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Flywheel: Safety Standards for Cargo Bikes | Vehicles from Giant, Himiway, NIU, Ride1Up, & Heybike

Exploring safety standards for cargo bikes & featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week


Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of owned and used 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 safety standards for cargo bikes. This week’s featured vehicles are a road ebike, two moped-style utility bikes, a fat-tire ebike, and a tech-forward commuter.

Observation of the Week

Safety standards for cargo bikes

As more and more people have started to use ebikes for utility and work, there’s been an exponentially growing demand for cargo bikes. Although only 3.1% of the secondary market currently consists cargo bikes, the number of cargo bikes hitting the roads is quickly growing, and OEMs are following suit. At this point, most major OEMs (i.e. Rad Power, Aventon, Lectric, Trek, and Specialized) have launched cargo offerings, and many others are looking to hop on the trend.

Many ebikes ebikes now, whether traditional cargo bikes or other form factors, are claiming cargo-like payload capacities of 400lbs or higher. However, many of them don’t seem to have the frame or componentry to properly handle that kind of load. The forks, seat posts, etc. on these bikes are not robust enough to handle heavy payloads over 1000s of rides. Many of them don’t even have hydraulic brakes, instead opting for cheaper and much weaker mechanical disc brakes designed for commuter pedal bikes.

For bikes inappropriately claiming high payload capacities, it’s not just a matter of the weight on the vehicle. Vehicles with high payload capacities are also ridden much more than other vehicle types (as reported via Flywheel on The Verge), so many of these vehicles are carrying weights they’re not rated for over distances they’re not equipped to cover safely.

As the CEO of a major ebike OEM and a reader of Flywheel puts it, “we worry that the same thing that we’ve seen with battery fires (again because of a lack of safety standards) will impact cargo bikes.” The root cause of ebike fires is a combination of improperly tested/certified batteries and usage that is well beyond what the ebikes were designed for. If we don’t address similar issues for claimed payload capacities on cargo bikes, it’s not hard to see how vehicles used for heavy-load, high-mileage riding may have similarly devastating consequences.

As of today, the only standard around payload capacity is the mandatory EU standard for city ebikes, EN 15194. However, this only covers vehicles claiming up to 120kg in Max Gross Vehicle Weight. For bikes claiming to carry more than 120kg, there needs to be testing to a higher standard. Each kg over 120kg significantly magnifies the stresses and loads on vehicle components, and not scaling testing requirements accordingly is an irresponsible representation of how cargo bikes are used and the dangers posed when OEMs incorrectly claim that their vehicles have cargo-grade payload capacities. In fact, the significantly different stresses posed by heavy payloads is why the international standard for bicycles, ISO 4210, explicitly excludes cargo bikes from its scope.

The best standard to date that focuses on cargo bikes is German standard DIN 79010:2020 Cycles – Transportation bikes and cargo bikes. Published in 2020, it’s the first to specify testing methods and safety requirements for cargo bikes. DIN 79010 has some overlap with common bike standards ISO 4210 and EN 15194, but it scales the forces in the testing requirements of those standards based on the gross vehicle weight claimed. Importantly, it features unique requirements for brakes, higher load-bearing tests for the frame and fork, and additional child safety tests. It covers all sorts of cargo bikes, electric or non-electric, that are meant to haul children and/or cargo. It’s the de facto standard already accepted in many parts of Europe, and is expected to be adopted by ISO by the end of next year.

A similar EN standard for cargo bikes is also in the making. An initiative to develop an EN cargo bike standard has already been approved by the European Standardization Organization (CEN), and the work to determine its details and implementation are being led by Urban Arrow and NEN (the Royal Netherlands Standardization Institute). There are 55 other “manufacturers, test institutes, NGO’s, consumer organizations and representatives of national standardization bodies working on this standard.” The scope of this initiative, however, is limited to cargo bikes within EU’s ebike regulation (250W nominal continuous motor output & max speed of 25 km/h), and as such doesn’t fully cover commercial grade cargo bikes and bike-vans starting to be used by logistics carriers in Europe.

Standards also go beyond just safety and peace of mind for riders. An established standard for cargo bikes that sets a series of acknowledged tests allows suppliers to manufacture components that are optimized for cargo bikes. We’re already starting to see some powertrains and brakes designed for cargo bikes, and it’s critical that more cargo-grade components become available in the market.

The importance of better cargo bike standards is articulated well by the aformentioned ebike OEM CEO and Flywheel Rider: “Imagine coming down a hill in SF with your kids on the back and you brake and your fork bends backwards. The risks are too great.”

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Featured Vehicles of the Week

The Giant Roam E+ is a class-1 hybrid/hardtail road ebike and Giant's most budget-friendly model. It is available in both a high-step frame variant named GTS and a mid-step frame version called STA. Powering the Roam E+ is a 50Nm Giant SyncDrive Core mid-drive motor paired with a 406.8Wh battery pack. Despite being branded as a custom Giant motor, the SyncDrive is actually developed by Yamaha as a proprietary drive unit for Giant. It’s a motor that delivers riders ultra-responsive and intuitive pedal assistance, thanks to its smart motor controller firmware that analyzes wheel speed, cadence, and pedal torque. Rounding out the Roam E+ is a well-balanced front suspension fork and smooth hydraulic brakes. Although technically designed for leisure, its impressive componentry and Giant’s massive service network of 12K+ retailers worldwide make the Roam E+ a hard to beat, versatile option for daily commuting. It’s also noteworthy that the Roam E+ falls within the $1.5K-$3K price range for mass adoption that many of the industry’s leading brands are converging on. It’s a lower MSRP than Giant bikes are typically listed at, and a clear a clear statement from one of the bicycle industry’s big 3 about their commitment to building an ebike accessible to the masses. This listing is brand new and never ridden, yet is selling for $1K+ less than MSRP and $300+ less than the average resale price. Listing can be found here.

