What type of cargo bike is best for my family?
If you’re thinking about how to carry your child(ren) on a bike then you might be considering a cargo bike as one of your options.
In this article we'll be looking at the three main types of cargo bikes for carrying kids and whether a cargo bike is right for you.
Why do I need a cargo bike for my family?
For starters, how do you carry your other stuff? A rucksack on your back may be in the face of your rear passenger, a pannier is usually not compatible with a rear seat and a front basket might be tricky to fit in addition to a front seat.
Also, you might struggle to get up hills if you live somewhere that isn’t as flat as a pancake. This will get worse when your children get bigger. An e-bike might come to the rescue, but not all e-bikes can fit bike seats on them. Most e-bikes have a much lower maximum total weight compared to cargo bikes, which will limit how much weight you can carry on the bike.
Read more about E-bikes and bike seats.
Loading two children onto a regular bike can be tricky because you’ll need to hold the bike while putting your children onto the seats. Another option is to fit a double kickstand, but these are not compatible with all bikes.
A trailer can be an excellent low-budget option but you might struggle cycling up hills and at some point, your children will no longer fit in the trailer.
This is where a cargo bike might come into play…
A longtail bike is a two-wheeled cargo bike with a longer rear, including the rear rack. The longer rear rack usually allows two (and sometimes three) children to be seated, either in bike seats or directly on cushions on the rack.
The main benefits of a longtail cargo bike:
- Can carry up to three children and other ‘stuff’
- Are easy to store because similar in width and length to a normal bike
Compared to other types of cargo bikes such as box bikes, a longtail is lighter and more agile. The narrow shape of the bike will help you get through barriers more easily.
A longtail bike usually seats two children on the rear rack, and sometimes another one in a front seat.
Longtail bikes vary in terms of length and can be between 180 cm and 220 cm long. In comparison, an average adult bike is 175cm long.
Another benefit of a longtail bike is that you are allowed to take it on the train and you can carry them on a bike rack on a car. Some longtail bikes can be folded to carry in the boot of a car.
See our article Best electric longtail cargo bikes to carry kids for lots more options.
Two-wheeled box bike
Box bikes are bikes with a box at the front that can seat two to four children in it. When it’s a two-wheeled box bike you usually steer by moving the handlebars which are connected to the front wheel. This means you are not steering with the entire box.
The main benefits of a two-wheeled box bike:
- Can carry up to five children
- Are agile and pleasant to ride
A box bike usually seats two to four children in the box, depending on the type of bike and the set up of seats or benches. On most box bikes you can seat another child on the rear rack and sometimes a small child on a front seat.
Three-wheeled box bike
Another type of box bike is one with two wheels at the front, on each side of the box. This makes them extremely stable, but they could also make you tip over if you take a bend too sharply.
The main benefits of a three-wheeled box bike:
- Can carry up to five children
- Are stable to ride and cannot topple over when standing still
Riding any type of cargo bike will take a little bit of getting used to, but once you get to grips with it you will never want to go back!
Read more about the difference between 2-wheeled and 3-wheeled cargo bikes.
Why an electric cargo bike to carry kids?
Unless you live in a very flat area, we recommend you look at a cargo bike with e-assist. The electric motor will kick in when you pedal and this can be particularly handy if you've got a heavy load (such as children!) on your bike.
The e-bike aspect of an electric cargo bike will also help with your balance and make it easier to carry your precious cargo without worrying about wobbling or toppling over.
Having a motor on your cargo bike will also increase the longevity of your bike, because you won't struggle with the weight of your children as they get bigger.
Read more about e-bike motor and battery options.
Carrying kids stuff and shopping on a cargo bike
All cargo bikes are made to carry a certain amount of weight and you’d be surprised by how much stuff you can carry on any type of cargo bike.
A box bike makes it very easy to carry large items, but with a bit of practice and the right accessories, you can also carry huge amounts on a longtail bike.
Longtail versus box bike to cycle with children
To decide what kind of cargo bike is best for you and your family, the best thing is to test different types and brands.
A longtail bike is easier to store and park than a two, or three-wheeled box bike, but you might find a box bike easier to ride.
Here at Cycle Sprog, we do hope that the cost of cargo bikes will be coming down further once they’ve become more widespread.
How to keep your balance on a cargo bike
Without having tried a cargo bike, you might be unsure about how you will handle your bike with two or three kids on the rear pannier rack of your bike or in the box in front of you. Before trying a cargo bike some parents are worried they will tip over but rest assured, cargo bikes are designed to keep you balanced.
Most longtail bikes have a smaller wheel size, which means your children will be sitting lower down than they would on the pannier rack of a normal bike. This means the centre of gravity is further down, which helps with keeping your balance.
Boxbikes always have a box low to the ground, so that the weight is as low down as possible, again to help with balance.
Electric cargo bikes usually also come with wider tyres than normal bikes, and definitely wider than a road bike. This also helps with keeping stable when you ride one.
Storing a cargo bike
With electric cargo bikes being an expensive purchase, you will be thinking of where to store your new bike.
If space for storing a cargo bike is an issue for you, longtail bikes may be a good option because they’re fairly similar in size to a normal bike.
An average adult bike is 175cm long and longtail bikes vary in length between 180cm to 220cm.
The width of a longtail bike will mostly depend on what accessories you add; when you add a front rack and a safety bar on the rear, your bike will be wider.
Some longtail bikes can be stored upright because they come with an added frame structure on the rear of the bike to take the weight. And some bikes come with the option to turn or fold away the handlebars so that the bike is less wide.
Box bikes can be stored in garages or sheds, or even outdoors because they are designed to withstand the weather. However, your bike will be better off not being exposed to the elements. A cover is a cheap way to protect your bike from rain and snow.
How much does an electric cargo bike for families cost?
The all-important question of cost. As with most other bikes, you pay for what you get. A cheaper bike usually comes with cheaper components, and in the case of a cargo bike, it might come with a less powerful motor, brakes or less fancy gearing options.
You might not need the top of the range, so that’s why we’ve set out a range of budget options for longtail bikes.
Entry level electric cargo bikes start from £2,299 while the premium ones are around £5,000 and upwards.
Before you go...
Have we mentioned how much fun a cargo bike is? Nothing better than spending time riding with your children while being able to chat with them.
A cargo bike might be the solution for you to start cycling with your kids or to keep cycling with them as they grow older.
Take a look at our article on what you need to consider when buying an electric cargo bike.
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Other articles you might like:
- Best electric longtail cargo bikes to carry kids
- Mycle Cargo Electrice Bike review
- Top things to look out for when buying an electric cargo bike
- How much does an electric family cargo bike cost?
- Review of the Bike43 longtail cargo bike
- Decathlon's longtail e-cargo bike now available in UK
- 2 vs 3 wheeled cargo bikes; which is best for carrying kids?