Five Cool Cargo Bikes And The Return Of The Long John
Pictured is the Danish Kangaroo cargo bike
After a car-free 1.5 years in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, it had become time to reassess the bike set-up, because a wire basket, back rack and single pannier just didn't seem to be cutting for this rider anymore. When you have to carry every liter of milk, stick of butter and pot of paint either by foot or on your own pedal power, cargo bikes had started to look more and more enticing. That recent weekend in Copenhagen also again made it clear that the Danes are a light-year ahead of everyone (except, perhaps, the Dutch) when it comes to all things urban biking.
So it was timely to see a weekend review in Sydsvenskan newspaper of five cargo bikes - four Danish and one Dutch. The test favorite was the Winther Kangaroo, with a perfect five out of five score, for its easy and secure low-riding handling, a plus for beginners. But the Kangaroo also looks like a kid-hauling bike, whereas the second-favorite Nihola, a classic style seen in a dozen variations in Copenhagen's streets, has a square front box that is slightly narrowed but seems to work well for human or other cargo. And then there's (hit the jump for more review plus a pic of the Long John) Velorbis' Long John can carry up to 100 kilos
the Dutch company Bakfiets' Cargobike, considered by the reviewers to be one of the most eye-pleasing of the five. The Christiania bike is another classic Copenhagen style and even available in models for hauling as many as four kids, which is one way to continue to be a soccer mom even if you ditch the soccer-mom van. And last, but not least is the Sorte Jernhest, which has nifty back-wheel drive, making it nimble steering-wise but at the same time a little trickier for newcomers.
Prices for these five cargo bikes are a little breathtaking at between approximately US$3,000 (Sorte Jernhuset) and $3,700 (Kangaroo), unless you pragmatically sit down and sort out the cost of purchase, maintenance and (probably) gas for a regular car. Still, a test drive of a Nihola didn't immediately make me a cargo bike convert. In fact, while I momentarily even considered the recently re-released (it first debuted in Denmark in 1938) Velorbis Long John because there are those moments (Christmas-tree shopping and bathroom remodeling supply come to mind) when I want to carry pretty heavy loads, in the end for scrawny riders like me, weight really matters. So the most practical (and least expensive) solution was a new Burley Nomad trailer at about $300. While Burley's trailers for kids never felt secure enough to me when I did baby-hauling, now their lightweight construction is a definite plus. It was nice to dream about a cargo bike as the next step in biking, but it may have to wait till I move to a flatter city - while Copenhagen is, Gothenburg has lots of gentle hills.