Review of the Bike43 longtail cargo bike
If you're looking for a cargo bike that can transport more than two children the Bike43 is well worth considering.
Pronounced "Bike-for-three", this electric cargo bike easily seats three children on the rear of the bike. And we've even managed to squeeze in four passengers - not bad for a longtail cargo bike!
We were loaned the Bike43 Performance for a two-week trial by J'aimebike, and this is how I got on transporting a 4 and 7-year-old around our reasonably hilly town during the autumn weather.
Bike43 Performance longtail cargo bike review
The Bike43 comes in two models, Performance and Alpster, which both come in four colours; anthracite, red, yellow and turquoise.
We tested the Bike43 Performance with eShift (automatic gears). The other model, the Alpster, comes with a more powerful motor and more options in terms of gears and brakes.
The frames are hand built in Europe and assembled in Belgium, which is pretty unique for a cargo bike. The frame comes with a lifetime warranty, which is very reassuring.
The e-bike has quite a European look and feel including a step-through frame, although it is not as low as some step-through frames. The swept-back handlebars also contribute to the comfortable and urban feel of the bike.
The bike feels easy to manoeuvre although I have to admit I am used to cycling on an e-assist box bike that is significantly heavier than this bike.
Weight of bike: 30 kg
Length of bike: 197 cm
Wheel sizes: front wheel 24”, rear wheel 20”
Tyres: Schwalbe Big Apple
Motor: Shimano E6100 mid-drive motor
Max torque: 60 Nm
Brakes: hydraulic disk brakes
Height of rider: 140 cm - 195 cm
Max weight of cargo + rider: 170 kg
Max rider weight: 100 kg (or 130 kg with suspension seatpost)
Max load front: 20 kg
Max load back: 100 kg
Cost: £4599 (including import cost and delivery, these costs may vary)
What we think: beautiful and versatile longtail bike which can carry up to three children on the rear rack.
Is it a 20” or a 24” wheel cargo bike?
An interesting feature of the Bike43 is that the wheels aren’t the same size; the front wheel is 24” and the rear wheel is 20”.
The smaller rear wheel ensures your precious cargo (your children!) are positioned 25cm lower than on a regular bike, which makes it more stable when riding.
The front wheel is larger, which makes for a smoother ride and less wobble. It also makes it easier to get the longtail bike onto a kerb.
The position of the battery is interesting because it is placed at the lowest position possible, while on most other e-bikes it is slightly higher up on the frame.
This helps with the centre of gravity because the battery is a fairly heavy component on an e-bike (about 3kg).
Taking the battery off the bike is really easy, but because it is placed so low, we found it can be wet and covered in dirt, which is not ideal when you take it into your home to charge (or to keep warm, because batteries don’t like to spend the night in the cold).
What is also quite unique about this bike is that while it has a long rear rack, it is pretty light for a cargo bike; weighing only 30kg.
This is about 3 kilos lighter than most of its competitors. The Bike43 is 197cm long, which is 5 to 15cm longer than a normal e-bike, and slightly longer than most other longtail bikes.
Like some other longtail cargo bikes, the Bike43 fits on a car bike rack (one that connects to a tow bar).
Seating options on the longtail bike
Like with any longtail bike, there are several seating options and combinations available.
However, with the Bike43’s rear rack coming up closer to the seatpost and clever foot box, it can seat more children on the rear rack.
The little box behind the seatpost is for the feet of the youngest passenger.
My 4 year old’s feet still fit in there, but I’m not sure for how long. She instantly loved this feature because it allows for a very natural seating position with legs pointing forwards instead of straddling the seat cushion. It also offers more protection from the elements.
If your youngest rider is in a bike seat their feet could also go in the foot box.
The seating options are endless; from one baby in a car seat and one toddler in a bike seat through to three children sitting independently on cushions and with footrests. If you add a front seat to the bike, you could even carry four children! The rear rack could also seat an adult and a child.
You can use any bike seats that clamp to the side of the rear rack. Bike43 recommends Qibbel seats.
Alternatively, you could install any bike seat that clamp onto a rear rack.
