Author Topic: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?  (Read 19821 times)

Justin234

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Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« on: November 11, 2013, 12:16:02 AM »
Hey Everyone,

I'm thinking of buying one of these - An Xtracycle Cargo Joe - basically a folding bike that turned into a cargo bike with the Xtracycle Free Radical extender.

From the website: http://www.xtracycle.com/cargo-bicycles/xtracycle-cargo-bicycles/cargojoe.html
A positive review: http://momentummag.com/gear/bikes/xtracycle-tern-cargo-joe-review/#sthash.1Yh3B1NB.dpbs

I already have a road bike I use for commuting. The reason I want a cargo bike is mainly to transport my 3 kids! With the above bike, I'd be able to put two kids on back, and one in the rear. At a certain point the kid would age out of the front seat and I'd have two on back with a third maybe riding with my wife or something. The bike also comes with bags for groceries, etc.

Reasons:

Primary: For the kids - They love riding, and I want them to have fun and enjoy cycling. I'd be able to take them on joy rides, and also shuttle them places like grandparents, swimming, etc.

Secondary: Save on gas and driving; I'm not really sure how much this bike would replace car rides, but I'd like it to - I'm really sick of the strap the kids into the carseat-process; I live very close to a bike path so that makes it extra easy.

Tertiary: I can use it to haul groceries, either with or without the kids. This isn't a big reason because I already have a trailer

Drawbacks:

Cost: Once I add on the kid-oriented items, like seats (the Yepp Peapod is $200! and the front carrier is $160!) things start getting kind of pricey - in the $1400 range. I tell myself that this is a lot less than a car, that it is a healthy option that doesn't pollute the environment, that it will last a long time (I had my former bike for 18 years)

Alternatives:

-Buy a used mountain bike and have it converted
-(my old road bike could be converted but the added cost of new components would make buying a mountain bike just as cost-effective)
-Just keep using my trailer - this is the most mustachian thing to do - I could just strap a seat onto my rear rack and put the other two kids in the trailer. I'm wondering if I'm stupid for even thinking of spending and extra thousand dollars to "upgrade." And yet... I think it would be a lot more fun with them all on the bike!

Looking for any thoughts, from those who have cargo bikes, who transport kids by bike, or for anyone who can offer a useful face-punch/encouragement.

(In case you are wondering about my financial standing, I have no debt; this $$ would otherwise be going straight into my stache)

gooki

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2013, 12:30:08 AM »
Have you looked for a similar bike on the used market? Or a larger trailer?

caligulala

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2013, 02:53:59 AM »
We have the xtracycle radish and use it for hauling our 2 and 3 year old. You don't avoid the whole strapping the kids into seats with the bike and you've got to put helmets and weather appropriate outer wear on them, so in that way, it's more work than having a car.

The bike is also top heavy with 2 kids on the rear. It's fine once you get used to it, but you'll want to work on your lateral hip strength for stabilization. Sharp turns can be cumbersome when there's no cargo in the panniers. I often walk the bike through turns .

That said, we love our bike and the boys love it too. Way more than they liked getting put in and out of their car seats (we sold our car once we had the xtracycle). And it is great at hauling groceries, with or without kids. We expect that this bike will be used for our entire lives and look forward to putting our grandkids on it. We also like that both my 6'0" husband and my 5'4" self can ride it comfortably. Overall, we are happy with our purchase and see it as a good value.

Christiana

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2013, 07:40:42 AM »
It would cheaper and more fun to buy welding equipment and construct your own custom cargo bike--that is what I myself would like to do, sometime in the next year.  But I know that three young children don't leave you a lot of time to learn how to weld.

lackofstache

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2013, 09:49:57 AM »
I got a Yuba Mundo frameset & built it up myself, mostly w/ parts I already had, so it was put together for under $600. Whether it'll be worth it for you depends on how & how much you use it. We use it for grocery getting, kid hauling, bike camping, etc. It probably hasn't saved us $600 in gas, but it is a luxury that I'm willing to keep. Our kids, 5 & 3, are getting too big to share our trailer, especially if you want to pick up any grocerieis. I ride my bike to work 4-5 days a week & when my son starts school next year the plan is to ride him to school on the Yuba & leave the trailer at home for mom & 3 yr old. I like having the kids close, especially for longer rides, it allows a lot more conversation. The more of life you can spend on 2 wheels instead of 4, the better. I say, go for it.

