Articles

... about cargo bikes and cycling in general.

How quickly attitudes can change

posted 16 Apr 2012, 13:29 by Jocke Selin

I started a manic build of the Carrygo cargo bike in June 2011. This build quickly had to take the backseat due to having to fund my existence, and the build of course. It took a while before I managed to get the bike, in its various stages as a prototype, into a riding state. I guess the bike has been rideable in a practical way since late September or so. I put the bike through quite a lot of test rides before the winter arrived and at that point the bike was more or less surpassed to the shed. The weather was not the only factor, but also a new job that demanded 100% attention.
We started pulling the bike out of the shed a bit more as the early spring arrived. However, as funds became available and the evenings got lighter I proceeded to finish the bike off. Only a few weeks ago I decided to pull the bike apart and prepare it for paint.
I guess we got a good, active, two to three months, of use out of the cargo bike before I dismantled it.

The before-life

My partner's knowledge about cargo bikes before the build was minimal. She knew they existed and that was about it. She knew they were used to carry loads, and that was about it. She knew they came in various guises and sizes.
However, the notion of taking a bicycle to the super market to do the weekly shop was pretty much totally alien. To her a bicycle is simply a fast road bike or an awesome dirty mountain bike (we're both partial to the latter).
I, on the other hand, grew up riding bikes; from being a small kid till the days when motors came into play, I rode everywhere in town. The bicycle was simply my lifeline and my way of getting around. Without it, I would have had to walk, and compared to walking the bicycle is a personal jet plane.
Unfortunately this didn't happen in the UK.
The bicycle was forgotten as a mode of transport. Cars simply had taken over. Both people's minds and the urban landscape. Not to mention the bank-balance.  In some senses, my partner is UK's missing cycling generation.

But things change

It's fair to say that the notion of cargo bikes have been in our lives for about 10 months. We have semi-actively used a cargo bike for 2 - 3 months, and as of typing, the cargo bike is not in a riding condition .
The other day it was time for a trip to the bottle-bank to return the empty bottles that had been gathering for a few weeks or so. In the back of my mind, I was annoyed that we couldn't just throw the bags into the cargo bike box and ride off to the bottle bank. We had to take the car, it felt like a terrible tedious chore. You know. Carry the bags all the way to the car, load the car up, squeeze into it, strap yourself into the seat. Then drive all the way, the indirect car-route, to the bottle bank in the car that costs money. However, I thought that these ideas were only my ideas. To my surprise my partner felt the same, maybe not as strongly, but she did say that she missed the cargo bike and that she would much rather have had a refreshing cycle ride to the bottle bank than taking the car.
I'm still very surprised and I'm also very proud of her.

More change, please

It's amazing how little time was needed to bring this total shift in thinking in the both of us. Imagine if we had been using the cargo bike to its full potential. Every day, commuting, shopping, etc.  Imagine what impact that would have done to our lives. I, for sure, could do with the extra outdoors and fitness.
But we are just two persons. Imagine if more and more and more people would discover this. Imagine if cargo biking and utility biking grew. We'd get rid of more cars off the road. We'd get more space for cycling. We could scrap the huge tarmac fields called parking lots, we could use them for other things, nicer things; Bigger family houses that are closer to town, parks, cycle routes, small local shops, and so forth.
All that "Save the planet"-stuff is a big bonus, but think how nice and quiet it would be in town if the majority of the cars disappeared. Being able to sit outside a café with a friend having a cup of coffee and being able to hear each other talk, without choking on fumes and dust. Imagine being able to say hi to the friend that cycles past instead of causing a traffic accident if you wave at them.
One can dream, can't one..?!

A standpoint

posted 12 Apr 2012, 00:15 by Jocke Selin

There I was, merrily stripping the old paint off the Carrygo cargo bike. I only had a few more things to weld onto the frame before it was time for paint and then final assembly. But there was this niggling feeling.

