- One of the longest electric cargo bikes on the market (comes in 60 cm or 80 cm), responsive and stable but also comfortable thanks to larger tires and a 50 mm suspension fork up front
- Integrated lights run off the main battery pack and the headlight aims where you steer, the default battery offers an impressive 500 watt-hours and you can double it with a second inline pack
- Wide plastic fenders keep you clean, reflective sidewall stripes on the tires keep you visible, the double-leg kickstand is very sturdy for loading the bike but easy to retract and stow, adjustable seat and bar height
- It's expensive... and the platform, box options and rear rack all cost extra, the narrow body can squeeze through tight spaces but has a limited turning radius, fairly heavy at 80+ lbs
The Riese & Müller Packster combines comfort with utility so you can haul large loads (or children) without the vibration and discomfort that some other e-cargo bikes are known for. It comes stock with an alloy frame only, no wooden deck planks or front box. There are several options to customize the front area but if you opt for the Basis-Boards (flat deck) only, it’s impressively narrow and maneuverable. I was able to squeeze between cars in the busy traffic areas of Brooklyn New York as I would with a traditional bicycle. Steering and turning the Packster felt stable but required more space because the front wheel does not pivot side to side all the way to 90 degrees… and the bike is just so so long. I tested the Packster Touring 80 model which has an 80 cm front load area vs. the Packster 60 with a 60 cm front loader. That’s a lot of space to work with but for those who need even more capacity, Riese & Müller sells a traditional rear rack with bungee clasp system that mounts over the wheel. Other owners have gone one step further, mounting trailers like the Surly Bill to the rear axle. Without any of the accessories (but including the battery and motor) the bike weighs around 80 lbs, which is a lot for any electric bicycle. But for that weight, you get a stiff, capable frame that can handle nearly 500 lbs of cargo load + passenger combination without enduring frame flex or wobbling. That’s saying a lot given the non-locking suspension fork and smaller 20″ front wheel. Sometimes small wheels can feel unstable because they are light and turn quickly, but they also tend to be stronger than wide wheels with longer spokes and position weight lower which is perfect for loading cargo. The large, heavy front loading area of this bike combined with rod steering seems to slow the steering down a bit and results in a natural stable feel. The rear wheel is 27.5″ which is a size usually reserved for mountain bikes. It does not have a suspension system but the larger volume of air in the 2.4″ tire smooths the bumps out. Both wheels have hydraulic disc brakes for powerful stopping and you get adjustable reach levers which can accommodate small hands or gloved hands. Between the adjustable brake levers, adjustable height stem (with six locking points for strength) and adjustable height seat, this one-size electric cargo bike is quite capable of handling a wide range of riders. And, if you need to get places quicker, the Packster is available with a Bosch Speed motor vs. the CX shown here. You’ll lose a bit of torque with the speed model, but that’s not so bad given the 10-speed drivetrain or infinitely variable transmission (the NuVinci CVT) option. You just need to shift properly and get to lower gears before coming to a complete stop. I especially like how the NuVinci drivetrain option can be shifted at standstill. The Bosch motor does offer shift sensing, but it’s not perfect and the 10-speed drivetrain could grind and mash if you force it. Shift consciously by letting off of the pedals a bit just before changing gears and the torque sensor will reduce motor torque as well. In short, the Packster platform is versatile and extremely capable, each bike is built to order which takes a month or so to deliver and it comes at a higher price point, but it’s well made.
Driving the Touring 80 model is a Bosch CX motor that’s capable of exerting 75 Newton meters of peak torque. I’ve ridden this same motor on full suspension mountain bikes, ascending steep technical terrain, and it’s quite impressive. Power is one thing but power delivery, when you need it, can be so much more important. The motor and controller system allow you to move slowly and smoothly but will jump in to help you immediately as pedal pressure is applied. The system measures your rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque 1,000 times per second. The smaller chainring spins about 2.5 times for every crank arm revolution and in my experience, it starts and stops faster than other systems. The chainring doesn’t take as long to spin up and spin down. This design gives the motor a mechanical advantage over the drivetrain and externalizes some of the gearing, keeping the drive unit compact. It’s attached to the frame on a custom curved alloy plate and does hang down a bit, but the internals are well protected by plastic covering. One complaint about the Bosch Performance Line motors is that they do produce an audible hum that increases with motor speed. One compliment I usually give is that is offers shift-sensing to automatically reduce power when you change gears. This system is not perfect, you can still grind gears if you’re pedaling hard and shifting rapidly, but it’s better than nothing. And this is where the NuVinci CVT option really shines. You aren’t really shifting gears there, more like sliding between gears, so you won’t be straining sprockets or a derailleur… and the chain is set to a fixed length. The NuVinci is heavier and more expensive but stays cleaner and can be more durable than sprockets.
