There's no question that the good quality cargo bikes we sell come at a price. Some people might say that they can buy something equivalent for four or five thousand. We would love to have a cargo bike for this price that covers what's important for a family that is going to use their bike every day. If there was a solution at that price, we would certainly sell it.
It is important to us that we sell bikes that families can rely on using to transport their children safely, every day, without ongoing or recurring issues. In this article we will outline the reasons we carry the models we do, and why it's worth considering spending a little more on a cargo bike to get reliable quality.
Form and Function
Cargo bikes are meant to carry large loads. Some of our bikes are able to carry up to 200 kilos including the rider. Now, that's a lot of weight for a bike to carry and the more weight on a bike the more it matters how stiff and strong a bike is. It's no good to just create an ordinary bike with a with a longer frame on it. You actually need reinforcing, and you need to make the frame stiff so that it doesn't wobble when you ride with a full load. At the same time, you don't want the bike to be overly heavy. It's easy to make something really stiff if you use enough metal, but when you do this you end up with a 45 kilo bike. Let's use the Spicy Curry for example, which is our king of the long-tails. It's very stiff, very strong, and yet it still weighs in at under 30kgs. So it's very, very manageable but handles well under load.
It also needs to have a motor that is powerful enough to get up the hills with a full load. For example, our biggest cargo bikes all have the Bosch Cargo Line motor, which you can read a little more about here. All of our other cargo bikes have mid-drive motors from Bosch or Shimano. Mid-drive motors are better climbers than hub-drives because they use the bikes gears, so you can climb a steeper hill with less effort than you could on a hub-drive. The problem with hub-drives, particularly for a load carrying bike is that they won't give you the full assistance at slower speeds. Usually it is when you're at the slowest speeds when riding up the steepest hills that you need the most assistance, and unfortunately that's when hub drives struggle. Hub-drive bikes are a bit like a car that only has a third gear. It's going to struggle up steep hills because the revs are too low, and it's not going to be very efficient on the motorway either because the revs will be too high. This applies entirely to hub-drive bikes and that's the reason that mid-drives are better for most ebikes not just cargo-bikes. To read more about hub drive vs mid drive motors, click here.
Another important part of the function is the brakes. All of our ebikes have hydraulic disc brakes. Cable disc brakes are just not adequate for an ebike, let alone a fully loaded cargo-bike. When it comes to the cargo-bikes, most of our brands also have a four-pot brake system. This is essentially like having a double brakes, which helps you with a couple of things. It improves your braking power so that it is essentially twice as strong, and it also extends the life of your pads, especially if you live on a hill. This is good news, as cargo-bikes tend to burn through ordinary brake pads quickly. With four-pot brakes there's also a longer service interval meaning less regular maintenance. They also help with cooling, since you're spreading the friction and heat over a greater surface area. This is important as when you're going down a long steep hill, brake pads can heat up very quickly. Those are a few reasons why a good brake system is essential on a cargo bike. So if you're looking for a cargo bike, look for a hydraulic disc brake and a four-pot system, at least on the front.
The design of the frame needs to be well thought out. If you're carrying big loads then the rear deck needs to be as low as possible to ensure the bike is easy to balance.It can feel quite top heavy if that load is too high up. This should be designed into the bike from the start with a small 20 inch rear wheel such as the with the Tern GSD or the Spicy Curry. 24 inch wheels, such as those found on the Benno Boost, are a good middle size for bikes that are not necessarily intended to carry as big loads as the full size long-tails. The Tern GSD and the Spicy Curry rear racks are rated for about 140 kg, hence requiring the lower centre of balance.
Another very important part of the design is accessories. We previously stocked the Kona Ute, which by all means was a bike of good quality, but it had no facility to add sideboards or front basket and had a really high rear deck. There were no accessories for kid carrying, so once you put your kids on the back, you couldn't put stuff anywhere else. Accessories such as runner boards for kids feet, a set of handlebars that the passenger can hold on to, a front basket, and the ability to fit child seats securely are key components of a child-carrying bike. All of our brands, whether it's Yuba, Tern, Benno, Bullitt or Riese und Müller, all have a full range of child carrying accessories for children of all ages.
