Imagine a world in which it is convenient and practical to forgo the minivan and pick up a bike instead. Of course, a cargo bike won’t magically improve the bicycle infrastructure and culture in your city, but it will allow you to easily haul kids, groceries, soccer balls, school backpacks, and whatever else parenthood may throw your way.
There are lots of cargo bike options out there, but some are better than others for hauling your most precious cargo: kids. Here are our top picks for family bikes, and some tips on how and why to choose a cargo bike for cycling with your offspring.
Why Choose a Cargo Bike for Cycling with Kids
Cargo bikes are ideal for families that do a lot of bike commuting, who try to minimize car use (or live car free), and who need a way to haul kids. Unlike most child bike seats or trailers, cargo bikes can be used for babies and “big” kids which means that the investment can be recouped over a lot of years.
They are also great for hauling all that stuff that comes along with having kids–library books, backpacks, balance bikes, groceries, Christmas trees, you name it.
Who shouldn’t buy a family bike? If you are new to bike commuting, and just want to get your feet wet, you might want to consider a bike trailer or child bike seat first before you spend a lot of money investing in a cargo bike.
To E-Bike or not to E-Bike
While I am generally not a fan of e-bikes (call me a good old fashioned luddite), the one case in which I think they make a lot of sense is cargo bikes. If you plan on using your cargo bike as a primary source of transportation, have a long commute, live in a city with a lot of hills, have multiple children to haul, or are just otherwise motivated by an electronic assist, go for it. I personally use an e-cargo bike on a daily basis, and can’t imagine life without the electric assist.
That said, there are reasons to stick to a traditional bike without a motro. A couple of downsides of an electronic assist is the extra maintenance involved, needing to store and charge the bike indoors, extra weight, and the price. But when you consider the cost of an e-bike compared to a car, they are downright cheap.
Types of Cargo Bikes
There are three general styles of cargo bikes: the longtail, the longjohn, and the front-load trike.
The longtail is generally the most agile and lightweight of the three types of cargo bikes. It generally can fit one to three children on the rear in either a bike seat or via a “cage” on the deck. Examples include the Xtracycle and Radpower Radwagon. A longtail with a shorter deck is often referred to as a midtail.
The longjohn is the most traditional family bike, and is also commonly referred to as a “bakfiets.” These aren’t seen a ton in the United States, but are very popular in the Netherlands and other European countries. They can be heavy for pedaling uphill, but can fit lots of kiddos and gear. For parents wanting to bike with babies, you can even strap a carseat in. Examples include the Riese and Muller Packster and the Urban Arrow.
The front-load trike is ideal for parents who aren’t super comfortable on a bicycle and want a lot of stability or have a lot of kids to transport. Again, the biggest downside to these bike is that they can be heavy. Examples are the Bunch Bike and Christiania.
Some cargo bikes are also folding bikes. These make it easier to take them on public transportation or to store in small spaces. Examples of these are the Bike Friday Haul-A-Day and the Tern GSD.
Our Favorite Family Bikes
|1||Xtracycle (Swoop or Classic)||$2,415+||Longtail||Yes|
|2||Riese and Müller Packster||$6,439+||Bakfiets||Yes|
|4||Madsen||$1,995+||Bakfiets (kind of?)||Yes|
|5||Bunch Bike||$2,999+||Front Load Trike||Yes|
|7||Surly Big Dummy||$2,249+||Longtail||Yes (Big Easy)|
|8||Yuba Spicy Curry||$4,750||Longtail||Yes|
|9||Bike Friday Haul-a-Day||$1,850+||Longtail||Yes|
Xtracycle Swoop or Classic
Want to keep things simple? Check out the Xtracycle. It can fit up to three kids, haul bikes, and go almost anywhere. You can get it with or without e-assist.
The Classic version has a higher, more traditional top tube, while the Swoop has (you guessed it) a downward swooping top-tube that allows you to easily step thru and get on or off the bike.
For young kids, you can easily install the Thule Yepp Maxi on the rear deck, and for older kids the Hooptie cage provides a fun ride.
Read Our Review: Xtracycle
Riese and Müller Packster
Is there anything you can’t carry in the Riese & Muller Packster? Not much. With the child seat, you can haul two kids in safety with the 5-point harnesses, plus all their stuff.
