What Makes A Good Cargo Bike?

E-cargo bikes inspire a new kind of lifestyle, open up unprecedented new freedoms and are considered a modern status symbol: cool, sporty, sustainable. Not even a Porsche 911 attracts as much interest and positive vibes! We tested nine cargo bike concepts with prices ranging from € 499 to € 7,858 and found a clear winner.

First of all, you do what you feel is right! We aren’t fans of dogmatism, we don’t want to force you to revolutionise mobility or plead for the total abolition of the car. On the contrary, we enjoy hitting the gas on the highway with the company car, transporting goods in the Sprinter or letting our emotions run free as we drive a classic Porsche 911 through the Black Forest and over mountain passes. Idealism is all well and good, but we’re interested in reality. What’s the best solution for our everyday lives? That is why, for most people, we see cargo bikes as an expansion of their mobility and horizons, as a significant improvement to their quality of life and as new status symbols that can even surpass a Porsche or a Rolex – yes, you read that correctly!

This big cargo bike group test is about more than just comparing products. It is about showing you how versatile these bikes are, answering the most important questions and helping you find your way around this rapidly growing market. Because only then can you make the right decision. First, we will present an overview of the category as there is a lot to understand and consider before we introduce you to the individual models. With each cargo bike, we will then clearly explain what it’s good at and the type of riding it is best-suited to. We’ll also tell you what to stay away from.

Table of Contents

  1. Is an E-cargo bike right for me?
  2. Which cargo bikes did we test?
  3. Our cargo test philosophy, our test team and our testing grounds
  4. What counts on a cargo bike?
  5. Which is the right cargo bike for me?
  6. Which is the best E-cargo bike 2020?

1. Is an E-cargo bike right for me?

E-cargo bikes have the power to improve your quality of life in ways that you can hardly imagine until you try them out yourself. This is why we want you to take part in a small thought experiment, based on real events and experiences during this group test.

Imagine …

  • …you never wanted to be famous but suddenly you’re the king.
  • …you don’t have to stick to the usual roads on your commute to work and you can spice it up a little with a ride through the forest and along trails! It’s possible with some cargo bikes!
  • …you can enjoy that cabriolet feeling, even though you’re not driving a car.
  • …your € 6,000 cargo bike gets you more street cred, more positive vibes and more envious looks than the neighbour does with his Ferrari. There’s no better status symbol currently out there!
  • …you stop by at our editorial office to try out a cargo bike and you can’t get your kids to climb back out of it. An expensive visit because now you won’t have a choice but to buy one… We’re sorry, Kilian and Erwin!
  • …as an early adopter, you and your gang pave the way for a new lifestyle and all your friends come to you to try out and admire your new cargo bike, wanting to find out more!
  • …you no longer have to navigate tight parking garages or drive around the block three times to find a parking space.
  • …you can get takeaway meals at your favourite Greek restaurant during the corona lockdown and the smell of gyros doesn’t hang around in your car for two weeks afterwards, because you’re riding in the open air.
  • …you can take your kids or four-legged friends with you on an adventure when you previously had to leave them at home. The same applies to barbecue parties: all of a sudden you’re the hero for being able to get firewood, crates of beer and, if need be, even the Weber grill to amazing places that you wouldn’t have gotten to by car. Barbecues or picnics outdoors have never been so easy!
  • …you don’t need a giant van to live that #vanlife. Go on overnight trips on two wheels instead, with all the luxury you could ever need, including a Persian rug and coffee equipment.
  • …you don’t have to worry about where you park your E-cargo bike because it has GPS tracking and comprehensive insurance. Services you would usually only get with a car!
  • …cities are quieter because more people are riding cargo bikes and your neighbour no longer roars to work in her fat Mercedes AMG, but glides off on an E-cargo bike instead.

It might just be a thought experiment but, as mentioned before, we’re realists and the fact is that once you have used a cargo bike in everyday life, we’ll no longer have to convince you – you’ll have convinced yourself! You won’t only realise what you’re missing out on but also see the potential that E-cargo bikes have. Because they create a unique lifestyle, open up new freedoms and possibilities and are considered one of the trendiest status symbols in modern cities: sporty, sustainable and conscientious. Not only are they a lot of fun but they’re also faster than any sports car. Not necessarily at the traffic lights, of course, but with an average speed of less than 15 km/h in most city centres, you’ll usually reach your destination quicker with a cargo bike than a car. And sports cars don’t get nearly as many positive vibes and encouragement from delighted passers-by as cargo bikes do. What more could you ask for?