The signs were there

During the test runs I did notice it, but I kind of had suppressed the gut feeling. Now in hindsight when I've realised what I've should have realised back then, it's absolutely obvious. The signs were there; first of all I had to consider the parking of the bike even when empty. I had to make sure that the ground was reasonably level, and that if it weren't, I had to angle the bike so that it would stay upright. But what really should have grabbed my attention was when my partner was holding onto the bike when we loaded it with our weekly food shopping. This should not be necessary. The bike should be rock solid as it stands on its own. It should also stand on its own on reasonably sloped ground. Regardless of how much load is on the bike.
If I would have been ready to face the facts I would have admitted it before, but now, closer to the end, it was harder.

The technicalities behind the instability

T
he Carrygo is what's called a front-loader cargo bike. It's got a big rack at the front, with the front wheel right beneath it. The majority of the load and weight will thus be located at the front. However, in my strive to make the bike as "common" as possible when it comes to parts, I opted for a standard centre kick-stand made by Hebie. It's rated at 60kgs so I thought it would be sturdy enough. Whilst the stand is well made it's has still got a tiny bit of flex in it, however, even if the stand didn't have any flex in it, the stability isn't enough. That is simply due to the fact that the stand is too far away from the load.

The solution

Having admitted that a bought stand is simply not sturdy enough, the only solution is to build my own stand. This isn't a problem, it's just a lot more work. Part of the complexity is due to that a stand has to move (up and down). Anything that moves is much more tricky than something that's fixed. Complexity means more time, time which I don't really have.
Still the solution I have in my head will consist of a sturdy front stand, that can be raised and lowered from the rider's reach. It will fold forward/upwards when not in use - something that I tried to avoid, due to the catastrophic consequences of it falling down whilst riding. The solution to that is simply that I have make sure it will not fall down.

And my standpoint is

That my Carrygo cargo bike has to, absolutely must, be sturdy and practical. It cannot have a compromise. As Dave Warnock (@dave42w) said on Twitter "Key test is being able to leave bike with kids loaded in strong winds!". And when it's put like that, there's no doubt that the Carrygo needs a sturdy stand, and I should have realised this weak point earlier in the development process.
I hope you will have patience for a bit longer whilst I tend to an important issue in the workshop. My plan is to crack on with the stand come Saturday morning.
Thanks for your understanding.

You're not alone, Lindsay

posted 28 Mar 2012, 13:59 by Jocke Selin

I was reading Lindsay's blog "You ain't got Jack" and I got to her post about why she was doing what she was doing. You might be doing the thing that she was doing; paying a lot of money for fuel, tax, insurance,etc, for your car. For your car that might not actually be needed. And the bad thing is, as we all know if we actually have a look, is that cars aren't doing us any favours (except on very long journeys).
This particular passage resounded with me; Lindsay writes [after she couldn't renew her driver's license]:
That got me thinking, how would I survive without my driver’s license?  How would it change my life?  The first thing that came to mind was the money I'd save...our old gas guzzler drinks about $40 a week in gas and then the insurance costs add up too, plus maintenance...hmm.  Then I thought about alternative travel... public transportation would be a must and I'd definitely need a bicycle. But I have a toddler to tote about too, so I obviously need a mode of transport that could safely include him.  Then my mind focused on the health benefits of all this added exercise and then all of a sudden my point of view started to change...suddenly this crazy train of thought was starting to sound like a good idea, as a challenge of sorts.
Now that's not only brave, that's also very, very extraordinary in the whole.
As humans we are lazy. We don't do stuff that we can avoid doing. To take the step from a comfortabe (but expensive) car, to something that requires more effort takes quite a bit of smart-effort.
I say "smart-effort" because anyone can figure out that it's "smart" and anyone can figure out it's "effort", very few are mature enough to figure out that the effort is smart.
These sort of reasonings are the same reasons why I've started to build the Carrygo.
I see no point in driving to the store, and then parking as close as you can to your house, only to drive to the gym minutes later to try to burn some calories because you just drove to the store.
I believe we shouldn't be "lazy" and that we should make an effort. We should take the slightly difficult route. We should take the stairs. We should park at the far end of the car-park. In fact, I have an electric corkscrew, as if corks were that hard to extract that they needed an electric motor to assist me! We have petrol or electric lawn mowers, when we know that pushing one around would be cheaper than buying the aforementioned one, it would be better for our hearts and it would pollute less (both manufacturing, air-pollution and noise). There's a win-win-win-win-win-win situation if I ever saw one.
And above all...
... We should take a cargo bike to the shops and leave that dino-juice-drinking-box for the stuff it does best; long journeys to see family. It makes sense, and deep down, we all know it.
Best of luck, Lindsay! You can do it, and, above all, you'll enjoy it!

