With the number of cargo bikes on the market on the rise, and with a number of those bikes having maximum capacities into the multiple hundreds of pounds, it has me wondering how much capacity is really necessary for the typical commuter/utility bicyclist. For those who are 100% car-free or use their bicycles to carry heavy equipment in a work environment, “as much as possible” is probably the right answer. For others—particularly those who only need to carry a commute load or a few days worth of groceries—something far less is probably sufficient.
We’re “car-lite”, which, for the uninitiated, means we use our bicycles as our primary mode of transportation, but we keep a single, small, fuel efficient motor vehicle in the garage for those times when we need it. “Those times” might include transporting a carload of teenagers to a concert or ball game, rushing to the next county to help out an elderly parent in a pinch, or on the rare occasion, hauling something extremely heavy back from the hardware store.
“On the rare occasion” is the operative phrase for us. The fact that we so rarely have the need to move large, heavy objects makes me wonder whether a person should purchase a bike for those rare occasions, or if they should choose a bike based upon their typical daily loads. Certainly, if a person has the regular need and they don’t mind a larger, heavier bike designed for carrying large loads, then a dedicated cargo bike is the clear choice. But, for those like us who rarely need to carry more than 75 lbs., and who also enjoy the ride quality of more lightly built bikes, a more conventional frame and component mix along the lines of what is appropriate for touring might be in order.
A conventional touring or commuting bike with quality racks can carry at least 100 lbs. For example, the popular Tubus Cargo rack is rated for 90 lbs., and the Tubus Duo lowrider front rack is rated for 33 lbs. Substituting a high-quality porteur rack like the Pass & Stow for a lowrider on the front can increase the capacity of a conventional bike to over 150 lbs. — easily double my typical load.
There’s no right or wrong here, but it’s worth pointing out that a full-fledged cargo bike capable of carrying hundreds of pounds is not an absolute necessity for a car-lite or car-free lifestyle. In some circumstances it may be the perfect tool for the job, but in others, a conventional bike outfitted with a pair of quality racks will get the job done well enough.