A Brief Introduction to Cycle Trucks

Civia Halsted

A cycle truck is a cargo bike with a standard-sized rear wheel, a smaller front wheel, and a cargo platform mounted to the frame above the front wheel. The smaller front wheel makes room for the platform, and the frame-mounted platform minimizes the cargo’s effect on the bike’s handling.

Cycle trucks have been around for many decades (here’s a rusted out Roadmater Cycle Truck from the 1930s-40s and a beautifully-restored 1964 Schwinn Cycle Truck). Traditionally they were used as delivery bikes, as well as for moving around heavy objects on factory floors and movie sets. In recent years they’ve gained in popularity as grocery getters and commuters.

A.N.T. Basket Bike

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the following cycle trucks are a good representation of the current offerings at three price points and quality levels.

Worksman Low Gravity – Worksman manufactures industrial-grade cycle trucks at their factory in New York. Their “Low Gravity” cycle trucks are super heavy-duty (and heavy) and start at around $500.

Civia Halsted – For 2011, Civia is introducing a cycle truck called the Halsted. Component details are sketchy at this point, but a recent post on their blog shows a good looking truck of traditional proportions, priced at $1000. The Halsted will be available in March 2011.

A.N.T. Basket Bike – Mike Flanigan at A.N.T. builds beautiful, handmade cycle trucks (aka “Basket Bikes”) specifically patterned after postal delivery bikes from the 1940s. Each A.N.T. Basket Bike is handmade-to-order with prices starting at $2150.

28 Responses to “A Brief Introduction to Cycle Trucks”

  • Spencer says:

    I love the bicycle “Semis” of Mexico: Triciclos de carga
    The most impressive loads would include somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 dozen 5-gallon water jugs. I like Nacho’s motorized version

  • Urb Anwriter says:

    Please Santa, please. The Loring is great but the Halsted is what I was secretly lusting for. Hunter Cycles did a ‘tribute-bike’ to the sort of thing Spencer mentioned – done in green/white/red – and a great piece of work. Has anyone ever seen a photo of a new Worksman that wasn’t the factory picture? Ever?

    Here, if it passes moderation (not sure what the policy is Alan) is the Hunter picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/huntercycles/2589038034/in/set-72157602819183743/

    According to some :) it is OK to have two Civia bikes. Let’s see, a Loring, a Halsted, an early ’60s Canadian production JCHiggins, an On-one (w/8-speed Nexus), a Raleigh 20 and, on occasion, a lovely mixte in a little over 500 sq.ft. It could be tight.

  • Joel says:

    …and don’t for get the made in Oregon Ahearne Cycle Truck

    http://www.ahearnecycles.com/cycletruck/

    A fantastic-ly useful and delightful bicycle to ride.

  • Ralph Aichinger says:

    In Europe this type of bike is most commonly seen as a postman’s bike, often with 24″ in front and 26″ rear wheel.

    This type of bicycle is still easy to ride for every-day errands, takes more than enough cargo for the usual shopping. The european version often features a huge stand mounted to the front basket, sometimes with a cable release. Very handy, the two-leg stand is essential for this type of bike, more so in stop and go mail delivery. Sadly Britain wants to stop mail delivery by bike:

    http://www.ctc.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=5391

    Still done in most of Europe, though.

  • Scott says:

    How about this beautiful cured meats delivery bike:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/16953287@N08/2590094613/in/set-72157615653142069/

  • Alan says:

    @Scott

    That Sycip is a beaut’!

  • Pete says:

    I hadn’t realized before that these bikes don’t have fork-mounted racks. It makes perfect sense, of course, now that I see it, but I never really paid any attention.
    Having spent last weekend riding with my 12+ lb dog in a handlebar basket, I now really appreciate how much better it would be not having to “steer” the load.
    Hmm. My dog might make me get one of these.

  • Stuart says:

    There are just too many practical bikes out there and not enough space in my garage! I think when I finally sell my car (if my girlfriend lets me…) I’ll invest in a cool cargo bike.

  • Bob B says:

    Wow on that Sycip! We definitely need more info on that bike.
    Seems to me that if you’re going to the trouble to lower the cargo center-of-gravity and attach the front rack to the frame – you’d want a serious stand to hold the bike with cargo like this Monark: http://bit.ly/9uN7Hp
    Also, love the idea of a company logo plate in the frame.

  • Pete says:

    The Sycip and Ahearne have a better structure for this, IMHO. The additional tube gives you a lot of options for signage, carrying, stuff, etc. The Ahearne is particularly nice int he way the cargo rack is fully integrated in the design of the bike. The Civia looks a bit tacked-on to me. Of course, the Civia is probably a lot lighter, and more than up the task for the people who’ll be buying it.
    The mind boggles at how Rivendell would do a cycle truck!

  • Scott says:

    Bob B, here is a better photo of the stand:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/16953287@N08/2576459035/in/set-72157615653142069/

    I have seen this bike in person, it is parked in the Ferry Building here in SF.

  • helton says:

    I’m currently creating a python GUI program called “Frameset Designer”. This post’s insights on cargo bikes have convinced me I’ll have to allow for different wheelsizes, and most probably for odd top-tube placements, in order to get a REALLY USEFUL bike-geometry designing piece of software! Great post, these bike-category “conceptology” are really addictive (and I’ll keep you informed in case of any real progress with the app – which already allow extra-chainstay-length due to the long-tails!)

