What To Look For In A Cargo Bike

If you are considering investing in a cargo bike, you’re in good company. The cargo bike is becoming a common sight on our streets, and when you think about it, it’s easy to see why.

For short commutes, a cargo bike offers the option to drop the kids off at school or pick up your click-and-collect order on your way around town without the need to sit in traffic or worry about where you will find a parking space.

If you are looking to buy your first cargo bike, there are some specific things you should look out for to ensure you invest in one that’s right for you and your family. 

To help you choose, we’ve put together this article covering the types of cargo bikes available and things you should look out for when shopping for your new cargo bicycle.

Plus, we’ll take a look at the best ways of storing your cargo bike, and how infrastructure is evolving to help accommodate the demand.

What are the different types of cargo bike

When you start searching for a cargo bike, you’ll find several variations available. Whilst the choice might feel overwhelming, most cargo bikes fall into one of three categories: tricycles, front loading and back loading. 

Additionally, most cargo bikes have motor assist as standard to make carrying your load more manageable.

Let’s look at the types of cargo bikes available:

Tricycles

As cities and businesses strive to be greener, the commercial tricycle cargo bike has become more popular. The tricycle’s three-wheel style aids mobility for users carrying heavier loads and is an excellent alternative to a motor vehicle for short journeys. 

Larger commercial deliveries may use a four wheeled version, too. While we are moving quite far here from a ‘bicycle’, it still shares more characteristics with a bike than a van – notably the pedaling not engine, its size, and ability to travel in cycle lanes.

Tricycle cargo bikes make it easier and more cost-effective for businesses to make deliveries around town. The wide base of a tricycle allows for larger storage boxes that are ideal for couriers.

Beyond commercial use, tricycles in the form of front loading bucket style cargo bikes are a great stable option for the school run and larger loads.

delivery cargo tricycle

Image credit: A commercial cargo 'tricycle'

Front loading

There are typically two types of front-loading bikes available. The first is the town bike with a basket or crate on the front. The second is the more heavy-duty bucket-style cargo bike. 

There is some crossover between front loading and tricycle types. If we are taking tricycle to mean three wheels, then many front loading cargo bikes – particularly the Dutch ‘bakfiets’ style – feature two wheels at the front to help stabilise the bike.

One of the best things about a front-loading cargo bike is it requires less planning and thought about how your load is distributed, as it won’t impact your ride too much. 

It’s worth noting that smaller front-loading town bikes will be much easier to store due to their size. However, they cannot carry as much as the bucket-style cargo bike, which is better suited for transporting heavier loads. 

If you plan on using your cargo bike to carry the family around town, a front loader is a popular choice because it’s both easy to use and adaptable. Child seats can be easily fitted for the school run, as can a waterproof cover.

front loading cargo tricycle

Image credit: A front loading cargo tricycle

Rear Loading

Also known as a long-tail cargo bike, a rear-loading cargo bike looks like a standard bike but longer. Because they are not as wide as other styles, they are easier to store in the average home.

Designed to carry both cargo and children, it is perfect for families where the children can hold themselves upright but cannot ride independently. As a word of caution, when fully loaded, the rear-loading cargo bike can take a bit of getting used to and feel unsteady at first.

You can also use rear loading cargo bikes for much larger and extended panniers. The extended frame of the bike acts as a large traditional pannier rack, but giving you much more capacity for shopping and utility.

Other things to consider

If you are mulling over the various options available and are still unsure what type of cargo bike is best for you, the best advice we can offer is to go for a test ride to get a feel for the cargo bike. It is the best way to find a model that will work best for you. 

There are some other practical considerations which we will cover quickly below, particularly when it comes to parking and storing your cargo bike.

Do I need an electric cargo bike?

Most cargo bikes come with motorised pedal assist initiated by the rider to make your cycling experience more pleasant – or at least offer an electric option. Carrying a full load on a cargo bike would be hard without motorised assistance. 

An e-cargo bike means you can carry a full load, travel further, helping you comfortably replace most – if not all – of your day-to-day car usage.

rear loading cargo bike

Image credit: A rear-loading or long-tail cargo bike

UK-Public-Cycle-Parking-Standards-Guide

Image credit: A front-loading cargo bike parked on a Sheffield stand at Brentford FC Community Stadium

How do I store my cargo bike at home?

Cargo bikes are by no means small or light items. For those without a garage, shed or garden access, it can be a challenge – especially for any users living in a high-rise flat or apartment. Carrying a cargo bike up and down stairs is certainly not recommended, nor is it even possible. 

If you lack a garage or shed space, your cargo bike needs to be stored outside. Some councils have started to install dedicated cargo bike parking hangars, but unfortunately, these are few and far between and certainly not a common find across the country. This leaves either finding space within your hallway, or looking into shared hire schemes.

With the luxury of garage and shed space, be sure to still securely lock your cargo bike even within a secured space.

How do I park a cargo bike?

Cargo bike parking requires no more than a Sheffield stand with adequate spacing. It is preferable that these spaces are properly reserved for cargo bikes and other non-standard bicycles.

Make sure to use a well-rated lock and use an extra cable if necessary to secure the wheels. Consider registering your bike with the Bike Register so in the worst case the police are able to identify the cargo bike correctly. You might even consider an alarm system to further protect it.

Ultimately, if you decide to take the plunge and invest in a cargo bike, we are sure you won’t regret it. Replacing car journeys with a cargo bike is hugely satisfying, with a much lower running cost, and the added benefits of an active travel lifestyle.

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