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Flywheel | March 01, 2023
Exploring the recent slew of new cargo bike launches, expert tips on buying a cargo bike, and featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.
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The observation of the week explores the recent slew of new cargo bike launches and provides expert tips on buying a cargo bike. This week’s featured vehicles are a recently launched SUV of emopeds for India, two cargo bikes, a scrambler, and a budget performance escooter.
Observation of the Week
Exploring the recent slew of new cargo bike launches and expert tips on buying a cargo bike
Consider a breakdown of the form factors of used ebikes sold in major US regions since Jan 2022:
Only 2.77% of the vehicles listed were cargo bikes. However, I fundamentally believe that cargo bikes are going to one of the most important form factors in increasing mainstream adoption of micromobility, and I expect this category to grow tremendously.
This sentiment seems to be echoed by the industry. Just in the past two months, many of micromobility’s leading brands have launched new cargo bike models. From Lectric’s XPedition and Aventon’s Abound to Trek’s Fetch Plus 2 (longtail) and Fetch Plus 4 (bakfiet), or even Rad Power’s new RadTrailer that was launched alongside the latest version of the RadRunner, it’s clear that cargo bikes are having a moment.
One reason why there seems to be this shift in focus towards cargo bikes is that they are ridden much more than other ebike types. Consider the mean mileage of used ebikes listed in major US regions since Jan 2022, broken down by form factor:
Used cargo bikes have an average mileage of 766.5mi, almost double that of commuter, sport, or, performance ebikes.
If people are to consider ebikes as practical car replacements, these vehicles need to be able to provide more utility beyond just transporting one rider. Particularly when we hope to bring new people to micromobility that weren’t already avid bicyclists, catering to use-cases like hauling heavier loads or transporting multiple riders is critical.
I spoke to a number of bike shops, OEMs, and riders that have replaced their cars with cargo bikes to get their expert tips on considerations when buying a cargo bike. A summary of what they recommend new buyers look for or keep an eye out for (aside from the obvious like payload, range, and torque):
Throttle: Bikes are no longer just for exercise, and people are starting to use them for more than just getting themselves around for leisure or short commuting trips. When these vehicles start to focus on utility and their payloads become heavier, there’s no reason to force riders to pedal. The increased utility of cargo bikes also attracts a wider audience (i.e. parents, delivery riders), and throttles make these vehicles significantly more accessible to these new riders.
Space and portability: Cargo bikes are heavier and longer than commuter ebikes. They can take up a lot of space and are often difficult to maneuver into your apartment, on a car etc. It’s important to consider how they fit into your life even when you’re not riding them. Some ebikes have smart space saving features (i.e. Terns can be stood up vertically), while many others offer various levels of folding to make them more portable.
Rider height and cargo rack height: When transporting more payload than just yourself, it can be hard to manage the vehicle’s center of gravity. Either when turning, going over a speed bump, or even just standing at a stop, balancing cargo bikes is tricky. Many cargo bikes are typically short to address this issue, but some of the best cargo bikes have a larger front tire than rear tire to give you a big attack angle while keeping cargo low to the ground.
Longtail vs Bakfiets: Longtail cargo bikes have a long cargo rack behind the main rider, while Bakfiets have a large cargo box in between the main rider and the front wheel. While Bakfiets typically have much more cargo capacity, it’s important to keep in mind that they are more challenging to maneuver and take up more storage space. For context, as noted in a previous edition of Flywheel, the best selling and the most ridden used cargo bikes in the US are all longtails.
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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The River Indie is an Indian emoped launched just this last week. Dubbed the SUV of emopeds, the Indie is packed with a rugged powertrain and a series of highly practical design decisions for cargo hauling. The powertrain features a 6.7kW motor and a 4kWh battery pack, giving riders a max speed of 90kmph (~56mph) and an estimated range of 120km (~74mi). While these powertrain specs are impressive, it’s the high utility features that really make the Indie stand out. The underseat compartment has 43L of storage, and the lockable glovebox has another 12L of storage. You can even mount an optional top box on the built-in rear rack for an additional 25L of storage. And if all of that space isn’t enough, there’s front foot pegs so that you can use the entirety of the extra wide floorboard to carry cargo (with an optional detachable floor cage), and there’s even built-in “Lock&Load” mounts on the rear for panniers. This level of storage capacity is unheard of on other emopeds. As the title “SUV of mopeds” would suggest, there’s also fat 14” tires (larger than those of most emopeds) and dual hydraulic suspension to give smooth rideability over any bumps or potholes. Ola and Ather are River’s two main emoped competitors in the Indian market. While the Indie is similarly priced to scooters from these two brands, it packs far more functionality than the others given that they are moreso just commuters. As an aside, I want to reiterate the remarkably low price point of this vehicle. The Indie retails at $1,515, a price point that even budget ebikes barely meet. Listing can be found here.
