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Heavy things can be a lot of books, full beer cans, construction woods and other misc in a place where I cannot use a car and the trip is long and suitable for riding. So which one would you favor? And which kind of adjustment would you make to move heavy things? I have seen a post office with diamond-frame bike framed with a metallic balancing thing, for example. Any such devices for other options and what are they called? Stabilizer? Support device?

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I have long been looking for something like that but haven't yet found from second-hand market, I believe they could be reasonable priced. A more sturdy example here from Austria with side wheels, now the frame is original. I don't know yet how much such side supports can stand so open to any suggestions, does not need to be diamond-framed like in the picture.

  • What do you mean by Diamond Bike? – Amos Feb 16 '11 at 21:03
  • @Amos - a "diamond frame" bike is a conventional bike, as opposed to, say, a recumbent or a folding bike. – Neil Fein Feb 16 '11 at 21:15
  • This recent edit seems strange, because it's now asking pretty specifically about postal bikes, while the accepted answer from a month ago is about trailers, long johns, and other cargo bikes. – lantius Mar 16 '11 at 21:36
  • @Iantius - I think it's fairly clear that the author is using a postal bike as an example of one a kind of a cargo-hauling rig, although the picture added later on does seem odd. I think what hhh is looking for is pretty clear, though. – Neil Fein Mar 17 '11 at 5:12
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I would go with a four-wheel recumbent for carrying a big load any distance, just because it's comfortable and controllable. I have one, after building and trying a wide variety of load carrying bikes. It will carry 120kg in a 60x80x50cm bin (220l), and with a bit of plywood instead has carried a chest freezer and a washing machine (separately). With a trailer that has a similar bin I can carry 250kg of soil or other bulk material. It has a Rohloff hub and disk brakes on all four wheels, which makes 250kg loads relatively controllable.

The classic "long john" bike is a good compromise - they can carry 60-80kg bulk loads quite easily and are as fast and nearly as maneuverable as a similar weight diamond frame bike. But, of course, the load is in one piece, low down in front of you. Especially when carrying kids, the advantage of being able to see your load is significant. A long john can often also take a rear rack for added capacity (but you're back to breaking the load up and putting it in panniers).

If you can split the load, a Surly Big Dummy (or XtraCycle) works well, they're easier to ride than a long john but the split load makes them less flexible.

For short trips an upright trike based on a rickshaw works well, but riding slightly canted over (from road camber) is a very odd sensation that takes a bit of getting used to. I've seen one of those with a wheelchair strapped to the platform which was quite cool.

Trailers work well for loads up to about 100kg, but more than that is getting quite dangerous - if your bike falls over the trailer will not stop, it will run you over. For long loads a "jinker trailer" where you attach the load to your bike then the trailer to the back of the load can work really well. I've carried 6m lengths of bamboo and timber behind an upright bike this way. A cheap trailer is often a good start but they are usually poorly made and fall apart if used regularly. Expect to spend $500 or more for a trailer that will carry its rated load 5Mm or more.

My "big trailer" is 1m wide by 2.4m long with four wheels and inertia braks on the front wheels. It's only safe to tow behind the quad but will take ~500kg. It's more a question of how much I can pull.

  • which items do you need to do such things? Are they DIY products or did you get specs somewhere to them? – user652 Feb 16 '11 at 22:25
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    Not sure what you're asking. At a guess... I started out brazing stuff up out of chopped up bikes and bits of random steel and progressed to a TIG welder and buying new steel. It's pretty easy/cheap to start with scrap bikes and odd steel (I often prototype that way). I design myself, and share my thoughts at MozBike. It's not hard, a lot of people do it. Look for "tall bike" links as one easy search for DIY bike mods. – Мסž Feb 16 '11 at 22:44
  • More about building here: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/2908/… – user652 Mar 16 '11 at 13:24
  • have you tried the side-supports to diamond-frame bike like in the picture? Instead of making totally new design, it may be easier to add sides to the bike or perhaps even a side cargo-trailer like in motor-bikes. Anything like that tested? – user652 Mar 16 '11 at 17:47
  • @hhh: our postal service uses something like that but without the extra wheeled stand. They're cheap-ish bikes, heavy but reliable and robust. The only way to get one at a reasonable price is second hand and locally. Or build it yourself. I've not seen them as an add-on to a generic bike, only as parts of custom-built bikes (postal services buy them by the thousand) – Мסž Mar 16 '11 at 21:27
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Heavy cargo on a bike can raise the center of gravity. With smaller cargo, whether one uses a trailer or attaches the cargo to the bike (cargo racks with straps, panniers, a backpack, et cetera) is, to a point, a personal preference. (I don't know if there are recumbent cargo bikes, so I really can't comment on that.)

