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Cargo bikes are human-powered pickup trucks that are a blast to ride.
And you can save BOATLOADS of money if you replace your car with a cargo bicycle.
A cargo bike can easily replace an automobile, and with global warming and dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, they’re probably the wave of the future.
The size of a cargo bicycle’s payload is only limited by how strong your legs are. Or if it’s an electric-assist model, how powerful the motor is.
I bet you hear lots of people saying in this day and age that an automobile is a necessity.
That’s simply not true anymore…if it was ever true.
Whether you are merely commuting to work, buying a week’s worth of groceries, or needing to pick up a mini-fridge at Home Depot, a cargo bike can be used for virtually every one of your transportation needs.
You’ll be having so much fun, your car will probably collect dust while you do most of your errands by bike.
Or, you can deliciously revel in your frugalness by ditching the car altogether and go all in on the cargo bike lifestyle.
Most cargo bikes have a cargo capacity of 300 pounds or more. With this kind of capacity, it truly is a car replacement vehicle.
According to Forbes, the average new vehicle is $36,000. But even the most expensive, top-of-the-line electric cargo bike costs $7,000. Even if you buy an electric version, you can save thousands of dollars a year.
The first area where you save money is fuel. In 2017, the average American shelled out $1,400 in yearly fuel costs.
Assume a rate of ten cents per kilowatt hour to power your electric cargo bike. Then, it will cost you around five cents for a charge that will last you 22-40 miles. And you don’t have to pay for maintenance, insurance, or fuel.
And no more parking problems, reducing massive amounts of headaches. No traffic congestion or negative health effects. Plus, the sale of bicycles is really catching on.
In 2012 in Spain, the sale of bicycles even overtook the sale of automobiles. At this rate, they’ll be everywhere in ten years.
It’s incredible how much you can save if you replace your car completely with a cargo bicycle. You can even bring your kids to school with one. And your kids will probably love it so much, they’ll never ever want to go back to the car.
If you’re a handyman with an adventurous side, you can use your bike to transport tools and supplies to your worksite instead of using a truck.
Besides, cargo bikes are head-turningly beautiful to look at, and so much fun to ride. You’ll love your cargo bike so much, you might even give it a name, as many cargo bike enthusiasts have. Use your cargo bike to impress your neighbors by hauling everything under the sun.
And they make navigating traffic through busy city streets so much fun!
There are so many benefits to having a cargo bicycle. Besides, it’s ridiculous to haul the weight of a car around town when all you have to do is pick up a few groceries. The cost of operating an automobile was $9,000 a year in 2016.
Operating a cargo cycle is only a mere fraction of that. And, you’ll be in tiptop physical shape, having all that fun riding your cargo bike.
My Cargo Bike Story
I bought a cargo bicycle in 2012 because it appealed to my inner miser. I wanted to throw off the tyranny that the automobile had over me and live in harmony with nature. So, I bought one and used it for several years.
I got the Trek Transport, a model they don’t make anymore.
I was ecstatic about having a car replacement vehicle, and I did everything with it. I would tool down the road to my local neighborhood grocery store and get a week or more worth of groceries. I brought it to work in even the worst blizzards.
I even put Christmas lights on my bike. I was a rolling holiday extravaganza that caused onlookers to gape in amazement everywhere I went. It was a wonderful feeling.
I would even go bike camping, loading everything on my bike for a weekend adventure to a nearby state forest.
I loved my Trek, but then, I got complacent. I started to take the car more and more until one day, I was no longer using the cargo bicycle. It fell by the wayside, but I plan to start using it again.
I’m sure it misses its daily rides.
In the nineteenth century in Holland, tradesmen used cargo bicycles to deliver their wares. And in the 1930s, the cargo bike was king in Denmark. In Copenhagen, svajeres (Danish for “bike messenger”) carted wares over hill and dale to wherever they were needed.
Nearly every company owned at least one cargo bike to handle their deliveries. At the turn of the century in the United States, businesses used cycle trucks to transport their wares.
One such example is the Schwinn Cycle Truck, used extensively up until the 1950s.
Today, the most common cargo bike in Scandinavia and Holland is the bakfietsen (“box bike”). This is a cargo bike with a box mounted on either the front or back.
Sometimes, the box is detachable, adding to its convenience. The modern-day resurgence of the workhorse bicycle in this country owes a lot to the Scandinavian design.
How to Stay BOTH Warm and Dry
Using a cargo bike can be almost as comfortable as taking a car. With just a little bit of forethought, you can stay nice and toasty during your cargo bike adventures.
First, you need to layer your clothing to make it easier to adapt to temperature variation. To do this, you need a base layer to draw away moisture, a middle layer to retain heat, and an outer layer with the kind of fabric that blocks cold air and wind.
Thermal socks and a thick pair of gloves should definitely also be part of your wardrobe.
