The Best Cargo Carrying Bikes Of 2012: A Review

Kona's Ute Commuter Bike

If you are interested in carrying cargo on your bike you should consider a dedicated “cargo bike” or “utility bike”. These bikes are great for transporting luggage while commuting, touring or running errands.

Cargo bikes feature a long wheel base for more space on the rear luggage rack. They usually have a strong frame and wheels to carry more weight on and around the rear wheel.

Cargo bikes offer better handling than bike equipped with bike trailers or panniers (side saddles for bikes) — they do not fall over as easily because they have a low center of gravity.

Some owners even use them to carry large pieces of furniture around town. Check out this video:

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Here’s a round-up of some of the cargo carrying bikes available today:

The Kona Ute Cargo Bike

The Kona Ute cargo bike was recently introduced into the market by the Kona (based in Washington). It received a lot of press attention, and with good reason, because it is a fine cargo bike.

The Ute features a huge rack which is capable of carrying four panniers, and a couple of passengers. This bike’s geometry is designed to make carrying groceries on your bike a breeze. It has an extended utility frame made out of butted 7005 aluminum for heavy load-carrying ability. It also comes with some nice additions like fenders and quality handlebar grips.

Here’s a in-depth review of this bike from BikeHugger.

The Ute Cargo Bike sells for about $899 from REI.

Link: Kona Ute

The Xtracycle + Surly’s Big Dummy

Surly Big Dummy Longtail Commuter Bicycle

An Xtracycle FreeRadical system is a frame extender that moves your rear wheel further back and increases the stowage capacity of your bicycle. Basically, it transforms your bike into a longtail or cargo bike. The Xtracycle also comes with racks and straps for securing the extra cargo onto your bike. Because it is permanently affixed to your bicycle, it allows you to spontaneously buy groceries, or pick up twenty library books, when you may have left the panniers or trailer at home with a conventional system.

The Xtracycle system is available from Amazon.

There’s also a longbike called the Big Dummy that is specifically design to work with an Xtracycle (see below).

 

The Surly Big Dummy Cargo Bike

Surly Big Dummy Longtail Commuter Bicycle

The Big Dummy cargo bike by Surly was specifically design to integrate with the Xtracycle system. The Surly company has a reputation for building very strong bicycles, and this one is no exception. It also has long wheel base and a low center of gravity to keep you from tipping over when carrying loads. See a detailed review here by Commute By Bike.

The Big Dummy sells for $2400 to $2600. It’s available from Amazon.

Link: Surly Big Dummy


The Yuba Mundo

Yuba is a German company that specializes in making longtail utility bikes like the Mundo. This bicycle has a large, integrated cargo platform for easy loading. The bike’s frame is built with steel, and it features reinforced rims, axles, cranks, with cargo-strength tires. Velovision Magazine (which covers commuter and cargo bikes) recently reviewed this bike, and they described it thus:

A heavy-duty hauler which can carry loads and people in a way that was previously simply beyond a normal bike.

Amazingly, the Mundo bike can carry up to 440 lbs of cargo, or up to three passengers. It comes in two models: 1-speed and 6-speed. It sells for about $900.

Link: Yuba

The Bilenky

Bilenky is one of the few companies that still make their bikes in the U.S.

Russ Roca has posted a great review of the Bilenky cargo bike on his Bike Commuters site. After 300 miles of test riding, he says the Bilenky is better than the Xtracycle or LongJohn cargo bikes. Here’s his summary:

Compared to a Bakfiets and LongJohn, I prefer the Bilenky for many reasons. One of them is weight. I think my Bilenky weighs in at about 45lbs. A Bakfiets with a box is about 90lbs. Not sure about the Long John, but I am almost positive it’s more than 45lbs. The Bilenky is also made to take a derailleur system (or can be customized to whatever you want). The Bakfiets is limited to an 8spd internal. Most Long Johns are 3spd. I think the biggest advantage of the Bilenky is the ride geometry. My setup is relatively upright but not Dutch upright and also allows me to stretch out by changing hand positioning. The Bakfiets and Long John, from what I have seen and read are pretty upright and can be a bit cramped.

