Carrier cycle, cargo bike, in short, pack mule on two wheels. Carrier cycles are booming: “Cargo bikes are becoming more and more popular in Germany. Last year we saw more than 60 percent of growth in cargo bike sales," says Anke Schäffner from the German bicycle association ZIV in Berlin. She still sees “a lot of potential for this segment” in the private as well as commercial sector.
With load capacities of sometimes several hundred kilograms, carrier cycles are suitable for trade and commerce; and equipped with seats and straps they can be used as daycare taxis. In addition, they can be used to do the weekly shopping in the supermarket just as easily as to transport small children and luggage in one go on cycle tours.
“The variety of designs is now almost impossible to be overlooked,” says Pressedienst-Fahrrad (pd-f). An overview of types, features, purchase and legal issues.
LOADED: The range is very wide. There are, for example, heavy duty bikes the loading surfaces of which can sometimes bear up to 300 kg and, depending on the superstructure, offer a capacity of 2500 litres. What is also available, is the classic “baker's bike” with a large basket above a smaller front wheel. A distinction is made between single-track and double-track cargo bikes.
A classic among single-track vehicles is the Long John with a low positioned loading surface between the steering post and the front wheel. It is longer but rarely wider than a classic bicycle. Payloads of around 100 kg are common. Accessories include double child seats, holders for Maxi-Cosi baby seats or lockable boxes.
The loading surface behind the saddle, on the other hand, is found on the single-track Long Tail, also referred to as backpacker. There are two variants: one with an extended wheelbase and loading surface in front of a rear wheel that has been moved to the rear; another one with an extended luggage carrier. If the luggage carrier is shorter, it is called a Midtail cargo bike.
Among the double-track bikes, the three-wheeled one with a box between two front wheels is common. According to pd-f, there is room for up to six children. The usual payload is 150 kilos.
RIDING: The riding characteristics are in general better the lower the centre of gravity is positioned. Riding a single-track cargo bike can be compared most to riding a conventional bike. “You can move forward with them quickly, pass through narrow places and ride through corners as usual,” says René Filippek from the German Cycle Association (ADFC). If they are longer, like a Long John, they are less agile.
Restriction with single-tracks: Their pack mule characteristics are fundamentally inferior to trikes. One reason: Their loading surfaces are usually not wider than the handlebars. And they are not as stable as a tricycle, in spite of the robust double-leg kickstand.
The riding behaviour of tricycles is something you have to get used to. According to Filippek, it was impossible to lean into the corner because of the two front wheels. The trike should be ridden at a leisurely pace “so as not to tip over when turning.” Some manufacturers equip their trikes with tilting technology on the front axle to improve cornering characteristics.
For many, however, the electric drive is of priority. “Especially with cargo bikes, the assistance of an electric motor makes sense,” says Filippek. Heavy loads could be moved easier with a motor, and riding uphill is also easier.
When transporting children, parents should make sure that the straps are tight. “This makes cargo bikes with transport boxes much less sensitive to the child moving around,” says Dirk Zedler of bicycle test institute Zedler.
Read the entire German article online
Author: Stefan Weißenborn
Photo: Zacharie Scheurer/dpa-tmn