Type of Cargo Bikes
Box bikes, or Bakfietsen in Dutch, are a traditional Dutch cargo bike. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and configurations for a myriad of intended uses. From the two passenger Babboe City cargo bike, all the way up to the giant Nijland cargo trike, intended for cargo and mobile businesses, there’s sure to be Bakfiets to suit your needs.
Bikes vs. Trikes
Passenger and smaller cargo Bakfietsen can come in either bike or trike configurations. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Generally, the large cargo-oriented Bakfietsen are tricycles, with two wheels in the front, one in the back. This makes the vehicle more stable and easier to maneuver at slow speeds. Imagine trying to balance a 3 ½ by 6 foot cargo platform only two wheels!
Most people who are looking into transporting kids or cargo on a bike are already bike riders. For them, steering a Bakfiets may be a bit unusual at first. Having the front of the vehicle so far out in front of you is something you’d be more accustomed to piloting a boat than a bicycle. With the two-wheeled Bakfiets this could make you feel like the whole thing is going to tip over! It’s like the feeling you had as a kid just learning to ride a bike for the first time. Don’t be discouraged thoough, with just a little practice, steering a Bakfiets becomes just as natural as any other bike.
Trike configured Bakfiets also have a bike of a learning curve, but for different reasons. With any bicycle, most of your steering isn’t actually done with the handlebars, but by leaning. Not so with a bakfiets trike. In this case all of your steering is done with the handlebars. This generally means a larger turning radius requiring you to go slower around corners.
So why would someone choose a trike over a bike? If you’re looking for the most stable platform to load heavy cargo or squirming kids into, something that doesn’t require you to hold the balance of the vehicle when you come to a stop, a trike might be something to consider. However, if you have to ride further or the larger turning radius and slower turning of the trikes are taking the fun out of riding, the two-wheeled Bakfiets may be your best bet.
As with any bike, we highly recommend making a trip to come in to Clever Cycles and take a test ride on the various models of Bakfietsen we have in stock.
Longtail and Midtail Cargo Bikes
Longtail cargo bikes are a relative newcomer to the world of cargo bikes. They first appeared in 1998 in the form of the Xtracycle Free Radical, an add-on accessory to convert a standard commuter bike into a longtail. Over the 13 years of its production Xtracycle released an extensive line of accessories for hauling kids and cargo. In 2014 Xtracycle discontinued production of the Free Radical, but the change that they started within the cargo bike industry has changed the landscape of longtail options significantly since 1998.
A number of companies have introduced complete longtail cargo bike solutions over the years. The first was Yuba, with their longtail, the Mundo. In 2008 Xtracycle released their Xtracycle LongTail specification as an open-sourced standard and Surly introduced the Big Dummy based on that standard, allowing the Big Dummy and Xtracycle accessories to be used interchangeably. Xtracycle finally introduced their own longtail cargo bike in late 2012, with the unique feature of a smaller rear wheel to lower the center of gravity by placing the cargo load closer to the ground.
Midtail cargo bikes have actually been around for quite a bit longer than longtails. In Africa in the 1960s people started transporting passengers on the back of bicycles in a town on the border of Kenya and Uganda. These bicycle taxis, or Boda-Bodas as they are called in Africa, served as inspiration for recent introduction of midtail cargo bikes in the western world. In 2012 Yuba released their first midtail, named in homage to its African roots, the Boda-Boda. Around the same time, Portland based bicycle manufacturer Kinn Bikes released their made-in-America midtail, the Cascade Flyer.
Bakfiets, Longtail, or Midtail?
A Bakfiets can usually seat more passengers than a longtail, with our largest model accommodating four children in front and, with the addition of a rear carrier, another passenger or two on the back. By comparison, longtails have room for 2-3 passengers and midtails have room for 1-2.
Every Bakfiets we stock also has an accompanying rain canopy, for keeping passengers and cargo dry, while none of the longtails or midtails do, requiring rain gear for all the passengers on heavy rain days.
Longtail and midtail cargo bikes are quickly supplanting the traditional Dutch Bakfiets as the cargo bike of choice for many commuters however due to their lower cost, lighter weight, and easier handling.
Choosing between a longtail and a midtail is generally as simple as deciding how much cargo and capacity you require. A longtail will allow you to carry more cargo and passengers, while a midtail feels the most similar to riding a traditional city bike.