I have loved longtail cargobikes ever since I first saw them. The cargo-racks and bags behind the rider can carry stuff, and that makes them the number one choice when someone wants to eliminate one of the cars from their family’s garage, and get serious about commuting on an ebike.
Cargobikes that are NOT a Longtail
The Netherlands is one of the most serious countries for accommodating bicycles into their daily lives, and they have a LOT of cargobikes. Its easy to understand why bikes of all types are popular, because the land is pretty flat and gasoline is over $8/gallon (2.35 Euro’s per liter as of July 2022). If we look at the Dutch cargobikes, they do have a few that you don’t see very often in the US, so lets take a quick look.
The Common Longtails
The most famous early longtail cargobike was the Yuba Mundo. An endless-sphere forum member “Teklektik” converted a Mundo to electric with a 2WD system back in 2013. If you want to read more about this build, click here.
The Rad Wagon by Rad Power bikes uses an unusual 22-inch wheel. They handle potholes better than the smaller 20-inch, and they are shorter and lighter than the common 26-inch.
There are several models of longtail cargobike that have a 20-inch rear wheel instead of the common 26-inch. This allows the cargo to sit lower, which is especially helpful if you put a child seat in the rear, with a chunky carpet-crawler in it. I like these a LOT.
The Madsen also has a 20-inch wheel in the rear. They can be bought as a factory ebike, or you can buy it without and then add your own kit.
To see our list of longtail cargobikes from
In the pic above, Matt Schalles regularly pedals his bass guitar and amplifier to gigs in San Diego on his long tail Surly Big Dummy. Photo credit: Brer Marsh
The “Do It Yourself” Longtail
You don’t have to look very long to see that longtail cargobikes cost a premium over a similar frame with no extra cargo benefits. However, they are so useful that I spent a lot of time looking at options to get a longtail at a more affordable price. Obviously, you can buy two used bikes from a thrift store, cut them up, and then have a muffler shop weld the parts together (his requires the frames be made from steel).
But there is one really great option, and that is to bolt the swingarm from a full-suspension mountain bike to the drop-outs of a standard bicycle frame.
The pic above uses a beach cruiser frame, and at the rear is a swingarm from a full suspension mountain bike (easily found at a thrift store as a cheap used bike). A strut-rod was added from the top of the swingarm instead of a shock absorber.
The type of shock absorbers we find on the cheapest style of mountain bikes are not famous for performing well, but they are a huge improvement when hitting a pothole, compared to a hard-tail frame. If you look at the top spar of the swingarm, you can see the two vertical posts where the stock V-brakes would be mounted. Those posts are the part where the shock absorber bracket assembly is attached near the front of the shock.
The pic above is a close-up of the front shock mount. A 3/16ths thick aluminum plate is cut to fit over the two V-brake mounting posts. Cylindrical sleeves (spacers) are slid over the posts. Washers are placed on top, and a bolt in each post holds everything down. Once that plate is secured, a cart-wheel mounting bracket is turned upside-down to form a mounting point for the front of the shock.
The pic above is another view of the attachment of the swinging pivot on the swingarm, and how it mounts to the dropouts on the front frame. Through the artful selection of spacers and washers, they bolt right up. If you want a cargo rack in the back, it would have to be attached to the front framework in order for a full suspension swingarm to cycle up and down without jostling the cargo.
Cargobikes in the Third World
There are a lot of aid organizations that have determined that steel longtail cargobikes are a vital product that can have a dramatic effect on improving opportunities in rural Africa.
If you are looking to cut and weld a steel bicycle to make a longtail, consider this pic above carefully. Professional engineers have developed this specific configuration as the best all-around design. It uses the minimum amount of parts and weight, and then arranges them to make the frame the strongest it can be.
A cargobike is the best candidate to add an electric motor to the drivetrain, more than any other type of bike frame. There are plenty of different cargobikes on the market, and many selections have a ebike motor as a factory-installed option. However, if you prefer to add your own ebike kit, which one should you get? Anything would be better than nothing, but…my favorite ebike motor is the BBSHD from Bafang.
I have ridden over a hundred different ebikes over the years, and my favorite by far is the BBSHD. I swapped the chainring for one with fewer teeth (On my Electra Lux Fat 7D), which lowers the top speed and improves the hill-climbing. If you do get the BBSHD kit, fully assemble it and take it for a ride on flat level ground to test the top-speed in top gear. Just for the sake of argument, lets say it can do 35-mph, and you would be happy with 28-mph. the difference of 7-mph is 20% slower than 35-mph, so my goal would be to buy a chainring with 20% fewer teeth.
The stock sprocket (the black frisbee of death) has 46-teeth, so 10% would be 4.6 teeth, and that means 20% would be 9.2T, sooo…I’d want a chainring with either 34T, 35T, or 36T. The 34T would climb better, and the 36T would be faster on flat land. When I installed the smaller chainring, the hill-climbing ability went from good to fantastic. I’m using 52V x 30A = 1500W.
Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, July 2022