Cargo Cycles

    Carrier Bikes

    man riding DWI Borracho! frontloader bicycle loaded with large box down street
    Up Front & Direct: the DWI Borracho! frontloader makes carrying bulky loads easy (Photo: the manufacturer)

    As compared with city bikes equipped with load carrying options, cargo cycles are purpose-built two-, three- and four-wheeled human- or hybrid human-electric powered vehicles specifically designed to safely transport bulkier and heavier amounts of cargo for work and delivery applications.

    A cargo cycle will take some time getting used to riding, especially when loaded. Its best to get initially accustomed to riding an unloaded cargo bike away from busy streets before transporting any cargo. After loading the cycle and before setting off, one should make sure that the cargo is securely attached to the frame without impeding steering, shifting or braking or obscuring lights or reflectors at night. Of course, the maximum load carrying capacity for the given cargo bicycle or trike should never be exceeded.

    Several manufacturers provide cargo trike platforms in both delta (two wheels at rear) and tadpole (two wheels at front) layouts. Higher quality three-wheel designs will employ a differential between the two load-bearing wheels.

    Short John / Butcher Bikes

    profile of classic baker / butcher delivery bike
    Women's Short John Frame: practical and fashionable the load stays centered (Photo: velos1844 on ebay)

    Over three-quarters of a century old and originating in Scandanavia, the Short John is also referred to as a baker's bicycle on the continent, a butcher's bicycle in UK and Ireland and, increasingly, as a deli bicycles in North America, perhaps inspired by the name used by one established British builder for its version of this type of cargo bike. From 1939 to 1967 Schwinn manufactured and marketed the Cycle Truck in North America.[1]

    profile of SCO Truck baker bike aka Short John
    Men's Short John Frame: the SCO Truck continues to be manufactured by Monark (Photo:

    Today, Short Johns are making a comeback along with other vintage cargo cycle designs like the Long John. In the U.S., models are built by Worksman Cycles and Industrial Bicycles. In Europe, Monark of Sweden continues to manufacture this style of cargo cycle and Velorbis offers a Short John. MozBike in New Zealand also builds a Long John bike.

    The manufacturer suggested limit of 60 kg of cargo on the front rack of this type of bike should not be exceeded due to the high centre of gravity.[2]


    Post Delivery Bikes

    Biria postal services bike with large front and rear racks
    To the Letter: post bikes may have a foot-actuated rolling front fork kickstand (Photo: Biria)

    The use of cargo bicycles by postal delivery companies is just one of many cycle-friendly approaches that cities can adopt.

    These rugged cargo bicycles can be purchased by the general public online from selected bicycle shops and distributors.

    Many post bikes are electrically assisted to ease with the transport of heavier loads.

    For more information on the use of bicycles for mail delivery in Europe and North America, see the Postal Services on the cycle-friendly services page.


    Frontloader Bikes

    Kemper Filibus frontloader cargo bike
    Civilized Utility: Kemper Filibus frontloader bike is also available in Dutch trim (Photo: the manufacturer)

    These type of cargo bicycles are referred to as frontloaders because the front fork is carrying the [bulk of the] load. Like Long John bicycles, frontloader bicycle designs also make use of linkage steering. While an upright city bicycle fitted with a porteur rack can carry light loads above the front fork, these type of bicycles are specifically designed to transport larger or heavier loads safely and securely.

    Frontloader models include tThe Bilenky Cargo and Borracho! from David Wilson Industries (DWI) both of which are manufactured in the U.S.A. The Kemper Filibus is a cargo bicycle built in Germany in low volume by Michael Kemper of Kemper Velo purpose-built for carrying high loads. It is rated for a maximum 50kg on the front rack and 25kg on the rear luggage rack. Two child seats can be fitted with the front passenger facing the rider and the rear passenger looking forward. Note that according to Kemper Velo, early models of the Kemper Filibus used too thin a bottom tube which could be strengthened by Kemper for proper frame rigidity.

    A version of the Filibus built under license from Kemper[3] by Fietsfabriek in The Netherlands has been fitted with Dutch-style city bike refinements to provide a more familar look and feel including 'sit up and beg' style handlebars, a fully enclosed chain case, clothes protectors and a heavy-duty rear luggage rack.


