You have decided to give up using your car and replace it with a cargo bike? Bravo! Now, you don't know what to choose in an ever expanding market with multiple choice. That is understandable. The main question is - should I get a front loader (Bakfiets), or a Long Tail cargo bike? What are the disadvantages and advantages of each type? Electric or non electric? We tell you everything.
1.How much space do you have? At home and on the cycle lanes?
In Ireland, and especially in Dublin, this is the first question you should ask yourself. Front loaders are typically larger than long tails, and you would need a large entrance to your house or a front garden / garage to store your bike, which is not typically what families in the city have access to. If you do, great! The front loader will be able to carry your young kids, your grocery shopping, your equipment if you have a trade etc. If you are a bit tight on space and / or want to store the bike indoors in your house or apartment, the long tails have the distinct advantage that they are compact. The Bicicapace for example would be the same width as a regular bike, and would be 1.9m long, which makes it ideal for entrances, corridors etc.
You also need to think about the infrastructure outside your house. Typically, cycle lanes in North city Dublin would not be wide enough for three wheelers, which is why we don't sell them at Rothar. Cycling in the traffic beside the cycle lane is legal and feasible, but it is not the best of experience.
2. What cargo do you plan on carrying?
This is probably the most important question. You’re deciding on the type of cargo bike to buy after all! What shape of cargo will you be carrying? Long Tails can handle pretty much anything elongated (think Christmas tree, ironing board, dog, etc.). However, for other bulky items such as small tables, boxes, tools etc., front loaders may have an edge.
3. Will you be carrying kids?
If so, how old are they? Front loaders can accommodate young kids. We would recommend waiting until kids are about 9 / 10 months old before putting them in a childseat (when they can hold their head properly). If your kids are older, a long tail may make more sense. There’s more room at the back of the Bicicapace JustLong. And using cushions, an older child has more freedom to move around, face forward or backward, etc. Sticking two older kids side by side in the box of a front loader can become a challenge - the size and weight of the kids will be a constraint at some point.
The other thing to think about is where you prefer your kids to be. Having them in front of you can be reassuring when the cycling infrastructure is a bit patchy like in Ireland.
4. Will you be replacing your work van?
More and more, people in trades are realising that they lose a lot of time in congestion, and that running a van is costly, dangerous and not very eco-friendly. The good news is that an electric cargo bike can do the job equally well, and sometimes even better than a van. It is much quicker, keeps you fit, and the load capacity is impressive. The Achielle Ferre can be fitted with a Rhino box, and can help you transport tools, medical equipment etc
If you just need a smaller loading capacity, the Bicicapace Pelican will do the trick.
5. What type of weather will you be riding in?
Both front loaders and long tails can be fitted with tents or protective structures. See here and here. Even horizontal rain will not be a hindrance. Think about the cold more than the rain, and transport extra blankets with you for cold mornings.
6. Where do you prefer your bike’s centre of gravity?
The Bicicapace range is the best of the best when it comes to long tails having a low center of gravity. Its smaller 20” back wheel means that cargo sits lower for better balance (and ultimately, a better ride). However, the box of a front loader is naturally even lower (there’s no wheel beneath). This means that it’s more stable, handles fast turns around corners better, and it doesn’t tip as easily. The adaptation is much easier if your bike is electric, as the motor will give you the balance immediately.
7. How much can you spend?
Buying a cargo bike will be an investment. They are not cheap and it can look like you are spending a lot of money on a bike, which sometimes requires a bit of a cultural shift. The thing is, when you actually replace a car or a van with a cargo, you will not spend much more in the years to come. Your bike will require a service once or twice a year, tyres replaced and the likes, but that is it. There won't be any insurance, NCT, parking fees, petrol or the like.
Think also about the bike's tangible value: no bus passes, no gym membership, no sitting in traffic, more time with your family, less stress, and the comfortable feeling that you are not contributing to carbon emissions everyday. Studies show that people who cycled on a daily basis had 84% lower carbon emissions from all their daily travel than those who didn’t.
Resale value wise, both options are equally attractive and the resale value of cargo bikes is very good.
Ultimately, the point is that the list of pros and cons and all the logic will only get you so far. Your gut feel as to which bike will get you out riding more is far more important. This is how you maximize family time, save money, get exercise, and wonder how you ever lived any differently.