Busting myths at the London Cargo Bike Festival
The first ever London Cargo Bike festival took place on April 1st 2023 at London Guildhall in the heart of the City of London.
Cycle Sprog’s Saskia and Karen were there to find out more about the latest cargo bike offerings that are getting more and more families out of their cars and onto two or three wheels.
The juxtaposition between the historic splendour of the 600 year old buildings with cutting edge solutions for urban mobility couldn’t have been starker.
The day offered a chance for families to test ride a huge selection of different cargo bikes from a wide range of brands.
We’d taken the decision to leave our own Cycle Sprogs at home so we could fully concentrate on test riding the bikes on offer and speaking to the range of experts on hand.
The cargo bikes we rode showed just how far the industry has come in such a short time.
Wide range of family bicycles at the 2023 London Cargo Bike Festival
There were so many cargo bikes to test ride that we didn't quite manage them all (but we had a good attempt!)
What struck us was that whenever the topic of cargo bikes is brought up there’s always someone saying “Ah, but what about….”
It was brilliant to see so many solutions to all these “Ah buts”.
Ah, but you need to be really fit to ride a family cargo bike
Most of the family cargo bikes on display at the cargo bike festival were e-assist.
Gone are the days of cargo biking being only for the super fit.
It’s now possible to get kids and all their stuff up hills and across towns really easily.
For example, the Raleigh Stride 2 is designed to transport kids, shopping or whatever else you need with the help of a Bosch Performance CX Cargo Line motor.
Ah, but family cargo bikes are too expensive!
One of the criticisms of family cargo bikes has always been that they’re far too expensive for “ordinary people”.
Let’s ignore the fact that with a family cargo bike you avoid the costs of a car, trips to the fuel station, MOTs, Vehicle Excise Duty, parking, Clean Air Zone charges - or alternatively of public transport and taxis - and deal purely with the upfront costs of a cargo bike.
There’s now a growing number of cargo bikes that are much more affordable than some of the earlier models.
For example, Amcargobikes Deluxe E-cargo starts at £2199. The bike has a range of 45 miles and has a 150 kg load capacity.
Ah, but I don’t want to be constantly charging up the battery on an electric cargo bike
That’s fine – no one is making you have a battery.
A traditional cargo bike such as the Babboe Curve is going to be cheaper than the e-assist equivalent and might suit you perfectly fine if you’re living in a fairly flat area.
Ah, I don’t want a box bike
For older kids you want to carry on board you’re looking at a longtail cargo bike with two seats behind.
We didn’t get to test the most popular long tail in the UK, the Tern GSD because the queue was too long. It didn’t feel right to take the opportunity away from others, as we’ve both ridden this bike before.
The Tern GSD R14 comes with 2 batteries, the most powerful Bosch mid-motor, suspension and a belt drive. It will set you back £8,600 without any accessories.
So we had to settle for riding the much smaller Tern HSD P9 instead, which is good if you’re riding solo or with “things” to transport (great for those with older kids who ride by themselves).
It also works if you have one child to transport (as it fits one of several rear child seats without the need for an adaptor) or want to pull a trailer.
Ah, but my children may fall off the back of a longtail cargo bike
Not if they’re enclosed in a caboose, which also gives them something to hold onto.
The Riese & Müller Multitinker was very comfortable to ride on as a passenger.
The caboose acted as an armrest for me, which coupled with the rear backrest made for a relaxing ride.
Ah, but family cargo bikes can’t carry more than two children
We saw plenty of cargo bikes that fit up to four children.
The vast majority of the box bikes hold 3 or 4 children once you’ve installed an additional bench seat.
The Bike43 is a longtail cargo bike that seats 3 children at the rear.
Ah, but I need to transport my newborn baby
The Urban Arrow two-wheeled box bike has an adaptor available which allows you to install a car seat rear facing. Together with the optional rain cover this makes for a comfortable ride for your baby.
Ah, but family cargo bikes are too big for me to store
Despite being far smaller than a family car, this is a common complaint we hear.
The Fabriga cargo bike is ideal for those who need to store their cargo bike in a narrow space.
