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  1. #1
    urban commuter
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    Choosing a cargo bike!

    Hi, I just joined. With thread titles like "bicycling with cats" and "post your beer pics," I know I'm in the right place!

    I live in Philly and am seriously considering ditching my car for a cargo bike + my commuter bike + a Zipcar membership. I'm tired of dealing with repairs, vandalism, hit-and-run damage, and sky-high insurance rates. All told, our car costs us around $2500 per year to operate and is only worth a little more than that. We use the car 2 to 4 times per week for random errands and to commute when it's snowy out. For the rest of the year, my partner and I commute ~50 miles per week (I'm on a Brompton, she has a Surly Steamroller), with some public transit tossed into the mix. I want to get a dedicated cargo bike for the two of us to share. Our price range is up to $2000, with a little bit of wiggle room depending on the sale price of the car. Here's what we're looking for:

    -ability to comfortably haul moderate-size loads (4 bags of groceries, some large pet food/litter bags, a case of beer, etc.)
    -ability to handle hills with aforementioned moderate-size loads
    -nimble enough to handle on city streets with trolley tracks, pot holes, double-parked cars, etc. (I'm not expecting miracles, just nothing too clumsy)
    -must be able to carry the bike up a few steps into our house without throwing out our backs (will be stored on an enclosed porch in a row home)
    -ability to transport a small pet in a carrier during the warmer months would be a huge plus
    -adaptability/add-ons are not that important; the above uses are what we will need 95% of the time
    -we don't have/want kids, so no need for child-centric construction or accessories
    -Bikes I like so far: Joe Bike box bike, Kona Ute, Yuba Mundo

    I like the idea of tossing items into the Joe Bike box and not having to fumble with pannier bags and straps for quick trips to the farmer's market. Maybe it's the Brompton weirdo in me, but I also love the look of the bike! However for city handling and easier carrying/storage, the Ute and Mundo are probably better matches. Of course, I can't test-ride the Joe Bike anywhere since they're custom made in Portland. The Ute is readily available at my local bike shop; I'd have to go to NYC or Maryland to test-ride and purchase the Mundo.

    Any general advice on making this purchase would be much appreciated, and I would love to hear from anyone with the above-mentioned bikes, or another model in my price range that I may be leaving out. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Gear Hub fan
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    The Box bike is basically a Dutch style Bakfiets. To me it is designed for carrying young kids as much as anything as they are in sight in front of the rider, an advantage. I did not see the weight listed but with the box installed it may well be too heavy for ready carrying to your porch storage location. I suggest that you contact the builder for more information. Gearing range may be limited too for the hills you mentioned depending on drivetrain option chosen. Again discuss this with the manufacturer.

    The Yuba Mundo is also a heavy bike due to the Hi-Ten steel frame construction, about 50+ pounds I have read. Read the recent thread here regarding it as there have been some quality issues per several posts there. Also the weight and frame/fork geometry give quite slow and heavy handling per some comparisons with other cargo bikes I have read.

    From your description either the Kona Ute, an Xtracycle conversion or the Surly Big Dummy would be my choice. I bought the Big Dummy recently and am quite satisfied with it as it is quite nimble handling and has worked great on the roads of Reno which are not in very good condition. It would meet your cargo requirements IMO. A Xtracycle conversion could be the cheapest way to go for giving a cargo bike a try. An older no suspension MTB works well for such conversions.

    As the Ute is available locally try a test ride and see what you think. It is less versatile than the other bikes I believe but might well meet your requirements.
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  3. #3
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    As mentioned Box-Bike is a copy of dutch Bakfiets http://www.bakfiets.nl/eng/
    But it seems to fail in copying it. It looks weak and uses unreliable parts that don't last long on cargobike. Internal geared hubs and hub brakes are way to go on these types of bikes. Bakfiets company has more then a century of experience in building reliable bikes that last long. And good bike costs a lot. Also weights a lot too, but weight isn't noticeable when riding it.

    I would still prefer a Bakfiets type of bike to a longtail bike.

  4. #4
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    Dutch bikes dealer in NY
    http://www.acorncycles.com/

  5. #5
    urban commuter
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    Thanks for the replies, tatfiend and etsike! I can't afford a true Bakfiets (I did look, but at $3-5k it's too much), so I'll give the Ute a closer look and a test ride soon. I'd prefer not to deal with panniers/straps but I think in the city, it may be the best bet.

