Can an E-Cargo Bike Work as Your One and Only Bike?

E-cargo bikes are pretty nimble as a regular around-town ride.

Sami Grover with a Blix bike

Sami Grover

When I wrote about my experiences with a Blix Packa Genie e-cargo bike, I mostly raved about my newfound ability to easily and conveniently haul heavy things around without really having to think about it or plan ahead. Thirty pounds of ice, a crate of beer, bags of groceries—they all just got plopped into the front carrier, strapped down, and off we went. 

It was, I suggested, a bit like a scaled-down version of what it must be like to own a pickup truck. True, it’s more vehicle than you really need most of the time, which in the case of a gas-guzzling hunk of metal is a very real problem, but there is something to be said for having utility at your fingertips when a surprise errand arises. 

But here’s another thing I’m discovering as I ride the bike more: E-cargo bikes are pretty damn nimble as a regular around-town ride, whether or not you plan on actually hauling stuff. I’ve found myself riding the Packa Genie to beers with friends or a stint working at the coffee shop, and because it has that powerful battery assist, the added weight and bulk is really no hindrance at all for a regular old bike ride. In fact, for some reason the added bulk and size give me a certain sense of confidence as I ride in heavy traffic—although I understand this is largely an illusion should I come into contact with a car or truck. 

This led me to start a conversation with Arleigh Greenwald (aka @BikeShopGirl on Twitter) about whether e-cargo bikes work as a person’s only vehicle—and she largely speaking agreed they really can: “If you are looking to replace car trips, and always have utility built into your bike - an electric cargo bike may be the perfect one bike solution for you.”

There are, however, a few factors to consider on whether you also need a more diminutive ride: 

Parking and Maneuverability: While I find the Packa Genie very easy to pedal around town—if I bother pedaling at all!—it is a heavy and very long bicycle and that makes it somewhat difficult to maneuver in and out of bike racks, or in situations where you might need to hop a curb or carry a bike up stairs. This situation is made worse by the general lack of cargo bike-specific parking in many cities. I would not, for example, want my 70-year-old mother having to try to wrangle the bike into a bike rack.

Transportation: If you want a bike you can easily strap onto a car or bus rack or bring it with you on the train, you’ll probably want a lighter weight option in addition to your e-cargo beast. 

Easy and Regular Charging: Having said that, the Packa Genie is easy to ride around town as long as it is charged. The one time I forgot to adequately charge it, I quickly found myself struggling to get back uphill with the extra weight of both the large frame and battery. 

Hobbies and Pleasure Rides: Of course, the other factor to consider is how and when you use your bike for fun. While I greatly enjoy riding the Packa Genie on my own, it would feel a little strange to accompany friends on a ride—especially if they were riding without a battery assist. I’ve never bought into the notion that e-bikes are cheating. That said, I probably shouldn’t start racing my lycra-clad friends on my lithium-enabled tank. 

Ultimately, though, I’ve come to realize that for many people, in many situations, an e-cargo bike may not only be the only bike they need—it might be the only vehicle of any kind that they really need to own. And if the streets of Durham, North Carolina, are anything to go by, they are becoming an increasingly common sight as people realize their utility.