Choosing Between Ladies Bicycles And Cargo Bikes

Robin Khan By Robin Khan, 22nd Jun 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Shopping>High Street Shops

Bicycles, especially traditional ladies bicycles, have been modified in many ways to tow passengers and tote groceries and other gear, but they’re now in a competition with cargo bikes for the title of most useful family bike.

Ladies Bicycles And Cargo Bikes

Cargo bikes are the hottest things in cycling. They’re growing in popularity all over Europe, and they’re becoming an unusual but daily sight on the streets of Dublin, Limerick, and other major metropolitan areas. If you’ve never seen a cargo bike, they’re a conventional bicycle with an extended frame that allows you to carry a lot of packages, or even a passenger.

Cargo Bikes Come in Many Forms

The exact configuration of cargo bikes is being expanded all the time, with some of the larger models able to carry a load exceeding 200 kg. The largest versions of the bikes have a small electric motor on-board to get the bike rolling from a standing start, or to help negotiate a grade. Many feature a single box with a lid on a low, slender platform located behind the rider. There are also more family-oriented versions of the bike available. The frame of the bike resembles a beefed-up mixte frame. Mixte is a French design that was a popular choice for ladies bicycles in the 1960s and 1970s, but has mostly fallen out of favour. Today’s ladies bicycles usually feature swan style or loop frames. These are called step through frames, and while the mixte has a lowered top tube design, you are still required to lift your leg fairly high to clear it.

Mixte Frames Are Strong

Ladies bicycles with mixte frames have one big advantage over step through designs with curved tubes. While they are not as naturally rigid as a traditional men’s bicycles with triangle shaped frames, they’re much stronger than any step through frame. Cargo bikes have many different types of frames, with the largest units relying on a long flat platform that makes the unit look like an over-sized scooter. The frame design for cargo bikes that most often competes with conventional ladies bikes has a hybrid mixte-shaped frame that incorporates a beefed-up rear package rack with a padded seat on top. There’s a flat running board on both sides of the rear wheel, and a second set of handlebars attached to the front seat pillar. There’s often a large basket on the front of this design as well.

Built to Last, Not to Race

Like so-called Dutch style ladies bicycles, cargo bikes for family use are not built to be ultralight, high performance road bicycles. They’re designed with reinforced frames using heavy steel tubing to stand up to the strains of multiple passengers and heavy loads. Family-style cargo bikes can carry a second fully-grown passenger like a bicycle built for two, but it’s not a novelty ride. There’s only one crank, so the person on the back is truly a passenger. In most ways, it has more in common with ladies bicycles equipped with a tow-along trailer that accommodates one or two toddlers.

Best on Level Ground

On level ground, a family style cargo bike could fit three, or even four people at once, with a baby in a car seat in the front basket, and two children on the back in addition to the rider. That kind of weight would be challenging on even a shallow incline, however. In addition to the amount of weight on the bike, the centre of gravity of the bike would be quite high, and keeping it upright would be a challenge when stopped. That’s one reason why the largest cargo delivery bikes have a very low platform for the box it carries. With the bottom of the box almost down to the level of the crankshaft, it’s easier to keep the bike steadier when stopping. Kickstands are also beefed up a great deal to make it easier to keep the bike upright when the rider gets off it completely.

Ladies bicycles are almost always heavier than a comparable men’s bike design, because of the need for more steel tubing for the frame. The tubing itself is also thicker in section in order to provide the stiffness required by any frame design not based on a triangle. For daily commuters, a heavy bike isn’t much of drawback, and it can even have beneficial stabilizing effects on bikes when travelling over surfaces like cobbles and trolley tracks that are common features in old city centres like Dublin and Waterford.

Men Now Prefer Step Through Frames As Well

Men have largely adopted step through frames for daily commuting bicycles, because they are dressed in regular street clothes and can’t ride to work hunched over dropped handlebars. Ladies bicycles were traditionally more likely to be fitted with racks and baskets for carrying their handbag or groceries. Over time, men and women have seen the benefit of a heavier bike that can carry things like a laptop bag, backpack, or business briefcase or folio. When children become part of the equation, the options for carrying them along on the bike become very limited. As soon as children are too big for a car seat that can be strapped into basket, they’re too big to ride safely on conventional ladies bicycles.

Everyone Rides Together

In almost every case, really young children are safest when towed in a trailer behind the bicycle, and of course should be wearing a helmet at all times. Once children are big enough to ride a bike of their own, they may also be good candidates to ride on a family cargo bike. If you’re a busy woman who has children too young to leave home but old enough to ride on a bicycle with you, a family cargo bike makes taking them along on short errands safe and easy. Even with your children seated behind you, you’ll have plenty of room in the baskets and racks for groceries or other parcels you accumulate on your trips. Adding one or two children to a ride on a family cargo bike is a much easier trip to organize than trying to lead a small parade of bicycles, and safer, too. For women with growing families, cargo bikes might soon become the most popular type of ladies bicycles.

Image by Royston Rascals


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