You could also buy a pair of glittens, which is a piece of clothing that combines mittens and gloves and has the features of both. Also, a balaclava, which is a hat and scarf in one, will help keep frigid temperatures at bay. Good ski googles will protect your skin and your sinuses from the cold, harsh winter air.
It’s always delightful to stop along the way at your friendly neighborhood coffee shop to enjoy a hot beverage to take the edge off the winter chill. While you’re at it, get some quality rain gear from Showers Pass.
Biking with Kids
You can transport your little ones in comfort and style with the right kind of cargo bike. And with these amazing bikes, you don’t need a child trailer. Good thing, as this is about the most cumbersome way to transport a child imaginable.
There are three styles of family cargo bikes: The Long John, the Longtail, and the Front Load Trike. You should definitely get an electric-assist if you have kids. This will also help you get over those pesky hills.
You can even use your family-friendly cargo bike to tow other bikes, should your child conk out after a long adventure.
The Longtail, as its name implies, has a rear end portion that’s longer than the average bike. The Long John (which is what we were talking about when we talked about the bakfiet) has a cargo area in the front.
The Front Load Trike (also known as the Tadpole Trike) has space for cargo in the front and three wheels for greater stability.
The advantages of both the Long John and the Front Load Trike is you can see your children since they’re in front of you.
A common problem when parents put their kids in the back of the bike is that they keep looking back to make sure their kids are safe, causing the bicycle to wobble and lose stability.
With the children in front of you, the Long John and the Front Load Trike eliminates this risk.
Many of these models offer a canopy as an accessory, affording your tykes greater protection from the elements. With a canopy in place, you don’t have to bundle your kids up as much.
This allows you to save time by getting out the door faster.
Long John Bikes
The Family Cargo Bike by Bunch Bikes can accommodate up to five children plus a week’s worth of groceries. The cargo box comes with two benches and four child seat belts. A standard child seat belt can be installed in back to accommodate one more passenger.
Electric assist is available, and it arrives on your doorstep fully assembled and ready to ride. It goes for $1,995 if you want the standard, or $2,995 if you want the electric.
The Bullitt Cargo Bicycle by Larry vs. Harry starts at $3,300. The Bullitt is considered to be one of the best cargo bicycles on the market because, with so many colors and components and accessories, it’s a completely customizable system.
It’s designed in Copenhagen and one to three kids can sit in the passenger box.
There are nine amazing color options.
The Family Bike by Urban Arrow starts at $5,950 and one to three children can fit in the passenger box with optional rear seat add-on. Its narrow design is perfect for navigating busy city streets. There are lots of customization options available, including an electric assist.
The Yuba Electric Supermarché is an electric assist front-loading bicycle that holds up to 220 pounds in the front cargo space. It also has a mini rear tail where you can put a child seat and/or 80 additional pounds. Plenty of room to carry both your kids and your dogs.
There are always-charged LED lights and ultra-responsive hydraulic disc brakes. However, this bike, advertised as “eight and a half feet of cargo hauling happiness,” is one of the most expensive bikes on the market.
Long Tail Bikes
First off, there’s the Big Fat Dummy by Surly Bikes. This model starts at $2,099. It’s got fat tires for a sturdier ride.
And because of the wide tires, you can hit the trails with your kiddies for a hardy outdoor adventure. The fat tires give you amazing traction, and it comfortably fits one to two kids.
Unfortunately, no electric assist option is currently available.
Use the Dummy Rail Collars that come with the bike if you want to carry passengers.
The Radwagon is made by Rad Power Bikes. This is a start-up based in Seattle that is looking to shake up the electric bike industry with a model that costs much less than its competition.
They’ve partnered with the mobile bike shop company velofix to build, tune, and deliver bicycles.
One to two kids can fit on the back, and at $1,599, it’s one of the most affordable e-bicycles on the market. There are lots of customization options, too. It has an integrated headlight and taillight with brake light functionality with a total payload capacity of 350 pounds.
The Stretch, by Pedego, fits one to three kids. It has a neat USB port for your phone and audio powered by the bicycle itself. Pedego was founded in 2008 and is one of the largest electric bike brands in America.
The Stretch boasts a state of the art 48-volt battery using the same advanced lithium-ion cells as an electric car.
It can take you 68 miles on about 10 cents of electricity. The 500-watt motor is very powerful, and add to the exhiliration of your ride. It has a 400-pound capacity, and there are built-in front and rear lights.
Special rails hold most standard pannier bags.
The Spicy Curry Bosch by Yuba starts at $4,449. Yuba, a manufacturer located in Northern California, is one of the most popular of all cargo bicycle manufacturers.
It was founded in 2006 by Benjamin Sarrazin to satisfy a need for “practical bicycles that can be used for carrying loads and getting work done.”
They upgraded their popular e-bike with a Bosch Performance Line CX motor for greater traction and ability to conquer hills. This exceptional cargo bike, with a carrying capacity of 300 pounds, excels at carrying outsized cargo that other bikes simply can’t handle.