Why would anyone build a cargo bike?

posted 30 Nov 2011, 13:32 by Jocke Selin   [ updated 1 Dec 2011, 03:00 ]

What's it about?

Welcome to the first article. I hope this one will shed some light on the "Why" side of the Carrygo cargo bike. I still think I'm mad. From a pure business perspective there's absolutely no point in starting to manufacture anything fairly-low-tech in U.K. Sure, satellites and Formula 1 cars might make sense, but a construction that was more or less perfected about 100 years ago is pretty pointless.
If I wanted, I could make one bicycle and send it off to China and I could probably get it manufactured for about £200.
But I don't want to do that.
I don't want to make 5,000 copies of a bike. In fact, I don't want to make 3 copies of a bike. I can stretch to two copies if needed.
What I want to make is your bike. For your needs. For your family. For your cargo. For your passion. But that's "What", not "Why".
I live in a small town in North Oxfordshire, not far far from Oxford. The diameter of the town is less than 3 miles (~5km). Anyone who cycles knows that this distance is not very much. When walking, it takes quite a while to walk from one side of town to the other (~ 50 mins), but when cycling, it takes very little time.

Town driving

Still, every day, I see people driving within town. Sometimes the route is straight, A to B, which makes the distance even shorter. Sometimes you have to drive you car even further. For example, the shortest route to the biggest super market in the town from our house is less than 2 miles (~8 minutes). Sadly this route goes through town and it's more often congested (and actually quite horrible), so that journey that should be about 8 minutes, really isn't. When we take the car, we usually take a less congested route. This route is about 4.3 miles long (~13 minutes). However, if I cycle or walk to the same super market the distance is about 1.6 miles. As you can see, even if the car is the King of the Road, it has to make compromises to its path, and thus spend a lot more getting there. This pains me. Not because I "can't afford it", but because it's a waste. A true, real waste. If you ask someone to wait for the tube/underground/metro for 5 extra minutes, you better have a very good excuse. But the same people are happy to sit in the car 5 minutes extra (each way, each shop) to avoid the other people in their cars, it's OK. In fact, it's fine, because you're obviously a lot smarter than the people who are stuck in the traffic near the town centre. No seriously, it's a waste.

My neighbour's cars

Another thing I see is my neighbours - we all see that - but what I can see is them piling into their cars. Family and all. Kids have to be strapped down. Stuff thrown in the boot (trunk). Then they drive off. But then they return 20 minutes later. And the cars are all fairly new, the worst ones are the wannabe-big-SUVs. I don't even dare think of how much petrol (gas) a car like that wants to drink for a short, cold engine, journey. Don't get me wrong, I fall for the comforts of my car too from time to time, but I never like it. I think it's a waste. (You might see a theme forming here).

So I'm a Hippy then?

No, no, no. This isn't a tree-hugging-vegan-lycra-clad-cycling-site. Not that I have anything against any of those. I just am not part of that "movement". However, I don't subscribe to the generic image we've been given about our society; Work hard to consume more. In fact, I don't think consuming is the answer to anything. Sure I love my gadgets, and I love buying stuff, but it's not "the circle of life". I would much rather see all people enjoy their lives, live for the moment, be creative, and don't forget to move about and don't be lazy. And I hate waste - not in an obsessive way. I know when something is worn out and should be thrown out.

