The Future of Cargo on Bikes (and the Present, Too!)


Travoy trailer with attachments on a bike - photo credit Burley @ flickr.

For a long while now, bike manufacturers have as a general rule chased the sporty side of the bicycle market - mountain, road and racing bikers - and concentrated less on the "slower" urban cycling market. That's because, according to product designer Mark Sanders, bicycles haven't been considered a consumer product. The meme is shifting, however, as more of us take to commuter biking, and it's refreshing to see a new crop of cargo solutions and prototype ideas for getting the shopping and the schlepping from point A to point B on a bicycle, with a minimum of hassle.
A view of the Travoy trailer hitch without any cargo. Photo credit Burley @ flickr.
Burley's Travoy is the only one of the concepts show here that is delivering soon. Travoy combines the best of a lighweight dolly (it weighs in at 10 pounds) with some pretty serious lifting capabilities (60 pounds of cargo). While the Travoy bags still lack a little bit of the cycle chic style and novelty choice women like to have (in other words they tend a bit toward the sporty, utilitarian with the design and colors), you really have to hand it to Burley in taking the cargo concept a big step forward. Product manager Eric Hanson says Travoy was inspired by European hitches but benefitted from Burley's 30 years of experience building reliable and high-quality trailers. Travoy hitches to a bike seat post, and allows you to haul anything from your lunch, your purse and your keys to three full cases of beer.

Where I believe Travoy can really come in handy is for those travelers that like to leave the car at home, but frequently need to combine bike and other public transport for commute or travel. A common drawback to bike travel is what to do with a trailer when reaching an interim destination. With the Travoy you can take the trailer with you, to cart your cargo or folded down in the tote. The cost? Suggested retail when the Travoy is widely available May 1 will be $289.00 for the trailer with a tote bag (trailer folded down fits into the tote) and tie straps to secure other cargo.


Graphic of Hsi Huang's Shopping Bike courtesy Taipei Int'l Cycle Show.
Cargo Coverting - Three Concepts
Burley's Travoy seems like a big hit to me, and the company has seemingly spent the time to cover many angles with this new trailer and accessories. Meanwhile, in the less real but no less exciting world of concept prototyping, cargo is starting to take hold as a viable and important aspect for designers to think about. At last week's Taipei International Cycle Show, the winner of the top show prize was a foldable bicycle concept called Shopping Bike. The available graphic obviously doesn't do the concept justice (go here for some better shots), but the nifty idea is that your compact, lightweight folding bike converts to a trailer in order to do your shopping. Equally important to mobility bikers, Shopping Bike in cart mode lets you carry it (and your stuff) on board other transport. Shopping Bike may never see the light of day as a real product but someone is sure to take the smart bits and make them work mainstream.


Designer Valentin Vodev on his biquattro in cargo mode Photo courtesy Royal College of Art.
Valentin Vodev's Biquattro is also a converter bike concept - but it moves from looking like a spare electric bicycle to a load-bearing electric tricycle with a cool accordion-like expanding cargo hold. When you try to do too many things at once - cargo, conversion, electric bike - the risk is the product will end up mediocre, but the Biquattro keeps things spare and simple. The electric specs sound promising. The Biquattro battery takes three hours to charge (similar to Sanyo's eneloop) and will take the rider 30 kilometers on a charge, according to its designer. Vodev's Biquattro got a bronze medal at the Taipei show - it's a practical design for tight city streets where a rider might be happy to be cruising with the cargo space unexpanded and riding under his or her own steam, yet appreciates the cargo and the electric assistance (at speeds of up to 22 kph) after a day of shopping or on the commute home.


With this special insert the Taga can carry two children, or a lot of cargo. Photo courtesy Taga.

We covered Taga's carrier bicycle here and here, but it's worth just one more look at the company's concept of "continuity" - being able to use your bike through most of the day regardless of what type of cargo need arises. The Taga is squarely aimed at bike-loving parents. However, the company is planning to offer two accessories to make the bike more versatile and practical. The first is a wooden cargo box that is fitted with a cover and small seats to accomodate two small children, or protected cargo. The second is a cargo box, with classic bakfiets styling. These options turn the stroller-to-tricycle Taga into a pretty practical work bike.


Here's the Taga with a bakfiets style cargo cart attached. Photo courtesy Taga.

Some commenters have speculated that converting Taga (its designers claim the process will take 20 seconds or even less) will be dangerous and cumbersome. The company says it has undergone rigorous testing of the Taga to make it safe and people-friendly. When you think about trying to snap bulky baby car seats into place with a screaming child in tow, Taga's conversion seems a tad (if only a tad) friendlier, as you can set down the seat portion well away from you as you do the conversion. And adding the other cargo options are a way to cater to those of us now trying to make a city bike be the Swiss Army knife of transportation.

Read more about cargo bikes at TreeHugger:
Five Cool Cargo Bikes and the Return of the Long John
Electric Assist and Cargo Bikes for the Everyday Commuter
Finding a Perfect Tike Bike

Tags: Bike Accessories | Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking | Urban Life