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Why a longtail over a trailer, front loader or porteur?

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Why a longtail over a trailer, front loader or porteur?

Old 07-31-11, 12:28 PM
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Question Why a longtail over a trailer, front loader or porteur?

It seems there's an overwhelming approval of the BD and the like on this forum. Despite this, I still feel a trailer is a better option for long distance, and bakfiets and porteurs for shorter. The longtail to me seems like a passing fad and only in North America, but having not ridden one I can't really compare them to my usage of trailers or a workcycles cargobike (front loader), which I rode once.

Why have you chosen a longtail over the time-tested designs of porteurs and delivery bikes, with geometry for front load on a smaller front wheel; long johns/front loaders like the bullit and cetma cargo, with weight centralized on the wheelbase (compared to a longtail with most of it's weight on the rear); or a trailer, which is portable, modular (you can use the same bike with different trailers for different purposes, effectively handling more loads) and just as, if not more, stable? What are the advantages of a longtail over these designs?
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Old 07-31-11, 03:24 PM
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The longtail has a few things going for it. First is cost. With the xtracycle bits you can convert an existing bike for much less than the cost of most dedicated cargo bikes. If you have an old bike sitting around it's an attractive option. There's not really a used market of cargo bikes in the US so they tend to hold much of their value on resale ( no used bakfiets for cheap.) My semi custom big dummy still came in at much less than front loading options. Everything in my price range was a longtail and the madsen.

Second would be handling, longtails handle like a regular bike, moreso than a long John style or trailer. Not to say that the handling of a bakfiets is bad, it's just an adjustment from a more standard bike.

Third would be versatility, I wouldn't go family camping with a cetma or bakfiets and would have a hard time hauling my kid on a butcher bike. My daily loads aren't extremely heavy in a way that would favor a front loader. But for groceries, gardening supplies etc while hauling a kid it works for me.
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Old 07-31-11, 11:02 PM
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If all I did was haul stuff, I might go with a specialized cargo bike. I use my Xtracycle for almost everything around town and when I am ready to head home, I can stop for groceries. We have a lot of woodland trails here and I can use the Xtra to cruise the trails or take shortcuts and still stop at the hardware store for a couple lengths of 10 foot pipe. I went on a 10 mile ride with some friends and on the way home past the store, I remembered a friend wanted me to pick up a liquid filled heater for her home. It fit on the Xtra with no problems. It is like a regular bike with a trunk. I sometimes haul a trailer behind it for tablesaw, compressor, and other tools.
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Old 08-02-11, 12:26 PM
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Well, i can tell you why I made the decision i have. It was all about money, convenience, and ease of use.

I have a BD and love the ride and versatility. If I was the only one using it then it would be my only bike. I feel comfortable riding it short distances for errands, off-road if I was going camping or just trail rides ( you can't do that on a bak-fiet, not enough clearance. I'm not sure because i haven't ridden one, but i'm going over to Adeline Adeline in Manhattan to test ride a Bakfiet and a Workcycle fr8. I heard very positive reviews about the fr8) or as a daily commuter. Really no difference from a normal bike. But I was planning to get a all-weather, all-year bike that I can lock outside exposed to the elements and this is where the bakfiet and Workcycle fr8 comes in. They are said to me design for that. Snow, rain, or shine. This is an exact quote from the owner of Workcycle, "The Fr8 is first zinc-phosphate treated, then painted on both the inside and outside with anodically applied KTL antirust primer, and then coated with a very tough powdercoat. No factory in Asia will finish bikes this way meaning that these bicycles must be finished and assembled in Europe, unlike most bicycles that are manufactured completely in China or Taiwan." I think this also applies to the Bakfiets but I'm going to have to confirm it. I will post my answer in the future. Getting by to my requires for my all-weather bike. It will be used by all members of the family year round, including my wife picking up the kids from school which is within a 10 mile radius. She is going to work her confidence up to the point where she is able to comfortably ride either the fr8 or the bakfiet on the street with cars. We live in an apartment so I'm planning to lock the bike in the parking lot (which is outside exposed to the elements) year round and maybe cover it up with a bike cover. The bakfiet has the advantage of a better childen porter and the convenience of just throwing a large amount of stuff in the basket without strapping it down, but it is longer then a fr8 or a BD so can be a little awkward but i think you will eventually get use to it. The fr8 is more "normal" and you can carry children too but it is not as fun for and you can't keep an eye on them, plus it is not as fun for them. Because it is going to be a family bike I figure they will use it more if they are comfortable with it. My decision will hinge on how each one rides. The cost between a bakfiet and the fr8 is about $1000, but it can be made up with gas savings, better health from cycling, and happier people. We tend to get into fewer arguments when everybody is in a good mood.

