Huggacast 72: Cargo Power

195 pounds of Clip-n-Seals en route to Canada. Delivered by cargo bike to the mail dispatch. Made possible by Big Dummy, Xtracycle, and Stokemonkey.

The Rolling Jackass center stand stabilizes the bike for loading and unloading and parking. Look closely when I depart and you can see it flip up – dig the auto, snap-into-place action. The Clip-n-Seal boxes stack nicely. For a more awkward load, tie-down straps are better. I used them with Val’s help to move a futon recently.

Note that carrying this heavy of a load requires skill – watch the bike shimmy and the load bounce when I descend. While the Big Dummy has addressed most of our concerns about stability in the rear end, the front end is still whippy* underload. That’s a limitation of the headset, tube size, and length of the bike. If you were to put Bettie in a photog studio under lights and cameras, I bet you’d see the whole front end twist like a twizzle stick.

The next evolution in longtail cargo bikes is to stabilize the front end for better control and to resist twisting. I’d like to see gussets and reinforcing tubes and/or eventually a unibody frame like a motorcycle for longtails. Maybe cargo needs to go carbon (don’t laugh, it’s to get massive OS tube shapes) or take a tip from the Dutch bikes, and for heavier loads move the longtail to the front … Interestingly, in all my recent travels abroad, I didn’t see any longtails anywhere. A reader reported his lone longtail in Holland. Mark is writing a post about longfronts (or longheads) now. Granted that’s market forces and longtails originated with Xtracycle in SoCal, but its worth nothing that the Europeans and Asians are pushing cargo in the front with box bikes and trikes.

Another area for improvement or new thinking is safety and rider protection. Check the mass of tubes on the front end of Val’s Dreadnought. That’s saved him many times. Bettie threw me hard earlier this year and while rubbing my banged up knee, I thought, “this bike needs crash bars and possibly skid plates!”

When the eventual longtail cargo crash happens, a bike that weighs that much, should offer features to keep it more upright, protect the cyclist, and itself. Maybe that’s the aftermarket or the manufacturers themselves thinking with a rider-centric view.

*A bike feels whippy, when the front and rear end move opposite of each other, like a whip snapping around. It’s the opposite of stiffness or steadiness.


Actually, longtails have been somewhat popular in Europe for many years.  There have even been several commercial conversions available in Germany and the Netherlands that extend a standard frame, long before the XtraCycle came to be.  Our southern California version is, I think, a case of parallel evolution - a worthwhile and obvious solution to a common situation.  These days, most European longtails are engineered specifically for passengers, as you can see here:  This is only one company making them, which I think is a wonderful sign.  Carrying cargo in front does have many advantages, but it is worth noting that twisting forces between the wheels are still an issue.  Any long frame will have more flex than a “normal” bike, and any payload will acentuate it.  Of course, the tighter the load is secured, the better the bike will handle (you really need some proper straps, Byron), but things always get more interesting as more weight is added.  I just consider it a challenge and an adventure, and a chance to develop new abilities.  I may not be able to trackstand, barspin, backflip, or hang five, but I can ride with a full keg of beer strapped to one side of my bike (slowly, of course - wouldn’t want to bruise the beer).


Excellent response, but in your cargo enthusiasm—cargonista!—are you accepting the status quo? Isn’t there room for improvement? In other words, you’ve been riding cargo since like before I knew what cargo was. If you could build a dream bike to push cargo, what would it look like?

Impressive. Looks like this guy missed out on our “What’s the biggest thing you’ve carried on a bike?” contest-


Nice! That’s me actually on [Bettie 2.5 Val Edition]( - i’ve not yet carried a keg, but tons (literally) of Clip-n-Seals, a futon, people, a [Big Dummy frame]( . . . schwag, books, various packages.

I suggest we feature cargo during the [Mobile Social SXSW]( Can you help us organize that?

Remember steering dampers for downhill bikes?  Steering Dampsers
or Hope Steering Damper

Would something like this be useful for stabilizing the front end under heavy loads?


Good tip! And now I do remember those and when I was writing this post thought of downhill bikes and their massive front suspensions—don’t need suspension on a longtail cargo bike no, but damn yes could use that stability.

Val, is that reasonable? Has anyone done use a damper on a cargo bike?

Byron: Always, there is room for improvement; I certainly never meant to imply that there wasn’t.  One of the most exciting things to me right now is the plethora of new designs being developed, and the crowd of new players in the field of load hauling; both established companies trying it out and new companies with fresh approaches.  Check out:
and  for more examples.  My dream bike?  Well, I have drawings, and if I ever have time and money enough, there will be some tubes getting joined in interesting ways…. Steering dampers could be a very good thing; I’ve never had the chance to play with one, but if you can find a quality unit that fits, it could help a lot.

@Byron & Ben

i don’t think you’re talking about the same thing.  a steering damper is to remove dynamic oscillation from steerer tube for riding at high speed (ie downhill competitions).  unless i’ve been hearing it wrong, what Byron is harping on is that the Big Dummy lacks torsional rigidity, particularly at the head tube.  2 different things.

in this application, a steering damper sounds like it would just add weight… something of which the Bettie doesn’t need anymore.

Good conversation.  Totally off-topic, but did you notice Fietsfabriek has a production tall-bike?  What is the world coming to?


That’s correct, but what I’m wondering is if a damper would slow down the the steerer. That’s part of the problem; it’s very similar to climbing up an impossibly steep hill and you’re going to slow so you front end starts to wobble around. There’s all this weight distribure on the back and the front end is “loose” cause it’s not weighted like the rear. I guess I could put ballast in that basket!

Note: With Val’s work and help from SBS, the Bettie is a running like a finely-tuned machine, but it’s really a freak bike—a mashup’d one-of. An area of improvement, say going into a Bettie 3.0, is tightening up the front end as I describe.


Oh snap! Don’t get me started on tall-bikes and the whole penny farthings evolved to safety bikes for a reason; mainly head injuries.

Byron & Mark:  The front end wobble tends to be a combination of steering oscillation and frame twist; the two contribute to each other.  Damping the steering will not stop the frame twist, but it will diminish one contributing factor, which would be a good thing.  A good damper should weigh no more than an ounce or two - no problem when you have a 150 lb. payload.  As for forward ballast, it has a highly variable effect.  Occasionally, I have noticed that the front end will settle down a bit with the right amount of weight, but at other times it can actually cause more shimmy.  Again, it’s a function of any long structure with weight at the ends; flex is inevitable.  I have come to consider bikes like this to be “light to medium duty” cargo bikes, and I realize that I am frequently pushing the design beyond its ideal effective range.  Hence the drawings….  David:  I love the fact that DeFietsfabriek offers a commercial tallbike!  Did you read the ad copy?  Priceless!

Love the extra long chaincase on the De Fietsfabriek Pax-Max Duo. Me want.

Val, Chalo, Colin, David Wilson and I started a design for this bike a few years ago.  It is disgned for 800 pounds GVW.

Similar to Mike Burrow’s 8 Freight but burlier!

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