Imagine a world in which it is convenient and practical to forgo the minivan and pick up a bike instead. Of course, a family 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 Stoker)||$4,999||Longtail||Yes|
|2||Riese and Müller Packster||$8,799+||Bakfiets||Yes|
|4||Madsen||$2,645+||Bakfiets (kind of?)||Yes|
|5||Bunch Bike||$4,999||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. All Xtracycle models now include an electric assist.
The Stoker 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 Load
Is there anything you can’t carry in the Riese & Muller Load? Not much. With the child seat, you can haul two kids in safety with the 5-point harnesses, plus all their stuff.
One of our biggest complaints about bucket bikes for kids is that they tend to be a bit of a bumpy, rough ride. The Riese & Muller has addressed this by offering FULL suspension. Much more comfy for both the passengers and the riders, particularly on pot-holed or gravel roads.
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 (older version)
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.
The bike currently only comes in an electric assist version, and the bike is heavy enough that you’ll need it to get up the steep 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.
Read Review: Tern GSD
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.
Read Review: Surly Big Dummy
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.
Read Review: Yuba Spicy Curry
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.
Read Review: Bike Friday Haul-A-Day
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 ($2,149+)
- Larry vs Harry Bullit ($3,300+)
- Urban Arrow Family Bike ($5,950+)
- Babboe ($1,649+)
Front Load Trikes
Things To Consider When Choosing A Family Bike
How Many Kids You’re Hauling
The number of kids (and pets!) you’re hauling will help determine what kind of bike you need. With a longtail cargo bike, you’re pretty much limited to 2 kids. You might be able to add a front mounted bike seat until your youngest gets too big, or haul a trailer–but neither of those situations are ideal.
For more kids, choose a bucket style bike. Look for one that has as many seats and/or seatbelts as you have children.
How Far You’ll Be Biking, The Number Of Hills, & How Heavy Your Load Is
Before buying a family bike, consider how you’ll be using the bike. Are you riding 1 mile to preschool and the library? Do you live at the top of a steep hill? Do you plan on carrying groceries plus kids? Do you hope to replace your car?
The further you’ll be biking, the more kids you’re carrying, and the more hilly your city is, the more likely you’ll need a bike with an e-assist. (We discussed this a bit earlier).
That said, you also want to pay attention to the power of the motor (watts), the battery storage, and the range of the whole system. The more you plan on using the bike, the more it makes sense to invest in a high-quality electric setup.
Do You Need To Carry Cargo Also?
Do you plan on only carrying kids, or will you be carrying cargo as well? Will there be times you’re carrying both at the same time.
If you’re looking at a longtail cargo bike, consider if you can mount both a seat and panniers. Or maybe there are mounts for a front basket.
Bucket bikes are a little easier to carry both kids and gear, but again consider the design. Do the seats have storage space underneath them, for example.
Is There A Local Dealer?
I’m certainly not afraid to order online. Many of the direct to consumer brands (like Radpower) are putting out bikes at a price that is just too good to ignore.
That said, if you aren’t bike savvy at all, it can really help to have a local bike dealer nearby that can help addresss any issues you might have. Buying from a local dealer also gives you the opportunity to test ride the bike you’re considering before making the big purchase.