The Himiway Big Dog is a moped-style class-2/3 compact cargo bike. Its powertrain features an 86Nm rear hub motor and a 960Wh battery pack designed for 1,000 cycles before degrading to 80% of its original capacity. Like many other moped-style ebikes, the Big Dog is mostly designed for throttle riding and less than optimal for pedaling due to a laggy cadence sensor and heavy 79lbs frame. The vehicle’s top speed maxes out around 25mph, which is roughly the goldilocks speed for urban riding because it allows you to keep up with traffic on most safe-to-ride streets. Lastly, the Big Dog's front suspension fork and 20” by 4” fat tires make it plush to ride, even when loaded to the vehicle’s max payload capacity of 400lbs. The Big Dog’s closest competitor is Rad Power’s RadRunner Plus. Both are comparable in price and performance, but Himiway’s 350+ bike shop network gives the Big Dog the edge. This listing has a mileage of <200mi and has only been used for light commutes and grocery hauling. Listing can be found here.

The NIU BQi-C3 Pro is a class-3 smart step-thru commuter by globally recognized escooter brand NIU. The BQi-C3 Pro isn’t NIU’s first ebike, but it’s widely considered their best and most complete ebike package. Its powertrain features a 45Nm rear hub motor and two frame-integrated swappable battery packs with a total capacity of 960Wh. Safety is a core priority baked into the BQi-C3 Pro’s design. The ebike system is UL 2849 certified, and its battery packs run NIU's patented "NIU ENERGY BMS," which monitors for 14 types of battery failures and has a track record of "safely carrying riders more than 7 billion miles." Tailored for urban riders, the BQi-C3 also features a Gates carbon belt drive, Kevlar puncture-resistant tires, and integrated racks and lighting. Lastly, the BQi-C3 Pro has a well-designed app that provides comprehensive ride data, navigation/maps, and vehicle controls. One con that’s worth mentioning is that the BQi-C3 Pro only has mechanical disc brakes, but this is not an unexpected trade-off given that the vehicle has twin battery packs and a belt drive at an affordable price point of ~$2,000. In the past year, lots of brands have been offering significant discounts on their new vehicles. While this has helped make up for a lull in sales, a secondary repercussion that hasn’t really been addressed is that discounts end up dramatically reducing the residual value of vehicles. In the case of dealer-network brands, it also impacts the value of the inventory bike shops have on hand. For example, even though this listing is brand-new, in its original packaging, and still under the 2-yr warranty, it is listed for almost ~$1K less than the original pre-discount MSRP. Listing can be found here.

The Ride1Up is a class-2/3 folding budget compact utility ebike. Its powertrain features a 65Nm geared hub motor and a 460Wh battery pack, and is paired with an 8-speed transmission. For those looking for a slightly larger battery, you can opt for the upgraded 642Wh Portola that only costs $100 more. The Portola’s best attributes are a result of its great frame design. Unlike most other class-2/3 moped-shaped ebikes, the Portola’s rider positioning makes it as comfortable to pedal as more traditional commuters. Additionally, the frame is also designed to have an incredibly small form factor when folded. Two hinge points at the stem and downtube allow rides to fold the Portola down to 19” by 29.5” by 33.” The hinge points are solid and feature several built-in straps and pads to hold the bike down and not scratch the paint. Rounding out the frame is a welded rear rack that has a payload capacity of 130lbs, and the whole bike is rated for 300lbs. Lastly, a front suspension fork, 20” by 3” tires, and hydraulic brakes work together to provides both comfort and excellent handling on city roads. At an MSRP of $995, the Portola is an unbelievably affordable vehicle that packs better componentry than many of the other leading budget ebikes in the market. This listing is brand new and has only been ridden once. Listing can be found here.

The Heybike Tyson is a value class-3 folding fat-tire ebike. What makes the Tyson unique is its unibody magnesium frame with integrated wheels, which not only gives it an eye-popping design but also gives it a strong yet lightweight structure. Despite it weighing less than the average fat-tire (~77lbs), it still has a 400lbs payload capacity. Its powertrain features a 70Nm geared rear hub motor and a 720Wh battery pack. 20” by 4” fat tires and a dual hydraulic suspension system make the Tyson extremely comfortable to ride, and a strong built-in rear rack helps riders take advantage of the vehicle’s full payload capacity. Lastly, the Tyson has state-of-the-art software features, including ultra-bright lights for safer nighttime riding, an alarm, remote lock, and GPS tracking. The Tyson is a complete vehicle package and great value, and it more than stands apart from the drop-shipped knock-off fat-tires that are typically found at this price range. This listing is brand new and has a one year warranty, and it’s sold by Heybike authorized retailer 562 Ebikes. 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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