I’m a big fan of versatile bikes that are ready for just about any challenge a year-round utility bicyclist might encounter. Bikes with strong frames, robust wheels, puncture-resistant tires, fenders, lights, racks, bells, and bags. Bikes that don’t provide any excuses for not using a bike instead of a car. I have a couple of bikes like this and I recommend them to friends. About 90% of my riding is done on all-purpose bikes.
While these “multi-tool” bikes see the most use, specialized bikes that fill the gaps not covered by more conventional designs can be an important part of a car-free or car-lite lifestyle. Cargo bikes and folding bikes (as shown above) are two of the niche bikes that serve specific purposes not covered by more versatile bikes. I think of these bikes as being analogous to specialized tools such as freewheel spanners and headset wrenches. While we don’t use them as frequently as adjustable wrenches or multi-tools, a specialized tool for a specialized job is nice to have on-hand when it’s required.
The Yuba Mundo and Brompton M3L shown above are at two ends of a spectrum of bikes that fall under the umbrella of “utility”. The Mundo is a dedicated cargo bike capable of hauling up to 440 lbs. plus rider. Yuba offers a number of accessories for the Mundo that make it possible to carry such diverse payloads as furniture, bicycles, 6-8 bags of groceries, a second adult, or even a pair of small children. You’re really only limited by what can be strapped on the side rails, and what the rider can comfortably hold up and balance while sitting still.
The Brompton represents the far opposite end of the utility spectrum. It’s one of the smallest folding bike available, which makes it immensely useful for those who ride public transit or drive sub-compact cars and have the need to carry a bicycle in the trunk. The fold is quick and easy; with a little practice, the M3L can go from rolling to fully folded in less than 30 seconds. The package is neat and tidy, and the chain is hidden between the two folding halves. Brompton offers a wide variety of bag options, making it possible to use their bikes for commuting, touring, travel, and grocery shopping (some people even fold the bike and place it right in their shopping cart with their groceries).
We reviewed both of these bikes if you’d like to have a closer look at either.