Interbike: Bikes for the long haul

Utility bikes for hauling cargo

The world is getting flatter thanks to modern technology, and cargo hauling bikes are becoming popular. The internet has brought Third World issues to our attention more rapidly the past few years, and the bike industry is responding.

There were a handful of single-seated, tandem-looking bikes at Interbike recently. Based on the designs of British, Dutch and French delivery bikes of the past, the cargo bikes serve a purpose both in developed countries like the U.S. and England, where fuel prices have broken through the ceiling. Ideal for grocery shopping or hauling friends, the cargo bikes are likely to catch on big the next few years, as manufacturers refine their designs and standardize.

Nearly every bike that fits the cargo bike label is made from steel tubing, and unlike the recumbent or tandem market, is relatively affordable for a niche market. It helps that a larger company like Kona is getting involved early, bringing more legitimacy (and a worldwide dealer market) to the cause. Frame designs are similar, especially when a load-bearing concept is considered and a target price point is met.

Kona Ute

The US$899 Kona Ute is made from aluminium tubing, and is the more refined model among those highlighted below. Front disc brake, complete Shimano drivetrain and a wooden deck with a cargo bag, all from the makers of a complete line of mountain bikes. Two frame sizes available, 18- and 20-inch. Kona is also involved with raising money for the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) through its Interbike bowling fundraiser. www.konaworld.com

Yuba Mundo

The Berkeley, California-based Yuba Cycles company has taken the concept launched by Xtracycle a handful of years ago and made an affordable line of cargo bikes specifically for the Third World. The 6'9" long Yuba Mundo can haul three passengers or up to 440lbs, and is priced between US$730 and $1,080 for a singlespeed or 6-speed version. www.yubaride.com

Madsen kg271/Bucket bike

The US$1,299 Madsen Bucket bike is designed with a heavy-duty rack to hold a plastic "bucket" and up to 600lbs of people or stuff. The bike, loosely based on Dutch bikes, resembles a cross between an old 3-speed Raleigh Superbe and a Velorbis Long John delivery bike. Several options available, including three colours, wooden flatbed, front basket and a cooler attachment. www.madsencycles.com

Project Rwanda Coffee bike

In 2005, Chicago-based businessmen with ties to Rwanda approached mountain bike pioneer Tom Ritchey about getting involved with the tiny African country. The California-based bike designer worked closely with Schwinn to develop the Project Rwanda coffee bike, to assist Rwanda's coffee farmers transport coffee cherries to the washing stations quicker and more efficiently, thereby gaining higher profits for freshness. For a US$1,000 donation, you receive a Coffee bike, some Project Rwanda swag, Rwanda coffee beans and a US$800 tax write-off. www.projectrwanda.org

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