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Cargo bikes and bike trailers are excellent ways to transport goods, pets and even children! They make your bicycle more versatile, and they’re great if you want to replace a car with a bike. Although the two might seem similar, there are quite a few differences and choosing can be difficult.
If you’re torn between them, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons associated with both.
Cargo bikes are widely popular across Europe and have been catching on in the UK in recent times. If you’re looking to replace a car and commit yourself fully to cycling (and you have more than you can fit in a rucksack), cargo bikes make transporting everything from the weekly shop to heavier goods much easier.
What is a Cargo Bike?
Cargo bikes are simply bicycles designed to carry more than just their riders. They do this by including a cargo hold between the handlebars and the front wheel. This can be used for anything from shopping to children – many parents let their kids see the world from the comfort of the cargo basket.
These bikes aren’t especially difficult to ride and are extremely stable (since the weight is distributed evenly). They do handle differently from normal bikes though, so if you’re transitioning to cargo it’s worth taking a few practice rides before transporting anything valuable. Electric carbo bikes are increasingly popular – they’re great for saving your legs if you’re transporting a particularly heavy load!
Cargo Bike Cost
Prices vary depending on the type of cargo bike you purchase and, of course, how big it is. Most decent quality cargo bikes will cost around £1000 – £1500, more if you need a lot of space. Electric cargo bikes can cost anything up to £5000.
Another crucial factor is the number of wheels. Cargo bikes are available with two or three wheels.
The former is substantially faster and nimble but requires a more skilful rider to keep it balanced. Three wheeled bikes are much more stable (and don’t need a stand to remain vertical when stationary) but they’re slower and more expensive. They might be a good place to start if you’ve never ridden a cargo bike before.
Cargo Bike Pros + Cons
|Great for replacing a car||Expensive entry point|
|Versatile and multipurpose||A slight learning curve|
|Stable ride||Two wheeled more unstable|
|Extremely convenient||Three wheeled more expensive|
|Electric versions are an option|
If cargo bikes don’t appeal, trailers are another popular option when you have a lot to transport. The big benefit of trailers is space. Sizes obviously vary, but bike trailers are generally far more spacious than cargo bikes. They can also be detached/attached, making them a versatile choice.
What is a Bike Trailer?
A bike trailer is just that – a trailer that is towed behind your bike. Trailers come in all shapes and sizes but they tend to be large; with more than enough space to store anything from the weekly shop to much bigger items. Since they’re towed, they don’t affect stability.
Ride quality is one of the biggest advantages of bike trailers. They don’t interfere with pedals and don’t change the ride in any meaningful manner. If you prefer your storage out of the way, trailers are your best option. They can also be detached for convenience, often come equipped with waterproof covers, and are more comfortable than cargo bikes if you want to drive your kids or a pet.
Trailers are vulnerable to sway in windy conditions, however, and heavy loads feel more uncomfortable due to their positioning behind the bike.
Bike Trailer Cost
Bike trailers tend to be cheaper than cargo bikes (this makes sense: you’re only buying a trailer, not a whole bike). You can easily grab an entry level trailer for around £100. More sophisticated models with better waterproofing, higher load capacity and even seat belts cost up to £500.
Even luxury trailers with huge capacity and premium materials won’t set you back anywhere near as much as a cargo bike. If you have a lot to carry and want to try out bike transportation for the first time, trailers might be the best option. You can purchase a top end trailer for roughly half the cost of a cargo bike, so this is clearly the economic choice.
Better still, if you don’t regularly use your bike for transporting loads, you can simply detach the trailer when it’s not in use. They’re great if you find that your usual commuter rucksack isn’t big enough but don’t want to commit to a new bike.
Bike Trailer Pros + Cons
|Substantially cheaper than cargo bikes||Vulnerable to wind sway|
|Can be attached to most bikes||Towing can feel heavy|
|Stable ride||Less manoeuvrability|
|Lots of space|
|Water and weatherproof|
Cargo Bike vs Bicycle Trailer
Whether you opt for a cargo bike or bicycle trailer depends on your budget, how much you want to transport, and the kind of ride that you want. Bicycle trailers are cheaper and can hold a lot. Cargo bikes distribute weight better, are nimbler and most will last a lifetime.
Cargo bikes are a bigger commitment. Unlike trailers, you’re essentially purchasing a brand new bike with the cargo hold built in. This is likely a false economy if you don’t plan to routinely cycle with a load. Cargo bikes distribute their weight better, though, are easy to control and aren’t vulnerable to swerving in windy conditions. They’re also much more manoeuvrable.
All of this comes at a price. Cargo bikes are expensive, even more so if you opt for a three wheeled or electric version. Trailers are far cheaper and have a range of benefits. They’re less intrusive (with the load towed behind), can be attached to any bike and usually offer much more space. In general, they’re far less of a commitment because you can simply detach them when you don’t have anything to transport.
The addition of a trailer decreases manoeuvrability and weight towed directly behind feels heavier. Ultimately, deciding between a cargo bike and a bicycle trailer depends on personal choice. There’s no wrong or right answer, and both will transform how you use your bike!