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Posted on 03 February 2022

The 2022
Cargo Bike
Review

It has been said that Germans make great cars and the Dutch make great cargo bikes. Sure, but what’s interesting about Holland is that their high car ownership is directly correlated to their staggeringly high bike ownership. We might want to ask how the greatest cycling culture on earth is also one of the biggest car cultures.

The reason is simple and has to do with the fact that a bike does a majority of your trips better than a car. Likewise, a car does a minority of trips better than a bike. Why? Because the Dutch have shown that a majority of their trips are generally under 7.5km. That's a little too short to drive, and too far to walk. Hence, the bicycle.

Now, consider this: most trips in North America are also under 7.5km. The difference is that we drive this distance rather than bike. In Holland, they must think we’re crazy. Here we are, blowing tons of money on parking, fuel and heart medication so we can drive a distance that is way more efficient to bike.

Some of our customers like to joke that their cargo bike is their "second car." But really, they know that their bike is the primary car. That's the Dutch argument. The primary vehicle is your bike. It takes care of the majority of trips. It saves you oodles of money. You could buy a car with that money. You'd be master of your motion rather than a slave to gridlock.

So, you're thinking of a cargo bike. You're worried about money. Consider this: you could buy the highest-end, most luxury cargo bike, and you'd still be saving loads of money. That's why people spend a lot of money on cargo bikes. But, you don't have to do that either.

So, on that practical note, let's take a look at some of the best cargo bikes out there.

Babboe City Mountain Cargo Bike with Yamaha E-Assist in Grey

- Specifications -

  • Strong steel frame
  • Chip resistant powdercoat finish
  • Rust resistant undercoat
  • Marine-grade wood box
  • Tested for impact resistance
  • Made in Holland
  • Yamaha Motor w/ 70nm torque
  • Limited range 400W Battery
  • Wide-range internal gear hub
  • Powerful hydraulic disc brakes
  • High quality built-in lighting
  • 125 lb

Best Value: The Babboe City


Intro

The Dutch cargo bike was a rather insular Dutch invention until Babboe came around. In fact, the Babboe City was the world's first cargo bike truly designed to export Dutch sensibilities outside of Holland and to the world. So, what are these Dutch sensibilities? Easy! Build practical transportation; take quality seriously; take price seriously, and: make sure it lasts for life. In a world of planned obsolescence and shoddy quality, these are virtues that we can stand by!

The reason why the Babboe City is the world's best selling cargo bike is because it packages up the traditional Dutch cargo bike into a flat-packed, cost-sensitive cargo bike that is produced at scale. There would be no Urban Arrow or Riese and Muller if Babboe hadn't paved the international market first. That makes Babboe a true market leader.

→ See The Bike

Pros

Buying a Babboe City means you get all the virtues of a Dutch cargo bike at a very good price: chip and rust-resistant frame, marine-grade wood box, internal gears, powerful disc brakes, high-powered lightset and powerful Yamaha mid-drive motor.

The Babboe City is a bike that is made to weather perpetual outdoor storage, and we can speak from experience. We've been selling the Babboe City for over a decade in a harsh Northeast climate and it's been one heck of an indestructible bike. In sum, the Babboe City packages up a century of Dutch cargo bike experience into a bike that takes itself very seriously.

→ See The Bike

Cons

However, what you don't get is the most evolved cargo bike. True, Babboe may have started the revolution, but if they're leaders, it's on price and quality, and that's their DNA. Bikes like the Urban Arrow and Riese & Muller challenge the traditional steel-and-wood Dutch design with modern materials, greater comfort, and enhanced technology. These are bikes that open up your world a little more, beyond the normal radius of errands, work and daycare drop-offs to longer weekend adventures.

If Babboe hasn't responded to this explosion of innovation it's because they know they don't have to. Whether in Holland or North America, most trips made by car or by bike are under 7.5km long. And, to be perfectly blunt: that's what the Babboe is designed for. It's designed to handle the majority of your transportation for a fraction of a cars cost.