FunkyStickman

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2013, 01:41:07 PM »
There are more Mustachian ways to do cargo biking than spending thousands of dollars. You could get a Sun Cargo Bike and upgrade it as needed. You can get a used MTB and do an Xtracycle conversion on it. You can scrounge Ebay for a used cargo frame, and swap the parts over from a cheaper bike.

Price is the only reason I haven't bitten the bullet on a cargo bike yet. Just can't bring myself to spend 2 G's on a bike.

PindyStache

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2013, 02:30:04 PM »
It sounds like you are trying to get excited about buying the new cargo bike while really knowing that your current trailer setup will mostly accomplish what you're looking for. Is there something about the trailer setup that is less "fun" to you? Otherwise it seems like the trailer meets all the reasons you stated. Perhaps you would get more interaction with the kids while biking--I think this is my favorite part of biking with kids (Look, apples! A garbage truck! A big bus! ...) but not sure that the distance/audibility would be that different between rear seats vs. trailer. If anything it is probably easier to stick kids in a trailer than strap them into seats on an extended rear rack. Plus a new cargo bike would be one extra large material thing to store/take care of/move/etc.

Either way, there are certainly cheaper add-on bike seats to consider. I don't claim any real expertise here, but the front bike seat (mounts on an additional bar between seat post and handlebar post) I've been using for the past year+ cost $60:
http://www.kidzproducts.com/products/?product_id=2

Good luck and sounds like fun whatever you decide!

scottydog

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2013, 07:22:42 AM »
I know the cargo bike you're investigating is different, but I'm hoping some of this might help.

We bought a bakfiets.nl cargo bike this spring, just before discovering MMM, to haul our 3 kids (now 1, 3, and 5) to daycare and school.  The kids absolutely love it, but in hindsight I must admit that it wasn't a mustachian purchase.  My rationale for this model was primarily based on having a rain cover for all 3 kids because I wanted to try riding it year-round.  I don't mind biking in rain when it's just above freezing, but I didn't want to subject my kids to that - especially in our first year of switching from car clowning to biking.  Before this, we had 2 kids in a chariot trailer and our oldest was getting far too big for the trailer.  Before that, we had a second car that sat in the driveway 99% of the time...

Although my kids are just in front of me, and it should be easier to hear them than ever, I find that I can barely hear their conversation when we have the rain cover on - especially if it's windy or there's a lot of traffic around.  It's still easier to hear them than when they're in the trailer, but it's not as great as I was hoping.  Most of our biking is in our downtown/residential neighbourhood, where the speed limits are often 40 km/h (~25 mph); it would probably be different if we were on isolated bike trails going through park land.  In the summer, without the rain cover, it was very nice to have conversations with them; now I find myself asking them to repeat their questions louder and louder until they're practically yelling.

It is nice to have the kids up front when the older two start to bicker, since I can usually stop it before it gets bad.  I simply couldn't see them in the trailer so I usually wouldn't know about any potential issues until they had already escalated.

The bakfiets handles like a bus, and it is very heavy at 80-90 pounds empty.  Biking with the trailer was far more nimble.  The long-tail bike would certainly be lighter and I suspect it would handle better.

After spending about 6 months reading and incorporating MMM ideas, my perspective is different.  If I could do it again I would look more into different rear child seats for my regular bike and keep our younger 2 kids in the trailer.  Even spending extra on a premium rear seat capable of carrying our oldest and investing in decent rainwear for our oldest would have been far cheaper than getting our cargo bike.  I would also investigate larger trailers that might be able to hold all 3 kids.  For now, though, I've put winter tires on the bakfiets and plan to experiment by seeing how much I can use it through the winter.

