A few days ago our family of four welcomed a new addition: an electric cargo bike! BAM! It has been quite exciting to pick it up and master everyday life on two wheels since then. Our first impression: not only does it ride very well, it also feels really good to be part of the mobility revolution.
How it all came about
My life would be unthinkable without a bike. I use it to get to work, back from work, into town, to visit friends… But up until now I have always been riding my bike on my own. Why? Because it dates from 1992 and in no way meets any safety standards. A trailer or a child seat was absolutely out of the question. But when it came to sustainability, I thought my beloved old bike and I were great.
UNTIL RECENTLY… I started thinking about an electric cargo bike and after the first test rides we were hooked. We imagined what we could do with such a cargo bike as a whole family, we saw the children’s happy eyes on every bend (and the full shopping baskets) and quickly we agreed: we had to have one!
Dynamic or decelerating?
Most of you have probably already seen cargo bikes with two or three wheels. A question of style, I’d say. Do we feel happier on a comfortable tricycle or do we want a more sporty ride? In fact, we quickly agreed it had to be two wheels. And although at the beginning it took some effort to convince myself I would not tip over, it soon seemed easier to ride than a tricycle when cornering. Clearly, I wouldn’t look nearly as cool on three wheels when coming off the track 😉
Choosing the actual model in the shop was completely different from our prior Internet research. Most manufacturers are based in the Netherlands and so our preliminary selection included a few Dutch examples. In terms of riding experience and quality of the components, however, we were quickly convinced by the company „Riese & Müller“. We’d never heard of it before – but after some research we realised why. The Darmstadt-based company is unlike companies that normally build leisure bikes. Friends Markus Riese and Heiko Müller developed the first folding bike in 1993, which could quickly be made very small while still being a really good ride. Since then, the two and their company have been committed to revolutionising mobility habits in everyday life. Sounds exactly like what we’ve been trying to promote with Finding Sustainia for over five years now: the idea that sustainable everyday life doesn’t mean doing without, but simply changing routines. And that a life like this can feel really great!
How big is big enough?
After much deliberation, we decided on a relatively compact cargo bike. With our model, the Packster 40, only ONE child actually fits into the cargo basket. Or about one full trolley’s worth of shopping. While we were quickly sure that the size would be sufficient for shopping (who buys more than fits in a shopping trolley?), the matter of the number of children was not so easy to solve. However, we believe that the size is sufficient for us, since one child can ride in the front in the basket and another in the back in a normal child seat. If we are travelling with a third child and want to go on a real bike ride, there’ll most likely be two adults anyway, so there is still room for a child on the second bike. Another thing that won us over: with our bike we can easily talk to our child, because they sit facing against the direction of travel. It’s all a matter of taste of course, but we’ve also selected our pram according to this criterion and never regretted the decision. The size of our bike means it is also possible to fix it (with the front wheel removed) to the rear of a car, because in
terms of width and wheelbase it is not so different from a normal bike. Also the riding experience is similar to a normal city bike. And weighing in at approx. 30 kg, it is lightweight but still capable of proudly transporting a total weight of 160 kg. Our life with a cargo bike will not end once our children are able to ride themselves. Even then the size of the bike will still be suitable for us and our shopping. But again, it’s all a matter of taste and dependent on the actual family structure and intended use.
Whether you choose a bike that can be ridden with electric assistance or not also depends on many factors. If it’s hilly where you live or you don’t want to see every shopping trip as a sporting challenge, it’s definitely worth considering an electric bike. It’s also super comfortable for hill starts or in stop-and-go traffic. The comfort of an electric bike, however, also comes at a price and must be given due consideration accordingly.
Once you have decided on an electric bike, the only question is whether you can manage with a single battery or if you want to treat yourself to a second. Depending on the assistance mode, the range with one battery is approx. 50 km on our Packster 40, and considerably longer in Eco mode. We believe that this is more than sufficient for our everyday use in the city. We either charge the bike in our garage or we take the battery inside with us. In both cases a normal plug socket is all that’s needed.
In all kinds of weather
We know from one of the Managing Directors of Riese & Müller that he himself picked up his newborn child from the hospital in the cargo bike. Respect! We hope, however, that it was a little warmer than it would have been for our winter babies, who were both born at the beginning of the year. In poor weather the children are well protected up to the neck thanks to a weatherproof cover though. Shopping remains completely dry. Furthermore, we have learned at first hand that Riese & Müller are currently working on a kind of rain canopy for our model. Until this is available to buy, we assume that we won’t travel long distances anyway if the weather is really bad. For normal everyday life, weatherproof clothing should be sufficient anyway. Fingers crossed that we get away with this attitude and our kids see it the same way.
Our bike has, I think, a real compact cockpit, because we opted for „Cobi“. This system consists of a docking station permanently fitted to the bike, to which we simply clamp our own mobile phone. Using a corresponding app, this becomes the control centre where we can see our speed, check the remaining battery range, select the assistance mode, navigate, view cycling weather forecasts, listen to music, talk on the phone, and so on and so forth… (carefully, of course). All this without having to take our hands off the handlebars. In addition, Cobi charges our mobile phone via the bike’s battery.
The app is constantly being developed and by integrating apps like „Komoot“ we can even load great bike rides into the bike’s satnav system.
And now the thing about the alarm…
…which I find particularly ingenious. If someone were to try to steal our bike, there would be such a loud noise that opportunist thieves would surely be deterred. This function is not built into the bike itself, but comes from our Cobi control centre and is controlled via mobile phone. Pretty cool, right? We still have a conventional lock and the bike is also insured. The insurance wasn’t any more expensive than for a normal bike, by the way.
So, that’s everything there is to say about this great bike at present. I am looking forward to many, many adventures with our new family member and I am sure that you will read about me and my everyday experiences with the cargo bike soon. We’ve not decided yet whether the bike will be given a name or not. But I was delighted about your lively discussion on Instagram. The opinion there was unanimously in favour of naming the bike.
And here’s our first family photo!
P.S. The baby carrier Thea is blissfully sleeping in was previously used by Santa and her children during the first months of their lives. And Enno too! Sustainable love, so to speak.
We would like to thank „Riese & Müller“ for their appreciation of Finding Sustainia’s concept and for the fact that they were able to accommodate us in terms of price when purchasing the accessories.