More and more families are getting rid of their cars and switching to cargo bikes. The new trend of mobile phones has always been an integral part of the city scene. But a cargo bike is not just a cargo bike. There are two- or three-wheeled versions, muscle-powered or electric, with luggage boxes in the front or rear, with tilt technology, steering knuckles or turntables. IMTEST explains the different concepts of cargo bikes, gives advice on buying them and reveals where you can get financing for the purchase of a cargo bike.
Tricycle or tricycle: three-wheeled cargo bikes
It offers the largest storage space and does not tip over when standing or driving slowly. Most cargo tricycles have two wheels in the front and one in the rear. The box, which is often a wooden box, is attached to the front of the handlebars. This has the advantage that you can always keep an eye on the babies or the pregnancy. Disadvantages of tricycles: They are relatively heavy, slow and too wide for some bike paths.
As with almost all other cargo bikes, buyers can choose between a classic motor that uses muscle power or an effortless electric motor, which is clearly reflected in the purchase price. Such models are ideal for families with children. On the way to the store, playground or kindergarten, the little ones are well secured in the transfer case thanks to the three-point belts. The seat belt also prevents the child from getting up suddenly while driving. Some models not only provide space for one or two children, but also accommodate six. Payload ranges from 100 to 200 kilograms, depending on the model.
Various types of guidance
With some three-wheeled cargo bikes, the vehicle heads fully forward using a turntable steering system. This means that when cornering, the handlebars, front wheels and box are moved simultaneously. This technique requires a larger swing of the arms away from the body. It takes getting used to.
On models equipped with Ackermann steering, the box remains straight when cornering. Here only the front axle moves – the two front wheels are connected to the steering wheel via a coupling. The steering movement is consistent with that of a regular bike, but feels more direct, like the movement of a car. This also takes getting used to. A special case are the tilt-equipped tricycles such as the Sblocs from Velogut, which are particularly well suited for sporty riders.
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The range of cargo tricycles is large. The most popular models include bicycles from the brands Babboe, Bakfiets, Butchers & Bicycles and Winther. Prices start at around €1,700 for models without an electric motor and range up to around €8000 for higher models. In many cases, there are also additional charges for accessories such as seat covers, child seat holders, or removable bench seats.
Tip: Anyone who conquers the slopes on their day trips – even minor ones that are hard to see with the naked eye – should shy away from the extra cost of electric driving. Most tricycles without an electric motor and battery weigh between 30-40kg when empty. Breathe quickly without motor support.
This generic term refers to two-wheeled cargo bikes with an extended wheelbase and loading area between the handlebar and front wheel. These models can carry loads of up to 150 kilograms. Long John is easy to ride and fits any bike path. After a certain period of acquaintance, it allows even a sporty driving style. You just have to get used to the length: Long Johns are about 2.50 meters long, and a regular bike is only about 1.90 meters.
Children on these two-wheeled vehicles can also be transported in the trunk in front of the handlebars, which you can see just as with the three-wheeled models. With a high load, the car can become quite wobbly when stationary and when driving slowly. The fact that the front wheel is off the handlebars also takes some getting used to. The only thing that helps you here is training and learning about driving characteristics before you drive the kids around you with it.
The most popular manufacturers of cargo bikes include Long John Babboe, Bakfiets, Cargo Factory, Yuba, Larry vs Harry, Muli, Urban Arrow and Riese & Müller. Prices range from about 1,800 euros to about 7,500 euros, depending on the model, type of drive and equipment.
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These are also particularly stable two-wheeled bikes with an extended wheelbase. Unlike Long John, the backpacker loading area is located behind the riders and the bike is generally not tall. A typical representative of this design, Yuba Mundo, has a height of 2.10 meters. This has the advantage that these cargo bikes can ride and maneuver almost like a regular bike. They are more maneuverable in city traffic than three-wheeled vehicles and Long Johns.
Concept flaws: There isn’t as much load space available on backpackers as the tricycles and the Long John. However, it is enough for most models for two child seats in a row. However, you do not have to keep an eye on the little ones while driving. Instead of child seats, baskets, bins, boxes, side bags and tie-down straps can also be used to store large and heavy luggage on the fixed luggage rack – making backpacks also suitable for long shopping trips. Some models allow a load of up to 200 kg.
The Makki Load electric cargo bike was developed after extensive consultation.
As is customary with cargo bikes, there are versions with and without electric motor. The most popular backpacker manufacturers are Yuba, Riese & Müller, Tern and Benno Bikes. The price range ranges from about 1,400 euros for the simplest models without an electric motor to more than 7,000 euros for the best models with an electric motor.
Generations of postmen have used these bikes. The so-called post bike is a particularly stable bike with a low frame, no different in size from a conventional bike. Classic post bikes have a particularly spacious and stable luggage rack at the front and rear, which is welded to the bike frame with thick metal brackets. As a result, postal bikes can handle much higher loads than conventional bikes. The front wheel is often smaller in diameter than the rear wheel in order to provide more storage space for the front luggage rack.
Boost bikes are available with electric or muscular motors. With prices starting at around €1,000, they are much cheaper than other types of cargo bikes. With an electric motor, prices start at around 3000 euros. Here is an overview of classic postal bikes, which in the meantime have become quite exotic, and from which cargo bikes are derived.
Driving test is important
Even those who have already made up their mind about a particular type of cargo bike shouldn’t go without an intense test ride. Because whether it’s a tricycle, a Long John, a backpacker, or a post bike — none of these models ride the way you’re used to from your mountain bike or city bike. Cargo bikes are heavier, more difficult and bulky to handle and ride than a regular bike. Even those who traveled a lot in the past with a bike trailer should switch to a cargo bike.
Parents who want to ride their children’s bikes should take them to the bike shop for riding trials right away. Little ones will be happy and mom or dad can try the type of cargo bike that suits them best. If you want to haul loads instead, you should ask your bike dealer before your test ride if they can provide enough heavy objects for your test ride. If not, it is a good idea to bring a few prepackaged bags from home. Because it makes a huge difference when you’re driving whether an empty cargo bike is being transported or with a high load.
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The state is pleased with all citizens who switch from environmentally harmful cars to a cargo bike. This is why many towns and communities encourage buying a cargo bike with rewards. Usually it reaches 500 euros or 1000 euros, sometimes there is only 100 euros. The conditions for this are very different. In some municipalities only merchants are supported, in others individuals are supported as well. Sometimes the promotion of a freight bike is associated with the deregistration of the car, which must be proven, and often the bonus is simply paid without any conditions. A good overview of freight bike premiums in Germany and Austria can be found here, broken down by federal state and individual cities/communities.
Cargo bikes are a great alternative to other modes of transportation and are fun to ride. However, the differences in driving behavior between individual types of cargo bikes are significant. Therefore, before deciding on one of the different two- or three-wheeled concepts, those interested should take the time to take a test ride, preferably with children, if the bike is to be purchased for it. It may be helpful to ask your municipality for financing to purchase a cargo bike.
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