Justin234

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2013, 06:33:33 PM »
Thanks for all the responses - I've been delayed in responding as I mull things over.

To answer or address some of the questions/comments:

Gooki, yes, I've been eyeing craigslist but there are very few on the market. I think there must be a lot of demand for this type of bike, as they're relatively new and there's not a big supply.

Caligulala, you're right, I wouldn't avoid strapping in general. I guess I'm just looking for some variety in my strapping! Although I'm sure it gets a bit old after a while. Getting something that my wife and I can both use (5'2" and 5'7" respectively) would be a great plus, and I think it would be doable with the bike I linked to

Christiana, yes, welding would be a very badass, mustachian thing to do, but not really realistic. My son would love to get a hold of a blow torch and I don't want to think to far beyond that... :)

lackofstache - that sounds great to build it yourself. Unfortunately I don't have many parts and I'm not at the point where I can take such a project on, even though it would be really useful and educational.

FunkyStickman - I wasn't aware of the Atlas Cargo. I will look into it. As far as I can tell, getting a used bike and having it converted would only be about $200 less than the folding bike I linked to. So I am weighing both of those options...

PindyStache - Yes, you could say I'm trying to psych myself up and do it, and it's totally true that a trailer + rear rack would do the job for at least another 2 years. I think it would be easier to talk to the kids - one of the things I don't like about the trailer is that I'm always turning my head and saying "What?" or "Talk louder! I can't hear you!" In fact, I have an idea for some sort of intercom system from biker headset to trailer speaker via a cable. That would be a kind of cool DIY project... I agree that there are cheaper seat options... not sure if they are compatible with the extracycle racks - so that's something to investigate. The other problem with a trailer is that I'm uncertain how my two little kids (15 months and 15 months, respectively) will get along. There could be a biting situation that goes unaddressed if I can't hear them. I guess the intercom would address that...

Scottydog - thanks for your input. When I went into the store my son was begging me for one of those bakfiet-style bikes! But it's way too wide for my smallish house. Thanks for your input though, I may try to do a 3-kid setup with trailer and rear seat for this winter, and then make a final decision in the spring.

Thanks again for all your input!

(edited for typos)

Chara

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2013, 02:04:23 PM »
I got an extracycle when my son had out-grown the trail-a-bike but didn't have the stamina for longer rides on his own bike.  So he would bike on his own for a while, then would sit on the rear of the extracycle and we would tow his bike (putting his front wheel into one of the freeloader panniers).  It worked pretty well on flat bike trails, but not so good around town.

While actually moving, the extracycle handles great with heavy and large loads, although you will feel it if your kid(s) is squirming around in back.  I found that mounting and dismounting the loaded bike is a bit tricky as I need to tilt the bike a bit in order to get on/off and it was hard to support the very heavy bike at a tilt.  You need to pack your groceries evenly so the bike won't keel over while using the kickstand (some people actually use a double kickstand like on a motorcycle). I also found the extracycle to be rather cumbersome for getting around in tight areas, but of course a trailer would be equally cumbersome, if not more so.  Also, the extracycle was too heavy for me to lift onto the bike racks of city buses, but that might not be a problem for you.

Now that my son no longer needs the free ride from Mom, I've taken off the Free Radical and am planning to put a regular rear rack and panniers on instead.  I also just picked up a small trailer for bigger loads, but my bike doesn't seem to have enough spots to put both trailer hitch and back rack, so maybe I'll end up going back to the extracycle configuration.

Good luck with your decision.





wjquigs

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2014, 02:59:53 PM »
Did you decide what to do?  I'm in a similar situation.  My 3.5-year-old loves his Wee Hoo, but there's no way to get my 6-year-old on as well.  I'd like to find a way to carry both kids to reduce my car use, and occasionally carry groceries, tools, etc.
Bill

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2014, 03:15:54 PM »
Did you decide what to do?  I'm in a similar situation.  My 3.5-year-old loves his Wee Hoo, but there's no way to get my 6-year-old on as well.  I'd like to find a way to carry both kids to reduce my car use, and occasionally carry groceries, tools, etc.
Bill

Cargo bikes have been around long enough that they do filter into the used market. I see them occasionally in my area for between 30-50% of new.

