Cargo or commuter bike? 1 kid in the city

mollyml05

New Member
Region
USA
I live in Chicago and have a regular bicycle that I mostly use to get around town for errands and leisure. I want to upgrade to an e-bike so that I can go farther with less effort and try to eliminate my car trips for errands (at least in the warmer months). So far, my only experience with e-bikes is electric bike share bikes, but I really love the feeling of riding those. I feel like a very strong superhero pedaling with the wind at my back, and I want to feel like that all the time!

I'm torn between a cargo bike and a more upright city-commuter bike. I really love the feel of the low-step, sturdy city bike share bikes, but I have an almost-2-year-old. He's currently in a seat, but as he gets older and eventually outgrows the seat, I like the idea of some of the passenger accessories (Tern Clubhouse, Rad Caboose) that cargo bikes have to offer. Cargo bikes offer a bit more flexibility for usage, but the trade-off is size and weight, which gives me pause.

I really like the Tern HSD because it feels like the functionality of a cargo bike with the more functional size of a commuter bike, but I am tempted by the lower prices of the Rad Power Bikes. I could get a bike for myself and for my husband for the price of one Tern HSD. The RadWagon would give me more flexibility as my son grows, but the RadCity seems like a more comfortable bike that would suit our needs for at least a couple of years. However, I've never ridden a bike with a throttle before, and I think I would prefer the more natural feel of a torque sensor vs the cadence sensor in the Rad bikes. I wish I could test ride a Rad, but that's not possible without getting on a plane. In Chicago, I don't need to worry about hills, but do need to worry about rain and snow and potholes.

Basically, I feel like my needs are:
  • comfortable ride for me whether I'm solo or with my son
  • transport 1 toddler
  • transport groceries and general shopping
And my concerns are:
  • bike weight and comfort
  • the feel of the bike - throttle vs pedal assist, torque vs cadence sensor
What bike(s) would you suggest for my situation?
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
I don't recommend cruisers or MTB's for load on the back, it lifts the front wheel & leads to instability of steering. Chin on the road 5 times and knocked over by a dog once carrying rear baskets. Stretch cargo frame puts your weight on the front wheel, load on the back wheel. I've never fallen on the cargo bike in avatar, 8000 miles & continuing. Plus add on racks shift from side to side in most cases, frame doesn't have wide enough yoke to stop it with no rim brakes anymore. My cargo rack is welded on.
Other cargo options are Yuba Combi (steel frame), Yuba Mondo, Blix Packa (24" wheels) M2s cargo, Magnum cargo, Xtracycle . Expensive Reiss & Mueller Pedego & Gazelle. I have an aluminum Yuba bodaboda which I love, no longer available but maybe available used in Chicagoland. Mondo with small back wheel is easier to load child on. Yuba has all the child accessories like rack compatible with certain brands child seat, padded shelf for 4 year olds, grab bars for those up, aux handlebar on seatpost, and rod in the back suitable for mounting a half-bike for 6-9 year olds. Included guards keep fingers from being pinched by spokes against frame. Yuba has footshelf which supports the pannier (bags) on my bike. My 2018 Yuba arrived perfect and required no new spokes, rims or other replacements for scrap metal bulking out the rad "known problems" thread. Ie yuba was made of real steel & aluminum & the cables don't need constant adjusting because they are steel, too. Mine had SRAM shifters which were more precise than the Shimano Accel 7 speed on most cheaper bikes. Mine was $2000 with bags, front basket, 2 leg stand, no electricity (added later by me).
Tern has 20" wheels, doesn't Chicago have potholes? 20" wheels are jaw rattling compared to 26" wheels, IMHO.
Used Kona Ute would be a nice cargo bike too, but they don't make new cargo bikes. Anything, make sure the frame fits you, I have a hard time with standard size bikes & cannot ride a large frame. My bodaboda frame is small to fit my 28" legs. Had to order from California, short people get no service.
Disadvantage of cargo bikes, they don't come with suspensions. My Yuba had an odd size seat post and a spring seat post won't fit on it. Cargo bikes won't load on the front of a city bus. I find 2.1" tires @ 55 psi smooth enough for S. IN pavement.
Torque assist would be nice but forces you into mid-drive, which eats chains 2-5 times faster than hub drive, plus requires a tow if the motor, battery, throttle (rain) mess up or the chain pops off. All except the last, I just pedal home my geared hub drive with no drag. Mid - drive batteries like bosch & shimano cost 2-4 times what a generic battery from littokali or jenny ma costs. Li-Ion batteries only last ~2000 charges. I hated PAS, too jerky too fast & kept hitting me in the back of the leg with the pedal. I use throttle only now, but aftermarket torque sensors are becoming available.
Rain, you have to oil the steel parts every other week. I use a pump oiler & 5 w ATF type F (non-detergent), or farm hydraulic fluid SUS32 (2 gal size). Particularly chain, also all cable entrances, shifters, brake pivots, steel bolts. Crank bearing & pedal pivots oil annually or every 2000 miles.
Happy shopping and later riding.
 
