Photo courtesy Taga.
Portland, Oregon is becoming a premier location for cargo bike innovation - Clever Cycles blazed this trail in 2007 by starting to import Dutch Bakfiets cargo boxes and other specialty cargo solutions, and Joe-Bike and Metrofiets are taking a lead in handmade custom-built cargo bikes. There's so much happening that it can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. If you already know that you'll want to haul kids and cargo on a utility bike but have a low threshold for tech talk, how do you figure out what works? Mostly by test driving - it turns out that choosing a cargo bike and kid hauler is a personal affair. Click forward to read about five fabulous kid and cargo utility bikes at a variety of price points, to get your wheels turning.
Photo courtesy Yuba Mundo.
1. Yuba Mundo Is A Cargo-Carrying Minivan.Yuba Mundo cargo bike v3.0, which was designed by a former Xtracycler (see below) to be a serious hauler - for 900 bananas, firewood, water, or anything else you need to carry. That has a number of advantages for parents who need a supremely affordable kid and cargo carrying combination bike. What's good: Unlike the Taga or even the Bakfiets, which have a period of riding adjustment, riding the Yuba Mundo feels as much like a "normal" two-wheeler as you could imagine. In fact, the Yuba feels so stable and secure you'll might have a tendancy to overload. Yuba could accomodate a child seat for a baby up front as well as still have space for an older child or two and grocery cargo bags in the back. Now that's a Bike Minivan - very affordable too starting at $1099. What's only O.K.: Kids ages 1-4 are generally at the back in Peanut child seats, which some parents of young children just don't like.
2. Taga Is Trike Bike To Luxury Baby Stroller.We've talked about the Taga before, the new tricycle designed by an Israeli-Dutch team and just now being distributed in the U.S. But riding is believing - or possibly rejecting, depending on your priorities. The Taga only makes this list of kid and cargo combinations because it is so different and so focused at new parents - it has an ingenious design that while not perfect, leads the way in innovating in this space.
What's good? On the Taga it's about the baby, really. Your child rides in front, and the design allows the rider to easily remove the stroller seat, convert from bike to stroller or vice versa in half a minute, put the seat back on and be off and away without your sleeping baby even stirring. What's only okay: This is a trike, with a unique steering system and good manueverability, but subject to trike geometry on fast downhills or in pronounced curves. The fact that Taga makes you slow down and enjoy the ride is only a bad thing if you were planning on long, hilly commutes with your baby. Taga sells a shopping carrier that swaps into the space where the stroller chair sits, so cargo with baby onboard is limited to the hanging bag. Affordable at $1,495.
Photo courtesy Clever Cycles.
3. Want Cargo, Kids, and Impressive Torque? Get A StokemonkeyStart with an Xtracycle, then add on the Stokemonkey pioneered by Clever Cycles, and you've got a kid-and-cargo carrying wet dream. Supremely zippy and fun, the Stokemonkey/Xtracycle combo is a serious utility bike designed to get you easily up steep hills with heavy loads. The combination is not going to please everyone, because the price - $1300 for StokeMonkey without a battery and charger - will put it beyond some budgets, and for more modest kid and cargo needs it may be a bit of overkill.
But if you need to combine the thrill of power under your thumb with the necessary means to move heavy loads or multiple children or both up the hills, this is your salvation. StokeMonkey designer Todd Fahrner has a philisophy, and it is: "We don't believe in replacing human power with electricity; we believe in replacing cars." That said, if you secretly miss having a car for the power you had under the gas pedal, you might love having the Xtracycle/StokeMonkey for the power it can put under your thumb at the same time that the power is also still yoked to your own pedaling.
Photo courtesy Bakfiet.nl. Bakfiets is beloved precisely because it is so versatile - newborns to teenagers and all ages in between.
4. Bakfiets - The Matriarch Box For Cargo and Kids.Walk a block, any block in Amsterdam and you are certain to see a bakfiets (bike box) on a utility bike either leaning against a tree, decorated with flower decals in front of a school, or zooming along with kids and cargo on board. In spite of all the innovation in this space, there's a reason a bakfiets is still a treasured favorite. When ridden side by side with the popular $2,700 Dutch Gazelle Cabby, the feel was of a stately and leisurely - yes, even old-fashioned ride - the Bakfiets - versus a more modern, sporty and slightly more tech-oriented experience - the Cabby. Both felt good, and in some ways the Cabby seemed a little lighter and perhaps a touch more manueverable. But the Bakfiets from Clever Cycles definitely edged out the Cabby in terms of its more upright geometry, solidity, and overall sedate feel. Both are worthy contenders and fairly equally priced. What's good: If you want that old Dutch feeling, the Bakfiets is the grande dame of kid and utility combos. What's just okay: Bakfiets can't compete where sporty features are concerned, and the Cabby's lighter box could be a real plus if you plan move the box on and off the bike.
Photo P. Mascher. Lightweight box on a lightweight bike.
5. Riding Joy - Joe's ShuttleBug is Handmade Utility Heaven.Constructed with loving care at Joe-Bike in Portland, the new ShuttleBug rides like a dream and starts at about $3,180, with a snazzy belt-drive version (no more chain stains on the pant cuffs!) at $3,500. These are the champagne of cargo bikes - Joe Doebele wanted to prove that his small cadre of dedicated enthusiasts at Joe-Bike were not just masters of cargo bike makeovers - part of their bread and butter is revamping Chinese frames to what they call the "Box Bike" - but could also make a beautiful hand made locally produced cargo bike that is, in Joe's words:
"an accessible, lightweight but strong, easy-to-ride family bike that either a mom or dad could use to easily carry two kids and groceries, in both safety and comfort, whether their typical ride included hills or not."
Those criteria have been met, and more. What's good? The box on the ShuttleBug weighs just eight pounds, is pretty easy to get on and off the bike. And riding this bike is silky smooth. One block and you're hooked. What's just okay: The price can be a stumbler. But as with local foods, you pay for knowing your supplier and knowing that as with the Metrofiets, each ShuttleBug is custom constructed.
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
Bicycle Cargo. Chapter 1: Racks And Bags (revised)
Bicycle Cargo. Chapter 2: Bike Trailers