Electric cargo bikes: can the budget Mycle Cargo compete with the high-end Tern GSD longtail?
Cargo bikes are a great way to get around with kids, but there’s a huge variation in price between them.
When we were asked to review the cheap Mycle Cargo bike we thought it would be a great chance for our reviewer Laura to put it to the test against one of the more expensive longtail cargo bikes on the market, the Tern GSD.
Mycle Cargo versus Tern GSD costs
Mycle Cargo: from £2,299
Tern GSD: from £5,100 (Tern GSD S10 LR 400Wh Performance CX)
Both electric longtail bikes would need to be fitted with bike seats or seat pads and other accessories before they can be used to carry kids, so there are some additional costs.
Testing the Mycle Cargo with two kids and a bump
Laura tested the Mycle Cargo bike for us for a few weeks and living in a very hilly area with two children and one on the way, she was the perfect person to test the Mycle to its limits.
What would she make of the cheaper longtail bike to carry her children? And would she consider the Mycle Cargo as an alternative option?
The family’s normal mode of transport is a Tern GSD, an electric longtail bike similar to the Mycle but with more features and more expensive components. Laura uses the bike on a daily basis to ferry her kids around, in all weathers.
Read on to find out what Laura thought of the Mycle Cargo and the differences between a budget and high-end electric cargo bike.
Can the Mycle Cargo cope with Cumbrian hills?
We live in the South Lakes, where hills are unavoidable and frequently steep, and our three mile ride into town involves a couple of stiff gradients to wake up the legs.
With two children (aged four and two) and another on the way, plus the usual shopping/pram/balance bike to transport, a bike which can carry a decent amount of weight up and down the Cumbrian hills is a must.
At less than half the price, we were curious to see whether the Mycle Cargo would match up to our beloved Tern.
What we liked about the Mycle electric longtail bike
My first impressions were good. The Mycle Cargo bike is reasonably lightweight compared to the Tern, and it was easy to set up, despite the lack of instructions in the box.
There are two battery slots, giving the bike an impressive range of up to 120km, according to Mycle, although this will depend on various factors, including the weight you’re carrying, the temperature and the terrain you’re traversing.
The security-conscious will be pleased to know that the batteries are lockable, although how robust these are remains to be seen - a recent spate of battery thefts in London suggests that standard battery locks are relatively easy to overcome.
The tyres are puncture-resistant and pleasingly fat, making for a comfortable ride.
There’s a rear brake light (a genius addition which also appears on the Tern) and a decent enough front light, powered by the battery.
The seat and handlebars are also easy to adjust without tools, meaning it’s easy to swap between different riders.
There’s no suspension (unlike the Tern GSD), but I would question the necessity of this anyway - it’s just one more thing to worry about going wrong, on what is supposed to be a work-horse bike.
Fitting bike seats on the Mycle cargo bike
Like the Tern GSD, the rack is compatible with Thule Yepp Maxi seats, which are incredibly easy to fit, even for someone like me who has minimal patience for technical bike faff.
I carried my four year old on the rack (sitting on one of the ‘deck pads’ which you can buy as an optional extra), while the two year old sat in a Thule Yepp Maxi. Both of them were ensconced in the ‘caboose’ - a sort of rack-mounted cage which passengers can hold onto as you ride.
With a third child on the way, I was excited to see on the Mycle website that they claim the bike can take a front seat mounted on the bars, as well as the two rear seats. Tern explicitly warn against this for their GSD.
However, the Mycle website doesn’t give a recommendation about which front seat would work and I didn’t get a chance to try this out.
With our third not having arrived yet during the review period, I wasn’t able to test the Mycle Cargo bike with three kids.
What accessories does Mycle offer to help with family cycling?
In my experience with the Tern GSD, a front basket is invaluable for lugging around life detritus so I would say this is an essential.
Mycle has recently added a very important accessory to their range, a weather-proof cover called Weather Shield, equivalent to the Tern GSD’s Storm Shield. These type of covers are essential if you’ve got small kids and ride in all weathers.
Unfortunately, the Mycle Cargo doesn’t come with an integrated lock. The Tern GSD comes with a front wheel lock as standard, which is really handy as an extra layer of security.
Can a budget family cargo bike get you up steep hills?
In terms of performance, the motor of the Mycle is surprisingly impressive. I didn’t expect much, given the price, but climbing hills was a breeze even with both children and shopping on the back.
The gearing was also decent, meaning I wasn’t (always!) reliant on the motor to get up the hills but could sit back and spin in a low gear.
In fact, I rarely used the Mycle Cargo motor’s most powerful setting, despite testing the bike on some of the steepest hills South Cumbria has to offer.
In contrast, I frequently switch to ‘turbo power’ on my Tern GSD.
The brakes were also much better than expected. Even when heavily laden, I wasn’t worried about a lack of stopping power, although this might be different on a very wet day.
Please note: The brakes have been upgraded from mechanical to hydraulic disc brakes on the latest version of the Mycle Cargo.