Combinism – cars, the metro and cargo bikes can coexist in harmony

“Revolutionise mobility now! Whatever the cost!” Contemporary green demagogy demonises the combustion engine and the evil industry behind it. The question of guilt seems clear – the car is the root of all evil. But we’d be oversimplifying things if all we did was plead for the abolition of the car and claim that cargo bikes can solve all of our urban mobility problems. You could replace your car with an electrically assisted cargo bike but you don’t have to. Because there are better means of transportation and delivery when it’s cold and wet outside. It is much more important to know what your options are and make the best choice for the right occasion. Do you really have to travel and commute for work at all or will a virtual meeting work just as well in this day and age? Do I have to own a car or could I just join one of numerous car-sharing services? What alternative transport options do I have, including buses, metro, underground and other railway services? If you want to share the cargo bike with your family or friends, who would use it and when? These are questions that we don’t have answers to but that you each have to ask yourselves. If your budget allows, you can use whatever means of transport is most suitable at the time – the best option of all!

Bring on the prejudices!

Prejudices prevent us from having great moments and embracing valuable experiences. It’s the same with E-cargo bikes. During the course of our cargo bike group test, we encountered a wide variety of opinions and prejudices. Some things were construed as problems when they don’t actually exist at all.

18-wheeler? No thank you!

Even if the long wheelbase suggests otherwise, good cargo bikes don’t handle like trucks and are a lot of fun to ride! While some cargo bikes do have large turning circles, others, like the Muli Muskel, could almost turn on a coaster. Cargo bikes like the Bergamont E-Cargoville LJ 70 carve around corners like you’re on rollerblades. If the weight distribution is balanced, then transporting heavy loads couldn’t be easier thanks to the electric motor!

I’ve got nowhere to park it!

Yes, cargo bikes are bigger than normal bikes and, with a few exceptions, can’t be carried down to the basement. But you don’t have to! Due to their dimensions and weight, cargo bikes are less likely to be stolen than a Vespa. If you don’t think you could leave such an expensive item parked on the street, how can so many people leave much more expensive cars or motorcycles out there? So yes, you can own a cargo bike even without a garage or basement. All you have to do is lock the bike up and, if possible, remove the display, batteries and other valuable items. For added peace of mind, you also have the option of trackers such as the RX system from Riese & Müller or the GPS solution from PowUnity, which can be retrofitted on all good ebikes.

E-cargo bikes are expensive!

Sure, compared to the bike you used to ride to college, E-cargo bikes are a serious investment. However, a cargo bike doesn’t only function as a bicycle and you could potentially use it to replace a car. In other words, it’s very important for a good cargo bike not only to be fun but also practical. Smart solutions, (for now) comparatively small production quantities and innovative E-drive concepts ultimately make for a price that seems steep at first glance. However, if you compare the actual costs per kilometre with those of a second car, the price tag is quickly put into perspective. Depending on where you live, many regions and countries also have government incentives in place for E-cargo bikes. The fun you’ll have, the time you’ll save and the stress you’ll avoid by riding an E-cargo is priceless. Further on in this issue, we’ve compiled all the information you need on how to be smart about purchasing a cargo bike and the different e-cargo bike incentives available.

I could never transport as much with a cargo bike as with my car!

Unless you’re running a professional trucking service or have to drive around a family of 7, the carrying capacity of a cargo bike will usually suffice for your day-to-day needs. Besides that, you’ll find many different designs for the loading bay (see next chapter) and lots of different sizes too. Whether you drive a Smart or a 911, there are some things that just won’t fit in your car.

The volume of the trunk is one thing, the actual dimensions and their usability are another. Seeing as it’s in the nature of a cargo bike to be open at the top, you’ll often be able to fit more into it than the trunk of your car.

Some useless facts:
Boot space of a 911: 120 L
Loading volume R&M Load 60 cargo bike: 130 L
Loading volume of a Mercedes Sprinter: 7,800 L

Sounds cool, BUT: I can’t get out of my hamster wheel!

You complain that your days fly by too quickly, your job feels like a hamster wheel and you can’t break out of your routine? Then it is high time to take a step back and get out of the hamster wheel. Remember, it’s the hamster turning the wheel and not the other way around. Sounds simple, right? In theory, it is, but don’t underestimate the power of habit. Try it out, let yourself be inspired and make the cargo bike a part of your new routine by regularly scheduling a ride. At some point you’ll realise that your new routine is no longer a routine – the joy of riding and everyday mobility returns and you discover something new every day

Back to the roots: the big business of cargo bikes!

In the coming years, industry experts see cargo bikes as one of the biggest trends in urban mobility and the bike industry. In 2019, over 75,000 cargo bikes were sold in Germany alone, more than two-thirds of which were equipped with an electric motor. Cargo bikes won’t only change the cityscape and improve the lives of millions of people, but also open up new opportunities for shops and businesses. According to the Moving Europe Forward study done by CycleLogistics, in European cities, around 51% of all motorised transport of up to 200 kg could be done by bike, especially with cargo bikes. By the way: cargo bikes aren’t just the latest trend, they’ve been around for more than a century. When cities weren’t yet overrun by automobiles, cargo bikes, mostly tricycles, were used for a wide range of services, including transportation. With this in mind, let’s get back to those roots!

