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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.