Getting your kids on and off the Bike43 cargo bike
The first thing you’ll get to grips with when using a cargo bike, is the very important kickstand. It is a double custom-made kickstand which is essential to keep the bike stable when your children are getting on and off.
With the ‘step-in’ board being above the kickstand, we found this slightly awkward to use, but got used to it after a while.
We tested the bike without bike seats, because our children are 4 and 7 years old. We used the ‘rollercoaster’ accessory, which includes a nice big backrest, seat cushions and a metal rail around the rear rack, looking a bit like an extended armrest.
This rail encloses the children, which means they can’t just fall off the bike. It also allows them to hold on to something, which allows for a more comfortable ride. There is no upper age or height limit for the rollercoaster.
We also had the ‘step-in’ installed, which is a long, wooden platform at each side of the rear wheel. This is a footrest for older children and the children used this to get onto the bike.
The maximum weight is 35kg, so they’ll be able to use this step-in for a while. The latest version of the step-in allows you to store the bike upright, which is helpful when space is tight.
With the rollercoaster installed, the bike width is 52cm, but because the bars are so high up, it shouldn’t interfere with storage or parking.
The step-in is slightly wider, 57cm, and I’ve learned that the latest version of this platform cannot be folded, but that they are even more sturdy.
Our children are used to a cargo bike with a box at the front and they were very keen to test this bike to see how it compares. They quickly found out that you can sit facing forwards, backwards, and even sideways.
Like in the box bike, cargo bike etiquette for older children dictates no sudden big movements or swinging from side to side, to avoid wobbling.
Otherwise, everything goes from singing to bickering! On the way back from school one day, they shared a snack by sitting facing each other.
How many children (and adults) can you carry on a Bike43 longtail cargo bike?
We tested the Bike43 to the very upper limit of 170kg by loading up with 3 passengers - an adult (me) and two children, with my partner riding (maybe we were a bit over the limit!)
It was a bit fiddly for me to get in, because of the rollercoaster, but I managed to step in over the top of the rail.
I sat comfortably at the back and my youngest was sitting with her feet in the box and my eldest was sitting in between us. Getting off again, I went under the rail.
If you are using the bike regularly with a teenager or adult, and not younger children you wouldn’t need the rollercoaster at all.
At traffic lights, I put my feet on the ground, just to support my partner in holding the bike upright.
I’ve also ridden the bike with one adult on the back and it was a breeze.
Three children on the rear rack was also not a problem, especially taking into account that the backrest and seat that comes with the roller coaster could be extended a couple of inches further beyond the rear rack.
Four children on the rear rack was a bit of a squeeze (see photo!) and when I was forced to come to a standstill due to having to give way to oncoming traffic, I didn't manage the hill start on a 10% incline and had to get the two biggest kids off first.
I probably had at least 70kg of total kids weight on the bike though. Without stopping and starting, I was fine going up a fairly steep hill (12% incline).
Adjusting the longtail e-bike between different users
Like in many families, both my partner and I would be using an electric cargo bike like this regularly so it will need to be easy and quick to adjust the bike.
We’ve adjusted the handlebars to suit me, the shorter of the riders and when my partner and I swap bikes we just heighten or lower the seat with a quick-release bolt.
The Bike43 accommodates riders between 4’7 and 6’3. My partner is 6’3 and we can confirm it suits him.
Adjusting the handlebar was easy with an Allen key but because it requires a tool, you wouldn’t want to do that regularly.
There’s the option to buy an adjustable handlebar so that you can adjust it without tools, and also turn the handlebar for storing the bike if space is tight.
Accessories for carrying "things" on the Bike43 Performance cargo bike
Like any family with young children, we carry a varying amount of ‘stuff’ with us, wherever we go.
On the school run, this usually includes two bookbags, two rucksacks, and sometimes extras such as waterproofs, a violin, or swim gear.
The Bike43 Performance is similar to other longtail bikes in that it offers several options for carrying your luggage.
Bike43 front basket or bag
You can opt for the front basket, with or without a bag on it (water repellent, 35 litres). We’ve found that even though the basket is very shallow, it can easily hold two bookbags and two rucksacks, secured with a simple bungee.
