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Best cargo e-bike 2021

Skip the second car this summer. Cargo e-bikes are a safe bet for getting you around town while hauling groceries, packages or your kids.

One of my favorite ways to get around New York City is by bicycle. But there are times you may have additional passengers or a need to pick up something large or heavy that just won't fit on a traditional bicycle or e-bike. That's where these bikes come in. 

Cargo e-bikes are longer with heavier frames than the average electric bikes. Their sturdy frames incorporate storage boxes or platforms that can be used to strap packages to, or carry your kids or the family dog while you pedal. Thanks to tech improvements in motors and batteries, cargo bikes are able to haul more and travel greater distances on a single charge. The category is growing, too, so while this list is short at the moment, you can expect to see more options soon. 

Also read: These are the best e-bikes for 2020

Juiced Bikes

The $2,899 Juiced Bikes HyperScorpion Express is a modern e-bike that pays homage to mopeds of the past. It has that classic moped look and feel: from its frame design to comfortably high handlebars, rearview mirrors and a 2,000-lumen headlight (my favorite addition). The bright yellow Express is essentially the company's HyperScorpion e-bike but with a cargo basket that's currently not sold separately, front and rear signal lights and rear brake lights. It also has adjustable front and rear suspension that is great for bumpy roads and generally gives you a better, safer hauling experience.

Riders can easily use it to cruise around town or put its 1,000-watt Bafang hub motor to work. Powered by a 52-volt 19.2ah battery, riders 275 pounds or less can hit 30 miles per hour and reach an estimated 60 miles on a single charge, depending on your assist level and speed. A full charge takes about seven hours, but you can buy a $139 Turbo charger to double the charging speed.

This bike is excellent for relaxed rides but has a lot of oomph to get up and go when you want. One minute I would find myself cruising in the bike lane, and the next I'd be gunning it in the car lane. There are six levels of assistance -- Eco, 1, 2, 3 Sport and Race -- and with each level of assistance, riders will hit higher speeds with less effort (at the cost of battery life). You do have the option to pedal or use the throttle: With an eight-speed Shimano cassette, there are many ways to ride and conserve battery. 

Riding with zero assistance is not fun at all, though, and you will notice some motor drag. When trying to save power I found myself using Eco mode, which gives it enough assistance to zero out the bike's full 102 pounds of weight. 

What makes the Express great for deliveries, in addition to its exclusive cargo basket and vibrant color, is its powerful motor, solid build quality and security features: key ignition to start the bike, a key battery lock and an alarm with a remote that sounds if someone touches or attempts to move the bicycle. 

The street tires on this bike are designed to minimize flats while the custom cast aluminum mag not only adds some style but, due to the build quality, requires little maintenance compared to traditional spoked wheels. However, they do add more weight to the bike. Tektro hydraulic disc brakes stop the bike on a dime, too. 

Juiced Bikes offers a one-year warranty on electrical/mechanical components and frame upon factory default. 

Joseph Kaminski/CNET

Rad Power Bikes is a fierce competitor in the e-bike market, offering 10 different models, all competitively priced. One of the first Rad Power Bikes I reviewed was the Rad Runner that was both versatile and inexpensive. It could be customized for cargo or a single small passenger. But what if you had two little ones? That's where the $1,899 RadWagon 4 comes in: Riders can seat two children on the back with a bench and running board along the bottom for a footrest, or you can add a rear basket for additional carrying capabilities with a second basket on the front for still more capacity. The rear rack in particular is great for runs to Trader Joe's and Costco. It can easily carry a case of wine, too. 

Made from 6061 aluminum, the well-constructed RadWagon 4 has a seven-speed Shimano cassette and a 750-watt hub motor with five levels of cadence assistance to get you up to 20 mph via pedaling or throttle alone. The battery fully charges in 5 to 6 hours and travels anywhere between 25 to 45 miles on a full charge depending on bike load, terrain and pedal assistance. The battery can also be charged on or off the bicycle and is removed using the same key that's also needed to start the RadWagon 4. 

Riders from 5-feet, 1-inch up to 6-feet, 4-inches tall will fit on the bike, and it can support a total weight of 350 pounds. The RadWagon 4 itself weighs 73 pounds and has dual-cable disc brakes that work in all weather conditions. It also has a unique 22-by-3-inch tire that gives riders almost fat-tire stability and a little more height than a 20-inch, improving the overall performance without sizing out smaller riders. 

A durable steel center stand keeps the bike upright while you load it up, and it has a mid-step frame to make taking off or getting started with weight on the bike an easier process. Simply straddle the bike and push forward to take off. No need to try and balance and mount a bicycle with young ones or groceries loaded on. 

The RadWagon has a smooth ride, and the ability to angle the handlebars to maintain an upright position makes long rides a breeze, even with one hand and a full load. The bicycle is equipped with both front and rear lights that also indicate braking; they can be manually toggled on and off or set to activate automatically. The backlit LCD display provides battery level, speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, pedal-assist level and other bits of information. There is also a 5-volt USB port under the display to charge mobile devices. 

