Instagram moms, pull out your credit cards. You’re not going to be able to resist the Madsen bucket bike. This cargo bike is charming, holds up to four kids, and turns heads around the neighborhood.
Of course, it’s more than just a pretty bike. The Madsen bike is a minivan alternative–an environmentally-friendly way to transport kids (and all their gear) around town.
Review In A Nutshell
- Holds up to 4 kids or 600 lbs
- Looks pretty, comes in multiple colors
- Comes in either a manual version or pedal-assist version (e-assist can be added after the fact)
- Sturdy kickstand makes loading and unloading a cinch
- Includes built-in lock
- Fits riders of different heights
- Challenging to “get going”
- Limited range of gears
Price: From $1,995 (standard), from $3,650 (electric)
Madsen Video Review
Unique Rear Bucket Holds Up To Four Kids (With Seatbelts) Or 600 lbs Of Cargo
Have lots of kids? The Madsen offers a fun environmentally-friendly alternative to the minivan lifestyle.
The bike can hold up to four kids (with seatbelts!) on two bench seats. This makes it an attractive option for families with more than two children. Many cargo bikes, like the Xtracycle for example, can really only manage two kids. Maybe three if you really get creative.
I also liked that the bench seats face each other, so the whole experience for kids is very sociable.
While the bucket is clearly designed for kid-hauling, it can also be used for cargo when it’s not full with kids. I managed to haul $200 worth of groceries home easily in the bucket; and on another day, I used it to transport my road bike.
That said, take note that the wheel runs thru the center of the bucket which means it is raised in the center. This means you can’t fit quite as much cargo inside as you would assume at first glance.
The bike holds up to 597 pounds–which is a lot. And yes, this means you can even fit an adult inside. (You’ll want to try it, trust me). We fit my sister-in-law in the pocket along with two kiddos. She’s small, but they all fit no problem.
The “fully loaded” Madsen also includes a front rack, so you can carry even more gear if needed.
Stable When Riding But Can Be Challenging To Get Started
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad you say?
The bike is hard to get started. Without any passengers or cargo in the back, it’s fine, but add in some weight and the bike feels tippy. In fact, I dumped the bike on its side twice during testing. (Luckily nobody was hurt, nor was the bike).
The good news is that once you get started, motion is your friend. While moving, the bike felt much more stable than anticipated and WAY easier even than riding with a trailer-cycle, for example.
Getting started was much easier when using the pedal-assist than without. Which brings me to my next point…
Pedal Assist Made Riding A Blast
The bike I tested was the electric Madsen, and let me tell you something: that pedal assist was LIFE CHANGING. I was easily able to maintain 20 mph even when cruising uphills.
The fact that I didn’t break a sweat, and I could get places so quickly, meant that I found myself happily biking on trips that I would have usually taken in the car.
The bike has a 750 Watt Bafang mid drive motor, as well as a LCD display. The e-assist has 9 power levels, for me personally, I found riding around a 4 gave me lots of power and a long battery life.
Should You Choose The Electric Madsen?
The electric-assist version of the Madsen is significantly more expensive. But for many, the upgrade may be worthwhile.
If you only plan on doing shorter neighborhood rides or you live in an area with flat roads, you’ll probably be just fine with the traditional Madsen.
That said, if you are looking to replace a majority of the trips you might normally take in the car, ride longer distances, or you live in a city with steep hills, totally go for the electric assist if you can swing it. Without an assist, I found big hills to be EXTREMELY challenging.
Another option, is to start out with the traditional Madsen. They offer the e-assist as an after-market add-on, so you can always upgrade later if you decide you need it.
Limited Range Of Gears Meant Being Overgeared On Steep Hills And Undergeared On Gradual Downhills
The Madsen bucket bike has a SRAM X5 9-speed drivetrain. While a limited number of gears keeps things simple and easier to maintain, I did find that I was often left wanting for a gear that I didn’t have.
On uphills, I was fine while using the pedal assist, but without it, I was undergeared. Meaning, I had to really mash the pedals to make it up steeper hills.
On pedal-y downhills, I was definitely undergeared. There were lots of times I simply had to accept coasting downhill, because my legs were spinning out.
Mechanical Disc Brakes Offered Plenty Of Stopping Power For Me…But May Not Be Powerful Enough For Folks In Cities With Steep Hills
As you can imagine, having 600 pounds of cargo on a bike necessitates powerful brakes for stopping. The Madsen has Tektro mechanical disc brakes to help slow and stop all that inertia.