  6. #6
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    A short while ago I purchased a used Torker Cargo-T Bike from CL in Philly. Its worth taking a look at for the money. I paid $350(like new) plus shipping packing ect. A couple nice features on it are the locking On/Off steering column which prevents the Forks from swinging around when loading up the front rack, the Large Front Rack and Dual sidestand. And it has a step thru frame which makes it really nice when you have a heavy load. its been pretty comfortable on a few 10 mile round trip jaunts I've put it thru so far. Soaks up the road bumps pretty well and 3 speed IGH is plenty here on the flat as a pancake streets of Miami. Mine is the Neon Green color as shown in the below link, identical to mine. I like the bright neon green for Visabilty, it sure has caught the attention of many as no one around here has such a Make/Model. For what I spent, I'm well satisified
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by miamimike; 03-24-10 at 02:44 PM. Reason: pic

  7. #7
    A biking donkey.
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    Hmmm.. Depends where in Philly you be using these bikes. I moved from Philly to Spain last year and I bought a Yuba Mundo. Where I live in Spain, it is perfect. Easy to park, it can carry all the things you mention and a lot more but when I think back, I would not know where and how to park in Philly. It is bit bulky. Trophy bikes in walnut has some bakfiel type bikes and other (was it the Kona?) bikes in display, when I look at them, I think the same about bakfiel too. An xtra-cycle conversion is indeed a nice compromise in Philly.

    Ok, this being said, in somewhere like Mt Airy it may work. It would be tough in West Philly or Center city.

  8. #8
    urban commuter
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    Thanks ulugeyik. Trophy is my bike shop of choice, so that's where I'm headed this weekend to check out the Ute and Big Dummy. I'm in West Philly and would be going to Whole Foods (the one in Fairmount) and Trader Joe's about once a week, but most errands would be to/from the Baltimore Ave strip, Clark Park farmers market, etc. I don't do any shopping in Center City that I couldn't do with my commuter bike and messenger bag. As long as I can lock up the cargo bike somewhere, I'm good to go. I do have to be able to carry the bike up to my enclosed front porch, so the Ute is fairly attractive in that respect. I think it weighs in around 45lbs or so. We'll see...

  9. #9
    A biking donkey.
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillyskyline View Post
    Thanks ulugeyik. Trophy is my bike shop of choice, so that's where I'm headed this weekend to check out the Ute and Big Dummy. I'm in West Philly and would be going to Whole Foods (the one in Fairmount) and Trader Joe's about once a week, but most errands would be to/from the Baltimore Ave strip, Clark Park farmers market, etc. I don't do any shopping in Center City that I couldn't do with my commuter bike and messenger bag. As long as I can lock up the cargo bike somewhere, I'm good to go. I do have to be able to carry the bike up to my enclosed front porch, so the Ute is fairly attractive in that respect. I think it weighs in around 45lbs or so. We'll see...
    I carry my Mundo up down couple of steps but it is tough, and I have to unload it before doing anything like that. Luckly, where I live, I can live the bike in front of the door with stuff and unlocked for ~10 minutes for unloading things. Loading is also convenient if the place has a parking lot or is in the park etc.

    Here is how we rigged ours:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulugeyi...7620306922821/

    Baltimore ave reminds me. yes, it is pretty robust against potholes and such. I got the one with gears so I can climb a highway overpass.

    BTW, there is a new version, V3, out there which just showed up on bunch of blogs which appears to have added nice touches.

  10. #10
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    I use an Xtracycle and can carry much more if I need to than it sounds like you need to. It is inexpensive compared to other options, can be put on any old MTB and if it gets stolen you aren't crying for as long. It is cheap enough that if you want to upgrade to a big dummy later you won't be out much money. The panniers on the Xtra are just open bags so you just drop in your grocery bags or boxes into the big pockets. For larger loads you can get a wide loader later and the Kickback stand works great for loading big loads. Depending on the MTB you use, it can be quite light unloaded. If you were carrying kids or large packages and lived in a flat place, I would suggest the box bike type. With the Xtra it is easy to attach a trailer for very large loads (I've used my Bikes At Work trailer for hauling sheets of plywood, compressor, nail guns, table saw, etc.). I haven't tried the Mundo or any of those types but they should work as well as the Xtra but I like the fact that my MTB is a standard MTB so it is easy to upgrade handlebars, seats, tires, etc. Make sure whatever you get doesn't have a lot of non-standard parts that you can't get from any bike shop.

  11. #11
    urban commuter
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    Thanks for the info, crackerdog. I've considered the xtracycle, but by the time I buy a decent used bike to hook it up to, then the xtracycle at $239, a kit at $100, and some pannier bags at perhaps another $100-200, I feel like I may as well get a Ute for $900! I am less concerned with money, especially looking at the under $1000 range, than I am with purpose/utility. I do want something that I can ride comfortably when my bike is in the shop or when I plan to make a big grocery trip on my way home from work. I'll have to test ride a few things to see what works best. I'm not ruling out the xtracycle kits just yet!