The width of the front basket is 47cm, which might be good to know if storage space is tight. The current version of the front basket is deeper than the one on the bike we tested.
There’s also the option to add a Brompton Borough L bag to the front (waterproof, 28 litres).
Attaching stuff to the longtail cargo bike
Another way to carry stuff is to attach it to the front basket or to the rollercoaster, by using bands or bungee cords. We’ve seen other families carrying small bikes on top of front racks or baskets on longtail bikes and also on the outside of the rollercoaster.
Bikes like this are sturdy and made for carrying stuff, so don’t hold back!
Panniers for the Bike43
For the rear rack there are several options; you can add full-length panniers which can hold 100 litres, available from various brands. Children’s feet can go in or over the panniers. The full-length panniers are very useful for just chucking in everything!
Or you can add any double panniers which go over a rear rack; Bike43 recommends Basil Kavan canvas bags (65 litres).
There is also the option to install an extra rail below the rear rack to attach your hook-on bags, which is particularly handy if you’ve got bike seats installed on the rack.
This also allows you to carry panniers behind the legs of the child who sits at the back of the rack.
Towing a child’s bike behind the cargo bike
The step-in footrests have got a gap in the back of the deck which allows you to put a bike wheel in it.
We tested this with a small balance bike (Puky) and a 24” bike and secured the frame of the bike with a bungee cord to the rear rack, and the front wheel of the bike to the step-in, and towed the bike behind us.
It works a treat and is quite handy when your child decides they no longer want to ride their bike or if you need to take the bike back home after the school run.
Even with the 24” bike, we found that there was still enough space to put feet on the step-in, between the front wheel of the kids bike and the rear wheel of the Bike43.
The all-important motor
The Bike43 comes with electric assist which means that when you turn the assist on (with a simple click on a button) and you pedal, your pedalling will be boosted by the mid-drive motor. There are four assist levels.
The Bike43 Performance model comes with a Shimano E6100 Cargo motor which is a 60 Nm (torque) mid-drive motor, and can be compared with a Bosch Performance Line motor. The motor was noticeably quiet, which is nice.
Hydraulic disc brakes
Any type of electric cargo bike needs powerful brakes to keep you and your cargo safe because it is heavy, and this is especially important when going downhill.
The brakes on the Bike43 Performance are hydraulic disc brakes with 2 pistons.
The brakes worked well and were very responsive, as expected with hydraulic disc brakes. The brakes use the largest rotors that Shimano make (203mm on the front wheel) which provides extra reassurance when carrying a heavy load and going downhill.
E-bike battery options on the Bike43 Performance
The Bike43 is dual battery ready which means you could fit a second battery between the two bars on the frame.
Not many people use two batteries on a cargo bike and I don’t think you’d need this unless you’d be cycling long distances with a lot of e-assist.
The display of the Shimano has quite a lot of information on it, which I had to get used to at first. The display is easy to take off, which is important because these displays might get stolen when you leave them on.
The Performance model comes with a Shimano E6100 Cargo motor, which we found powerful enough for steep hills (10% incline) with our 4 and 7 year olds on the bike.
Gearing on the Bike43 Performance - manual and automatic
This was the first time I used automatic gears, which turned out to be fantastic!
On the bike we used we had 5-speed automatic gears (eshift Nexus5e Di2) which you can use as manual gears too by changing it to ‘manual’ or shifting a gear up or down with the buttons while staying in ‘auto’ mode.
When in manual mode, you shift gears by clicking a button with your right hand. I had to get used to using these buttons because I am used to a grip shift, where you rotate the grip on the handlebar to change gears. You may want to use manual mode when you have a particular preference, e.g. if you always want to cycle up hills in the lowest gear.
The automatic gears were wonderful and better than expected; it meant I didn’t have to worry about shifting gears. When going uphill, the system will detect that you are moving and pedalling slower and that the motor needs to work harder to keep you going (also called ‘torque’), it will go down a gear, or two or three, until your speed, cadence and torque are balanced again.