Then there is the cost. You can get a BD used but it is far and in between, then you have to see if it is the right size. Probably cost you around $1000 to $1500 depending on the condition. You can go the Xtracycle route but it isn't as solid as a BD or anything with a single frame. Or you can try the Yuba Mundo which is around $1200 I think. A bakfiet will cost around $2600 to $3000 depending on the brand you go with. The Workcycle bakfiet has the advantage of being lower maintenance and better for all weather then some of the more modern iterations with disc brakes and derailers, in my opinion.

This is just what I have learned and experience in my purchasing research. Hope it helps.

Last edited by bigdummy27; 08-02-11 at 12:30 PM. Reason: Adding additonal info
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Old 08-02-11, 05:16 PM
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Thank you, very helpful replies! So it seems cost and versatility are the primary factors for a longtail. With that in mind, I would like to try a longtail out sooner or later, but I think buying another trailer for heavier loads may be a better optionfor me until I get a heavier duty cargo bike. I still can't see an advantage of a longtail verses a trailer (besides the convenience, off-road which I don't do, and for spur of the moment errands), but I'm more convinced now to check them out at least!
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Old 08-02-11, 05:36 PM
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If you're regularly hauling heavy items, a trailer is better. Furniture, machinery, bulk items, palletized things can be carried by a longtail but are probably better suited for a trailer. For basic household trips something like the burley travoy suits pretty well. If you're looking for a car replacement, a dedicated cargo bike is the way to go. Something like the civia halstead can handle lots of stuff. If you have a wide variety of loads and distances and want a comfy bike, go longtail. It's like a caddy or Buick, very comfy since the weight is in the center of the bike.
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Old 08-02-11, 10:24 PM
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I've only had my BD for about 3 weeks but I chose it as a good around town bike. I don't have garage space for a front loader as I know them. It rides well, stores easily and covers about 95% of my hauling needs. I have a trailer but find it time consuming to attach and store. I know I am still somewhat of the honeymoon phase with it but for day to day use, I don't anticipate having any regrets.
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Old 08-02-11, 10:44 PM
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I got back from the dealer and test rode a Workcycle Bakfiet and the Workcycle Fr8. The Bakfiet takes some getting use to. I was very scared that a car might crash into me since the street that the dealer is located on is broken asphalt and there were cars parked on either side. It definitely takes some getting use to but I think it will be ok after an hour or so of riding in a parking lot. The build quality on both the Bakfiet and the Fr8 are first class. They are over-build just like the old mercedes benz of the 70s and 80s. I don't see any problem leaving it outside year round.

The Fr8 was a lot easier to get use to and it is a very comfortable bike. One of the reasons for getting either one is to transport my daughter from school, but the front carrier is too close to the main seat. Because the seat post is angled at a very shallow angle the higher the seat the more room is available, but since i'm only 5'5" the seat had to be very close to the bottom and everytime I had to stop I was pretty much hitting the child-seat in front. A definite no no. So I think the Bakfiet will be a better choice.
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Old 08-03-11, 01:53 PM
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Is there decent gearing on the Bakfiet for hilly areas? One great thing about the Xtracycle is that I just used my old mtn bike which I had put low gears on.
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Old 08-03-11, 04:30 PM
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My bikes at work trailer is a flatbed, so standing against the wall in a garage it takes up very little space. It only takes about 20 seconds or less to attach, so it's certainly not time consuming.

A cargo bike like the Big Dummy is best for any load up to a moderate weight, in my opinion. Any more than that and balance would be an issue. A cargo bike would also be better for trail riding, and possibly even touring or bike camping. A heavy duty trailer would be needed for very large loads, or heavy items that would cause a balance issue on a cargo bike. Remember, when I talk about a trailer, I'm thinking of a heavy duty one, not one of those canvas ones that can only carry 150-200 pounds.

If you're comparing a big dummy to a light weight trailer, then it's probably a toss up.

Last edited by hopperja; 08-07-11 at 10:41 PM.
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Old 08-05-11, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by crackerdog
Is there decent gearing on the Bakfiet for hilly areas? One great thing about the Xtracycle is that I just used my old mtn bike which I had put low gears on.
The one that I test-rode is made by Workcycle and it has a Shimano 8-speed Internal hub. It is ok, but you aren't going to get anywhere fast and the geometry is not really good for climbing hills. You sit in a very upright position so when you are are pushing down of the pedal you are also pushing slightly forward instead of down and back. Also, because the workcycle is so overbuilt (you can literally leave this thing out 24/7 and it'll hold up nicely) it is very heavy so that doesn't help with the hills no matter what type of gearing you have. Plus, the steeper the hill the faster the descent and with that much weight you pickup speed really fast.