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Joseph Kaminski/CNET

The $4,999 Bunch Bike Original 2020 Edition can definitely replace a car, especially here in New York City. You'll just need an adequate parking space if you don't have a garage. The bike design reminds me of an old ice cream vendor's tricycle from back in the day, with a cooler at the front of the bike. 

The Bunch Bike, while not huge, will require some storage space. Its size, or at least its storage capacity, is its advantage, though, and was immediately put to use by my entire family. This cargo bike can seat up to four children and has seat belts to keep them safe and secure. Under the benches, there is additional storage space that can be locked. The bicycle has a rear-wheel key lock that prevents anyone from rolling the bike away while you're running errands. 

We used the bike for Costco runs, trips to our storage locker and to take George, our cat, to the vet in his carrier. For these types of trips with other cargo bikes, we also had to use our backpacks, but not with the Bunch bike; everything fit in the cargo box easily, and it was a cinch riding back and forth. 

The bike is powered by a 500-watt brushless hub motor paired with an eight-speed Shimano cassette. Its battery can be charged on or off the frame and takes about six to seven hours to top off. The bike is easy to ride even with assistance off and doesn't have the motor drag I've experienced with some e-bikes with hub motors. Also, the beauty of three wheels is the ability to have three hydraulic disc brakes that stop the bike on a dime. 

There are five levels of pedal assistance and a thumb throttle that I mostly used for take-offs on inclines. The assistance goes up to 20 mph, which is more than enough. Since the bicycle has three wheels, it does require some getting used to, especially when turning. There was also some flexing in the frame while riding that the company says is the company's anti-tip technology. An outer frame protects the cargo bay along with the wheels. It also has some nicely placed square foot plates used to step in and out of the cargo space. There's even a rain cover that can be purchased to keep the cargo area dry or block the wind on a chilly day. 

The overall ride of the bike is better when there are passengers in the cargo area or there's something heavy there to provide some ballast. Surprisingly, the bike itself is lighter than it looks (though it's still 152 pounds), and it helps to have whatever you're carting closer to the driver to prevent any possible tipping when dismounting. 

The bike has front and rear lights along with reflectors on the front of the cargo bay. A large display gives you at-a-glance access to important stats but the placement of the pedal-assist controls could be better; I would sometimes accidentally hit both the increase and decrease buttons with my thumb. Other than that, the layout is really nice, and overall it is a bunch of fun to ride. 

Joseph Kaminski

The Riese & Müller Load 60 Touring HS is a premium ride with premium features and a premium price: $8,669. I made a special trip to e-bike shop Propel in Brooklyn to test this bike, which is an excellent option for living in the city without a car. 

One of the first things I noticed when standing over the bike was how long the front cargo area is. Amazingly though, once I started moving, it handled so smoothly it was like riding a normal bike, even on some of the bumpiest side streets of Brooklyn. The Load 60 comes equipped with both front and rear suspension as well as a comfortable gel seat. 

A small but welcomed feature is its rear-slanting seat tube. As you raise it for taller riders, the farther back it goes, providing better leg extension. It has a quick-release adjustable stem tube that can be moved backward, forward, up and down, making it easier to find a handlebar sweet spot if you need to share it with family and friends. It'll accommodate rider heights from 5 feet even to 6 feet, 5 inches, and its low-profile frame makes maneuvering sharp and responsive. 

The front cargo area can seat two small kids or one larger child and they can be secured in place with its five-point belts over a soft cushion seat. There is also a small storage space underneath the seat. For those not looking to transport kids, there is also a lockbox option great for messengering, carrying tools, groceries -- you name it. The cargo area can support up to 200 pounds, and the bike itself can support a total weight of 551 pounds; it weighs approximately 80.7 pounds on its own.

The model I tested had two Bosch PowerPack 500 Performance batteries, but the bike can run on a single battery. The batteries powered the bike's 250-watt motor to a top pedal-assisted speed of 28 mph. There's a Shimano SLX 11-speed, 11-46 cassette to help keep you moving, too. Travel distance is all going to depend on the level of assistance you use, along with the terrain and bike load. Charge time is about six to seven hours depending on battery level. I never totally deplete any micromobility battery because it's not healthy and usually the product's performance drops. 

There's a built-in display to show your current assist mode, battery level, speed and other info. There's also a mobile phone application that can provide you with this information along with some other features. 

The model I tested had a rear rack that can also be used for additional storage. I can not emphasize enough how smooth and comfortable the Load 60 rides. For a full list of specifications and customizations, check out Riese & Müller. If you're in the New York City area, you can check it out at Propel in Brooklyn.

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Our dog Ruby, enjoying her first e-bike ride.

Joseph Kaminski/CNET

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