  12. #12
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillyskyline View Post
    -ability to comfortably haul moderate-size loads (4 bags of groceries, some large pet food/litter bags, a case of beer, etc.)
    -ability to handle hills with aforementioned moderate-size loads
    -nimble enough to handle on city streets with trolley tracks, pot holes, double-parked cars, etc. (I'm not expecting miracles, just nothing too clumsy)
    -must be able to carry the bike up a few steps into our house without throwing out our backs (will be stored on an enclosed porch in a row home)
    -ability to transport a small pet in a carrier during the warmer months would be a huge plus
    -adaptability/add-ons are not that important; the above uses are what we will need 95% of the time
    -
    !

    I am going to give an alternate view.

    How about:

    Getting a full size bike for you

    Get good rear rack and Basket (I like baskets ) or pannier combination or you and your significant other's bikes. This combination allow easily 2 big bags of groceries and a case of beer, or a pet carrier...it covers maybe 70-80 % of your hauling needs

    and supplement with a trailer for the really big loads. which would be shared between both bikes.

    this gives you load carrying ablity that is always with you, nimble handling, ease in carrying up steps and larger capacity when you need it.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
    I am going to give an alternate view.

    How about:

    Getting a full size bike for you

    Get good rear rack and Basket (I like baskets ) or pannier combination or you and your significant other's bikes. This combination allow easily 2 big bags of groceries and a case of beer, or a pet carrier...it covers maybe 70-80 % of your hauling needs

    and supplement with a trailer for the really big loads. which would be shared between both bikes.

    this gives you load carrying ablity that is always with you, nimble handling, ease in carrying up steps and larger capacity when you need it.
    My Big Dummy with a good load (4 paper bags of groceries) handles so much better than my older shopping bike with 2 bags of groceries in shopping panniers that there is no comparison IMO. Just load it so that the heaviest bags are in the front of the Freeloaders. A normal wheelbase bike with two filled shopping panniers is too tail heavy with the panniers positioned far enough to the rear to give adequate heel clearance in my experience. It is of course dependent on the load you want to carry.

    Phillyskyline;

    Last year I picked up a 1990 Trek 950 locallly at Goodwill for $60. It needed new tires and a new bottom bracket along with a lot of cleaning but would have made an excellent Xtracycle conversion candidate. In many areas older non suspension MTBs are available remarkably inexpensively.

    If Philly has a bike coop that recycles older bikes stop by and see what they have available.
    Last edited by tatfiend; 03-24-10 at 03:09 PM. Reason: Addition added
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

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  14. #14
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    I have a Mundo V3 that I love. I do have to unload it before taking it inside, but I suspect you'll realistically want to do that with most cargo bikes. Squeezing them through doorways with packed bags will be tough to say the least.

    It is heavy and slow, but it's also comfortable and very stable. The components on the basic bike are all entry-level stuff, but they're functional. The load capacity is nuts. You'll run out of loading volume before you get close to the maximum weight capacity, unless you're maybe hauling stacks of bricks.

    As others have said, some people have had some issues with quality control. Others haven't. YMMV.

    If you do get a Mundo, I recommend three things: Get the brakes and drivetrain adjusted at a local bike shop after you get it (if you don't buy it at a bike shop). Run the tires at the lower end of their pressure range. Swap the default seat for one with springs. The last two are because, while the upright seating is mostly comfortable, it can make things like potholes transmit an unpleasant amount of shock to your body.

  15. #15
    The wizard of ...
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    Having ridden all of the bikes that you mentioned, I would say there are no loosers in the bunch. I like the ride of the Joe bike and it's short wheelbase makes it a lot more nimble than it looks. The components are basic but are actually quite suitable for cargo use. You can haul a lot of stuff on the Joe bike and usually you can just stack it in the bin. The cockpit is a little cramped and upright for my tastes but very comfortable. Its drawback is that it is a little ackward to get up stairs.
    The Yuba is the one I would get for carrying ridiculously heavy loads. It doesn't flex, is comfortable and not excessively heavy.
    The Kona is a great bike but not quite up to the heavy hauling that the others are. It is fast and easy to ride.

  16. #16
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    Urbana Cargo Bike

    Another Canadian Cargo Type Bike on the Market that has some Interesting features is the Urbana Bike from Canada. Those HUGE 2.6 inch tires and Disc Brakes options as well as the interesting Rake Angle of the forks sets it apart from many (not all) other Step-Thru Cargo Bikes.

    http://www.urbanabikes.com/
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    Last edited by miamimike; 03-25-10 at 02:13 AM. Reason: add url

  17. #17
    urban commuter
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    Thanks everyone, this is all super helpful. It's nice to hear from someone who's ridden the Joe Bike, too. So many choices!

