—the Margo, the Largo and the Hugo—all bakfiets style, and each with varying flatbed dimensions. The bikes come with a removable, untreated Baltic birch plywood box including bench seat and seat belts as standard. Customers can choose from a couple of gearing options, can add dynamo lighting or a passenger canopy, and the bikes are available in eight standard colors, with custom colors available for an extra $150. Price range: $3,800 to $4,000.
Xtracycle’s EdgeRunner range offers longtail-style cargo bikes, and with the rear monkey bar setup, as shown, they can carry up to three children over the rear wheel. If you have children under four years of age, upright seats are also available. Xtracycles come with convertible all-weather CarryAll bags and cargo straps for larger items as standard. Xtracycles can also be converted into electric bicycles if you want a little extra assistance on the hills! Pricing with the “Family Pack,” as pictured, from $2,249; electric bikes with Family Pack from $5,999.
Surly Big Dummy
The Surly Big Dummy is another tough-as-nails longtail design and in addition to its own custom add-ons, it is compatible with many of Xtracycle’s optional extras. The Big Dummy comes in four sizes, making it easy to get a really well-fitting bike to improve rider comfort and efficiency. It also has a 400-pound rider and load limit, which is impressive for a longtail design. Dealers such as Splendid Cycles in Portland, Oregon, also offer customized versions of of the Big Dummy for riders who are particular about their gearing, riding position, or brake sets. Prices from around $2,075.
The Danish-designed Bullitt has some pretty sharp styling, so it’s not surprising that it has a bit of a cult following. Its creators, Larry vs Harry, also claim its external gearing option makes for the fastest cargo bike on the market. Available in 11 different colorways, it also has seven different drive train options, including an e-bike version. With a canopy setup, the bike can comfortably carry two children, and total certified load-bearing capacity is just shy of 400 pounds (180kg). Copenhagen-based Larry vs Harry provide lots of handy information on their website about the whys and wherefores of the custom options (Will you do a lot of hill climbing? Will the bike see a lot of wet weather or have to deal with road salt?), and there are 12 US-based Bullitt distributors, and two in Canada, see map here. Prices start at around $3,000.
Metrofiets are designed and made in Portland, Oregon, in the classic Dutch bakfiets style. From their hand-built wheels to the “bomb-proof” marine-grade plywood box, every detail has been carefully considered after years of custom making cargo bikes. Metrofiets can carry two children plus some groceries in the front box, with a total load capacity of 400 pounds including rider. Dynamo-powered LED lighting keeps you visible after dark, and the bikes come in seven color options. When ordering online, customizations include drive train, rider seating, pedals, headsets, passenger seats, seat belts and rain canopy. Standard options plus bench passenger seat and seat belts start at just over $4,650.
Madsen Bucket Bike
Madsen Bucket Bikes are a little different in design from the rest of the cargo bikes on this list. Essentially a longtail design, they also incorporate a box-like element behind the rider. The 2015 models come in four colors, with a 40 gallon cargo/passenger bucket that comes equipped with removable seating and seatbelts for four. A rain canopy can be purchased as an optional extra. Load capacity is a whopping 600 pounds for rider plus cargo. Made in Utah, the Bucket Bike has retro styling, but is also a heavy-duty bike. Prices start at $1,875, only available direct from Masden, with shipping costs between $189 and $289 throughout the US.
Where to buy?
OK, so where do you get your hands on one of these babies? A number of metropolitan bike retailers are stocking cargo bikes due to their growing popularity. If your local bike store doesn’t stock them, suggest that they do! As Joe Nocella, owner of 718 Cyclery in Gowanus, Brooklyn, told the The New York Times one year after he expanded his cargo bike stock: “Our shop was up 21 percent over the year before, and a good chunk of that was from our focus on cargo bikes.” Other retailers include My Dutch Bike in Sausalito; Bicycle Belle in Boston; Splendid Cycles in Portland, OR; The Mindful Bike in Denver; and G&O Family Cyclery in Seattle. Cetma cargo bikes, Metrofiets and Madsen Bucket Bikes are available direct from the manufacturers.