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They’re not cheap bikes, but they’re not expensive transportation.

Which bike options might a cyclist with kids and cargo think they can choose to avoid using a car?
• A ‘longtail’ might carry more than a regular frame, but it’s not very good for most cargoes and it won’t carry many kids. Is it really a “cargo bike” at all?
• A trailer is an option for kids, but I’d never (again) let mine sit in one in traffic. Better for bike camping gear. You can’t see the kids or encourage them to get along, and there they are waiting to get hit by a bad driver behind you. A trailer is better for carrying stuff.
• A kidback or trailabike holds one kid and nothing else useful but it’s better than nothing (and better than a kid trailer)
• A baker’s bike is great for stuff but not for kids and the center of gravity on most of them is rather high.
• Tandems can carry a bunch of kids well — the Onderwater we have or Bike Friday triple tandems or even an old Schwinn Twinn with a baby seat for example — but aren’t great for, say, tools or groceries. You can get a lot of school supplies into panniers or baskets though if you rig them on.
• A bike taxi / rickshaw / becak like the ones in Asia would work, but they aren’t very practical to store or ride here and you can’t easily get one.
• An ice cream style trike won’t hold your kids and doesn’t ride nicely but you can deliver food in it well.

Nope, what you need to carry 100 kg or more of kids and material simply and reliably in a city like those in North America is a • box bike. Trikes hold more, 2-wheelers ride better. There are plenty of them, used for years in Europe. The big boom there started about 10 years ago. Before that, cargo bikes were like bike pushcarts or specially adapted bikes for factories. Workcycles.com still sells the old ones and some are in use in New York parks.

Martin Van Andel’s classic Bakfiets (new version ca. $3000 in Chicago) started the whole segment of 2-wheeled bikes for carrying kids. We have carried 4 elementary age kids in ours easily enough, plus a baby, the adult rider and two panniers full of school bags. You can’t fit that many people safely in most cars. There are a few blatant Pacific Northwest and Asian copies but they don’t stand up against the original.

The Bakfiets.nl is made in Holland by Azor using workers with first world wages and benefits and it will likely outlast me and my kids. It came standard with stainless steel fenders, dynamo hub lighting front and rear with standlight, a full chaincase and hub gearing, a rear rack integrated into the frame to carry passengers, a CIC cut marine plywood box with seats, and a multilayer powdercoated frame. Nothing on it will ever rust. Don’t ever think seriously about buying a cargo bike without these things standard. A bike like this can and must be able to sit in the weather for years without maintenance and always work well. Ask yourself, how long will the weakest part of any bike you’re considering last if you treat it like most people treat their cars?

Just off the top of my head, there have been plenty of other good two wheeled child and cargo transporters. In the 2000s, De Fietsfabriek had some Kemper-designed 2-wheelers which were generally quite good, made in Turkey and Holland, but they recently went out of business. Some Kemper designs like these are still being made by other manufacturers but aren’t currently available in the US, I think. The Danish company Larry vs Harry has started selling their Taiwanese-made Bullitt — it’s lighter weight aluminum. It may be less practical for frequently carrying things and better for riding low and fast; you need to buy an attachment to carry a kid. I’m not sure how long aluminum will last if it’s stressed by weight frequently either. If you can imagine your child or a load of tools safely held in fast traffic in a canvas tote bag, Gazelle offers the Cabby.

There are a few other brands available in the US, but often they either don’t build the volume or the quality, don’t build their frames in the first world, don’t offer the standard options above, leaving you vulnerable to the weather, or their prices are higher. Never pay for a bike that won’t last. Save up and get something you can pass on when you die.

Three wheeled child and material carrying options abound in Europe but aren’t common here yet. There are box types and covered front pod designs, with various steering options. Available in the US: Velorbis, Winther, JC Lind (in Chicago), Nihola, Christiana, Workcycles, probably several more. These all hold a lot of kids or groceries or even (some of them) industrial equipment, ride well enough at a comfortable speed, and last a long time. Look at the websites for a taste. They don’t corner as well as two wheelers, and some aren’t as durable as the Bakfiets. Other utility bike companies like ANT and Worksman may also be worth a glance, and there are several companies specializing in bike transport for disabled riders like Hase.
Does anyone know of a good, US (or other country with wages, benefits and environmental laws) built cargo bike that works well? Anyone with experience of CETMA or ANT or similar brands? Thanks
Most certainly it is!
Carries as much as 400 lbs (some might even have higher limits), didn't know there was a minimum number of kids required to hit the label "cargo bike", does occasionally require creative loading.
Even better, for living in a city and wanting to have the option to carry stuff on a daily basis, a longtail is incredible well suited. It rides very much like a regular bike and is easy to navigate even on narrow or very busy streets. A box bike on a daily basis would be overkill for some folks (maybe even for many folks). I am not knocking box bikes...love them. Almost bought one but ultimately went with a longtail as it seemed more practical and useful on a daily basis.


Allen Wrench said:
They’re not cheap bikes, but they’re not expensive transportation.

