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Can an electric cargo bike replace a minivan as the family vehicle?

Tom Babin from Canada wanted to know exactly. In a test lasting several weeks, he examined how a cargo bike compares to a family car in everyday life. What interested him in particular: What is the financial impact of switching from a car to an cargo-bike? Tom documented his findings in two informative and entertaining videos.

© Shifter / Tom Babin

Hi Tom, you just tested the Riese & Müller Load 75. How did you like the cargo bike?
It was probably the nicest, smoothest, highest quality bike I've ever ridden. I was a bit worried that riding a bike of that size would be cumbersome and difficult, but I was surprised how well it rode, how easy it was to pedal, and how much I enjoyed riding it. Plus, the carrying capacity was huge. I got groceries (even at a giant North American Costco!), and my teenage kids took turns riding in it. The whole family loved it.
The thing that really surprised me was how much fun it was to ride the bike. I knew the bike would be great at hauling big loads, but I didn't expect it to be so responsive, smooth and fun. I described the ride as "smooth as butter" so often my wife told me I need to find a different word to describe it! (laughs)

You live in Calgary in Western Canada, a major city with a population of around 1.3 million. But you've also cycled in many other countries. How does cycling in your hometown compare to other cities?
I'd say Calgary is in the early stages of its journey toward bike-friendliness. We have a couple of advantages here that help: we have a great multi-use recreational pathway system that has been built out since the 1970s, and the city does a good job maintaining it during our long winters. We also have the start of a good network of safe, separated bike lanes. What we really need now is to integrate the systems better so there are fewer gaps in the network, and people will be better able to ride to destinations completely on safe routes. We're off to a good start, but we have much work to do to make it safe for everyone to ride.

What would need to be improved for more people to integrate bicycles, e-bikes or cargo bikes into their everyday mobility?
Calgary is a young city. Most of its development came after the 1950s, so it was really built out on a sprawling low-density suburban development pattern, which creates big distances between destinations in many communities. This was a barrier to cycling for a long time, but I really think e-bikes are the solution to this problem because they can enable longer distances faster than regular bikes. What we need now is to improve connections between those suburbs and the more urban areas so that people feel safe riding their ebikes whever they need to go. I would also like to extend a big thank you to Riese & Müller for partnering with me on this project. Riese & Müller's amazing products and its commitment to a future where micro-mobility is a foundational part of our cities made it clear that our values align, so I'm thrilled with how this project worked out.

Thanks for the talk, Tom.

  • About Tom Babin and Shifter

    Shifter is Tom Babin, an award-winning content creator, marketer, author and journalist. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, the National Post and he is the author of the book Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. He regularly appears in the media around issues of cycling, and has spoken to audiences across North America and Europe.

    "Shifter is about urban cycling, bicycle commuting and the ways we get around our cities. That means compelling stories about livable cities, active lives, modern lifestyle cycling, urban design and much more. At its core, we’re on a mission to get more people on bikes more often because it makes our lives, our cities and our planet better." Tom Babin

    Shifter on Youtube
    Learn more:

In his first video, Tom rides the Load 75 through three typical suburban bike challenges and examines family finances by comparing a cargo bike and a minivan:

In his second video, Tom investigates whether a cargo bike can be used for regular, everyday cycling and explores whether it can function as your main mode of transport:

Meet Maddy, the "CargoBikeMomma"