Growing up with pedals

When I was a kid virtually all my transport was done on a human powered two wheeler. From my first bike through to the town's first BMX to speedier bikes to one of the town's first Mountain bikes. Everybody cycled for transport where I grew up. Nobody cycles for transport where I live.
I've been baffled by the general attitude towards cycling in the late noughties and today.When you mention cycling to anyone, most people think of either Lycra clad heads down cyclists speeding down a country lane in a swarm, or they think of intricate mechanical devices draped in mud with knobbly tyres scaring ramblers in the forest. Very few people think of the people who are walking down the high street with a basket or two on their sit-up-and-beg bicycle. This is such a shame. I believe that the most enjoyable cycle rides you can have are the slow ones, preferably on a cycle path somewhere surrounded by beautiful forests, but above all, going somewhere. Not just randomly cycling around. 

Cycle buying

Another thing that annoys me a bit is that most cycle shops (based on the perceived demand) mainly stock road racing bikes or awesome looking mountain bikes. This means that if you're a potential cycle buyer, you'll be faced with bikes that are quite serious. I don't see many road racing bikes with mudguards on them, or mountain bikes with baskets. This attitude tells a prospective buyer that she'll have to go buy specialist clothing, helmets, gloves, energy gels, and all that. It's really not very inviting.
Sure a small selection of the stock is sit-up-and-beg-bikes (a.k.a Dutch bikes). But should you want a really practical bicycle, you're out of luck. Sure a Dutch bike can be made pretty practical with baskets and panniers, but you'll be hard pushed to bring home half-a-week's shopping on one.

Now here's the "Why"

I want to show people that there really is an alternative to driving your car everywhere. I want to show people that you don't have to be sweating or using specific cycling clothing when riding a bicycle. I want people to realise that it can be easy and effortless to get on your bike. I want to introduce people to a way of combining good value for money, moderate exercise, and being outdoors. I want people to see that a cargo bike doesn't have to be big, cumbersome and heavy, and that a cargo bike can be ridden and used just like a normal bike.
I believe that we'll be happier and friendlier if we get out of our tin-boxes. If we move around a bit more (you don't have to call it exercise!). I believe we can do a bit for the planet, for the environment in our towns, for our hearts.

And a short "How"

This is a subject on its own, but as there's very little material on the site at the moment, here's a bit about "How" I want to achieve the "Why". I want to build a bicycle that's capable of handling huge loads (I'm using half a weeks shopping as my yardstick). But I don't want my cargo bike to be as big as a regular cargo bike. I want it to fit into the British lifestyle where we have narrow streets, small back yards and so forth. I want it to be robust and hardy. It uses internal gears and a coaster brake (push the pedals backwards to brake) in the rear wheel and a hydraulic disk brake at the front. That means that there's only one cable that can potentially rust and seize (the gear change cable), and the hydraulic disk brake only requires a fluid change to work. I want it to have a horseshoe lock with extended cable so you can quickly lock the bike when you go into a shop. I will have mudguards so you don't have to worry about the ground being wet. It'll be designed to live outdoors, so it's ready for you to ride when you need it. And I want to make it personal, for you, for your needs, to your specifications. If you want a child seat, that's fine, if you want a magnum Champagne holder, that's also fine. It's your bike.
But more on this in another article...

To top it off; It's recycled

The final point I want to make is that the Carrygo is recycled. I've seen far too many bikes without any real faults been thrown away. All they needed was a bit of TLC, maybe a few new cables and a chain, maybe even a lick of paint. But they weren't bent, broken or rusted to pieces. I want to save those bikes from dying a horrible death in a land fill or being ground up as recycled metal. Therefore I want to build my cargo bikes out of an existing bike. With this particular design, there's no need to start from scratch. Using an existing frame as a starting point saves time, effort and a little bit of the planet. It also gives you the chance to start out with a bike you already know and love. Remember, it'll be your bike, not a bike.

Thanks for reading!

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