2. Test field and typology – Which cargo bikes did we test?

Seven E-cargo bikes, one non-motorised cargo bike and one special guest: our cargo bike test field is full of variety that nonetheless lends itself to comparison. There are good reasons for combining such a diverse test field with prices ranging from € 499 to € 7,858. To understand our selection better, we first have to take a quick step back and look at the bigger picture.

What are the different cargo bike concepts?

A cargo bike isn’t just a cargo bike. There are a wide variety of concepts on offer to transport goods as effectively, safely and comfortably as possible. There are three types most suited to consumers. For the professional use that would likely fall outside your remit, you’ll also find heavy-duty cargo bikes with capacities that aren’t conducive to everyday practicality, as well as trailers such as the CARLA CARGO or BicyLift Trailer from FlexiModal – you’d even be able to transport a cargo bike itself. 😉

There are big differences between the various types of cargo bikes in terms of their centre of gravity, stability, usability and how easy they are to load things onto. Depending on the design, some models are more versatile than others, with handling that either improves or worsens when hauling cargo. Cargo bikes may share some commonalities but, ultimately, it all depends on the manufacturer’s design and how they have implemented the complete concept. It is for this reason that we recommend reading our individual reviews for an in-depth analysis of each cargo bike’s specific strengths and weaknesses.

Long john

Long john cargo bikes have their loading bay in front of the rider, in the space between the bars and the stretched out front wheel. This way, you can always keep an eye on everything you’re hauling. Depending on the frame, this design keeps the centre of gravity quite low between the two wheels allowing you to ride these bikes quite dynamically. That results in a more enjoyable ride and also makes sense in narrow streets. There are huge differences from one model to the other regarding turning circle, agility and handling stability. Some long john bikes, like the Muli, even have a foldable loading bay, which can help save on a significant amount of space when you park and be significantly narrower when riding without cargo. Always use the stand when parking. If you plan on frequently transporting heavy loads and want to avoid putting your back out, it makes sense to use a long john bike with a low loading bay.

Longtail/Backpacker/Baker’s bike

Grab your backpack and go explore the world! Longtail, backpacker and baker bikes come the closest to conventional bikes in terms of their riding position, handling and turning circle. They are just as easy to ride and usually quite agile. They typically have an extended rear end with an extra-large luggage rack, providing space for up to three kids or cargo, the position of which gives the bike stable handling. You’ll usually find features such as modular child seats, with footrests and handles. The secret weapon of longtails and backpackers are their large pannier bags with plenty of storage space for big shopping sprees. A front rack, which is available as an option on most longtail or backpacker cargo bikes, turns them into so-called baker’s bikes because bakers used to do the rounds delivering baked goods on the stable front rack. Maybe these days they should be called Uber Eats bikes?

Tricycle/Trike

There are two types of tricycles, also known as cargo trikes, with either the transport box between the two front wheels or the two rear wheels. In theory, three-wheeled cargo trikes are easy to ride because you don’t have to balance the weight as you do with two-wheeled cargo bikes, though this only really applies as long as you ride in a straight line. As soon as the dynamics of cornering and multidirectional forces come into play, things become a lot more complicated. In practice, tricycles often feel nervous, offer poor leverage and unfavourable weight distribution. It’s very possible to overturn a tricycle or quickly reach a critical point, particularly when riding fast. This is also dependent on the type of steering and the tricycle’s chassis, which both have a big influence on handling. There are two main types of steering: an articulated axle where the cargo box and axle move with the steering, or Ackermann steering like you’ll find on a car, where the front wheels each turn on their own axle and are therefore able to trace out circles of different radii, which change depending on the steering angle. Some bikes, like the Butchers & Bicycles Mk1-E, combine Ackermann steering with a leaning mechanism to compensate for the shift in forces as you corner and height differences in the road – it’s cleverly designed but the concept often has limitations in practice. It’s crucial to take these types of bikes for a test ride in real-world conditions, loaded up, to see how they handle!

Trailers

Not strictly a cargo bike, but trailers are another hauling option and proof that you don’t always need a classic cargo bike. This is the most affordable option for everyone that already owns an ebike that’s certified to pull a trailer. Though it’s often the most sensible solution, admittedly a trailer doesn’t come close to the modern image and fun experience of riding a long john. Depending on the model and how it gets mounted to the bike, a trailer can change the handling of your bike quite significantly. However, the great thing about trailers is that they turn your regular bike into a cargo bike, giving you lots of flexibility and negating the need to buy a new bike, making them the most affordable option! The market offers single and double-wheeled models with and without suspension. You’ll find everything from trailers designed specifically for dogs to heavy-duty workhorses or child trailers that easily convert into a pram.