Sound heavy? No fear. The bike has a Bosch Performance CX electric assist system that can handle all but the steepest hills, even fully loaded.
Read Our Review: Riese & Muller Packster
If you’ve decided you want an electric cargo bike for hauling the kiddos around town, but are struggling to stomach the necessary investment, check out the Radpower Radwagon. It’s WAY more affordable than most electric longtails, but doesn’t cut a lot of corners to make it happen.
Our family owns and uses a Radwagon nearly daily and we love the bike. It’s easy to mount up to two bike seats on the rear deck AND panniers. I use it for dropping the kiddo off at school, but I don’t feel silly using it afterward to run errands (like I do with our bakfiets).
Read Our Review: Radpower Radwagon
Madsen Cargo Bike
We’re partial to the Madsen bike because they are based out of our (previous) hometown of Salt Lake City, UT. They also happen to look really, really cool.
The Madsen is unique in that it comes in lots of pretty colors and that the “bucket” is located at the rear of the bike instead of the front. If you want to bike around town with the kids, and look good doing it, the Madsen is your bike.
Read Our Review: Madsen Cargo Bike
The Bunch Bike is a haul-everything machine. Our family uses ours for hauling our kiddo (plus his friends), bikes, scooters, camp chairs for watching soccer practice, soccer balls, tennis rackets, etc, etc, etc.
There are two benches with seatbelts for up to 4 kids in the bucket (and you can add a seat on the rear rack as well). There is also storage under the benches, and they can be removed all together if you want to carry additional cargo.
You can buy the bike with or without an electric assist, but the bike is heavy enough that I’d STRONGLY recommend choosing the electric version unless you live in an area without any hills.
Read Our Review: Bunch Bike
Tern GSD S10
Has every there been a cargo bike with more cult-like enthusiasm than the Tern GSD? I think not!
Of course, this loyalty is well deserved and hard won. The Tern GSD S10 can carry two kids, but only fits the footprint of a regular bike.
This makes it super convenient for families who want to take it on the train or bus, store it in a small apartment, or who want to be able to maneuver the bike in tight city spaces. The bike folds up for transport or storage.
While the bike may be small in size, it’s nothing if not powerful. It can haul up to 400 pounds, and has a 250 watt motor.
Surly Big Dummy
The Surly Big Dummy is another long-tail that should be on your shortlist of options. Like the Xtracycle, the Big Dummy accepts the Thule Yepp Maxi seat on the rear or allows passengers to sit on the deck with a rail system.
This one is popular amongst mountain bikers, and folks who hope to ride dirt with the kiddo in tow. In fact, you can also opt for the Surly Big Fat Dummy which is even better suited for off-road riding, or the Big Easy with electric assist.
Yuba Spicy Curry
If you are looking for an e-bike, consider the Yuba Spicy Curry. The popular bike has recently been upgraded with a Bosch motor so you can speed up steep hills.
The Spicy Curry isn’t cheap, but compared to a car it is–and it comes with all the extras: lights, fenders, kickstand, wheelskirt, etc. It also has hydraulic disc brakes which are a step up from the mechanical disc brakes found on most cargo bikes.
Bike Friday Haul-a-Day
Smaller riders and cyclists in hilly cities, rejoice. The Bike Friday Haul-a-Day is a lightweight and nimble family bike option.
The 24-speed drivetrain provides plenty of allowance for big climbs, and the low standover height is awesome when juggling a bike and kiddos. It also means that riders as short as 4 foot 6 inches will fit on this bike.
Need an electric assist? That’s an option too.
Honorable Mentions (By Type)
Want even more options? All of the following bikes are popular with families with kids.
Longtail Family Cargo Bikes
Longjohn/Bakfiets Family Cargo Bikes
- Virtue Bikes School Bus ($1,400+)
- Larry vs Harry Bullit ($3,300+)
- Urban Arrow Family Bike ($5,950+)
Front Load Trikes
- Taga Bike ($2,471+)
- Nihola Family ($3,999+)
- Butchers & Bicycles MK-1E ($4,995+)
- Christiana Bikes