    Long John Bikes

    black Monark reissue of classic Long John design
    Back in Black: in 2008 Monark re-issued the classic SCO Long John cargo bike (Photo: the manufacturer)

    A Danish classic with linkage steering. Over 70 years in production most recently by SCO until it was discontinued in 2003. But only temporarily: Monark (of Sweden) as well as Velorbis re-introduced the SCO Long John in a limited production run made in Germany in 2008. EsimeX in Denmark also manufactures a Long John.

    red Larry vs Harry Bullit derived from classic Long John design
    Modern Lines: the Larry vs Harry Bullit is a modern version of the classic Long John (Photo: the manufacturer)

    In the US, updated versions of the Long John design include the Long Haul from CAT Oregon, the Metrofiets announced in 2007, the Bullitt introduced in 2008 by Larry vs Harry as well as the Cetma Cargo built in Oregon. Organic Engines also makes an extended wheelbase Long John.

    The Bullit's 24kg aluminum frame makes it one of the fastest cargo bikes. Rated for up to 180kg loads, moving a washing machine by bike isn't a problem.

    Portland, Oregon-based Joe Bike has introduced a cargo bicycle that significantly updates the long john design by incorporating through a modular approach the load-carrying possibilities offered by frontloaders.

    The Long Harry by is another updated German-built version of the Long John. The Packbernds by Bernds is a folding cargo bike with belt drive.


    Longtail Bikes

    Beyond city bikes, comes a class of bicycles with frames especially designed to carry heavy loads using human power on two wheels. Longtail bicycles sometimes referred to simply as longbikes are an emerging category of utility bicycle with several new vendors have entered the market in the last couple of years to compliment

    Longtail bicycles equipped with child seats are referred to as moederfiets bicycles.

    Xtracycle with the Free Radical extension
    First to Market: Xtracycle with Free Radical extension can be added to most bikes (Photo:

    Xtracycle is a company in Northern California that sells bicycles outfitted with a long platform over the back wheel and saddlebags on either side of it. To convert a standard bicycle to use the Xtracycle requires the purchase of Free Radical frame extension. Due to demand for the Xtracycle, in 2006 Surly introduced the Big Dummy long-tail bike based on the Xtracycle specification.

    In the meantime, the Xtracycle has released the specification as Open Source Longtail Technology.

    Yuba Mundo long tail utility bike
    Teutonic Long Tail: the German-designed & -made Yuba Mundo long tail bike (Photo: the manufacturer)

    Yuba is a recent entry in the cargo bike market with their Mundo long tail utility bike. The Yuba Mundo is rated to transport up to 300 kg.

    Black Rack Madsen Utility Bicycle kg271
    Going Metric: the US-designed Madsen kg271 gives its carrying capacity in kg (Photo: the manufacturer)

    The Madsen kg271 is another recent entry into the burgeoning market for utility bikes. Its name is derived from its load carrying capabilities.

    8 Freight cargo bicycle
    Long Load: The British-designed and built Burrows 8 Freight long tail cargo bicycle (Photo: the manufacturer)

    The 8 Freight was designed by Mike Burrows in the UK, who also built the first prototype of the Brox a few years earlier (see below). With two wheels its faster than a trike to move large loads around.



    A bakfiets (plural: bakfietsen) means 'box-bike' in Dutch and traditionally refers to a cargo trike in a tapole layout (with two wheels at front as pictured below) or, in recent years, to a two-wheeled cargo bike resembling a long john with an open cargo box.

    bakfiets short box bike, Munich, Germany
    Box Bike: a 'bakfiets' with a short-length wooden box in Munich, Germany (Photo: caratello on flickr)

    Characterized by a long wide and shallow cargo box made from wood and traditionally used by merchants in The Netherlands and continental Europe, a three-wheeled bakfiets is useful to any small business or individual wanting to transport many or large items without having to depend on a car or van.

    A common sight in The Netherlands and increasingly across Europe, box bikes in both short- and long-box (and wheelbase) variants are now being imported to North America. CleverCycles imports to the U.S. a version manufactured by Nijland.


