Sunday, 5 April 2009

Longtail bicycles: Entering the mainstream

Ten years ago, the American company Xtracycle launched a bolt-on bicycle accessory - extending the rear end of any bicycle, converting it into a cargo carrying bicycle. Now the longtail bicycle concept are slowly entering the mainstream bicycle market, as a useful everyday transportation tool. Here is an overview.

Top photo: Madsen bicycle by Carfreedays under a Creative Commons licence

You may wonder what is the point of this bicycles. (You may also wonder why anyone will buy bicycles this ugly). Both questions can be answered rather simply: They are useful. They can carry a lot of stuff. They allow you to use your bicycle instead of your car from time to time. That's the main points of longtail cargo bicycles. If you are too bothered by the looks, you are missing the point.

There are lots more to be said about the growing longtail cargo bicycle category, and the ever excellent Bike Hugger has already summed most of it up in these three articles:

That easily saved me a whole lot of thinking and typing, leaving only the pictures left... Well, actually, I'll for sure get back to this topic (partly because it's gonna be hot in the bicycle business soon) - but for now, here is simply an overview of who makes what.

Someone is missing, I know, the question is who?
Email me at, and I'll put 'em up.

Surly Big Dummy
Surly has always been strong on utility, with a no-nonsene line of bicycles. The Big Dummy is built by the now open source Xtracycle Longtail Standard - meaning any of the useful Xtracycle accessories will fit directly on the rear end.

Yuba Mundo
The heavy duty bicycle truck among the longtails - this robust German longtail can handle up to 440 pounds/200 kg of load on the back wheel. A very sturdy (and heavy) frame combined with a super strong, 48-spoke rear wheel is key here.

Kona Ute
This is the 2009 version of the Kona Ute - the American/Canadian bicycle brand most known for their mountain bike lineup is among the very few mainstream companies with a longtail on the market. Not Xtracycle compatible, though.

Xtracycle Radish
Longtail pioneers Xtracycle deserves credit for being the driving power of the modern longtail movement, at least in the US market. After ten years of making the Free Radical longtail conversion kit, they now finally released their first complete longtail bicycle.

Gary Fisher El Ranchero

This is only a prototype, shown at the 2008 bike shows. But mountain bike pioneer Gary Fisher is a strong believer in the utility bike market, and the El Ranchero is expected to launch for 2010 in compliance with the open source Xtracycle standard:

The Madsen kg271 lends to the European box bike-tradition, with their very own twist - placing the box behind the saddle, and using a smaller reat wheel to maximize the capacity. The "bucket" can seat three childres without problems.

Vanilla Cycles
One-off custom build. Photo by Clever Cycles

One-off custom build.
Photo by EthanPDX at a Creative Commons licence

Hunter High Plains Drifter:
One-off custom build.

Fietsfabrik Pack Max Duo
This Dutch special model is the odd one out here, with two kiddie seats mounted and ready. The Dutch market is already stuffed with several different cargo bike models - but this one is one of a few that place most of the luggage in the back.


patrick said...

Great listing of long-tails, although it might be helpful to have costs next to them.

The only one I noticed that you didn't have is the Project Rwanda Coffee Bike, a bicycle designed by Tom Ritchey to allow Rwandans to transport coffee to market more quickly and easily. While intended for use in Africa, some are listed for sale for $750 and are a pretty good bargain compared to the cost of the others.

I'm still trying to figure out which would be most useful/cost-effective for me. I loved the Yuba Mundo, but the El Ranchero looks amazing. Not sure I could afford either or how to deal with my 2 year old for now.

Unknown said...

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