May 3, 2010

Cargo Bikes Can Be A Part of Your Own Solution

I have been pondering this post for many months now and the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico this past week has got me thinking - I wonder if more North American families chose to reduce their automobile usage, maybe there would have been no need to drill in the first place?  Here is another, similar perspective on this...

The sad reality is that for the better part of the last 50 years we have been sold the idea that owning a home in the suburbs, with a 2-car garage, a heavily manicured lawn, widescreen TV in the home theatre room, and a couple of vehicles in said garage was not just something to possibly work towards - but that all of those things are our god-given right here in the Land Of Opportunity - aka North America.  Not only that, we have also come to expect that all our communities should be built around the automobile and that everyone should drive their car everywhere - and we have elected people who have done just that for us. 

Well, some people have begun to question this idea and wondering if there might be a better way forward.  I have, and have come to some of my own conclusions, one of which was to get rid of my automobile for a couple of reasons.  There are many reasons to get rid of a car and reduce your dependance on oil companies, car companies, traffic engineers, insurance companies - the list goes on and on.  We chose to dump ours for 2 simple reasons - one was to save money and the other was to show people that it is possible in Calgary to be car free - and happy!  So far so good!

Sadly, Calgarians have bought into the lie of the automobile more than any other major city in Canada and have the most to gain - if they chose to make changes to their lifestyles now, while it is relatively easy.

One of the easiest ways to take a "buy-out" of the automobile vortex is to get a cargo bike and use it lots.

Here are some of the great things about cargo bikes -

- no need for insurance
- no parking tickets
- door-to-door parking when you go shopping or run errands
- cars give you more space on the roads - at least it seems that way to me! :)
- no visits to the gas station ever again
- better fitness
- your kids will love it!
- you can show your kids how to get around without a car - studies show lazy parents = lazy kids
- never stuck in traffic
- and on and on and on and on...

Now, as I have posted before, I know everyone can throw up any number of reasons why they cannot reduce their car usage, however there are options, and if you spend some time thinking about the positives I am sure you will see that reducing your car usage is not as hard as you might think.  I won't get into that here, instead, I want to show you a few cargo bike options and get you thinking about how you might integrate one into your life in the future.  Here are some other thoughts from our friends at Joe Bike in Portland and another article from TreeHugger.com.

First up is the XtraCycle Freeradial Kit which is basically a kit you add onto an existing bike you already own (see picture at the top of this post).  It converts any hard-tail mountain bike into a legitimate cargo and kid hauler - all for under $600CDN and falls into the "longtail" sub-genre of cargo bikes.  A longtail  It is the perfect option for those who need a light duty (250lbs max) cargo bike for groceries, errands, and carrying kids.  You can carry huge packages on it, but is also quite enjoyable to ride empty.  This was my first cargo bike and it truly changed the way I live my life!

Next up is the Yuba Mundo V.3 bike.  This is another take on the "longtail" cargo bike and was actually designed by one of the early XtraCycle owners.  $1479CDN.  Where the XtraCycle sometimes can fall short is when you load it up close to its weight limit - the XtraCycle can feel very flexy and unstable.

The Yuba will have none of those issues as the bike is designed from the ground up as a complete bike and is designed to carry a rider - and another 440lbs!  Thats you and two friends!  Or you, your two kids, and 2 weeks worth or groceries.  Or you, and all your tools if you are a tradesperson.  Or you, and...well, you probably get the idea.  The bike is actually very well suited to daily use as it comes complete with full fenders and a traditioinal triple crankset with 21 speeds.  On top of that, the cargo area has pre-drilled holes for attaching your custom made boxes, latches, whathaveyou.  Also available from Yuba are childseats, giant panniers, and a front rack.  Truly a minivan replacement!

Also available from us is a traditional "bakfiets" style bike from JoeBike - the 2010 Box Bike $1799CDN.  Bakfiets is a Dutch word, literally meaning box bike, and is used generally to describe these types of bikes.

The obvious difference is that the load is carried in front of the rider instead of behind, and usually the load is situated quite low on the bike giving the bike a unique and fun riding characteristic.  The steering is handled by a linkage running from the rider underneith the box to a small front wheel.  This steering arrangement is one of the things that make these bikes so fun to ride - the ride is hard to describe but I would try by saying it is by far the funnest, fastest, and most comfortable cargo bike I have ridden.  The weight limit is 150lbs - just right for a couple small kids, and/or a bunch or groceries.  A rain canopy is also available for an extra $350 and the design of the canopy also covers the riders hands keeping them quite warm and dry.

One thing I really like about these style of bikes for carrying kids is that they sit directly in front of you making conversations very easy and keeping an eye on them is a snap too. 

All of our cargo bikes are avaialble for test rides, so if you are interested, or merely curious about these cool bikes, pop in to the shop and take them for a test ride.  You'll love it - I promise!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

FYI, I believe the photo for the Xtracycle is incorrect or missing.

Indianapolis auto insurance said...

Good creativity i am happy to see pic. and also reading full article... Thanks

BikeBike said...

hey anonymous

the xtracycle pic is the very first one at the top of the post.

cheers

miss sarah said...

Hi Sean!

Love your thoughts on these bikes. Are you guys still carrying Madsen? I'm liking the Madsen set up, but have recently become pretty enamoured (despite the ugliness) of the chariot trailer. It's a good fit for Dexter right now, but I think the Madsen/cargo bike option is definitely something that will take riding with kids past this tiny barely walking stage and into the elementary school phase. I like the idea of having a big box to dump the kids' things in.

Honestly, I think the bakfiets and Madsen and other box cargo bikes appeal to people who are used to having cars because the idea of panniers and seats and the like aren't as intimidating. Also, the box bikes look awesome.

We may upgrade from the Madsen over time if it's not robust enough to deal with our abuse, but yours seems to have lasted... ?

BikeBike said...

@ miss sarah -

Our shop does not carry the Madsen bikes and I have recently sold mine to a car-free family here in Calgary.

The bike was pretty good but I had some concerns with it...

- many of the components are not "all weather" worthy and were beginning to rust.
- i hated the long, looping chain. Very hard to keep the drivetrain clean.
- i think you have mentioned on your blog the top-heavy-ness of the design and I would agree that handling this bike can be tough depending on what you have in the bucket.

Currently I am really enjoying the Batavus Personal delivery bike and for bigger loads we have a "bakfiets" style bike here - both are great, really fun to ride, and generally easier to handle when loaded.

Cheers!