A cargo bike is essentially any bicycle, tricycle or pedal-powered four-wheeler which was designed specifically to carry a load – large or small. In its simplest form, a cargo bike can be a bike with a built-in, reinforced front basket for heavier-than-normal daily transportation needs. In its most complex, it could be an electric-assist box trike with refrigeration capabilities. While these days, the variations of cargo bikes on the market create a bit of crossover between the categories, most cargo bikes fit roughly into the following six types:
Utility bikes are built with a traditional wheelbase, but with reinforced frames that enable them to carry larger loads than a standard bicycle. They often have metal front baskets and/or back racks built onto the frame, and are designed to be nimble and easier to ride than larger cargo bikes while still maintaining considerable carrying capacity.
Cycle trucks have the same overall size of a standard city bike, but they have a smaller front wheel (typically 20″ compared to a 26″ rear), with a front rack affixed to the frame over the wheel. The rack either has a box mounted to it, or has mounting options for when you need the box, and space for when you don’t.
Longtails have an extra-long wheelbase at the back, which accommodates an extended, built-in deck to carry cargo or children. Longtails typically come with open-top panniers to hold cargo at the sides, have hooks for webbing to secure cargo on top, and have options for handles or backrests to transport children.
Long Johns were developed in Denmark in the early 20th century. They have an extraordinarily long wheelbase at the front and a smaller front wheel, with the cargo area or an attached wooden basket sitting low to the ground between the handlebars and front wheel. Today, the Long John design has more or less been absorbed into the category of Bakfiets, or Box Bikes, which were developed in The Netherlands in the late 19th century. While Bakfiets were originally a cargo tricycle with a wooden box between the two parallel wheels, modern bakfiets can be either a trike or a two-wheeled Long John design with an integrated box. A few of the brands below make both box bikes and box trikes.
Tricycles or Cycle Rickshaws usually feature an elongated frame with two wheels at the front or back for added stability, with a cargo platform, box, or seat between the two wheels. Cycle rickshaws are common in parts of Asia and Africa as bike taxis, while cargo trikes (often with a box) are common in Europe for personal use, and are becoming increasingly popular in North America.