It’s been a little over a year since our family owns and rides a cargo bike.
In 2020we rode over 3500 km. So I thought it would be a good idea to share our thoughts and information on what you need to consider before buying your own family cargo bike.
Things We talk About in This Post
- 1 Our Cargo Bike Story
- 2 Things you Need to Think of Before You Start Choosing Your Family Cargo Bike
- 3 Cargo Bike is not an Instant Purchase
- 4 You Bought a Family Cargo Bike, What’s Next?!
Our Cargo Bike Story
If you found your way to this post, then probably you are already thinking of buying a cargo bike. Or you just started doing some research in this area. I wrote this post to help you through the whole process of buying your very own family cargo bike faster and smoother.
Anyhow, before I start sharing with you our thoughts on buying a family cargo bike, I think it is fair to tell you own own story. So that you know our path towards buying a cargo bike.
I will try to keep it short, I promise.
If you follow us on Instagram, then you know that we spend a lot of time on the road. But we also keep it homey in our hometown of Dortmund, Germany.
We have never owned a car, choosing walking, biking or public transport instead. We also like exploring new places by bike when we travel. But with two small kids in the kindergarten (they were 4 and 1,5 as of Summer 2019) we spent way too much time on the delivery/pick up routine than we liked. Thus a bike question got raised with family cargo bike and a bicycle trailer for kids being the top favourites.
It took us a while to decide, but after weighting all the pros and cons, we ordered a family cargo bike in September 2019 and never looked back.
As a matter of fact, we were very lucky! We picked up our cargo bike in December 2019, before 2020 craziness hit. So we could go on outdoor adventures and ride around as long as we wished. Telling the truth, it was a plausible substitute to the travel ban. And it kept us active and sane.
Long story short, we are big fans of cargo bikes for families! We think this is a great way to support the environment and to transport kids and goods.
Things you Need to Think of Before You Start Choosing Your Family Cargo Bike
With more and more families and businesses looking towards environmentally friendly transportation ways, cargo bikes are getting very popular. Also outside the Netherlands – the kingdom of the cargo bikes. In our home city of Dortmund the amount of parents on cargo bikes with kids perched happily inside has doubled within the past year.
But before you going to join the family cargo bike team, there are some issues to rectify and think of beforehand.
Cargo Bike is an Investment
Before you even start planing and diving into the family cargo bike project, you need to know that buying a cargo bike is not cheap. With prices for family cargo bikes starting at about 1800 Euro – you might as well get a used car.
You really have to evaluate your need and plans before making the investment!
Keep in mind that the following costs have to be considered when you make a decision to buy a cargo bike:
- one time cost of the bike
- price of extra configurations outside the basic plan (better brakes, softer saddle, Brooks handles etc.)
- additional extras (bike lock, helmets etc.)
- maintenance costs
- storage costs (if applied)
We treat our cargo bike as an investment. An investment into our family quality time and lifestyle. As well as an investment into the environment.
Are you going for an Electric Cargo Bike or a Manual one?
These days many bikes are electric, which of course saves you energy and you can accomplish longer distances with less efforts involved. But not all the bikes are electric, so as not all the cargo bikes are electric.
Manual cargo bikes are rare to find these days, but you still can find them, especially on the used bikes market. The advantage of these are the price! The electric power bikes are more expensive.
But unless you are planning on sweating off every time you take your kids for a ride or going shopping, we highly recommend you investing into an electric cargo bike. From our personal experience, if you have two kids and groceries in your bike, you really rely on extra power.
And if you think you might miss on exercising while going electric, no worries, most of the electric bikes offer the manual mode.
Will Your Bike Have Three or Two Wheels?
This decision was a bit of a surprise for us, because we haven’t put a lot of thought in it at first.
When deciding whether you family cargo bike will be a three-wheel or two-wheel, don’t go for the looks.
Choose a tricycle (a three-wheel cargo bike) if you are looking for the following
- More space in the cargo box. Three-wheel cargo bikes usually offer the largest space in the cargo box. This meaning you can seat more kids (up to 4) and transport more goods.
- Stability on the road. Three-wheel cargo bikes are considered to be more stable during the ride. But you might need to get used to them while navigating a road bend. No worries, for instance Babboe Curve provides top safety on the turns.
- You are planning to ride your family cargo bike only within the city premises. If you are planning on using your family cargo bike only around your city, then it’s a good choice. Considering the fact, that your city offers biking infrastructure. Tricycles are not as flexible as the two-wheel cargo bikes. Meaning that if you think of going on a bike tour you need to study the road condition. Due to the two side wheels, tricycles are wider. This said, tricycles are great within a city, but are not so suitable for a ride in a forest or a narrow field path.
Choose a two-wheel cargo bike if you are looking for the following
- You are planning to ride your bike not only in the city, but also outdoor. Two-wheel bikes are very flexible. As soon as you are used to it, you will stop noticing the difference between riding a cargo or a regular bike. Therefore, with a two-wheel cargo bike you will be able to navigate the same paths and roads as with your normal bike. Unless they are very very narrow. But in one year and almost 3500 km on the tachometer we hadn’t had any troubles while riding through a field path or a forest path.
- You want to have a choice of family cargo bikes. The market for the two-wheel cargo bikes is way more diverse than for the three-wheel ones. Therefore there is plenty of choice. I know, that it might not always be an advantage, but I’m also talking about the costs here. Cargo bikes are like cars – some a luxury, some are more affordable.
- Cargo box size. The box size is another issue which speaks in favour of a two-wheel family cargo bike. If you, for instance, have only one kid and don’t need a lot of space or you might have a limit on bike parking space, you might consider getting a family cargo bike with a smaller basket. Cargo Bike Short from Bakfiets has, for instance smaller cargo box. And the E-Muli Bike has an option to fold the basket, making it flexible for daily life and storage.