Last edited:

mollyml05

New Member
Region
USA
Thanks! I'm definitely a bit concerned about the 20" wheels on the Tern. Fortunately, there's a couple places I can test-ride one here.

I've looked at the Yuba Kombi and Blix Packa. Both seem like good options, but they're longer than the Tern HSD at a similar price point. I guess it'll just be a matter of preference of tire size vs overall length.

And thanks for the context on mid-drive motors. My only experience is with torque sensors, and I really like the feel of it. If I can test-ride something with a cadence sensor, I think that would help me make a decision.
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
In Chicago there are a couple of shops that carry cargo bikes, Four Star Family Cyclery is owned by Elsbeth Cool who has a stellar reputation, while Jon Lind supplies Dutch bikes and ebikes that are heavy but designed to cope with the elements. But you might also look at REI, it carries mostly Class 1 ebikes with torque sensors, their in house Co-Op brand CTY e2.1 model is reasonably priced, heavyish at 50lb, but has a rack integrated with the frame so sturdy enough to carry a child seat, uses a basic Shimano e5000 mid-drive motor with a torque sensor, and has a removeable battery which is an important feature if like me you store your ebike in a shed outdoors and charge the battery indoors and store it at room temperature to protect the cells.

If you want lightness because you need to carry the bike up stairs you might look at the Cannondale Treadwell model, it weighs 38lb which is lightweight for an ebike the battery is inside the frame so you have to bring the bike indoors to charge it and protect the cells. There are rack bosses or do what my friend does with her Vanmoof X3 ebike and add a frame mount Yepp child seat, it's super fast to remove the seat for when you want to ride the bike without a passenger. I recommend reading Court's review of the Treadwell model, it has certain features that need adapting for the Chicago winter in particular a waterproof saddle cover or a replacement saddle for the non-waterproof fabric covered stock saddle is a must, and the rear light is mounted to the seatpost which would be blocked by a child seat so you would need to either relocate the light (not easy because the power wire runs inside the seatpost) or buy the optional Thule Delight rear battery light that clips to the back of the child seat
 
Last edited:

mollyml05

New Member
Region
USA
In Chicago there are a couple of shops that carry cargo bikes, Four Star Family Cyclery is owned by Elsbeth Cool who has a stellar reputation, while Jon Lind supplies Dutch bikes and ebikes that are heavy but designed to cope with the elements. But you might also look at REI, it carries mostly Class 1 ebikes with torque sensors, their in house Co-Op brand CTY e2.1 model is reasonably priced, heavyish at 50lb, but has a rack integrated with the frame so sturdy enough to carry a child seat, uses a basic Shimano e5000 mid-drive motor with a torque sensor, and has a removeable battery which is an important feature if like me you store your ebike in a shed outdoors and charge the battery indoors and store it at room temperature to protect the cells.

If you want lightness because you need to carry the bike up stairs you might look at the Cannondale Treadwell model, it weighs 38lb which is lightweight for an ebike the battery is inside the frame so you have to bring the bike indoors to charge it and protect the cells. There are rack bosses or do what my friend does with her Vanmoof X3 ebike and add a frame mount Yepp child seat, it's super fast to remove the seat for when you want to ride the bike without a passenger. I recommend reading Court's review of the Treadwell model, it has certain features that need adapting for the Chicago winter in particular a waterproof saddle cover or a replacement saddle for the non-waterproof fabric covered stock saddle is a must, and the rear light is mounted to the seatpost which would be blocked by a child seat so you would need to either relocate the light or buy the optional Thule Yepp seat rear light that clips to the back of the child seat
Thank you! I have a garage, so storage isn't a major concern, but bringing the battery inside in the winter or hot summer days would be a good option.

I didn't know about the REI brand, so I'll definitely check that out. And I was already planning on checking out Four Star Family Cyclery for the Tern HSD, but didn't know about Jon Lind. Looks like his shop isn't too far from me, so maybe I'll swing by this weekend!
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
I didn't know about the REI brand, so I'll definitely check that out.
Worth a look, and if you join REI as a Co-Op member you get an annual rebate worth 10% you can take in cash, and if you take out the REI credit card you get a further 5% discount, so the $2 grand CTY e2.1model works out to more like $1700 which is cheaper than a RadCity Plus. REI has a full service bike shop to take care of maintenance.