  • Pete says:

    @helton
    Sounds like a great project. Looking around these days, though, your program should probably accommodate mixtes, double top tubes with one or both sloping, curved tubes, etc if it’s to be really useful!

  • Fergie348 says:

    Boccalone is in the SF ferry building, the Sycip cargo bike has been parked there since it opened. I’ve ogled that thing more times than I care to remember. The manager wouldn’t let me ride it either.. It is a beauty!

  • Richard Masoner says:

    @Spencer: There’s a guy in Monterey, CA who delivers sandwiches and stuff with a Made-In-Mexico Mercurio delivery trike. It’s pretty cool.

    Here in Santa Cruz, Josh Muir of Frances Cycles builds the “Small Haul.” It doesn’t quite meet your definition of a cycle truck — the cargo load is between the saddle and front wheel, but Josh calls it a cycle truck.

  • Richard Masoner says:

    Oh, I just realized I failed to link to Frances Cycles — http://www.francescycles.com/galleries/cargo/

  • randomray says:

    I use Worksman bicycles everyday at work and they are just about bomb proof . I have a trike that they say is rated for 550 lbs load and I’ve had way more then that on them . They are outstanding in an industial setting .

  • randomray says:

    We have used the new Schwinn trikes and I’m sorry to say they aren’t good for anything except great grandma’s trip around the block . It’s all show not much go .

  • Bob B says:

    Worksmans are cool – probably the closest thing to my Chicago Schwinns. They are also the oldest bicycle company in the US. Here is an interview from Bicycle Times: http://bit.ly/aEBa1a

  • velojoy says:

    Don’t know if you’ve seen this new one: Mopion cargo bike by Biomega for Puma. Here’s a link to a blog post with photo by KiBiSi, the Copenhagen firm that collaborated on the design. Pretty great looking. http://www.kibisi.com/projects/biomega-puma-bike-series

  • henryinamsterdam says:

    May I toot our own horn with a fairly obvious omission? The Workcycles Fr8 with Massive Rack: 150kg load capacity on the frame mounted front carrier with integrated parking stand. It’s actually the inspiration for ANT’s very cool Basket Bike and Mike licenses the Adaptive Seat Tube design from Workcycles….

    http://www.workcycles.com/home-products/professional-transport-bikes/workcycles-fr8-as-delivery-transport-bike

    The Fr8 is available in North America through a number of dealers.

  • Adam says:

    I’m planning way ahead, but my wife is pregnant and I’m dreaming about getting a bike to carry junior on when he’s old enough (1 yr?). I have been dreaming about a Bakfiets-style bike (CETMA, Larry Vs. Harry Bullitt, etc.) because I like the idea of having the kid up front and am not a big fan of trailers…but the cost of those bikes are tremendous. I wonder if anyone has used a much more affordable cycle truck for child-hauling up front. Properly strapped in, I wouldn’t imagine it would be any more dangerous than a rear-mounted child seat or an Xtracycle. I’ve also been scratching my chin about the newly announce Puma Mopion (essentially a cycle truck with linked steering).

  • Pete says:

    Adam-
    I’m a bit leery of strapping the little one to the front rack. I guess having them in front of you is better than behind, but on a front rack seems sketchy. (It reminds of a review I once read of the old style VW Bus – the writer said that, basically, the driver should drive like they are strapped to the front of the van because, essentially, they are. He then went on to ponder how different the world would be if everyone drove as if they were strapped to the front of their car. But I digress…)
    For a near term solution you can try to find a Bobike seat:
    http://www.bobike.nl/en/Bobike-you-re-sitting-pretty.htm
    There is at least one company that imports them to the US. They are expensive, but much cheaper than a bakfiets.

  • Adam says:

    Pete,
    Thanks for the input. I think you’re right when considering cycle trucks like the ones shown in this posting (wheel under cargo). Something like the Puma Mopion or Bilenky Cargo might be a safe option, but the Bilenky costs nearly as much as a CETMA frame, which can do a lot more.

  • Pete at Electric Bike Report says:

    All of those cycle trucks look cool. Adding an electric kit would be a nice way to move some heavy loads around; especially when faced with the hills and head winds!

    It would also be nice to have front suspension to smooth out the ride for the rider and cargo. I am using a front suspension fork and suspension seat post on my electric xtracycle and it is such a smooth ride, but it doesn’t smooth out the ride for my cargo. Having a suspension fork on a cycle truck would be nice because it would also give the cargo (groceries, etc.) a little more cushion.

  • henryinamsterdam says:

    As a couple commenters have already pointed out, strapping a child to a front carrier is not a great idea. Dads do it with older kids in Holland for fun but this is a place with extremely safe cycling conditions.

    Adding a suspension fork to a cycle truck is generally more complication than it’s worth and brings a number of disadvantages: The suspension travel requires raising the load. Riding with and without heavy loads requires a highly adjustable spring rate. A heavy duty cycle truck has the parking stand integrated into the front carrier so the travel of the suspension will screw up the geometry for the stand. All in all a fat, heavy-duty tire is a more practical way to smooth the ride on such bikes.

  • Pete says:

    @Adam-
    Yeah, agreed. Maybe it’s just psychological, but having them in front of you but BEHIND the front wheel just feels a lot better than hanging off the front.

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