However, when the cargo gets large enough, a trailer will become the best option for a couple of reasons:

  • A trailer has more room than a bike's racks, baskets, or panniers. Particularly large items simply won't fit well on a bike's rack, or at least not elegantly.
  • A trailer will keep the weight lower to the ground, keeping the center of gravity lower.
  • Good-quality trailers can last a long time, but can be expensive.

However, panniers and racks have the following advantages:

  • Flexibility. One can bring four panniers along (or six on a bike like the Big Dummy) or just one.
  • Some bikes handle better with panniers on them
  • They have limited space, and can wear quickly.
  • Racks are difficult to attach on some bikes, particularly a bike with suspension or without rack eyelets on the frame. Solutions do exist for both of these scenarios.

Baskets are another option. - They have the advantage of ease of use: the user can toss stuff in the basket and roll away. - However, stuff can blow out of them, and they're heavier than panniers.

There are bikes that are built for cargo, such as the Surly Big Dummy (essentially a bike with the frame behind the saddle stretched out for better cargo placement) and box bikes. Also, there are industrial tricycles with room for large baskets in the back, designed to tote around large tool boxes and other, similar heavy stuff.

It's probably impossible to say what style of bike is best for large cargo. That's why I have several bikes, some good for hanging panniers from, some good at pulling a trailer.

Recumbent bikes can and do carry panniers or pull trailers. However, I've never seen one with any kind of basket. Perhaps someone else can weigh in on this aspect of the question?

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    A cheaper option than buying a Surly Big Dummy or other long-tailed bike would be an Xtracyle Freeradical to convert an existing bike to a long-tailed bike. – freiheit Feb 16 '11 at 21:32
  • @freiheit: the xtracycle add-on is somewhat flimsy but does work for some people. I am more used to seeing it as an intermediate step between a MTB and a full long-tail frame. Get one second hand it you can, just inspect it carefully for signs of overloading. – Мסž Mar 16 '11 at 21:28
  • I haul approx 140-150 lb loads on my Xtra. Depending on the load, I feel the frame flex, but I chose a bike with a chromoly frame and I would rather suffer flex than aluminum fracture. I have carried two kids (40lbs, 60lbs), and 35 lbs of gear, and pulled a Burley Bee trailer behind with another child in it on my Xtra. – memnoch_proxy Sep 2 '11 at 3:41
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    When hauling a load that you need to balance, having a bike with a low standover height (like a mixte or better, a step-thru frame) really helps mounting and dismounting under load. – memnoch_proxy Sep 2 '11 at 3:43
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What you are carrying and where you are carrying it are very important in deciding what vehicle to use. If I am going on a bike camping trip where I know I don't need to deal with walking stretches (like stairs, steep hiking trails), I'm much more likely to take my Xtracycle rather than my short diamond frame bike plus trailer. If I have to negotiate areas where I will need to pick my bike up to deal with stairways, I will mix a trailer and panniers as neceesary. If I need to haul kids, I might choose the Xtra. If I need to go long distances and don't need to negotiate steep climbs, a recumbent with a trailer is a very comfortable operation.

If you prefer to ride a recumbent bike and don't need a trailer, a Cargo Monster might interest you. Eugene's Human Powered Machines also makes heavier duty hauling trikes.

You might want to consider an electric assist option as well. Clever Cycles StokeMonkey is an adaptation I've seen on Xtracycles before, there are other electric assist conversions out there. Lightfoot cycles also makes electric assist recumbent trikes.