Our cargo bike test field

For this cargo bike group test, we put our primary focus on E-cargo bikes. Even if you live in Amsterdam or elsewhere with no hills in sight, everyone can benefit from the support of a good electric motor, making riding easier and more fun, which in turn means you’ll use your E-cargo bike more often while being able to ride faster and further. We selected seven of the most promising E-cargo bikes currently on the market. To be able to investigate different areas of application, specific features and all cargo options out there, we also included the Croozer cargo trailer and the non-motorised, super-compact Muli Muskel in the test field to complete the picture.

BikePrice as testedWeoghtMotorBattery
Bergamont E-Cargoville LJ 70
(Click for review)
€ 5,39945.9 kgBosch Cargo Line Cruise625 Wh
Butchers & Bicycles Mk1-E Automatic
(Click for review)
€ 7,626
(from € 6,699)
51.3 kgBosch Performance Line CX***500 Wh
Croozer Cargo Tuure
(Click for review)
€ 49910.6 kg
Larry vs Harry STePS eBullitt E8000 XT Di2
(Click for review)
€ 6,336
(from € 5,125)
36.6 kgShimano STEPS E80001,008Wh*
Muli-Cycles Muli Muskel
(Click for review)
€ 3,045
(from € 2,725)
27.4 kg
Riese & Müller Load 60 Touring GX
(Click for review)
€ 7,858
(from € 5,999)
45.5 kgBosch Cargo Line Cruise1,000 Wh*
Riese & Müller Multicharger GT Vario
(Click for review)
€ 5,008
(from € 4,699)
38.2 kgBosch Performance Line CX500 Wh
Tern GSD S00
(Click for review)
€ 6,082
(from € 4,999)
42.8 kgBosch Performance Line CX***1,000 Wh*
Urban Arrow Family Performance CX Disc Zee 500 Wh
(Click for review)
€ 5,390 €52.0 kgBosch Performance Line CX***500 Wh
Ø € 5,908**Ø 42.5 kg**

*dual battery **without Croozer trailer ***predecessor model

Why are the cargo bikes in this test field so expensive?

Because we want to prevent you from having to buy twice… Of course you’ll be able to find cheaper E-cargo bikes but we’d advise you to proceed with caution. Even at an average price of around € 6,000, some of the high-quality cargo bikes we tested still have weak points that could be improved. With cheaper bikes, you’ll inevitably run into a lot more issues. Quality simply costs a bit more and especially in terms of durability, reliability and after-sales service, motors from Bosch or Shimano are miles better than unidentifiable no-name products.

3. Important things to understand – Our cargo test philosophy, our test team and our testing grounds for the hottest cargo bike of 2020

Originally, cargo bikes used to be reserved for flat terrain. After all, who wants to haul a heavy load up a hill purely with the power of their legs? However, the use of electric motors has opened up a lot more possibilities, turning new regions into true cargo bike metropoles.

We chose one of the most demanding regions that you could think of as our test location: our home, the automotive metropolis of Stuttgart, also the home of industrial giants like Bosch, Mahle, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. We didn’t just navigate our way through heavy traffic, busy central hubs and narrow streets but also ventured into the outskirts, like Leonberg (where our head office is located) and Ludwigsburg, where cobblestones and off-road passages tested our joints. Stuttgart also has some of the toughest topography with the type of steep climbs you might otherwise find in places like Lisbon or San Francisco. It quickly became clear that whichever bikes survive our tests won’t have any problems in flatter cities like Berlin, Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

Anyone who knows us knows that we don’t do things by half measures. We spared no effort for this cargo bike group test and brought in the skills of all our magazines including E-MOUNTAINBIKE, GRAN FONDO and ENDURO to tap into the team’s substantial and collective knowledge about electric motors, battery technology, connectivity, chassis construction and design. We combined the professional testing competence of editors, engineers and test riders, some of whom review over 100 different bikes each year, with the inexperience of beginners and people of all ages who had never ridden a cargo bike. Once again, we invited our friends and families to take part, from a dentist to 10-year-old twins, 70-year-old grandparents and young parents with babies. Even our dogs had to serve as test riders. It was a fair amount of effort, but it would be a lie if we said we didn’t have fun doing it! On the contrary, everything we learned during this test was worth the effort we put into it.

Putting in the distance at the 25 km/h motor assistance limit while riding along the Neckar river was just as important as maximum payload tests, cargo volume experiments, overnight trips with a Persian carpet and handling stability with slightly drunk test riders *clears throat* on a closed test circuit, of course. For style tests, to see which bike got the most attention and positive vibes, we took them to dinner in places where the cars park in front of the door and people primarily go to see and be seen. Guess who won.

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