Downsides of a cheaper electric cargo bike
A bike mechanic friend once told me she learned her maintenance skills out of necessity, because riding a cheap bike required her to constantly stop and tighten bolts to stop random bits falling off.
My suspicion is that you'd get the same experience with the Mycle cargo bike: great if you're happy to check and tighten bolts regularly
To keep the price down, it’s understandable that Mycle had to cut down somewhere, so opting for unbranded tyres and other components makes sense.
However, several components feel cheap and not as robust as the Tern GSD, especially the gears.
More worryingly, the handlebars came loose a couple of times, which could have safety implications if it happened out on the road without notice, or without easy access to tools to retighten.
The motor and batteries are unbranded so how long they're expected to last is a complete unknown. You may be able to upgrade various components as they wear out, but this might not be the case for everything.
Is the Mycle cargo bike comfortable to ride?
I found the geometry of the Mycle annoyingly uncomfortable as a pregnant woman.
Despite tweaking the position of the seat and bars, my riding position never felt quite right and my (admittedly meaty) calves rubbed against the front of the rear rack with every pedal stroke.
My longest ride on the Mycle was just over 50km and I was glad to finish (in contrast, I’ve done a couple of 80km days on the Tern GSD without once thinking about the geometry).
Disadvantages of a hub motor on an electric cargo bike
My biggest issue with the Mycle was that, despite the impressive power in the motor, it is frustratingly unresponsive compared to the Tern GSD.
It takes a couple of pedal strokes before the hub motor kicks in, which makes starting on a hill almost impossible, especially with kids or other cargo on board. I found myself pushing up hills a few times, having stopped at traffic lights or to deal with a child’s dropped gloves.
When you’ve got traffic waiting behind you, or you’re six months pregnant and trying to keep a heavy bike upright, this is far from ideal.
We concluded that this is a cadence issue: the hub motor doesn’t kick in until you’re pedalling at a sufficiently high cadence.
Read more about the difference between hub and mid drive motors in our article on e-bike motor and battery options.
|Tern GSD||Mycle Cargo|
|Motor||Bosch Cargo Line Motor||Unbranded hub drive motor|
|Weight||34 kg||33 kg|
|Length||186 cm||187 cm|
|Max load rear rack||100 kg||125 kg|
|Colour options||7 colours||3 colours|
|Accessories||Wide range of accessories - good availability||Decent range of accessories - not always all available.|
|Availability||Widely available through online retailers and local bike shops.||Direct online - stock has run out in the past.|
|Warranty||5 years on frame, handlepost, and fork. 1 year warranty on all Tern or BioLogic branded parts and components.||1 year|
Mycle Cargo vs Tern GSD - our final verdict
Overall, for the price this cargo bike is amazing. At just over £2,000 the Mycle Cargo is less than half the price of the Tern GSD and it really does flatten the hills.
Having said that, the Mycle Cargo didn't perform as well as the Tern GSD in terms of responsiveness of the motor so if you live in a hilly area you may want to invest more to be confident about those tricky hill starts.
Our reviewer Laura lives in Cumbria, which is one of the most hilliest areas in the UK with plenty of hills with a gradient of over 15%.
If you live in a fairly flat area, the Mycle Cargo may well offer you plenty of electric assist while carrying your children on your bike.
If the geometry of the bike is comfortable for you will depend on your personal circumstances and needs.
Is the Mycle Cargo worth the investment?
The Mycle Cargo is one of the cheapest electric longtail cargo bikes available in the UK at the time of writing. Laura compared riding the Mycle Cargo to the high-end Tern GSD, which retails for more than double the price of a Mycle Cargo.
The motor on the Mycle Cargo may kick in a bit later than on the Tern GSD, but it does have the ability to get you and your kids (or an adult!) up some very steep hills.
We think the Mycle Cargo offers an excellent entry-level option for families who are looking for a bike to carry their children around for everyday trips and for weekend adventures.
You cannot expect the highest standards in components, but this is reflected in the lower price point.
But I don’t know if the Mycle Cargo is right for me!
It is always best to test ride a bike before you buy, so you can figure out if the geometry is right for you. Because an e-cargo bike is usually quite different to any other bikes you've ridden, it is extra important to go for a test ride.
The Mycle Cargo is available to test ride in some parts of England at the moment, including London, Hereford and Leicester.
If you are not sure if a longtail bike is the best type of cargo bike for you, read our article on what type of cargo bike is best for your family.
The Mycle Cargo is definitely a welcome addition to the e-cargo bike market and we really want the company to succeed.
By offering a relatively low-cost, entry level model, they will help to open up the market to a much wider range of people: something which can only be applauded.
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Other articles you might be interested in:
- Best electric longtail cargo bikes to carry kids
- Mycle launch new and improved version of their cargo bike
- How to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat, cargo bike or trailer
- E-bikes and child bike seats – all your questions answered
- 7 reasons to ride an electric cargo bike with your kids
- How much does an electric family cargo bike cost?
- Top things to look out for when buying an electric cargo bike
- What type of cargo bike is best for my family?