While having the weight on the frame is somewhat better than having it behind you in a trailer, it also compromises the handling. Be prepared for a learning curve.

I haven't had time to make a weather cover for this, but I modified my existing trailer to fit 3 kids:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/and-i-shall-call-it-frankentrailer!/

The main issue is weight, no matter where it is. I'm a pretty fit cyclist, but pulling close to my body weight is HARD. The trailer mod will last us until next year, when both my girls will be ready for multi-speed bikes.

ruthiegirl

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2014, 04:53:44 PM »
We overspent on a cargo bike last year.  Money is the big drawback and the only one I can think of. 

The upside?  I fucking LOVE my bike.  I ride 5-6 days a week, 7 when the weather is fine.  I often bike 2 kids 20 miles and love it (mostly, rain/sleet kind of sucks).

I do almost all of our grocery shopping by bike, lots of drop-offs and pick-ups and can handle most of the hills in my town.  There are a few big ones that have tested me, but I just go around them now. 

We bought a Yuba Mundo with an infant seat on the back.  I love that the frame is solid and the kids are close to me. With my two kidlets, it is a party on the bike. 

I have biked with every conceivable arrangement of baby seats and trailers and trail-a-bikes.  The cargo bike is by far my favorite.

I hope this isn't one of those instances where I am justifying spending money just to have something cool.  My bike has changed my life -- I am fitter, happier and live better -- more biking, less driving. 

greatreader

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2014, 06:10:08 PM »
We have a bakfiets-style bike (the Babboe City.) I love it. It is, hands down, the best purchase we've ever made. I use it almost every day in the non-icy months, I bike my kids to and from school with it... It's enabled us to remain a single-car family while ensuring that I'm never stranded at home with the kids. I use it for groceries, lumberyard runs, everything. I feel much more secure with it because the kids are where I can see them, and I know whether the baby is crying because she's been gouged in the face with something pointy or whether someone took her stuffed bunny. I don't have to stop and get off the bike to investigate, and that's awesome. It's a really great way to get around, I love it, and it's totally changed my life. Just another perspective.

FunkyStickman

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2014, 06:44:01 PM »
Another cargo bike (one of the cheaper new ones, not the cheapest, but much less than a Big Dummy or Radish) is the Madsen.
http://www.madsencycles.com/

Shropskr

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2014, 11:09:31 AM »
I have an xtracycle radish and LOVE it sooooo fun.  Kids are 6 and 10.  They both ride on back.  The radish is a heavy bike and makes wide turns takes a while to get used too.  I have the double kickstand.  I it is wel worth it makes loading so much easier especially with wiggly kids or loads f groceries.  I have done costco runs with my radish while kids are in school.  This bike hauls a lot and you hardly notice it. It is VERY stable.  We got rid of the second car after I got my bike.

On thing I have that hasn't been mentioned yet.  I have a motor.  That's right I cheat.  But oh yeah 100 lbs of kids plus me plus Seatte hills.  Yup I'm going to cheat.  I highly recommend it.  Power assist put the battery in the pouch and let's go.

Well worth it I love my xtracycle.  Is it expensive yes would I do it again yes.  A normal bike just can't handle a minivan lifestyle. :)


slugsworth

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Re: Thinking about a cargo bike purchase - a reality check?
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2014, 03:04:09 PM »
It looks like he took his pricing down, but for about $500 there is a guy in PDX that builds custom cargo bikes - he keeps the price down by basically hacking together a kids bike and an old mountain bike (that you supply) and using heavy steel. . . but if the goal is to have something cheap, useable, I think it is a pretty affordable and pretty awesome way to go. The scrap bikes could (and should) be bought off of craigslist or from your local bike coop for under $100 total.

http://www.tomscargobikes.com/tomscargobikes.com/MODELS.html

For those that mentioned DIY, he provides instructions on how to do that as well.