A little tip: always check how much weight could a cargo bike box carry. Overloading will reduce the life limit of your bike.
Cargo Bike is not an Instant Purchase
I might have to disappoint you at this point, but it’s not that you decided upon buying a bike, go into a store and go out with your brand new family cargo bike.
Buying a cargo bike doesn’t happen instantly.
The whole process before you finally get to go on your first ride usually takes longer than we all wish for. Unless you are a VERY lucky person and a bike dealer of your choice has a bike model you are asking for on stock.
Therefore, always plan in advance and take a lot of waiting time into consideration.
As a matter of fact, it took us over 2 months between the actual order day and the pick up confirmation.
Choose a Trustworthy Bike Dealer Instead of Buying Over Internet
I’m not going to talk about the #supportyourlocal issue here. I think it is up to you to decide how and where you purchase your cargo bike.
But I would highly recommend you seek for a trustworthy cargo bike dealer in the area you live and not order over the internet.
Because cargo bikes, especially the electric ones require regular maintenance, which only experienced professionals could offer. Buying over internet is a one time stand, with bike dealers you develop a relationship and your bike history. Meaning that if you are in trouble or your bike requires an immediate maintenance you have a person to talk to!
Bike dealers usually give you special rates on maintenance and checks if you purchase your family cargo bike through them.
They also provide you with a fully assembled bike instead of the ‘Ikea’ building kit. I might exaggerate here, but you really don’t want to assemble your cargo bike according to a Youtube instruction.
Why does it take so long before you get your cargo bike?
As I have mentioned previously, buying a cargo bike could be treated as a purchase of a car, but an environmentally friendly one. There are several reasons why you will have to be patient with getting a grip on your new family transporter:
- High Demand. As cargo bikes are getting more and more popular, the demand and the amount of orders rise. Thus, the waiting time can get on your way. Especially in 2020 and 2021 – when everyone is keen on getting a bike due to the pandemic situation.
- Bike dealers don’t usually keep cargo bikes on stock. I might be mistaken, but I hardly know any cargo bike dealer who has a huge storage space. The common practice is that bike dealers keep bikes for customers only to test.
- Cargo bikes come in all possible variations and with all possible accessories. Therefore you first need to decide on which additional perks your family cargo bike is going to have before you can order one. Of course, you can order the extras later, but you don’t want to spend all your free time at the dealer, right?
Test run it Before you Buy it
This is actually another good reason why you should search for a good bike dealer and not purchase directly from the internet.
If you are coming closer on closing your bike deal, but still can’t decide which family cargo bike will suit you best, you can test run it!
Many dealers have special offers on renting out cargo bikes for customers to test run them. For a certain price you can try a bike, for example over a weekend and test whether it fits your needs.
We had an agreement and tested our chosen cargo bike model for a week before signing up the purchase contract.
The rental usually comes at a cost, but in most of the cases it is either the money well spent or the dealer won’t charge you if you close the deal.
Check Whether Your State Offers Grants
Many countries invest plenty of effort into their environmental and sustainable projects, and financially support their citizens who take part into the change process.
Therefore it is always a good idea to check whether your country or your federal state is currently running a support program for electric cargo bikes.
When we bought our family cargo bike, our federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia was running a citizens support program for electric vehicles. Meaning that if citizens purchased an electric car or a cargo bike the state chipped in a certain percentage of the price. We got 30% of our cargo bike price covered by this program.
Think About all the Extra Accessories
As you have noticed by now, buying a family cargo bike is not a fast decision process. And we are not done yet.
After you have decided on your family cargo bike model, you need to think about all the extras for it – some are essential, some are nice to have. I’m not going to go deep into the bike configurations, because you can also decide on which brakes, saddle or lights to get – but again, your dealer can advise you on this.
I’m going to share with you the extras we have ordered for our bike and the ones we have been using since:
- Rain cover. You can buy it also later on, but it is way easier to get the explanations about it removal/installation from your bike dealer than over Youtube video. And well, you never know when the first rain comes, it’s good to be prepared from the start.
- Child seat cushion. It really makes the whole difference of seating on a cushion instead of a wooden bench.
Other extras you need to consider:
- Baby seat adapter. If you are going to take your very little one along, you will need one to fix the car seat into your cargo bike.
- Bike Lock. You really need a good lock for keeping your bike safe.
- Bike helmets for the whole family. You really need helmets to keep yourself and your little ones safe. So if you don’t have a helmet yet, not it’s the time to get it.
You Bought a Family Cargo Bike, What’s Next?!
Congratulations, you closed the deal and invested into a cargo bike for your family. But you still have some time before you actually can pick it up.
So what can you do while waiting for your first ride?
Think About Protecting Your Bike
After the whole process of purchasing a cargo bike the last thing you want is your bike getting stolen, right?! Therefore don’t forget about the following:
- Invest in Insurance. The first thing we did after we bought our bike was investing into it’s insurance. There are many offers out there, but be sure to read through the conditions carefully. If your bike is electric, it should be specified in the insurance.
- Buy a Lock. If you haven’t bought a lock right away upon ordering, now it’s a good time to take care of it. And pay attention, that the lock correlates with the insurance policy – only the locks of a certain thickness and protection level are taken into a consideration.
Take Care of Parking Space for Your Family Cargo Bike
If you haven’t done it yet, now it’s a good time to think where you are going to park your bike.
Check out the insurance policy on parking your bike on the street. And also remember, that the electric bikes don’t like to be kept under the rain.
Now you are all set and I hope we could help you with the guidance process on buying your family cargo bike.
Enjoy your ride and stay safe!