→ See The Bike

Ride Quality

How does it ride? It's glorious! The Babboe City uses a very Dutch sort of riding position that is rare to see on most other bikes. Your riding position is absolutely upright; you can see and be seen, your shoulders are squared without having to reach for the bars.

However, like most two-wheeled cargo bikes, slow-speed handling does requires a touch of oversteer until you reach cruising speed. By oversteer we mean that the steering feels a touch heavy at slower speeds. At cruising speed - which is really only a few pedal strokes - the bike starts to self-balance and feels perfectly stable.

→ See The Bike

Who's Buying?

We find that the Babboe City attracts a person who has identified that a cargo bike could handle the majority of their transportation needs but doesn't necessarily need the bike to be a weekend warrior. This rider doesn't need to be an experienced city cyclist at all, but does feel confident on a two-wheeler and prefers the feeling of a bike versus a trike.

→ See The Bike

- Babboe City Mountain -

PROS

  • Indestructible design
  • Powerful Yamaha motor
  • Powerful Disc Brakes
  • Wide-range Internal Gear Hub
  • FIts up to four kids!
  • Great City range

CONS

  • Limited battery range
  • Heavy design
  • Can feel wobbly at slow speed
Babboe City Mountain Cargo Bike with Yamaha E-Assist in Grey

- Specifications -

  • Rust-resistant aluminum frame
  • Chip resistant powdercoat finish
  • Lightweight EPP Foam box
  • Tested for impact resistance
  • Made in Holland
  • Bosch Performance Line w/ 65nm torque or Bosch Cargo Line w/ 85nm torque
  • Wide range 500W Battery
  • Wide-range internal gear hub
  • Powerful hydraulic disc brakes
  • High quality built-in lighting
  • 99 lb

Best All-Around: Urban Arrow Family


Intro

If Babboe first brought the Dutch cargo bike outside of Holland, Urban Arrow was the first company to globalize Dutch cargo bike design. Urban Arrow is based in Amsterdam, Holland's most global city, and it was here that a group of designers began to rethink the Dutch cargo bike. That makes them leaders as well.

There is a stubborness to Dutch design, an ethos that if you build it right you'll never have to rebuild it again. This stubborness builds great products, but it can also become blind to further evolution. Urban Arrow knew that aluminum had critical advantages over steel, namely that it doesn't rust and is much lighter, and they knew that the wood box used on Babboe's - while highly impact-resistant - was also very heavy. To make a lighter and even more impact-resistant box took some smarts, and the box on the Urban Arrow is especially clever. Constructed of EPP helmet foam, it is not only remarkably light, but the safest box on the market.

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Performance Line

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Cargo Line

Pros

The Urban Arrow is, simply put, one of the best designed cargo bikes we've seen. It's made of rust-proof and lightweight aluminum, it has the lightest and most impact-resistant box on the market, and the spec gets top marks for quality; from the chainguard to the puncture-resistant tires; the powerful disc-brakes to the powerful lightset. But, one of the most engineered parts of the Urban Arrow is the box itself. On the bottom of the box is precision-drilled metal plate that accepts a wide array of plug-and-play options for a growing family. A baby fits into a Maxi-cosi adaptor that leaves lots of footroom for kids on the bench. Have a Toddler? An adaptor installs easily to accept either a BoBike Mini seat. For a family of three or four, an added bench is also easily installed. The rain-tent is equally clever, and you can even attach a poncho to it!

The other thing we can't stress enough is the quality of the motor. We always say that an e-assist motor is only as good as it's after-sales service, and Bosch makes best-in-class motors with exemplary after-sales service. The Urban Arrow Family comes with two different motor options, either the Bosch Performance Line, which punches out a fairly low 65nm of torque and the Bosch Cargo Line, which is designed especially for cargo bikes, and has more torque (85nm). The Performance Line system tends to be good in flatter cities like Toronto. The Cargo Line is great if you are hitting bigger hills daily, or if you want to use the bike for longer adventures on the weekend. Both bikes come with huge 500W batteries that really extend the range of your adventures.

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Performance Line

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Cargo Line

Cons

It's hard to find any cons with the Urban Arrow bike. The Urban Arrow offers huge improvements on the Babboe City in terms of materials and design, and it's a great bike for short-distance errands or longer-distance weekend adventures.