Which bike options might a cyclist with kids and cargo think they can choose to avoid using a car?
• A ‘longtail’ might carry more than a regular frame, but it’s not very good for most cargoes and it won’t carry many kids. Is it really a “cargo bike” at all?
Hi,

I am looking into purchasing a cargo bike and am interested in finding out if anyone has a Maartin van Andel's Bakfiets.nl cargo bike with the short frame? I am trying to figure out if there is enough room to mount a car seat and still have room for a second child? I have read that a car seat can be mounted to the short box but can't find any mention of how it mounts or how much room is left over.

Thanks,
Emily

Minutes after I posted this I found the answer I was looking for. It looks like the short box will carry either 2 kids OR 1 car seat. So I am now continuing my search. I would love to hear recommendations and others experiences with cargo bikes, kids and car seats!

 

Thanks

 

Emily Grimm said:

Hi,

I am looking into purchasing a cargo bike and am interested in finding out if anyone has a Maartin van Andel's Bakfiets.nl cargo bike with the short frame? I am trying to figure out if there is enough room to mount a car seat and still have room for a second child? I have read that a car seat can be mounted to the short box but can't find any mention of how it mounts or how much room is left over.

Thanks,
Emily
Hi Emily- We have a bkkfiets long we have been using for about three and a half years with two then three kids.We have a blog- embarrassing to say- all about cargos chicargobike.blogspot.com. I would buy a long because if you have two kids and groceries it might serve better over time. I'd be glad to lend you mine with the cover even for a long ride. You can get a baby seat and kid into it. We did not use it so much with  the baby seat but could. We also used it with two kids in front and a bobike mini on the handlebar as we have three kids and our youngest was too small for the seat and the baby seat was tight with two other kids and school stuff. We have found it to be reliable and it has kept me on the road with three kids which is great. J.

Emily Grimm said:

Minutes after I posted this I found the answer I was looking for. It looks like the short box will carry either 2 kids OR 1 car seat. So I am now continuing my search. I would love to hear recommendations and others experiences with cargo bikes, kids and car seats!

 

Thanks

 

Emily Grimm said:

Hi,

I am looking into purchasing a cargo bike and am interested in finding out if anyone has a Maartin van Andel's Bakfiets.nl cargo bike with the short frame? I am trying to figure out if there is enough room to mount a car seat and still have room for a second child? I have read that a car seat can be mounted to the short box but can't find any mention of how it mounts or how much room is left over.

Thanks,
Emily
hi again- two more shops that sell cargos in Chicago are of course Copenhagen and JC. Lind- I've found all the cargo guys in town to be extremely nice and I would take them all up on going for a ride with their different bikes just for the experience of riding everything out there including trikes. On our blog we talk a little about CETMA bikes which are a cargo maker in Portland (and a bunch of other links). They will make you a frame and box and ship it to you flat. You would then take it to a bike shop and get the parts (wheels, cranks...) put on- sounds complicated but probably not so much if you have a favorite shop and it is very price competitive with the bakfiets in the end. The guys at Boulevard Bikes or Rapid Transit are pretty well versed in cargos and could take good care of you and your frame. Lastly the guys at Bubbley frame works are interested in building cargo frames and, again, with a new frame and parts it might be competitive with the Bakfiets in the end, exactly what you want since it's custom, and kind of an adventure. As I said I'd be glad to loan mine out for some testing too! We know of a Gazelle Cabby that may be available inexpensively, too. Friend me and I'll send you my email or phone number.
Ho Jennifer, Thank you for the responce! I was just on your blog and it looks like a wealth of information as well! I'm going to look more closely at all the links in the morning then I am sure I will have more questions for you.

We have 2 kids, ages 10 and 13 and have been using Tandems and Longtails for 3-4 years. We don't have a car. The Xtracycle that we have been using is great for up to 2 kids, but they need to be less than 200 lbs. total. That said I have transported kids totalling more in the 250 range but I'm 6'4", 195lbs so am more able to deal with control issues. We have the cargo shelves for the bike and I have used it for lumber/conduit/toilets, whatever over the years. I have 2 tidy Cat containers for the front panniers for dumping stuff into. One thing that is impotant for me is to be able to move along at a reasonable clip under load, say 15mph, which is easy to do with the Xtracycle. That said I have recently purchased a Yuba mondo frame and fork and haven't built it out. The yuba frame is supposedly stronger and can take more weight, but the reason I bought it was that it seemed more adaptable to different cargo needs. When I build it out I'll have more feedback. As far as tandems go, we have a beater 3spd worksman that was great for going 0-3 miles if you aren't in a hurry and maybe don't know how to ride as a captain or a stoker on a tandem. We have 2 Burley Duets, different sizes, and one Santana Visa. The tandems all have front and rear racks. The Surly Nice rack in front and the topeak super tourist on the back, which are both nice because you are able to load your panniers lower on the rack leaving room for those 2 XL pizzas from APART pizza on the top of the rack. Biggest problem with kids on the tandem was the backpacks, which are too big to slide into an Ortlieb. The tidy cat buckets are great for back packs.

 

Sorry that was kind of a long ramble. The main thing with your kids is to remember that they will get older and that you want to be able to teach them how to ride as they get older. Tandems make that much easier, especially if you get a kids stoker kit that brings the stoker pedals up much higher than normal.

 

We also rid through the winter. So if you plan to do that you should have a rinse station for your bikes.

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