When you think of cargo bikes, you might think of the post office or baker’s bikes used by tradesmen in the first half of the 20th century. But they’re no longer only used commercially, but increasingly for private use as well. The bikes, which for some people replace a small car, are more and more common on Germany’s streets – in all types.
A Long John, for example, is not a pirate, but a two-wheeled cargo bike: the front wheel is usually slightly smaller, and directly behind it–- clearly visible from the saddle - is the cargo area. “It’s almost like riding a normal bike and you can move quickly”, says Thomas Geisler from the Pressedienst Fahrrad news agency, describing the advantage of the Long John. He himself recently transported a tumble dryer home from the store with one of these bikes.
According to Geisler, the maximum load of a cargo bike is generally between 150kg and 250kg, including the weight of the bicycle itself.
In addition to the Long John, there are other types of bike. The cargo area, for example in the form of a double carrier, can also be located at the rear. While not as fast, there are more stable three-wheel cargo bikes, usually with a box body. “They’re relatively heavy and bulky, ” says Geisler. “In return, you can transport more and accommodate four children without any problems.” The permitted maximum weight is also higher for these models.
Anyone who opts for such a three-wheel bike has the choice between three steering systems, according to the ADAC motoring association. Ackerman steering is easy to steer, with the wheels and handlebars turning, while the cargo box at the front remains straight. With turntable steering, the cargo box also turns, making it more unfamiliar to ride. With the tilting technique, the bike rider tilts the wheel when turning into a bend. It takes a little practice, but the bike is manoeuvrable even when fully loaded.
Whether two or three wheels: anyone transporting a lot of weight has to pedal harder. Therefore, before making a purchase, you should ask yourself: Should you get a bike with an electric motor? “Getting started until you get the big load going can otherwise take time or even get a little wobbly, ” says Geisler. “Even if it’s only slight inclines you have to go up, a little support is useful.”
Before making the purchase, the cyclist should think about where and how the cargo bike will be used. How much weight will be loaded onto the bike? Do I want to carry large purchases in a closed box or transport a lot of children and be able to keep an eye on them? Am I mainly out and about in the city or in the countryside? The good thing: “Most cargo bikes are now modular, meaning they can be converted to suit the intended use in a few simple steps, ” says Geisler.
Having the right equipment is important – this is especially true when travelling with children. “You can get benches with harnesses to clip the children in, ” explains Petra Husemann-Roew from the German Cyclist’s Association. In addition, according to the ADAC, a rain cover or a sun canopy could be useful or additional lighting for the transport boxes, a parking brake and more.
It’s helpful to test before buying. as cargo bikes are not cheap and are a big investment. You should also consider where you’re going to store the cargo bike at home. After all, as a replacement for a small car, it’s sometimes almost as long – and it’s always possible to just bring it up from the cellar. – dpa/Christina Bachmann