Many bicycle life-stylists have different bikes for different purposes. If you need to haul lumber, I would suggest a bike that can carry a long (8+ foot) aluminum utility trailer. If you carry lots of boxy items and want a the lowest center of gravity, you might prefer a long john like a Bullitt or CETMA cargo bike. Lightfoot cycles appears to make a cargo trike with a locker on the back, which might be appropriate if you're hauling valuables like medicines.

Your terrain and weather will also affect your choice. Bicycles might handle better in snow than trikes, but you might prefer a trike with studded tires if you want to carry a load on plowed, icy streets. If you are out in the wilderness where you might need to handle power snow, slush, ice and gravel, you might want to consider a Surley Pugsley (with 4-inch wide tires) and towing a trailer. You might invest in multiple bikes as your tasks and seasons dictate.

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www.atomiczombie.com has designs for cargo trailers and bikes if you would like to try and roll your own.

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Those Austrian postal bikes make sense in a context where the rider will be starting and stopping a lot, as those outrigger wheels will hold the bike up when the bike stops. But I don't think they'd be helpful for steady riding over longer distances.

Panniers are fine if the load can be divided among panniers, but the question refers to building materials. For that, I think a trailer is the most obvious good option. Cargo bikes (like a longjohn/bakfiets) or cargo trikes that would also be a good option, but that would be much more expensive and less flexible than a conventional bike with a trailer, and might not carry cargo as well.

The engine on a bike (us) produces so little power that it's important to optimize the bike to the purpose at hand. If a longjohn will carry everything you need and you will use it as a cargo bike enough that it makes sense to have a dedicated cargo bike, that's a good option. If it does not make sense to have a dedicated cargo bike or if the longjohn cannot carry all the cargo you need, get a trailer.

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    +1 for postal bikes. One of their qualities is that the front rack is attached to the frame: it doesn't move when changing direction. – mouviciel Sep 2 '11 at 11:58
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In my experience, an electric Yuba Mundo has worked very well. By adding a trailer to it, I've hauled very bulk loads like a love seat stacked on top of a couch. Handling and performance are good up to about 100kg, although both the bike and trailer are rated for more. With my batteries, I can comfortably go about 35km, but further trips are possible with more batteries. Here are some photos of a number of things I've hauled.

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I've carried some moderately-awkward long things on my folding bike, by strapping them to the main frame at the front and rear of the main beam.

I then strap them to the rear of the parcel rack. I could have fastened a brace to the rack that poked out the sides, would have been better.

This gave a supported length of about 1.8 metres, and any excess should be evenly shared between front and back. The maximum length of your load would be about 4 metres this way, BUT local laws may limit your maximum dimensions. Find out beforehand!

Downsides:

  • With stuff strapped to the bike frame, its really awkward to pedal on that side. You might swap out that pedal for a longer one, but its never going to be good.

  • Interference - The load may interfere with your steering, or brake/gear cables.

  • Damage - the load will rub against your paintwork somewhere and potentially marr your bike's finish.

  • Overlength - consider hanging a flag or something else to show the ends of your load. If its sharp then wrap it in cloth for the protection of others and yourself. Perhaps take the quieter roads home, and ride well-out from the curb.

  • Braking - if your load is light, this won't matter. If the load gets up in mass, it could alter the steering, braking and handling of your bike. Be slow and cautious. Brake early.

  • Tiring - you're moving more weight, it will take more work by you, so you'll get tired quicker. Don't carry big weights a long way to make a point or set an example.

  • Retention of load. I use a bunch of velcro retainining straps and some lightweight paracord to hold things down. Stop and check your lashings periodically so the load doesn't move or drop unexpectedly.

If the load is very heavy I'll use my trailer but that limits the overall length.

Last resort is simply pay extra for delivery. Its not that unusual, and getting an item delivered means someone else owns the risk while its in transit.

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    I have walked home bikes with loads I would never have been able to cycle with (but also never have been able to carry all in one go, even for a much shorter distance.) Delivery or a friend with a suitable car are often the only options. – Willeke Mar 29 '18 at 18:52

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