Launched just this past Tuesday, the Aventon Abound is a high-quality yet affordable class-2 cargo bike. The powertrain features a 750W (~80Nm) rear geared hub motor controlled by a torque sensor or throttle and a 720Wh battery pack. The addition of a torque sensor is notable given that they markedly improve how smooth and instantaneous the pedal assistance feels, so it’s great to see more and more brands starting to incorporate a feature that was once only available on much more expensive ebikes. There’s hydraulic brakes and a suspension fork to give confident handling of the 440lb payload capacity, and the integrated long rear rack, running boards, turn signals, and double kickstand all help offer instant utility right out of the box. One other interesting feature is the dropper seat, which allows you to lower the seat height or snap it back up without getting off the vehicle. This is really useful when hauling cargo because it allows you to stand flat footed at stops but also ride at an ergonomic height. It’s a little detail that makes a world of difference for this use-case, and is rarely found even for vehicles retailing for $5K+. To add to all of this, Aventon also offers an awesome array of accesories to fully kit out your Abound into a utility workhorse. Falling somewhere between the high-end (i.e. Tern and Urban Arrow) and the budget side (i.e. Lectric and Rad Power), the Abound has a truly superb build quality and premium componentry while still being affordable. Listing can be found here.
The Brühaul is a class-1 cargo bike by the performance racing brand Felt. Its powertrain features a 60Nm Bosch Performance Line mid-drive motor, a 396Wh Samsung battery pack, and a 10-speed Shimano transmission. One useful vehicle health feature of the Brühaul is that its powertrain has shift sensing functionality, which lowers the motor torque when shifting to protect the transmission components. The Brühaul has a 400lb payload capacity yet is shockingly light at 53lbs. This combines well with the Bosch mid-drive to give you a very smooth, responsive, and almost commuter-esque ride. In fact, the rear-rack is actually removable if you just wanted to use the Brühaul as a sporty commuter. The front and rear wheels can also be removed via quick-release pins, so it’s super easy to take apart the vehicle to transport it in your car. This listing is a bit overpriced given that it has a fairly significant mileage of ~1350mi and the model is a bit dated (launched in 2016). However, if the seller is willing to lower the asking price, this could be a compelling option for a highly portable and agile cargo bike. Listing can be found here.
The Urban Drivestyle UNI Moke is a class-2/class-3 retro fat-tire scrambler. The powertrain features a fat-tire specific 80Nm Bafang rear hub motor that is controlled by a torque sensor and a 696Wh removable battery pack. Given the motorbike style, the UNI Moke has hydraulic brakes and motor inhibitors in the brake pedal to give riders punchy stopping, which combine with 20” by 4” fat-tires and a front suspension to really let riders wrangle the vehicle in a very agile way. This handling makes the UNI Moke a capable off-roader, but an even better urban commuter. The massive motorbike front LED lamp in particular is a great feature that improves visibility on city roads. There’s also a long banana seat and several foot peg mounting spots so that you can configure it for one or two passengers. This listing is a rare find in the US, not only because UNI Mokes were primarily sold in Europe and Asia, but also because Urban Drivestyle unfortunately went out of business in Jan 2023. However, they’ve slowly been arranging partnerships with well established manufacturers and service partners to assist customers with maintenance. This listing has only been ridden a few times (Flywheel estimated mileage of ~194mi). Listing can be found here.
The NIU KQi3 Max is a high-performance budget escooter. NIU is a mainstay in the electric two-wheeler world, and has already sold more than 3M vehicles globally to date. The company made its name via its smart emopeds, but has recently ventured (quite successfully) into the world of escooters. The KQi3 Max’s powertrain consists of a 450W rear hub motor and a 608Wh battery pack, giving riders 23mi of range at a max speed of 22mph. It’s quite a sporty vehicle with quick acceleration, but it is supported by a best-in-class triple braking system. Featuring front and rear disc brakes, as well as regenerative braking on the rear hub, the KQi3 offers braking that’s even better than that of high-end, $2K+ scooters. This is largely due to their novel “dual action” brake calipers, which clamp down on both sides of the disc to brake. The vehicle also has self-healing tubeless tires that automatically seal when punctured, which is great for maintenance purposes but does make the ride a bit stiffer. One of my favorite UX features on this vehicle is its “New User Mode," which limits the first mile of riding after unboxing the vehicle to a max speed of 9mph. This is a simple yet thoughtful addition that ensures that riders have time to safely learn and get accustomed to the vehicle. This listing is for a brand new, unopened KQi3 Max, and a great way to get a further discount on a vehicle that is already the most affordable performance scooter out there. Listing can be found here.
That’s it for this edition. Thanks again for joining, see you next week!
- Puneeth Meruva
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