When you slow down or come to a halt, it will automatically shift down gears so that getting started again is easier. This is an amazing feature and it means you don’t have to think about moving down gears when you stop at a junction.
The gears are hub gears which means the gears are encased and this usually results in less maintenance and a longer life span. It also allows you to change gears when standing still, which can be handy with a heavy load or in a hilly area.
Both my partner and I loved riding the Bike43, with and without children. It is a smooth ride, with an upright position for me, because that’s how I set up the handlebars. You can opt for a more sporty riding position by adjusting the handlebars and seat to your taste.
With children or other cargo, it is great to have the motor available to handle any hills and the automatic gearing made for a very easy cycling experience.
Hill starts with two children on the rear rack were not a problem, thanks to the powerful assist.
The mudguards are excellent, which is important because, you know, British weather!
Without children, I also liked riding the bike and I found I didn’t use the e-assist often, but it’s very handy to have it available when carrying a weekly shop or when going uphill.
With the rollercoaster installed, the back of the rider’s legs will touch the metal bar slightly when pedalling. This is something to get used to and we weren’t bothered about it.
Fittings and little touches
The grips on the handlebars are very comfortable; quite luxurious for a bicycle grip! The saddle is not the most cushioned, but it is comfortable and goes well with the bike.
There are two small holes in the frame below the rear rack where you can attach a D-lock. Between the two bars at the front of the frame you can fit a second battery, lock holder or bottle holder.
You can get a wheel lock fitted to the front wheel, which is very handy as an extra lock in addition to a big lock.
The front light sits on top of the front wheel, which is quite low down which is good for lighting up your path and not blinding other road users, but the light might not be as visible as a front light installed higher up.
While the front light beam points forward, there are two small openings on the side of the light that allow light to the side, which is great for visibility purposes.
The rear light is very bright and has got two LEDs, which is reassuring in case one stops working.
Walk assist option
Like some other electric cargo bikes the Bike43 comes with a so-called “walk assist” option. This means that you can use the motor to help you while you walk and push the bike.
This may come in handy when you need to push the bike in a pedestrianised area for example - pushing a cargo bike with kids on is tougher than you think!
It is easy to turn the walk assist on but I found it quite tricky to keep the bike balanced while the motor pushed the bike forwards.
I would probably have the same issue with any other electric longtail cargo bike though.
What about other accessories?
We’ve already talked you through some of the optional accessories, such as the cushions, front basket, various bags, the step-in and the rollercoaster.
There are other accessories available such as smaller footrests for one child, a car seat holder, and Qibbel seats which you can use instead of the cushions.
The range of accessories for the Bike43 is outstanding, and offers everything you could wish for, including compatibility with accessories from other brands.
The seat cushions on the rear rack are nice and well-padded but unfortunately we found them to be still wet five hours after we were out in the rain.
Final verdict: Bike43 longtail cargo bike review
We loved the versatility of the cargo aspect of this longtail bike and we really enjoyed riding it.
The fact that it’s pretty light for a cargo bike which can carry lots of kids or things is great! It's also a beautiful bike, and stands out from the crowd.
The Bike43 longtail offers something unique with the rear rack seating three children.
Minor downsides are little things like the limited range of gears on the Performance model, and the slightly flimsy plastic wheel guard (because it's attached with tie wraps). The seats staying wet after a downpour is not ideal, but can be fixed easily by fitting new cushions.
The most popular accessories like the front basket, roller coaster and step-in are all sturdy and look like they can take a battering (from kids and weather).
How much does the Bike43 retail for?
Bike43 Performance with Nexus5e from £4299 (£4490 for eshift Nexus5e).
These prices are excluding import costs and delivery. Import costs may vary, but were around £300 at the time of writing (Oct 2022).
Where can I buy a Bike43 longtail cargo bike in the UK?
The first UK dealer for Bike43 bikes was J’aimebike, based in Brentford, in West London, but the Bike43 has since then become available at several independent bike shops throughout the country. Find out if there's a dealer near you on the Bike 43 website.
We’d always recommend to test ride a cargo bike if you can, so get in touch with Jamie from J’aimebike to find out more. He can deliver all over the UK.
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