We are obviously big fans of folding bikes, and though our Bromptons can haul quite a bit of stuff, sometimes one needs a cargo bike. We have a Triobike Cargo and it can carry a LOT size-wise and weight-wise, but since we’re child-free and no longer run a delivery business, we don’t use it very often anymore. As a result, we’re considering trading in the Trio for a smaller cargo bike, like a Muli Compact Cargo or a Petit Porteur, something that rides more like a regular bike but can still carry a load when needed. But short of staring longingly at these bikes online, we hadn’t actually done anything to check them out.
Then a few of our BikeTO friends organized a Cargo Bike Toronto Meetup! What an excellent opportunity to check out a diverse selection of cargo bikes and meet the friendly people who ride them.
All our thoughts on the bikes we saw and test rode after this video!
We had a ridiculous amount of fun test riding the bikes at the meetup! Especially the e-bikes. Neither Pier nor I had ever ridden an electric-assist bike before. Now that we have, I understand how e-assist removes a huge barrier for many people — it makes cycling completely effortless! You won’t get sweaty, you won’t struggle up hills, you won’t be bogged down by the weight of groceries or kids or other cargo. Riding an e-bike is so easy and fast and fun that when the masses discover this, nobody will want to drive a car in the city ever again!
Here’s hoping anyway.
Types of Cargo Bikes
Before we talk about the specific bikes that were at the CargoBikeTO meetup, here’s a rundown of the different types of cargo bikes out there.
Pier’s Triobike is a long john cargo bike. These bikes have an extraordinarily long wheelbase at the front and a smaller front wheel. The cargo is carried on the front of the bike between the handlebars and the front wheel. Put a box in the cargo area and a long john becomes a box bike…
Bakfiets / Box Bikes
The original bakfiets (developed in the Netherlands in the late 19th century) were cargo tricycles with a wooden box between the two front parallel wheels. Nowadays, bakfiets can be either a trike or a two-wheeled long john with an integrated box.
Whereas long johns have an extended wheelbase at the front, longtails (as the name suggests) have an extra-long wheelbase at the back. On top of the back wheel is a built-in deck to carry cargo or children.
Before researching this blog post, I’d never heard the term “cycle truck”, but it’s basically the Petit Porteur! Cycle trucks have the same wheelbase as a standard bike, but have a smaller front wheel with a front rack above it to carry cargo. Petit Porteur made the back tire small too so that a cargo rack can also be affixed to the back.
Bikes We Test Rode!
I’ve put these in same order as the video above.
Riese & Muller Multicharger
On their website, Curbside Cycle has labelled this bike a longtail, but it’s not much longer than a standard bike, so I’m calling it a “midtail”. The one we rode had the Safety Bar Kit installed, which turns the back rack into a padded seat for two children or one small-ish adult. There’s even a back rest! Combine all that with excellent suspension, and this bike is a very comfortable ride. It’s also VERY powerful. I started my test ride without any power assist, and it rides well just like that. Then I put it on “ECO” mode, and that gave a sizeable boost in power. But when I put it in “TOUR” mode, it felt like riding a motorcycle. It is effortlessly FAST. Use that e-assist with a passenger on the back and you’ll have no trouble pulling them up hills.
Muli Compact Cargo Bike
Type: Mini Long John
Belt Drive: YES
We were very excited about this bike because it’s a “mini cargo” – exactly what we’re in the market for. As expected, because the Muli is shorter than a regular long john, it’s easier to maneuver than some of the longer bikes. The basket also folds flat, an extremely useful feature when you want to park it in a regular bike rack, store it in a tight space or simply cycle on narrower bike lanes (unfortunately, a lot of Toronto’s bike lanes are very narrow).
The Muli is also very light for a cargo bike, which makes it easier to pedal without e-assist, though the Muli comes as an e-bike if you want the extra power. I imagine this little bike would fly with e-assist since it’s already so light.
This Muli had the belt drive, which we love for it’s cleanliness (no chain grease on your legs), durability (belt drives last way longer than chain drives) and rustproof-ness (repels salty slush in winter), but you can also get a regular chain drive if you want to save money.
Muli is a German company and the only dealer in Canada is Allo Velo in Montreal, but they ship all over Canada. Mini cargo bikes seem to be trending in Europe, but the Muli is the only one currently sold in Canada. Both the Petit Porteur and the Yoonit are only available in Europe right now.
Riese & Muller Load 60
Type: Long John
Belt Drive: YES
This is the Cadillac of cargo bikes! It has a belt drive, powerful e-assist and dual suspension that makes the ride so smooth. Both rider and passenger will barely feel bumps in the road. Check out Curbside’s site for all the details and more info about the various cargo area options and accessories. And yes, it is expensive. But this isn’t a recreational bicycle that you’ll use once a month; this bike replaces a car. And it’s much more affordable than a car.
Type: Long John
Belt Drive: YES
This is Pier’s bike, so technically we didn’t test ride it at the meetup, but I’ve included it here for comparison.
I find the steering on the Trio a bit tricky (much harder than the Riese & Muller Load 60). When he first got it, Pier rode around a parking lot for half an hour before feeling confident enough to ride it on Toronto’s busy streets. Now that he has the hang of it, the Trio is easy enough to maneuver. One of its selling points is how light it is for a long john (the frame is aluminum). But what really sold Pier on this cargo bike was the Gates carbon fibre belt drive. When he bought the Trio seven years ago, belt drives were not common; the Trio was the only cargo bike sold in Canada (at Allo Velo in Montreal) that had one. Now, most cargo bikes come with a belt drive option, which is amazing! We’re big belt drive fans; unlike chain drives, belt drives won’t rust from the salt slathered on Toronto’s winter streets. If you want an all-season bike, a belt drive is the best!
Belt Drive: YES
The Tern can also be considered a “mini cargo” since its small wheels mean it’s no longer than a regular big-wheeled bike. It has a very upright riding position, which can feel twitchy at first if you’re not used to that and the small front wheel. However, it is capable of making tight turns, something most cargo bikes can’t do.
Compared to the Riese & Muller, the e-assist isn’t as powerful, but honestly, I think the R&M is kind of overkill. The Tern has plenty of power for the size of the bike. The Tern is also a bit easier to handle with a load on the back because the rear tire is smaller, meaning that the weight of the passenger (or cargo) is lower and therefore easier to manage.
The Tern GSD is also marketed as a space-saving e-cargo bike since its handlebars fold down and the whole bike tips up to rest on the back rack. It’s no Brompton, but for a cargo bike, it has a small footprint!
Renting Cargo Bikes in Toronto
The above bikes were just the ones we rode at the meetup. There were lots of others there (Bike Friday Haul-a-Day, Bullitt, Urban Arrow Shorty, Yuba Mundo Electric, Nihola), including the fleet from Happy Fiets Canada. If you live in Toronto, you can rent one of their bikes! It’s an awesome way to try out a cargo bike if you’re on the fence about buying one, or if you don’t need a cargo bike all the time, you can just rent when you need one.
Toronto’s inaugural CargoBikeTO meetup was such a success that the organizers want to make it an annual event! Speaking of, thanks to Janet Joy of the Toronto Community Bikeways Coalition, Robin of Happy Fiets, and Dave of NRBI for organizing, and Curbside Cycle for lending a couple cargo bikes for the event. We had a great time and are looking forward to next year!