It comes with an extra low rear rack for added stability and can fit up to three children. It’s very lightweight, weighing in at only 60 pounds.
Unfortunately, the side loaders where kids put their feet can scrape up against curbs and other objects, causing damage both to your bike and to external objects.
Yuba also manufactures the Electric Boda Boda Compact Cargo Bike. It has a very compact style frame and has a Shimano STEPs motor for a smooth electric-motor assist. It comfortably fits two kids or one adult.
It hauls 244 pounds PLUS the driver. And at only 55 pounds, it’s very lightweight. It also has a low rear deck over a 20” wheel for maximum stability.
Additionally, it has an easy to read Integrated Cycling Computer with speed, distance, trip time, clock, gear, estimated range, and battery indication.
If you want an electric assist bike that can carry more gear but still is nimble as all get out, then the Boda Boda is the perfect ride for you.
You can also choose from a Step-Thru or a Step-Over frame. The cherry on the sundae is the always-charged front and rear LED lights.
Front Load Trikes
These trikes are the opposite of the trikes you remember from your childhood: two wheels in the front instead of the back. They can handle larger loads than other cargo bikes, too. For front load trikes, one of the best options is the Family Cargo Bike by Nihola, which starts at $3,999.
For 18 years, this Danish company has sold these trikes for families, so they have lots of experience. There are over 10,000 Nihola bikes in Copenhagen alone.
There is space for two children up to the age of eight on the bench, and the bike can transport up to 220 pounds of cargo weight. There’s also an optional rear seat add-in. Electric assist is available.
But there aren’t that many American distributors.
Next, there’s the Butchers and Bicycles MK1-E, which starts at $5,700. If Apple designed a bicycle, it would be the MK1-E, because its design incorporates an aesthetically-pleasing frame with great functionality. However, it’s also quite expensive.
And because it’s very wide, it might be difficult to navigate city streets. Tilt steering that leans into the turn makes it really safe and fun to ride.
How to Carry Major Appliances on Your Bike
In Portland Oregon, it’s common for people to move from one apartment to another using nothing more than a battalion of cargo bikes.
But you don’t have to live in Portland to experience the wondrous joys of being a pedal-powered mover, and you can even make extra money on the side doing bicycle-powered moves.
One of the coolest things about cargo bikes is you can cart large items around town without a truck. To do this, you’ll need to attach a trailer to your bike. You also need to invest in bungee cords and ratcheting straps.
To replace an old refrigerator with a new one using a bike, back up your trailer to the door of your house. Roll the old refrigerator out the door using an appliance dolly.
Place it on the back end of the trailer. Then, tip the refrigerator over on its side. Tie the refrigerator down with some ratcheting straps, but keep the dolly strapped to the refrigerator.
The trailer should be pretty stable as long as the refrigerator is over the wheels. Then, all that’s left to do is to go to the appliance store to pick up your brand-new refrigerator.
When picking it up, it’s best to keep your refrigerator in its original packaging so as to not damage the exterior in transit.
You can use this strategy to transport couches, tables, armoires, and so many other things. There’s a special feeling of satisfaction knowing you just used a bicycle to accomplish a task most people think can only be done with a fossil fuel-powered truck.
Hauling a Christmas Tree on a Cargo Bicycle
It’s an annual holiday tradition for cargo cyclists to transport their Christmas tree on their bike. It’s incredibly easy to use your cargo bike to pick up your Christmas tree. You can use a bike trailer if you want. But you should be able to do it using any of the cargo bicycles mentioned in this article.
If you’re using a longtail, strap your tree lengthwise along the deck with some bungee cords. Or, strap it to the side. If you have a bakfiet, simply place it into the basket.
Just take it slowly and make sure you can see in front of you.
Picking Up Groceries
A cargo bike is ideal for this sort of thing. You can get a whole week’s worth of groceries…no problem. With a cargo bike, even routine tasks become extraordinary adventures.
Starting a Bike-Based Business
If you want to start a cargo bike-based business, make sure you have the right bike for the job. Also, make sure you have some really good rain gear. You could deliver lunches or start a bicycle-based lawn care company.
Or even do pedal-powered bicycle moves.
The streets of this great country of ours are flooded with trucks carrying consumer goods to the point of purchase. You can be a welcome alternative to all this congestion by providing an ecologically-friendly delivery service.
I’ve heard of pizza-delivery services via bike. And couriers who deliver food for Uber on bike. There are even budding entrepreneurs who have started bicycle-powered pubs, complete with attached kegs, inlaid bars, and killer sound systems.
The sky’s the limit! Check out this article if you want to find out about more ways to make money with your bike.
So, get out there and kill it on your brand-new cargo bicycle. Follow these easy strategies, and soon you’ll be saving money like crazy. What are you going to do with all that money you don’t have to spend on an expensive car?