Powering the bike is a new long-range Bosch Powerpack with ~500 watt-hours of capacity vs. the old 400. It’s mounted low on the frame for improved balance, just above the motor mount, but remains protected by a short top-tube bar. The pack locks securely to the frame and can be charged without removal using the lightweight Bosch charger that puts out four Amps vs. many others that just send two. Given the size and weight of this bike, you might want to charge and store the battery separately. Whether it’s on or off the frame, you can tell how full the battery is by pressing a button on the side, illuminating up to five green LEDs. I love that the battery is so light and easy to carry, it has a plastic loop handle at the top so you won’t drop it as easily. And, as mentioned earlier, you can purchase a second battery that mounts to the back left side of the box options. It’s a decision best made when purchasing the Packster however because it requires a separate interface and display setting. With two packs connected, the control system dynamically balanced power and displays both charge levels. In this way, it helps you avoid over-cycling one pack while leaving the other mostly unused. It’s a wonderful option for those who intend to go further and carry more but it will add ~$1k to the already expensive bike.
The display panel on this bike is excellent. It shows your speed, battery level, trip stats and assist level on a large, bright screen that can be removed or locked to the frame. In the video review above, you may have noticed that I tried to get it off but was unable to because Chris had locked it down for the customer. In this position, it still swivels forward and back to help you get a perfect viewing angle and reduce glare. Buttons on the display include reset, power on/off, information and lights. You can hold reset and i simultaneously to enter into the settings menu and adjust the clock, shift recommendation and units. Perhaps my favorite part of the display is a Micro-USB port built into the right edge. While it only puts out 500 mA at 5 Volts, which is not enough to charge iOS devices… just maintain them, it can charge Samsung and other products which can be useful if you use GPS to navigate. Just mount your portable electronics to the handlebar and turn the display on. Near the left grip, there’s a three-button control pad that replicates the i button and introduces an up and down arrow for navigating through Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo pedal assist modes. I tend to ride in Tour to extend range but heavy loads might require Sport or Turbo. By pressing the i button several times, you can get to a “Range” menu which will compute an estimate for how far the bike thinks you can travel with the given battery charge level, selected assist level and last three miles of performance. This is a great feature that can save your legs if an unexpected trip comes up and you’re debating between speed and power or efficiency.
There’s a lot to say about the Packster series from Riese and Müller. It’s extremely versatile and very well made. You do notice that it’s a cargo bike when riding, it’s heavier and longer, but you don’t sacrifice as much in the way of maneuverability as I initially expected. Sure, we were riding with the cargo space completely empty… but the streets were busy and I was going over some rough terrain. It would have been easy to skip the suspension fork, but your kids and cargo would definitely notice. They could have offered a single frame length instead of two, but that would have excluded so many possibilities. It’s amazing to think about the customer who was ordering the 80 cm version with a rear rack and trailer… This bike is capable of pulling a lot, it’s probably the most capable mainstream electric cargo bike I’ve seen. It would be great to hear from some actual owners here who have loaded their Packsters up in different ways. Big thanks to the Riese and Müller team for partnering with me on this post and Propel Bikes in Brooklyn for taking me out to do back to back tests of the latest models. It really helped to accentuate the benefits of one design over another when testing them like that.