The footrest and cargo carrier can be folded to reduce the width, or the length reduced by folding the front of the bike backwards.
Ah, but cargo bikes are too slow and boring – I’m a fast and furious cyclist and enjoy riding the rough stuff
The Riese & Müller Multicharger is an e-cargo-longtail-mountain-bike – designed for both urban and rural adventures.
It was so nimble that even on the small test track it was possible to get up to speed and get your knee down on the corners.
The suspension means this is one to consider if you’re wanting to head off-road (or the roads in your area are full of potholes).
Ah, but I want all that but in box bike style
OK – go for the Riese & Müller Load 60 or 75 instead. All the same fun but with a box up front.
Ah, but I want excitement, but in a three-wheeled version
Check out the Butchers and Bicycles MK1-E Gen. 3.
It’s a three-wheeler that tilts so you can take corners faster. It was perhaps the most “interesting” ride of the day!
Ah, but I love all the technical wizardry that comes with my car
Have you seen the latest Bosch Smart system?
It’s the latest system for e-bikes and connects to an app on your phone.
One of the features is an eBike Lock which serves as extra anti-theft protection to mechanical locks by needing your phone nearby to turn on the bike.
Ah, but I want a box bike, but don’t like having the box in front of me when I cycle
We were very excited to test ride the prototype of the Circe Cycles Low Tail.
The box at the rear is a new addition to the Circe modular tandem/triplet offering, so when your kids are a bit older you can swap the box and transform your bike into a tandem or triplet.
Ah, but I don’t need a bulky cargo bike to carry lots of kids and luggage – I just need to get one child to school
The Circe Tandem allows your child to sit and pedal behind you, with the possibility of the tandem growing with them.
Ah, but the children will get wet if it rains
Not if they’re in one of the multitudes of cargo bikes we rode that are available with a protective waterproof canopy.
Here’s the two-wheel R&M Packster and the three-wheeled Winther Kangaroo Lite both with theirs in place.
Ah, but I’ll get wet if it rains
Not if you’re wearing one of these fabulous poncho’s from Cape Creary you won’t!
Neither of us are currently poncho owners but these stylish designs are tempting us to make the switch!
Ah, but I don’t have human kids. I have a doggy baby - so a cargo bike isn’t for my family.
Thankfully Babboe have thought of that!
Ah, but I need to transport my kids and a large fridge size box at the same time
The good folks at Carla Cargo have just the thing for you.
As well as large fridge-sized boxes they are designed to hold different sizes and configurations of standard tool and work boxes.
So it’s now possible to replace cross-town van trips if you’re going from job to job, avoiding costly downtime stuck in traffic.
Ah, but I need to regularly transport up to three other bikes with me
Rather niche this one, but you’re not going to believe what Carla Cargo had on display…..
Ah, but I am so rich I have my own chauffeur and I certainly don’t want to be exposed to the elements in any way. And bicycling is for poor people – we all know that!
We’re not sure if you can buy this retail yet as it’s only being used as a taxi service, but if money really is no object, then you probably could get your hands on a Geco.
Cargo Bikes for all!
Hopefully all this has made you realise times are changing.
Cargo bikes are fast becoming a serious option for getting a family around and about.
Having written all this I’m reminded that the main argument whenever people talk about cycling as a mode of transport is “Ah, but it’s impossible not to drive if you’re a mum with kids”
For example only last week a TV producer tweeted this:
It’s no coincidence that young men are some of the biggest advocates of killing off the car industry. They’re mostly fit and healthy; they can’t envisage otherwise. They can’t imagine being a mum carting around children nor the woman trying to get home without a taxi at night.
— Charlotte Gill (@CharlotteCGill) March 28, 2023
The cargo bike festival well and truly showed that it is possible to “cart your children (and so much more) around” without the use of a car.
What we need now is for the investment in safe routes to school, shops, parks, playgroups, nurseries and housing estates across the country so families everywhere can choose this more sustainable, healthy, cheap and fun mode of transport.
Before you go….. if you’re thinking of making the switch to a cargo bike then there’s a few things to consider to help narrow down your choice. Check out our article What type of cargo bike is best for my family to get started.
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