My very creative brother recently built a cargo bike from scratch and has put together this article to teach youy how to build a cargo bike. It’s worth noting that you will need a lot of specialist tools, great practical skills, a fair bit of patience and the right materials to get this going.
How to Build a Cargo Bike
Before we get into how, I’d like to take a minute to look at why. If you don’t really care about my backstory then click here for my how to guide.
About six months ago my girlfriend and I made the move from the ass end of East Germany to Berlin. It had been at least three years since I had last inhabited one of the globes rolling metropolises. Before this I was living in England’s finest city, London.
While living in London I owned a bicycle and often made short trips on it. During this time I found that the bike replaced the bus but the train was still my main cross-town means of transport. The reason for this was simple: riding my bike across London was unpleasant due to the city’s cycle infrastructure.
With two thousand US dollars in my pocket I moved to the U S of A and I ended up in a small mountain community called Summit County, Colorado. Here I found an infrastructure that I had never experienced before – the county bus service was free, paid for with tax money, and there was a bike network that spanned the whole county allowing you to completely traverse the county on purpose built car free cycle routes.This was an extraordinary experience and I found that I cycled more in those few months than I had ever before.
However, I still had the issue of transport. If I needed to pick up a large package or object or even take something to or from work on a conventional bicycle this was limited in possibilities. So, like any self respecting American, I purchased a Jeep.
It was not up until recently I faced this transport dilemma again when living in Berlin. Comparative to London, Berlin, has a great bike infrastructure where you can ride across town with comfort and ease on the Hauptstadt’s many cycle routes. While the beautiful views of the Rocky’s may not be here, the terrain is much flatter although the ability to transport large items by bike was still a difficulty.
At this point I started to consider cargo bikes. I began to research in to them and quickly discovered that they are far too expensive for me. Having been a person that has owned downhill, tandem, and a wide variety other styles of bikes before, this price tag was not shocking simply affordable. I was still very determined to own one so I decided that if I could not afford to buy one, I would build one.
This is what I consider to be worth sharing. Here are three simple steps to build your own cargo bike:
How to Build a Cargo Bike
Step One – Materials
After the research of professional built bikes I turned quickly to see what the ‘shed qualified’ people had build. I am definitely not the first person to ever try this project and I would encourage anyone to give it a go.
To make this project you will need two old bikes (or half bikes or many different parts of bikes).The bikes I used were an old DDR youth bike that I used for the rear and a cheap full suspension bike that weighed approximately three million kilos.
In my research I found that many cargo bikes had a twenty inch front wheel, but my youth bike had twenty four inch. I figured that would be fine, after all what’s four more inches between lovers?
The next hill to climb was to find some material for the extension of the front end. I found an old school desk with 20x20mm square tube with a wall thickness of 2mm. This wall thickness was identical to the frame of the DDR bike I would be adding to. Next I came across an old garden swinging love seat. This already had tubes with the necessary bends in it to make something along the lines of what I had in my head. My frame material was all lined up and ready to go and all that was left was to find something for the link arm. I was digging through the scrap pile and found an old tent pole for a gazebo and a link arm with swivel joints either end for car suspension so I decided to use this.
Step Two – Tools
If your into bikes already, which you probably are if you’re considering building your own cargo bike, then I would imagine you probably own at least two screwdrivers and maybe some mole grips or a pair of pliers.
This is a good start.
Other things that are needed would be a welder of some sort. If you don’t already have one or have no experience with one don’t worry, its kind of like a glue gun just with hotter and more dangerous glue.
I would suggest a MIG flux core or gas as they are simple to operate, quick to learn and easy to get semi acceptable results on compared to something like MMA welding. Plus, they are relatively cheap!
I tack welded my cargo bike together with a stick welder then MIG’ed the bitch!
The second essential tool is an angle grinder. With this you can grind shitty, poor quality surfaces ready to weld and chop and notch all the parts of your frame! An angle grinder can be bought for less than the price of a decorative cactus these days and are way more useful!
Step Three – Doing It
You will now need to just do it. Expel all your self-doubt and go forth and cut, grind, and weld your way to cargo bike success. Here is a sketch of my cargo bike plans:
The build took me around a month to complete from start to finish and I made up a lot of it as I went following the basic plan above. Having a good understanding of how bikes work and what you need to do to create a firm structure is pretty vital. Here are some pictures of my build:
I built mine completely from scrap materials and so far have only spent 4.99 euro for a new front inner tube. The longest trip has been a 30k round trip across Berlin and it functioned brilliantly. In the summer I plan on going camping with it and doing many more fun trips – I might even get a boat for the front!
If you are a bike snob and hate the look of my bike or say that the function will not be as good as a professional built cargo bike then fuck off. The bike community should always be about how far we can go, how hard we can push ourselves, and continuing to develop every aspect of the sport.
I encourage everyone who reads this to do the big jumps, make the strange useless bike with twenty-eight wheels, or go on whatever crazy trip you want to!
Good Luck with your build!