In my experience testing the bike, the brakes worked great even on downhills. I never had a moment where I felt like I couldn’t stop.
That said, I have heard from other families that live in super hills cities (like San Francisco) that they could use a more robust braking system. Bigger rotors and/or hydraulic disc brakes would be ideal for a bike with so much weight (though the latter adds additional maintenance requirements which is a drawback).
Looks Beautiful And Comes In An Array Of Color Options
Let’s be honest, if you’ve read this far, chances are you are really interested in a Madsen cargo bike. And you’re probably really interested in a Madsen, because they LOOK PRETTY.
In the week that I had the bike, I got MANY comments. The bike is truly a head-turner.
And while I had the bike in classic black, the bike also comes in an array of colorful options. So no matter what your Instagram color scheme is, you can probably find a bike to match.
Tires Aren’t Tubeless…And Are Difficult To Change If You Get A Flat
I understand that most cargo bikes don’t have tubeless tires, but holy smokes, they should you guys! All the bikes I buy now-a-days have tubeless wheelset, because not having to change flat tires is life changing.
And yes, I did end up getting a flat tire in the short time I had the bike. On the rear wheel. Which is 20-inches.
Luckily, I was at home when I noticed the flat (and I had a 20 inch tube on hand), because changing a flat on the rear wheel would be high-nigh impossible if you were out on the road by yourself. Lifting the bike up to get the wheel off (and back on), was a two person job.
This is something worth considering if you’re going to be riding long distances alone with your kids. I’m really not sure what I would have done if I was far from home by myself and had gotten a flat on the bike. And I’m a pretty savvy tire-changer.
Thru-Axles Provide Additional Stability And Safety
Both the front and rear wheels offer thru-axles in lieu of the more traditional quick-release skewer. This provides additional stability–which is important when we’re talking about such a heavy load.
It also provides additional security, because it’s a lot harder for a thru-axle to come loose and back itself out than it is with a quick-release skewer.
Sturdy Kickstand Makes Loading And Unloading A Cinch
The Madsen bike comes with a bomb-proof kickstand installed. It provides a ton of stability, and made me feel safe even when my son was crawling in and out of the bike on my own.
It does take a bit of practice to back the bike up onto the kickstand, especially when you have a heavy load in the bucket. Still, with practice, it becomes second nature.
Built-In Lock Allows You To Quickly Run Into The Store
Borrowing from European bike design, the Madsen includes a built-in wheel lock. This means you can quickly and easily run into the store without trying to find a rack and mess around with a clunky lock.
That said, I was still a bit paranoid when leaving the bike in sketchier parts of town for anything longer than a few minutes. It still found myself using a chain lock when I wanted a bit of extra protection.
Rain Cover Keeps Kids Warm And Dry
If you are planning on using the bike as a car-alternitive, you’ll surely be using it on days that aren’t always sunny and warm. This is why we like that Madsen offers a rain cover to keep your little passengers warm and dry inside the bucket.
One of the days that we were testing the bike, we had a few sprinkles so we pulled it out to test. It did a good job of keeping things dry inside. With a blanket inside, things were warm and toasty.
One Size Fits All Design Works Well For Swapping Between Adults
The Madsen only comes in one frame size, which at first, seems like it might be an issue. In reality, however, we found that it worked well for adults of a variety of heights.
I comfortably rode the bike (5’5″), as did my 5’11” husband and my 5’2″ sister-in-law. The swooped top-tube means that standover clearance isn’t an issue, and a quick-release seatpost collar allows you to quickly and easily swap the bike between adults.
This makes the bike a great option for couples wanting to both use the bike.
Bottom-Line: A Fun Alternative To Mini-Van Life
If you’re looking for a cargo bike with a bit of charm and whimsy, consider the Madsen. It’s equal parts pretty and utilitarian.
Unlike many cargo bikes that are designed to haul CARGO, the Madsen is truly designed to haul KIDS. If you want to ditch your car and need to carry more than a kid or two, it’s one of your best options.
And of course, if you’re looking to give your Instagram some flair, the Madsen will do that too.
Learn More About Family Bike Options
Wanting to haul around kids by bike? Check out these articles to give you even more options.
Disclosure: We were provided a loaner bike to test for this review. We did not receive any compensation, monetary or physical, and all opinions are our own.