  18. #18
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    A B.O.B. trailer would probably serve your needs. They're not cheap, but less than a new bike and it would take up less space. The B.O.B. corners great but if you will be hauling more than the recommended 75lb limit, it becomes difficult to control. A two wheel trailer is more stable under heavy loads but won't corner as well. A bike with B.O.B. is quite nimble, can handle the moderate loads you describe, easy to carry up stairs. B.O.B. trailers are light weight and you can put one on your bike or take it off in seconds.

    The Zipcars are worthless. You don't need Zipcar. Good for short trips, but bicycles are better for short trips. I'd ride a bus before hiring a Zipcar. Rent a car for long road trips, not for short jaunts.
    Last edited by qmsdc15; 03-25-10 at 05:11 PM.

  19. #19
    urban commuter
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    Thanks for all the input everyone. We test rode a Kona Ute today and bought one on the spot. The 2009 models were on sale and we got a great deal on an extra pannier bag and upgraded saddle. The bike is a tank but doesn't weigh nearly as much as you'd think it would. I was really amazed at how smooth the ride was--like a Cadillac! We couldn't have hooked up a trailer or xtracycle outfit to our current rides (folding bike and fixie) so this is a bike we can both use. I expect it'll get lots of use. I can't wait to pick it up on Thursday! Now we just have to sell the car...

  20. #20
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    Nice choice! Enjoy. There is someone here who has posted photos of a folding bike with a trailer attached so it can be done, but the Ute will do everything a bike + trailer can plus you can carry passengers on it.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillyskyline View Post
    Thanks for all the input everyone. We test rode a Kona Ute today and bought one on the spot. The 2009 models were on sale and we got a great deal on an extra pannier bag and upgraded saddle. The bike is a tank but doesn't weigh nearly as much as you'd think it would. I was really amazed at how smooth the ride was--like a Cadillac! We couldn't have hooked up a trailer or xtracycle outfit to our current rides (folding bike and fixie) so this is a bike we can both use. I expect it'll get lots of use. I can't wait to pick it up on Thursday! Now we just have to sell the car...
    I will repeat the congratulations. Longtail bikes with a combination of long wheelbase and large cross section tires do ride nicely based on my Surly Big Dummy experience.
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

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  22. #22
    urban commuter
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    Quote Originally Posted by qmsdc15 View Post
    Nice choice! Enjoy. There is someone here who has posted photos of a folding bike with a trailer attached so it can be done, but the Ute will do everything a bike + trailer can plus you can carry passengers on it.
    Yeah, but my folder is a 2-speed, and only one of the gears is worth anything, so it wouldn't be fun! I think we're most excited about having a bike that can comfortably (we hope) make it up hills with a decent load on the back. Carrying 30-40lbs of groceries and gear on my back on my tiny little bike is doable, but pretty miserable.

    I will repeat the congratulations. Longtail bikes with a combination of long wheelbase and large cross section tires do ride nicely based on my Surly Big Dummy experience.
    Thanks! The bike handled much more nimbly than I expected for its size. I was surprised that I could make a quick U-turn or sharp turn without a problem. I'd love a Big Dummy, but it's way out of our price range.

    I'll definitely be posting updates once we get the bike and haul some stuff

  23. #23
    urban commuter
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    Quote Originally Posted by qmsdc15 View Post
    The Zipcars are worthless. You don't need Zipcar. Good for short trips, but bicycles are better for short trips. I'd ride a bus before hiring a Zipcar. Rent a car for long road trips, not for short jaunts.
    Depends on where you live and where you need to go. We have easy access to public transit and I do use it a few times per month, but getting to a place like Target for a big-ticket item would take almost an hour by bus and cost $8 roundtrip for two people. The nearest Zipcar is one block away, and a two-hour rental would cost less than $15. It'll be worth it in some situations, but I don't anticipate using the service more than once a month.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillyskyline View Post
    Thanks! The bike handled much more nimbly than I expected for its size. I was surprised that I could make a quick U-turn or sharp turn without a problem. I'd love a Big Dummy, but it's way out of our price range.

    I'll definitely be posting updates once we get the bike and haul some stuff
    The same for the Big Dummy. Quite nimble considering the size and weight. I believe that is primarily due to front end geometry, a combination of frame head angle and of fork rake and trail. The 2009 Xtracycle complete bike and the Yuba Mundo have much more cruiser type front end geometry which makes their handling slower and heavier feeling. The 2010 Xtracycle frame/fork has been revised to improve this per their web site but they do not list the actual new geometry numbers.
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

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  25. #25
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    Yeah it's the $15 for two hours that I have trouble getting over. I guess you still need a trailer for the big ticket items from Target, but at least you have a capable bike now to tow with.

    Zipcars seem expensive to me, but I suppose calling them worthless was a bit of a stretch. I have a big trailer and live close to Target and Home Depot, so I've dismissed the idea of using Zipcar for myself, but I see how Zipcar could be useful for you and will save you money vs. owning a car.

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