Link: Bilenky


Bakfiets

A bakfiets is a cargo bike from the Netherlands that has a large trough or box at the front, traditionally for transporting goods. Bakfiets can carry up to 175 pounds in the cargo area alone, which includes seating for two small children. Companies like Clever Cycles are making these bikes available in the U.S. There’s a blog about them here.

Comments

  1. Max says

    Having ridden the Big Dummy for 500+ miles with such loads as my 4 yr old son, 4 big bags of groceries and a bag of charcoal (all at once), and then going for an enjoyable single track adventure, none of the cargo bikes can compare. If you are confined to pavement and don’t carry live cargo, they might be fine. Being a dad, a commuter, a dirt rider, a camper, the Big Dummy can’t be beat. Try it with 700×32, disc brakes and a flat bar, and you will be amazed! AND, I’m not affiliated with Surly or Xtracycle ;-), Rex.

    • Sean says

      I have an extracycle currently and love it. I am so happy with it I just ordered a big dummy frame. I am considering build up with 650b or 700c wheels any down side? how is the handling with the 700′s.

      Thanks,
      Sean

  2. Garz says

    Thank you for this post… I have been eyeing these long bikes for awhile but did not know where to start….

  3. says

    The Extracycle is a great product. I have used one for about 1-1/2 years. I like it because it can be used with a standard bike and take advantage of the truely low gearing options found with mountain bike gear trains. When carrying the heavy loads that alot of these bikes allow for …. it can be very difficult to pedal around hilly areas, the ones with 6 speeds just do not work! I have tried Dutch cargo bikes around Seattle Hills and it is a joke, forget it unless you are carrying light loads, like bails of home insulation or the like. The largest load that my extracycle has carried (ridder+load) is 480lbs. The bike was not very safe to ride in traffic. It is OK up to about 380 and things get progressivly wobbley after that. The Exracycle can also be set up to carry long loads like 16′ ladders and lumber. This is a big help. Untill the Dutch/European bikes get some low (ie. 17inch) gears…. carrying bikg loads on them just is not possible unless you live where it is flat, like Copenhagen.
    Get an Extracycle if you live around hills.

  4. says

    I am not an expert in this field, but wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to just get a tandem bike? It can easily be adapted to carry cargo (the frame is already designed to carry the weight of a second person) with racks and panniers, and you can also carry a second person who can help with the pedaling! Last I checked you can get a cheap but serviceable tandem at Walmart for about $250, so you could get between 2 and 10 of them depending on which of the options above you are replacing. If the tandem’s cheap steel frame is too heavy, you could get an electric assist hub motor setup for about $400 and still come out ahead of most of these options in price.

  5. says

    I like this part best:
    “Compared to a Bakfiets and LongJohn, I prefer the Bilenky [...] The Bakfiets and Long John, from what I have seen and read are [...]”
    ;)
    but really, a great article and good on you for promoting such ways of transportation. and let’s don’t forget – what’s best for one, might be just ‘ok’ for the other!

  6. says

    My husband and i are Xtracycle riders. We took old mountain bike frames and added the freeradical kits. Its great for grocerys and other errands. I ride to work everyday, so its nice to have it when i bring my work out bag and a lunch and anything else i need. A friend has a Big Dummy that he turned into a BoomBike that we use on our Full Moon cruiser rides for random parking lot dance parties. Quite fun!

  7. says

    FYI, Xtracycle sells their cargo bicycle adapter, FreeRadical; their complete longtail cargo bike, Radish; and Surly’s Big Dummy through their website.

    Help support our small company by buying direct. Any questions, please call us at 888 537 1401.

    Happy Trails!

    Rick @ Xtracycle

  8. BAW says

    What about the Metrofiets, the Organic Engines Long Juan, HPM’s Long Haul, and the CETMA Cargo Bike?

    Or the Madsen?

    Or the RANS Hammertruck?

    And as for the person who advocated modifying a cheap tandem–you get what you pay for.

