Best cargo e-bikes for 2020December 16, 2020
One of my favorite ways to get around New York City is by bicycle. But there are times you may have additional passengers or a need to pick up something large or heavy that just won’t fit on a traditional bicycle or e-bike. That’s where these bikes come in.
Cargo e-bikes are longer with heavier frames than the average electric bikes. Their sturdy frames incorporate storage boxes or platforms that can be used to strap packages to or your kids or even the family dog while you pedal. Thanks to tech improvements in motors and batteries, cargo bikes are able to haul more and run longer. The category is growing, too, so while this list is short at the moment, you can expect to see more options soon.
Rad Power Bikes is a fierce competitor in the e-bike market, offering 10 different models, all competitively priced. One of the first Rad Power Bikes I reviewed was the Rad Runner that was both versatile and inexpensive. It could be customized for cargo or a single small passenger. But what if you had two little ones? That’s where the $1,699 RadWagon 4 comes in: Riders can seat two children on the back with a bench and running board along the bottom for a footrest, or you can add a rear basket for additional carrying capabilities with a second basket on the front for still more capacity. The rear rack in particular is great for runs to Trader Joe’s and Costco. It can easily carry a case of wine, too.
Made from 6061 aluminum, the well-constructed RadWagon 4 has a seven-speed Shimano cassette and a 750-watt hub motor with five levels of cadence assistance to get you up to 20 mph via pedaling or throttle alone. The battery fully charges in 5 to 6 hours and travels anywhere between 25 to 45 miles on a full charge depending on bike load, terrain and pedal assistance. The battery can also be charged on or off the bicycle and is removed using the same key that’s also needed to start the RadWagon 4.
Riders from 5-feet, 1-inch up to 6-feet, 4-inches tall will fit on the bike, and it can support a total weight of 350 pounds. The RadWagon 4 itself weighs 73 pounds and has dual-cable disc brakes that work in all weather conditions. It also has a unique 22-by-3-inch tire that gives riders almost fat-tire stability and a little more height than a 20-inch, improving the overall performance without sizing out smaller riders.
A durable steel center stand keeps the bike upright while you load it up, and it has a mid-step frame to make taking off or getting started with weight on the bike an easier process. Simply straddle the bike and push forward to take off. No need to try and balance and mount a bicycle with young ones or groceries loaded on.
The RadWagon has a smooth ride, and the ability to angle the handlebars to maintain an upright position makes long rides a breeze, even with one hand and a full load. The bicycle is equipped with both front and rear lights that also indicate braking; they can be manually toggled on and off or set to activate automatically. The backlit LCD display provides battery level, speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, pedal-assist level and other bits of information. There is also a 5-volt USB port under the display to charge mobile devices.
The $4,295 Bunch Bike Original 2020 Edition can definitely replace a car, especially here in New York City. You’ll just need an adequate parking space if you don’t have a garage. The bike design reminds me of an old ice cream vendor’s tricycle from back in the day with a cooler at the front of the bike.
The Bunch Bike, while not huge, will require some storage space. Its size, or at least its storage capacity, is its advantage, though, and was immediately put to use by my entire family. This cargo bike can seat up to four children and has seat belts to keep them safe and secure. Under the benches, there is additional storage space that can be locked. The bicycle has a rear-wheel key lock that prevents anyone from rolling the bike away while you’re running errands.
We used the bike for Costco runs, trips to our storage locker and to take George, our cat, to the vet in his carrier. For these types of trips with other cargo bikes, we also had to use our backpacks, but not with the Bunch bike; everything fit in the cargo box easily, and it was a cinch riding back and forth.
The bike is powered by a 500-watt brushless hub motor paired with an eight-speed Shimano cassette. Its battery can be charged on or off the frame and takes about 6 to 7 hours to top off. The bike is easy to ride even with assistance off and doesn’t have the motor drag I’ve experienced with some e-bikes with hub motors. Also, the beauty of three wheels is the ability to have three hydraulic disc brakes that stop the bike on a dime.
There are five levels of pedal assistance and a thumb throttle that I mostly used for take-offs on inclines. The assistance goes up to 20 mph, which is more than enough. Since the bicycle has three wheels, it does require some getting used to, especially when turning. There was also some flexing in the frame while riding that the company says is the company’s anti-tip technology. An outer frame protects the cargo bay along with the wheels. It also has some nicely placed square foot plates used to step in and out of the cargo space. There’s even a rain cover that can be purchased to keep the cargo area dry or block the wind on a chilly day.
The overall ride of the bike is better when there are passengers in the cargo area or there’s something else there to provide some ballast. Surprisingly, the bike itself is lighter than it looks (though it’s still 152 pounds), and it helps to have whatever you’re carting closer to the driver to prevent any possible tipping when dismounting.
The bike has front and rear lights along with reflectors on the front of the cargo bay. A large display gives you at-a-glance access to important stats but the placement of the pedal-assist controls could be better; I would sometimes accidentally hit both the increase and decrease buttons with my thumb. Other than that, the layout is really nice, and overall it is a bunch of fun to ride.