However, the one area where Urban Arrow is exactly the same as the Babboe City is the upright geometry. This upright geometry is a real Dutch characteristic and keeps the riders back completely straight with the shoulders squared and arm reach minimized. To say it is comfortable is an understatement! However, this geometry also contributes to a bit of a top-heavy feel, which is why the Urban Arrow has that same slow-speed handling characteristics as the Babboe City.

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Performance Line

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Cargo Line

Ride Quality

The Urban Arrow handles pretty much exactly like the Babboe City, which means slower speed handling requires just a touch of oversteer. Again, most people tend to get used to this in the first few pedal strokes.

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Performance Line

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Cargo Line

Who's Buying?

We find that the Urban Arrow attracts a person who has identified that a cargo bike can handle the majority of their transportation needs. However, this person also wants something that opens up more recreational adventures on the weekend and appreciates the more advanced design of the Urban Arrow versus the Babboe.

The Performance Line bike tends to sell well in flatter cities where trips are generally short but has the battery range to cover weekend adventures too. The Cargo Line sells well pretty much everywhere, and offers almost zero-range anxiety with assured power, even on massive hills.

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Performance Line

→ See The Urban Arrow Family Cargo Line

- Bosch Performance Line Edition -

PROS

  • Indestructible design
  • Quality Bosch motor
  • Loads of range on 500W battery
  • Powerful Disc Brakes
  • Wide-range Internal Gear Hub
  • FIts up to four kids!

CONS

  • Not a lot of power for big hills if you buy Performance Line edition
  • Can feel wobbly at slow speed
Babboe City Mountain Cargo Bike with Yamaha E-Assist in Grey

- Specifications -

  • Rust-resistant aluminum frame
  • Chip resistant powdercoat finish
  • Welded aluminum box
  • Tested for impact resistance
  • Made in Germany
  • Bosch Cargo Line w/ 85nm torque
  • Wide range 500-1000W Battery
  • Lots of drivetrain options
  • Powerful hydraulic disc brakes
  • High quality built-in lighting
  • 85 lb

Best in Class: R&M Load


Intro

Riese & Muller follows the same evolution as the Babboe City and Urban Arrow Family; but it evolves things another step further. Where the Babboe City and Urban Arrow tend to be the same in rider position and different in terms of materials and overall range, the Riese & Muller Load offers a more modern upright geometry mated to a suspension frame that offers greater comfort coupled with higher reaction handling. That means the opportunity to go further, both on and off-road too.

Riese & Muller is, without a doubt, a premium brand with top-spec parts. They are proud of their German engineering and make no attempt to build their bikes around economy or price. Instead, they are convinced that their cargo bikes offer the best economy; a state-of-the-art cargo bike that costs less than a car and does more than a car. It might seem like a subversive calculus that flies in the face of the car-centric pursuit of happiness, but that's exactly the point.

→ See The R&M Load 60

→ See The R&M Load 75

Pros

You might say that the Riese & Muller Load 60 and 75 are the Land Rover of cargo bikes; a premium product that is designed to tackle the city plus rides outside of the city. In fact, the Riese & Muller Load 60 and Load 75 stretch the imagination for what a cargo bike can do. Whereas most cargo bikes are designed for the majority of your trips, the Riese & Muller Load models are perfectly fit for long distance tours, overnight camping, you name it.

What makes the Riese & Muller so perfect for these endeavours starts with its suspension frame. Even if you have no intention of taking the bike for overnight trips, the full suspension frame makes the bike more comfortable in the city. Cities have potholes! Range anxiety is no worry with the option of a dual battery system, and you can choose between different drivetrains that offer good range and economy (Touring), decent range and low maintenance (Vario), or massive range with very low maintenance (Rohloff). Now, add the Bosch Cargo Line motor, powerful hydraulic disc brakes, and German-made Supernova lighting, and you have top-of-the-line parts that are also best-in-class for proven performance.