After the test-ride and reading some more of others opinions. I just the whole long-tail vs other cargo bike comes down to what you are using the bike for. The front loaders have the added advantage of having your kids in the front and if it starts to rain you can put a cover on them. Also, the front box is convenient for just throwing stuff in as you run your errands, not having to strap things down. But if you were to do any type of touring or off-roading then the Big Dummy is better suit for that.
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Old 08-05-11, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclocello
Thank you, very helpful replies! ...I still can't see an advantage of a longtail verses a trailer...
Carrying passenger(s) is the main advantage that I'm aware of.
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Old 08-05-11, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by qmsdc15
Carrying passenger(s) is the main advantage that I'm aware of.
I have seen video of an adult being carried on a bikes at work trailer. I have carried 2 of my kids on my bikes at work trailer. I have carried 4 kids (my 3 + a nephew) in my well used/loved Bell kid trailer.

A longtail would have a built in seat, but people could easily be carried on a good trailer as well.

It's really mostly a matter of preference. 1, do you want to maintain another bike? 2, does spending 20 seconds attaching the trailer seem unreasonable?
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Old 08-05-11, 07:27 PM
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You know how I roll, but I think for carrying an adult passenger, the longbike would be better than a flat bed trailer.

Five neighborhood kids jumped onto my trailer one evening and I pulled them a hundred feet or so.

I guess you can't do that with a longbike, but you probably shouldn't do it with a flat bed either.
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Old 08-06-11, 11:43 AM
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The biggest deal for me longtail vs. trailer is you always have cargo carrying ability wherever you go with the LT. A trailer hauled empty all the time is a (literal) drag.

Plus I can do single track on the LT and my dog likes it.
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Old 08-06-11, 02:40 PM
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I can bring my BD through any regular door, and it hauls everything I want to haul like a champ. Long distances and most trails aren't an issue with my Dummy.
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Old 08-06-11, 03:28 PM
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Being able to ride long distances and off road without cargo hauling capability is a plus for me, but we're all different.
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Old 08-06-11, 03:39 PM
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okay...
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Old 08-07-11, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by xoalaska
The biggest deal for me longtail vs. trailer is you always have cargo carrying ability wherever you go with the LT. A trailer hauled empty all the time is a (literal) drag.

Plus I can do single track on the LT and my dog likes it.
but so is an empty longtail.. what's the weight of a BD, 40+ lbs? At least you can shed that with a trailer.
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Old 08-07-11, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclocello
but so is an empty longtail.. what's the weight of a BD, 40+ lbs? At least you can shed that with a trailer.
This is absolutely true. If you have only one bike this is a real consideration.

If you have multiple ones for how you choose to apply them, then it's a luxury to have a dedicated LT.

These days all I do is ride the LT. Weight of mine is ~45lbs. which isn't a big deal if it's flat. Climbing is a different story, but it gets me stronger so I don't have to go to the gym. Typical bike weight w/dog (which is all the time) is around 81-85lbs.
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Old 08-08-11, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by crackerdog
If all I did was haul stuff, I might go with a specialized cargo bike. I use my Xtracycle for almost everything around town and when I am ready to head home, I can stop for groceries. We have a lot of woodland trails here and I can use the Xtra to cruise the trails or take shortcuts and still stop at the hardware store for a couple lengths of 10 foot pipe. I went on a 10 mile ride with some friends and on the way home past the store, I remembered a friend wanted me to pick up a liquid filled heater for her home. It fit on the Xtra with no problems. It is like a regular bike with a trunk. I sometimes haul a trailer behind it for tablesaw, compressor, and other tools.
yes, this sums it up for me. If I wanted a dedicated cargo hauler, ( that's all it does ) then a bakfiets or one of the others would do better. Using a BD as primary around town bike, I'm not giving up as much regular bicycle ability on the BD. OK, I'm not entering any races on this thing, and the extra weight is a pain going up the ridgeline pathway on the way home, but most of the time, I'm just a little slower, and I have to think a little bit more on tight corners. I can still thread thru the crowds on Princes Island Park, and I can usually find a corner to park it in the bike room.
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Old 08-08-11, 02:42 PM
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I reviewed the Worksman front loader on this forum...
It needed some help. It was not really appropriate for most utility riders. If I ever had the need to regularly haul a couple hundred pounds of scrap metal, it would be perfect, but it's cargo volume was much lower than available to me with a longtail. It appeared that that issue is inherent to the cycletruck shape, rather than the particular bike.

Furthermore, I didn't look forward to the idea of needing regular tetanus shots, as the thing was showing substantial amounts of rusting after a week and a half of normal use in a not unusually hostile climate.

I rode a longtail. It rode very well, I could load a full shopping cart onto it without preparation, I could pick up a passenger if needed, it Just Plain Worked. I had zero problems with it.

The only thing I couldn't do was to load the thing on a bus. But I can't load a Worksman on a bus either (73 pounds barebones, ye gods, and the tire would get stuck on the rack), nor can I load a trailer on a bus. I also can't load a bilenky or bakfiets style longnose on a bus.