Reliability and Serviceability
The above mentioned points of form and function relate mostly to how the bike handles and how enjoyable it is to ride. But with the quality and good function of the components comes reliability. This is because the bikes are specced with higher end parts that can handle high weekly use. After all these are bikes that you will ride with loads every day, not just a weekend recreational ride. That said, things wear out and accidents can happen so your bike will need to be regularly serviced.
Number one regarding serviceability of ebikes is the availability of good diagnostic tools so that you can correctly identify the issues and resolve them quickly. The second is the availability of parts so that when you've identified the issue you can actually order the parts and they will come within a short timeframe, allowing your bike to get back on the road quickly. It is also important that you can do this in any city, not just the specific shop where you bought the bike.
The motor systems that we sell from Shimano and Bosch come with a full host of diagnostic tools that we can access. We plug in the bike, update the firmware, run a diagnostic report, and if there's a part of the system which is not working correctly, the diagnostic tools will identify it. We can also order replacement parts and swap them out if need be. Generic or non-standard motor systems very often aren't supported by manufacturers in our little country. This means that many shops won't have the right diagnostic tools, meaning you have to rely on a manual diagnostic. Manual diagnostics are much more labour intensive, and sometimes can only be achieved by swapping parts out until the problem desists, making them often very costly, particularly if you don't live near the place where you bought the bike. If you have to bring it into another shop which is not familiar with the system, then those costs can add up quickly. Lots of shops choose not to work on on bikes with non-standard components, due to this convoluted process of resolving issues.
Shimano and Bosch bikes have the diagnostic tools, but they also carry a full stock of parts and batteries in the country that is available. They have a network nationwide of Bosch or Shimano Authorized Service Centers, meaning if you buy a bike from us, you don't have to get it back to us for servicing. If you live in Auckland or Pahiatua, you can just take it into your local Bosch or Shimano Service Center, have them work on it, and they can process on behalf if there is any warranty issues.
Durability and Resale
The final thing is probably the biggest factor in terms of making that decision about buying a $5,000 or an $8,000 cargo bike, which is the resale value. For all the reasons that we've just talked about, Bosch and Shimano motor systems carry a much better resale value on second hand market. This is because they are durable, serviceable and they function well, and they're quality. For example, we have customers who bought Bosch ebikes from us five or six years ago, and they are still regularly selling for over half price they initially spent on them. If you look on Trade Me for Bosch ebikes, there are not many because they get snapped up quickly for a healthy buy now. Just like anything quality for kids (such as strollers) there's a big second hand market for used gear and always better resale value for the better quality product. A cargo bike with a generic motor that doesn't function as great, and is not as serviceable is just not going to get the same return as there will be concerns about the durability and serviceability of an older bike. While you may not have paid as much for it in the start, if you look at the lifetime of the bike, often you'll find the higher priced bike ends up the more economical in the long run while also being more enjoyable to ride.
We know families who bought a Spicy Curry for $7,000 including accessories three years ago who have sold their bikes recently for over $5,000. There's not that many second hand bikes out there yet, so there is a big demand for secondhand cargo bikes. If it's a financial stretch too far for a new Spicy Curry or a Tern GSD, look for a secondhand one as the used market grows.
To function, you need a bike that is capable of getting up the hills with a big load and has good brakes to get you safely down again. The design is equally important, so that it has the correct accessories to carry your loads safely and is also a joy to ride.
For the bike to be easily serviceable it needs diagnostic tools that can correctly and promptly identify issues and resolve them. Availability of parts is crucial within a short timeframe. You should also be able to do this in all major centres, not just the place where you bought the bike.
Due to all the reasons stated above, better quality cargo bikes are easy to spot, and last much better. This means that not only by the time you go to sell your bike that it should be working well, but the buyer can also be confident that the bike will work well for years to come. The bonus of this is that in the meantime, you get to enjoy a better bicycle with less issues that will stop you getting out there and using it.
If you'd like to know more about any of the above, pop into the store or give us a ring and we'll happily answer any of your questions.