  9. says

    I got my Xtracycle in 2006. Didn’t have to “easily” adapt a tandem or support Wally World… it’s not adapting… it *IS* designed to be a sports utility bicycle. My local TV channel was all over it tonight :)

  10. says

    Nice overview. I think it’s great that there are now TOO MANY cargo bikes to include them all! :-) I use the Xtracycle Radish that Rick mentioned above; it’s great for carrying both kids and groceries and can be used as a primary vehicle.

  11. Chabi says

    I have had the 2009 mundo for a few months now. The only problem I have come across with it was that the guys who assembled it for me didn’t know what they were doing, but with some tweaks here and there, I am now fully capable of carrying my girlfriend (and sometimes others as well) to work everyday in and out of the floodplain of the Patomac. I think I may be the only person in DC with one right now, but even the xtracycle fans I have seen have been pretty blown away with it.

    I would also say that the likelyhood that the xtracycle fans writing here actually have seen the kona or the mundo is low–they are not very common yet. The mundo doesn’t have the xtracycle flex problem, and I haven’t felt like I needed the 18 gear option as of yet, though I most likely will convert to that when I need to eventually replace the gears. I don’t have kids, but I know it is set up to hold 2 child seats, and is tough enough for a pretty substantial front hook up as well, if you wanted to do that.

    I think the big competition with it is the Kona, which is just a sexy combo. But I am not sure which can carry more weight.

  12. Tinker says

    The Treck Cargo-T is, yet another cargo bike but it also is more commonly available and at a remarkably low price-point compared to the others. The Cargo T is made for Treck in taiwan, and is a de-contented dutch bike to get the price down ($600-$640?), sold by Seattle Bicycle. Comes with a sturdy latch to keep the front wheel from flopping under load, and STOUT front rack, arear rack, too. Looks like 26×2.125″ tires in the pictures I have seen, and a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub in the rear wheel.

    The Kona Ute and the Yuba Mundo are solider, not as prone to flexing under load as an Extracycle, of course, as they were built as a cargo bike from the ground up. But they are rather pricey, for people who flinch at paying $600 “just for a bicycle”?

  13. says

    I’ve been riding a Mundo in Bath UK for a month now, and I find it invaluable. 21 gears get me up some very steep roads ( one is 1 in 8 ), the handling is predictable, very stable smooth ride thanks to the long wheelbase and low centre of gravity. I’ve yet to haul a big load up to my allotment, but I don’t anticipate any problems moving six rubble sacks full of manure.

  14. Alastair Langdon says

    I agree with Michael, a tandem makes a perfect base for a cargo bike, checkout the Circe Helios Duo. A tandem that quickly converts to a load carrier.

  15. says

    I regularly haul kids and groceries up steep hills in Seattle using my Rans Hammer Truck with a BionX motor. It works really well! You can see a video of the bike in operation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIea5W4U8Wc

    I also write a blog about the bike and my experiences at http://www.MyCargoBike.net

    I’ve been disappointed that there aren’t more of these bikes on the road. At this point the cargo bike + electric motor configuration is still a custom build. I would love to see this category expand with an offering from a manufacturer.

  16. Bugly64 says

    The Dummy rules! Versatility, and ride comfort set the Surly Big Dummy apart from the other cargo bikes mentioned. The Ute is okay for some but doesn’t hold a candle concerning loads or balance.

  17. Amoeba says

    ‘angry customer’ has been spamming these false and libellous accusations on numerous blogs against wheelhousebikes.com.

    Please supply his IP address to Henry at Workcycles.com

  18. Anselmo says

    This is Anselmo at 510-292-5653-vm-only NO TEXT MSG’S… pls call about this article printed on the free newspaper: “EAST BAY EXPRESS” it is regarding shaping an arts education… using their resources about possibly building cargo bikes… I don’t have unlimited access time on the internet. I am always limited to 1-hour at the Richmond, CA. public library… Please lv me a vm if you’re in the SAn FRANCISCO communities BAY Area vacinity… Thank you…

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