A New Generation of Cargo Bikes: Hauling with Human Power in the 21st Century

Halloween ride from Menlo Park to Santa Cruz on my new Frances tourer, with Pass and Stow and Bruce Gordon racks- sure beats Highway 17!

The new Make Magazine is out on the streets, and with it, my article on cargo bicycles, entitled Cargo Bike Power: Car-Free Carrying Makes a Comeback.  In the course of my research, I interviewed innovators and relatively new entrants into the industry, like Josh Muir and Saul Griffith as well as legends of cargo bike applications and design like Erik Zo and Stephen Bilenky.

I was so impressed with Josh Muir’s Frances Cycles (I mean it’s hard not to pant and drool over the beautiful bikes on his website) that I ordered my own custom, all around touring bike, which arrived a couple of months ago.  I’ve done a couple of long rides on it, including from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo along the Big Sur Coast (below) and a Halloween ride from Menlo Park to Santa Cruz via the Ridge Trail (above).  It’s so nice to have a large front rack- perfect size for a medium pizza or 12 pack of beer!

I just love a bike that you can take on and off road, that is light enough for a pleasurable roadie rec ride, but is substantial enough that you don’t have to worry about breaking it if you hit a pothole.   If you’re going to own one bike, I’ve found that a touring bike is the most practical.  Of course, you’re not going to want to leave this on the street unattended for any length of time, so a beater bike is also essential if you are living car-free.

It was exciting to learn more about, and share the innovations going on in the bicycle industry.  It is likely that as the economy continues to slow, we will see more bicycle manufacturing return to the US, where labor isn’t as expensive as it once was.  The most exciting, high quality framebuilding is happening in small batches in backyards throughout the country.   From Josh Muir, the framebuilding artisan who takes a stylistic page out of the early years of bicycle building, to Saul Griffith, whose Onya Cycles attempts to replicate the abilities of a car, with CAD design and electrical assist, there is a noticeable level of new energy in designing personal mobility that does not rely on internal combustion.

Need a new bike?   Consider a cargo carrying variety!  Or simply modify your existing steed and bring out the inner hauling beast!  Need to move that mattress across town?  You haul not U-Haul!

Even heavy, bulky and awkward loads can be carried by bike! (2004, Haight St. SF)

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3 responses to “A New Generation of Cargo Bikes: Hauling with Human Power in the 21st Century

  1. great article in MAKE magazine. I’m itching to test ride a few cargo bikes because they look like loads of fun. As of yet I made do just fine with a rack and panniers.
    Thanks!

  2. Interesting to carry heavy loads by bike.

  3. Funny it is not always about heavy it can be about voluminous like cello or a kayak.

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