    Christiania Bikes

    load-carrying trike made by Christiania Bikes
    Free Wheeling: Christiania Bikes found inspiration in the car-free community in Copenhagen (Photo: the manufacturer)

    Taking its name from the car-free community in Copenhagen of the same name that developed on former military barrack grounds, Christiania bikes (actually trikes) are manufactured on the island of Bornholm.

    Christiania bikes and bakfietsen are suited as both cargo- and child carriers though not ideal for either. Some Christiania trikes have been built or modified to carry children although specifically designed child carriers tend to be more comfortable for both rider and passenger(s).

    For North Americans, Christiania and bakfietsens bikes remind them of ice cream vending trikes.

    Kentex cargo trike
    Open Up: A 'Christiania' style cargo trike from Kentex (Photo: radservice01 on ebay)



    Wulfhorst Classic cargo trike
    Heavy Duty: the German-made Wulfhorst Classic triporteur is rated for 150 kg (Photo: the manufacturer)

    While the term 'triporteur' can refer to any three-wheeled load-carrying human-powered (or gas- or electric-powered) vehicle, in the context of cycling, this author prefers that it be applied to delta configuration designs with the two wheels at rear.

    Delta triporteurs at about 230cm long and 95cm wide remain popular in China and other parts of Asia to this day and are manufactured and exported in significant quantities.

    Chinese triporteur in Germany
    Export Market: Chinese-made triporteurs sometimes find their way to Europe (Photo:

    With a front section like that of a ladies city bike, the cargo carrying section of these triporteurs can resemble a pickup truck with a tailgate that folds down for loading and load carrying.

    Chinese triporteur in Germany
    Export Market: Chinese-made triporteurs sometimes find their way to Europe (Photo:

    The basic design employs a leather-wrapped drum brake and a parking brake but very few other features for safety and comfort. Modern versions of the delta triporteur equipped with better components are manufacturered in the UK by Cycles Maximus and available worldwide.

    flatbed trike cargo trike
    Cycles Maximus Custom Flatbed and Cargo Trike SoftTop (Photos: the manufacturer)

    Cycles Maximus, based in Bath, England, manufacturers flatbed and covered cargo trike models ressembling pedalcab platforms.



    Brox cargo quadricycle
    One Less Van: the Brox recumbent cargo quadricycle (Photo:

    In 1992, after getting stuck in traffic in the centre of Manchester, England in a Ford Transit van delivering a single box of paper, Rob Brock thought that there must be a better way to deliver the box and conceived the Brox. Mike Burrows designed and built a four wheel recumbent chassis prototype with wide ratio mountain bike gears which would be capable of carrying 250 kg.[4] A flat-bed Brox can carry a Europalette.

    The Brox was introduced in 1995 with the initial production run by Pashley Cycles. As of 2009, the Brox is unfortunately no longer in production [5] but should still be available for purchase from selected bicycler dealers in the UK.

    Trisled Flatbed truck recumbent cargo quadricycle
    Flat-Pack: the Trisled Flatbed truck recumbent cargo cycle (Photo: the manufacturer)

    Trisled is an established builder of high-end velomobiles and recumbent trikes based in Australia. In 2010, Trisled introduced the Flatbed truck recumbent cargo quadricycle.

    Rhoades Car 4W2PLF recumbent cargo quadricycle
    Deliveries At Rear: the Rhoades Car 4W2PLF recumbent cargo quadricycle flatbed (Photo: the manufacturer)

    Rhoades Car, based in Tennesee, USA and best known for its line of 1-, 2- and 4-passenger quadricycles with recumbent seating recently introduced the GoBoy for commercial / industrial applications.

    Rhoades Car GoBoy upright cargo quadricycle
    This Way Up: the Rhoades Car GoBoy cargo quadricycle with an upright position (Photo: the manufacturer)

    Most any cargo bicycle or triporteur improves it usefullness with an after-market pedelec kit to ease transporting heavy loads via electric-assist.

    Alternatively or additionally, cargo cycles are provided in the form of cargo trailers.





    cargo bikes, carrier bikes, load carrying, payload, workbikes, workcycles, Short John, baker bike, butcher bike, boucher, paris, porteur, delivery, post, postal services, long john, bakfiets, bakfietsen, triporteur, commercial, industrial, tradesmen,

    Bookmark and Share