The drawback with their Co-Op CTY models is they lack a true step through. I see my friend hopping on one foot sometimes to step over the top tube to get off her Vanmoof X3 which isn't ideal when she's carrying her daughter on the bike. The Gazelle EasyFlow and Ultimate models Jon Lind carries by contrast offer a deep low step through that makes it easy to hop on/off the bike. REI does carry some step-through ebikes like the Cannondale Adventure Neo 4 and Electra Townie Go step-thru
 
Last edited:

mollyml05

New Member
Region
USA
Sounds like the REI bike could be a great option for my husband if I end up deciding to get a cargo bike. I'm already a Co-Op member, and he wouldn't mind the tube height.
 

WattsUpDude

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, Bay Area
How often will you need a cargo bike?
I thought I wanted one before but I like having a nimble commuter and leisure bike for most uses. I really don’t think I’d enjoy riding a cargo as my only bike option. When I want to take the kiddos along or want to carry a load of groceries, I attach the Burley trailer.
Just throwing out an option that has worked great for some of us.
 

mollyml05

New Member
Region
USA
How often will you need a cargo bike?
Probably more often than not. I generally use my bike to run errands or to take my son places, so this is why I'm leaning toward a cargo option.

I went to REI yesterday, and the Co-Op CTY looked really nice. I was bummed they didn't have a Tern HSD in stock, so I'll have to seek that out elsewhere.
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
A cargo bike expands your horizons with respect to what you think a bike is capable of. Riding as a utility cyclist vs. a pleasure rider or even a commuter, you will gravitate towards the cargo bike until the conventional bike is looking very lonely in the corner for long periods of time. The reason I found for this was that the cargo bike gives options on your ride that you don't get otherwise. Have a last-second craving for X and you need to detour to the store? No problem at all. Get a call during the day at work that you are out of soda? Pick up a case on the way home. My cargo bikes have locks always carried with them for this reason as well (thanks to the carry capacity of such a bike, this is a non issue, and thanks to the motor, carrying a lock is irrelevant).

I have heard this sentiment many times from cargo bike owners in dedicated cargo bike groups: "why on earth would you want torque assist?" and this is from people who know the difference. Again, a cargo bike is not a recreational vehicle. It has a job and cadence assist does that job better (i.e. hauling 50 lbs of groceries and a 50 lb kid up a hill). Especially starting from a standing stop, where it is - further - very common to use a throttle to get up and moving and balanced, then you start pedaling. I've ridden a 560 lb total load and believe me... you want that throttle for zero to 5 mph on a bike that heavy.

You will find cargo bike riders gathered here, a group over 13,000 strong: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cargobikerepublic

Also this might give you some ideas:

 

mollyml05

New Member
Region
USA
Thanks for the FB group suggestion! Just joined.

I'm definitely interested in a midtail. I only have 1 kid and don't see myself hauling much more than a few bags of groceries or a family's worth of beach equipment.
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
If REI or Four Star don't have any Tern HSD's, you might like to test ride an alternative like the Yuba Kombi E5. It uses the same Shimano e5000 motor as the Co-Op CTY e2.1.
 

mollyml05

New Member
Region
USA
I was able to test-ride a few bikes, and I was all set to go with a Tern HSD...until I took my husband to test-ride them, too. I thought he'd be scared off by the higher price of the Tern GSD, but he likes the potential to carry another adult and one of our son's friends. The two bikes really don't feel that different, which surprised me. So I think we're going to go with a GSD! Thanks for all your help! I have a feeling I'll be back before too long asking for recommendations for a second bike so we can both have that sweet, sweet e-assist when out for family rides.
 

scottsdalecommuter

Active Member
Region
USA
I was able to test-ride a few bikes, and I was all set to go with a Tern HSD...until I took my husband to test-ride them, too. I thought he'd be scared off by the higher price of the Tern GSD, but he likes the potential to carry another adult and one of our son's friends. The two bikes really don't feel that different, which surprised me. So I think we're going to go with a GSD! Thanks for all your help! I have a feeling I'll be back before too long asking for recommendations for a second bike so we can both have that sweet, sweet e-assist when out for family rides.
Enjoy! That is such a cool bike and highly functional for kid and errands! We hadn’t found ebikes yet when our kids were that age so used a wee ride copilot and also pull behind trailer on a manual bike but wish we had bought something like a tern. The kids liked those but I think they would have loved the Ebike! We actually tipped the bike trailer on a curb check once so that was a bit wild and scary! Recently I took my daughter for a ride on my ebike one day and she thought it was the coolest thing in the world! Enjoy making fun memories!