→ See The R&M Load 60

→ See The R&M Load 75

 

Cons

The only con to a Riese & Muller is price. And, despite the fact that this bike can save a ton of money, we know many still cannot afford one. That said, it's important to reiterate once again that a cargo bike is meant to handle the majority of your trips, most of which are under 15km. That's something that all of the cargo bikes we are reviewing here can do. The reason a Riese & Muller costs more is because it expands the range of where a cargo bike can go, whether that means distance or terrain.

→ See The R&M Load 60

→ See The R&M Load 75

 

Ride Quality

Ride quality is where the Riese & Muller's German engineering really stands out. All other bikes in this test have a problem with slow-speed handling, but, not the Riese & Muller. The Riese & Muller Load 60 and 75 feel just as stable at lower speeds as they do at higher speeds. One reason is that the rider is in a slightly sportier position, with more weight on the handlebars; another reason is that these bikes have a much lower center of gravity. The final reason is pure mathematical alchemy. When it comes to geometry and ride quality, Riese & Muller have the secret sauce.

→ See The R&M Load 60

→ See The R&M Load 75

 

Who's Buying?

Without a doubt, the buyer of a Riese & Muller is one who has done the math and sees how a cargo bike can increase economy and prosperity. However, in our experience, there seems to be a pretty even split between those are buying the bike strictly for city use and those who dream of long overnight trips. The mere fact that the Riese & Muller bikes resolve the problem of slow-speed handling is enough for most people to buy it. Well, we should also add the full suspension frame. It really takes the bumps out of a city.

The Load 60 tends to be sold to those with zero to two kids. It's shorter wheelbase means that cornering feels much sharper, and it tends to be perfect for those who want a bit more performance coupled with a goodly amount of trunk space. Those who are doing longer adventures will opt for the dual battery while those who stick closer to downtown will often prioritize lower maintenance drivetrain options. The Load 75 is, without a doubt, mostly sold to families. It still has epic handling despite its longer wheelbase and provides a lot more plug-and-play options to grow with a growing family.

→ See The R&M Load 60

→ See The R&M Load 75

 

- From Our Experience -

PROS

  • Full suspension frame
  • No speed wobble
  • Bosch Cargo Line motors
  • Tons of range on 500W or 1000W dual battery
  • Powerful Disc Brakes
  • Lots of drivetrain options
  • FIts up to three kids

CONS

  • Pricey
Babboe City Mountain Cargo Bike with Yamaha E-Assist in Grey

- Specifications -

  • Rust-resistant aluminum frame
  • Chip resistant powdercoat finish
  • Canopies with built-in rollbars
  • Tested for impact resistance
  • Made in Denmark
  • Shimano motors w/65nm or 85nm of torque
  • Wide range 400-500W Battery
  • Multiple drivetrain options
  • Powerful hydraulic disc brakes
  • High quality built-in lighting
  • 60 lb

Best Performance: Bullitt


Intro

Despite being famous for its cycling culture, Copenhagen has always been a sprawled out town. It's main thoroughfare - Hans-Christian Andersen Boulevard - feels like Highway 401. This called for a cargo bike that took speed and performance seriously. The Dutch and Germans may have evolved the two-wheeled cargo bike, but the Danes invented it.

The good folks at Bullitt probably wonder if all other cargo bikes haven't become literally weighed down by their own responsibilities. Bullitt makes the lightest cargo bike out there; and the strongest too. It's also the best performing, hands down. Whereas other companies add girth and weight, a Bullitt stays narrow and light. Cargo bikes are meant to cut through gridlock; Bullitt does this the best. But, Bullitt doesn't take safety lightly. Despite it's light weight, it's designed to carry heavy loads safely while offering high-reaction handling designed for the big city.

→ See The Bullitt E6100

→ See The Bullitt EP8

Pros

Bullitt takes engineering very seriously. Their bikes are designed to be light and strong and made to perform. That makes a Bullitt different. Unlike other bikes in this review, a Bullitt is one welded unit, whereas other frames are split and bolted together. This makes a Bullitt lighter, stronger, and stiffer (when accelerating or cornering). And, unlike other bikes in this review, a Bullitt uses Shimano components, famed for their intuitive precision, light weight, and long-lasting durability.

