Shun the mall parking lot and strap your groceries, goodies, and offspring to these electrified haulers.

By Dan Roe, Bicycling

Jul 31, 2019

Losing riding time to run unavoidable errands sucks, so quit driving and start pedaling everywhere on an electrically assisted cargo bike. The latest generation is more customizable and wieldy than ever; e-assist and modular mounting systems mean today’s bakfiets and longtails are increasingly viable trade-ins for your gas-guzzling SUV. The United Parcel Service and disaster relief managers across the globe use cargo bikes to transport goods where cars can’t go, and you’ll love breezing past bumper-to-bumper traffic in the bike lane with a week’s worth of groceries packed onto your bike. Whether you’re on the school run or you’re furnishing a room from Ikea, there’s a cargo bike to help you portage past rush hour.

Cargo Bike Layouts

Domestic and international cargo bike popularity has exploded in the past decade, says Xtracycles founder and longtail cargo bike pioneer Ross Evans, yet a few basic designs dominate the segment. There are bakfiets (“box bike” in Dutch), also known as Long Johns, which position the cargo box between the rider and the front axle using a low-slung frame and a steering linkage that runs from the handlebar to the fork. The longtail design is like a tandem, but with space behind the rider for cargo rather than a second saddle. Midtails are shortened longtails; the latter two designs maneuver more like a traditional bicycle, but bakfiets tend to provide more cargo capacity.

To Electrify or Not?

To make sense of the recent cargo bike boom, look to e-bikes. “Electricity and cargo bikes go together like PB&J,” Evans says. Schlepping hundreds of pounds on a bike is great if you’re looking for a workout, but e-cargo bikes like the Tern GSD and Benno Boost E use pedal-assist electric motors with more than 50 miles of range to make cargo bikes more accessible to riders who aren’t trying to break a sweat. The tech comes at a price, however. If you’re running a cost-benefit analysis of the electric premium, bikes like the Yuba Spicy Curry Bosch come in electric and non-electric formats.

Accessorize to Fit Your Needs

Once you’ve purchased a cargo bike, you’ll want the right accessories to maximize its utility. Start on the manufacturer’s website: Brands like Tern and Benno sell panniers, racks, and child seats to match their cargo bikes. Alternatively, if your style is more “chuck it and go,” bakfiets like the Riese & Müller Load 60 use a single spacious box that’ll fit all your stuff in any manner of organization (there’s still seat belts for your kids, though). The best way to figure out the logistics is getting out there and hauling, so start with one of these velo-freighters and get to portaging.

Why You Can Trust Us

Each of these bikes has been thoroughly tested by a Bicycling editor. We’ve used them to fetch groceries and take kids to school, riding them as often as possible to find out whether they can replace our cars for daily use. We’ve also interviewed the product managers who build these bikes and compared them to competitors in the market. Have a question about one of these rides or wish we’d review a bike not on this list? Let us know in the comments.


Benno Boost E

Form and function aren’t mutually exclusive, proves this graceful longtail.

Price: $3,999
  • Maneuverable mid-tail design
  • Clean look and light weight make it great for non-cargo use, too

The Benno Boost E won Bicycling’s Editor’s Choice award in 2017 for its simplicity and ease of use—we think it’s one of the best-looking cargo bikes around, too. The midtail design makes it easy to maneuver, and the (relatively) low 58.1-pound claimed weight means it’s not terrible to pedal when the battery runs out. The Bosch Performance Line motor and Bosch Purion computer provide five riding modes (four levels of e-assist and “off”), and using the optional front tray helped testers balance out heavy loads. During testing, the integrated lights, ergonomically pleasing integrated seat handle, and weeklong battery life (using the bike for day-to-day errands) impressed us.

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