- Offers a whopping 31.5″ (80 cm) of loading length on the front deck, that’s more space than almost any other electric cargo bike I’ve seen and it’s very versitile
- Heavy-duty Shimano Deore Shadow drivetrain, commonly found on mountain bikes, helps to support greater load forces
- Very few electric cargo bikes introduce suspension because it adds weight and can reduce stiffness, changing handling, but the Packster has successfully added a short-travel suspension fork to cushion the load and it works very well with the slightly fatter tires
- Extra-large hydraulic disc brakes provide the stopping power necessary for an 80 lb bike plus cargo… maximum load capacity is near 500 lbs!
- You get the larger 500 watt-hour battery from Bosch standard and can upgrade to a second battery for a combined rating of one kilowatt-hour of capacity, that’s perfect for extended use and hauling heavier loads (you need one of the box options to mount the second battery)
- If you decide to upgrade to a two-battery system, the Bosch Intuvia display panel will balance the packs automatically for prolonged use, also, you can charge both bikes at time if they’re mounted to the bike
- Optional Basis-Boards create a stable mounting platform in the front cargo area and you can upgrade further to a Basis-Box with tool-free removable sidewalls… the final option is a Kids-Box which has backrest, seat cushions and seatbelts for safety (seating children in front vs. back makes them easier to manage and communicate with)
- Optional tarpaulin can be added to cover the Basis-Box so your cargo doesn’t get wet, it’s made of waterproof Cordura and attaches sturdily without blocking your view… there’s also a cover for the Child-Box which is taller and has windows
- I love that they offer two drivetrains (the lightweight 10 speed with derailleur or flexible-shifting continuously variable transmission hub) as well as two motor types (the high torque 20 mph Bosch CX or high speed 28 mph Bosch Speed)
- This is one of the only electric cargo bikes I’ve seen with the option for high speed and given that it’s a two-wheel design and fairly narrow (if you don’t get a box) it’s nimble and can be ridden in tight spaces fairly easily
- Integrated lights, a highly visible light-grey paint option and extra reflectors,
help this ebike stand out (especially if you’re riding in low light conditions), I love how the headlight is mounted on the fork and points where you steer
- Sturdy and stable double-leg kickstand keeps the bike upright when loading, it has an arm that you step on to lift the bike up and then you simply roll the bike forward to stow it
- The seat tube is angled back so the higher you position the saddle, the more reach you’ll be given (great for tall riders), notice the adjustable height stem too, it has six locking points and felt strong and reduce slop (side to side) so you don’t have to over-tighten the quick release collar
- Some of the shifter, brake, and electrical cables are exposed near the handlebars but are quickly routed into the frame which presents a clean aesthetic and reduces snags (important when loading/unloading cargo)
- Excellent use of a cafe lock, it comes standard with the bike and allows you to immobilize the rear wheel using the same key as the battery pack! since the bike is 80+ lbs,
it would be difficult to lift and run off with
- Despite the length and weight, this cargo bike feels steady and doesn’t have as much front wheel shimmy or wobble at speed and under heavy load
- You can enable walk-assist so the bike will push itself forward at a slow speed while you walk next to it, this could be very useful in crowded areas or when getting the bike out from storage given its size and weight (press walk assist on top of the button pad then hold the up arrow key)
- This thing is much heavier than traditional cargo bikes with rear rack designs, it weighs ~80 lbs with the standard open deck but can support nearly 500 lbs of weight (rider plus cargo area)
- You have to pay $110 extra just for the standard Basis-Boards on the front rack,
I guess it reduces weight and redundancy if you choose to upgrade to the box options but the bike is already pretty expensive… not to mention a $143 rear rack that looks pretty standard and holds 20 kg vs. a lot of aftermarket racks rated for 25 kg
- No bottle cage bosses… I guess you’ll have plenty of space for a trunk bag with a bottle holster if you get the rear rack, or you could use saddle rail cages, but I feel like maybe they could have squeezed them in on the steering tube or top tube?
- This is a minor gripe, but given how long the bike is and the fact that it has a limited steering angle, you may need to do a multi-point turn… it requires more space to maneuver
- Official Site: https://www.r-m.de/en-us/e-cargo/packster/packster-touring-80-us/#17P11US_010702
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/z4YQhxVMW7qRYhGz7