I have never ridden a longnose. I don't know if a longnose has any particular advantages over a longtail. It seems to me that at best, it would be about the same.

I also have never used a trailer. I tend to find that my need for cargo capacity is unpredictable; I do not know when I leave that morning whether I will need to haul cargo. As such, it has a strike against it for me.
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Old 08-08-11, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by JusticeZero
...I do not know when I leave that morning whether I will need to haul cargo. As such, it has a strike against it for me.
While I don't believe I mentioned it, this would be the main reason I'd get a long tail over a trailer.

As for me, I've found that having a good rear rack on the bike with good lashing straps (I use the Nite Ize figure 9's), is a good compromise. The few times I've needed to carry something spur of the moment, this has worked for me. One time, I even carried two 50 pound boxes of nails around 6 miles. I found them on the side of the road (collated nails for a framing nail gun) and they went on my Raleigh 20's original rack. They slowed me down, but it worked fine.
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Old 09-05-11, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by bigdummy27
This is an exact quote from the owner of Workcycle, "The Fr8 is first zinc-phosphate treated, then painted on both the inside and outside with anodically applied KTL antirust primer, and then coated with a very tough powdercoat. No factory in Asia will finish bikes this way meaning that these bicycles must be finished and assembled in Europe, unlike most bicycles that are manufactured completely in China or Taiwan."
This strikes me as really wrong. Factories in Asia build all kinds of things more technically advanced than bicycles. I think that we can assume that there are factories in China and Taiwan that will finish a bike however you spec it to be finished.

Workcycles look very cool, and their may be a number of good reasons to finish the frames in the Netherlands.
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Old 09-07-11, 10:16 AM
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Most of this I learned from this book:
https://www.amazon.com/Bicycling-Scie.../dp/0262731541
Which is probably the best source for the not fully understood topic of bicycle stability.

You balance a bike and it's load by steering so as to keep the wheels under the center of gravity. With good geometry the bike helps a lot with this. Stay with me, I'm getting to the topic of this thread.

If you ride through a puddle then swerve back and forth a bit, you will see that the tracks of the front and rear wheel take differing paths. To match my description, this should be done so that the handlebars never remain in one position. Observing the tracks, the front swings wider, and the tracks are offset. What you can't see from the tracks is that the phase of the two tracks in TIME (the tracks only show position) is shifted by 90 degrees...The rear wheel is discribing a cosine curve while the front wheel is discribing a sine curve. This is because the back wheel steers only after the front wheel has translated to one side...the steering of the rear wheel is delayed.

This means that when loads are located forward on the bike and you tip to one side, you quickly recover when you steer and bring the front wheel under the load. The front wheel moves more than the back, and there is no time delay between when you turn the bars and the front wheel starts moving back under the load.

When the load is at the rear of the bike, you have to steer the front wheel a long way in order to get the rear wheel of the bike moved back under the load. Not only is more steering required, but the timing is delayed, which creates a feeling of sluggishness.

The worst is if the load is behind the rear axle. In this case the initial response to steering makes the tipping worse, and it is only after the whole bike starts heading to one side that recovering of balance starts. Tail heaviness also negates some of the tendency of a bicycle to self recover due to the rake and trail of the steering.

Note I am not saying the handling is bad. Pickup trucks handle just fine mostly, but they are way different from sports cars. Humans are quite adaptable, and can quickly learn to adapt to most handling differences caused by load location, longer wheelbase, etc. Also, the load on the bike isn't just what you are carrying, but the bike itself, the rider, etc. etc. With the rider forward, and seated high, you can and do "over" balance the rider to compensate for not being able to balance the load on the back as effectively. This happens naturally without requiring any thought. It maybe "feels a little weird" at first then you adapt, forget, and wonder what the newbs are on about. Then the stoker gets off the tandem and it all feels weird again 'till you get used to THAT.

If it feels too weird, it may cause a green rider to compensate in ways that hurt rather than help. In aviation this is known as "Pilot induced oscillation".

Food for thought though: When you carry a load on the rear of the bike, it requires more steering the heavier the load. When you carry a load on the front, it requires less steering motion the heavier the load. EITHER can result in a green rider having balancing troubles. Rear loading make the handling more sluggish, front loading makes it more sensitive.

The above assumes the loads are well secured to the frame of the bike. Things can change a lot if the load can shift or it is secured to the forks. (It can help or hurt, depending on details) It also reflects what inputs are required of the rider to stay balanced. Bicycles will to one degree or another also act to balance themselves without any rider input, but loading will either improve or detract from this, and exactly how is best determined by experiment.


The main points are:
- loads are going to feel different depending on how they are distributed.
- in most cases, forward loading makes balance more responsive to steering inputs, and rearward loading makes the balancing more sluggish. Either change can cause trouble if too extreme, but mostly it is something a rider can easily adapt to.
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