Take the motor, for instance. An e-assist motor reads pedalling torque, wheel RPM's and pedalling RPM's and outputs its interpretation as either acceleration or deceleration. On a heavier, klunkier cargo bike, the motor can output power and be a bit sloppy about it. But, on a lightweight and zippy cargo bike like the Bullitt, a highly tuned motor that knows how to read is absolutely essential. Shimano motors offer incredible power, but they distribute this power more intuitively.

This ethos of lighter, stronger, and better performing cuts across the entire Bullitt brand - including their child seating. Bullitt is the only company to make a lightweight yet highly impact-resistant canopy that also features a rollbar. Then there is the honeycomb board baseplate and impact-resistant BBX sidepanels. Both use an aluminum lattice with an external stress-skin to achieve strength, weight and impact resistance; essentially aerospace technology coupled with cargo bike design.

→ See The Bullitt E6100

→ See The Bullitt EP8

Cons

Like a Riese & Muller, a Bullitt does tend towards the pricey side. Unlike the Riese & Muller, however, these are bikes that are incredibly sensitive - they are designed this way. Whereas most cargo bikes attempt to dumb-down handling in the name of stability and safety, Bullitt believes that good handling in the big city defines safety. No other bike feels as bionically attached to brain and body than a Bullitt, but like most good things in life, it takes a ride or two to get the muscle memory.

→ See The Bullitt E6100

→ See The Bullitt EP8

Ride Quality

If there's a cult-following around Bullitt bikes - and there certainly is - it's all due to the Bullitt's uncompromising ride quality. Unlike most cargo bikes, a Bullitt is remarkably stiff. Most cargo bikes flex like a bow into corners, whereas a Bullitt's frame is one straight line between front and rear wheel. In a city made of potholes, it knows how to dodge! Another great thing about a light-weight frame is that if you are riding further, it's less drain on your legs and batteries. A Bullitt simply goes further.

The parts contribute to the Bullitt's remarkable handling. The Shimano motor, as mentioned, is remarkably intuitive, providing precision acceleration and deceleration that mates perfectly to the high-performance frame design. Elevating this precision even more is Shimano's Di2 lightning-fast electric shifting that keeps pace with the motors acceleration and deceleration. Controlling this whole package is a set of four-piston hydraulic brakes, designed to distribute power intuitively and sensitively; letting you corner safely at speed while providing remarkable power at your disposal for sudden stops.

→ See The Bullitt E6100

→ See The Bullitt EP8

Who's Buying

If there is one great thing about the cargo bike market, it's that its first focus is attracting everyday people to cycling. That's a real departure in an industry that often focusses too much on highly refined racing machines designed strictly for athletes. But, the one thing missing from the cargo bike market is a bike for those who do identify as cyclists; for those who want a bike that turns errands into joyrides - and gets the whole family riding again.

We offer two different Bullitt cargo bikes. The first uses Shimano's E6100 motor, a true workhorse performer. This bike is designed for the city cyclist. It uses a low-maintenance Gates Belt drive instead of a chain. This belt is mated to a Shimano Nexus-5 hub, the only hub on the market made for high torque motors. The E6100 is a bike built for the all-weather city cyclist who wants an efficient A-to-B machine that is low-maintenance.

For the longer distance cyclist we offer the EP8 build. This bike uses the extremely powerful Shimano EP8 motor and a much bigger battery, for more range. Instead of internal gears, this bike offers a wide range top-of-the-line Shimano XT drivetrain, a drivetrain so wide in range that you almost never need to rely on increased motor power settings (unless you want to). This is a bike for the overnight camper, the weekend explorer, or the purist who doesn't want to to depend too much on the motor, but has the most powerful motor on hand, just in case.

→ See The Bullitt E6100

→ See The Bullitt EP8

- From Our Experience -

PROS

  • Super lightweight!
  • Amazing ride quality
  • Highly tuned Shimano motor
  • Loads of range on 400-500W battery
  • Powerful Disc Brakes
  • Multiple drivetrain options
  • FIts up to four kids!

CONS

  • Can feel a bit too sensitive

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