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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!