Electric Cargo Bike Buying Guide 2021

Electric cargo bikes are amazing tools that are capable of transforming your lifestyle for the better. Real car-beaters, they have the potential to fit into business or family life seamlessly, with a huge range of styles and options available.

It can feel a little overwhelming at times when faced with the sheer variety of cargo e-bikes, so this is the Pure Electric cargo e-bike buyer’s guide, which demystifies all the major talking points about these amazing vehicles. Dive right in!

What is an electric cargo bike

Cargo bikes are bikes which have been designed specifically to transport a load. They can carry up to 250kg of load (goods, luggage or even people), which is comparable to a boot of an average small hatchback. Also known as ‘freight bikes’, ‘carrier cycles’, ‘long-john bicycles’ and ‘cycletrucks’, they come in a number of different styles with a range of different wheelbase types too.

Thanks to the addition of a pedal-assist motor and battery system, an electric cargo bike can help you to carry loads with even greater ease than an ordinary cargo bike.

Two, three or four wheels?

Electric cargo bikes can come with a chassis design featuring two, three or four wheels.

Two-wheeled cargo e-bikes are very popular because they feel just like a regular bike to ride. They can feature a front-load bucket for your cargo or they could have a long tail with your load mounted behind you. A Tern GSD demonstrates this approach.

Three-wheeled cargo e-bikes provide extra stability when riding with heavy loads and can help to ease the task of loading or unloading thanks to the extra width that a three-wheel arrangement creates. A Babboe Curve-E is one example of this design in action.

Four-wheeled cargo e-bikes are relatively new and are usually designed for commercial use (e.g. logistics and heavy freight businesses). This extremely stable layout provides the most stability and load carrying capacity, but these models are very large and arguably the least manoeuvrable.

The best way to work out which is best for you is to try them out, so we recommend dropping into one of our nationwide stores and asking the in-store experts to arrange a test ride of their available cargo bikes. Alternatively, get in touch before your visit to ensure that we have suitable models available.

Motor Types - Frame & Hubs

As with ordinary e-bikes there are two types of motor – a frame-mounted mid-drive unit, and hub drive motor. You can read more about them in our regular e-bike buyer’s guide.

Because of the increased loads involved, cargo e-bike motors are usually frame-mounted, while batteries are sometimes larger than their ordinary e-bike equivalents too to provide ample range and additional torque (remember, all motors that don’t require a licence and insurance to ride are restricted to 250W).

There are four main styles of cargo e-bike bodies.


This style features an extended carrying frame above the rear wheel, giving it its ‘long-tail’ appearance.

The frame is much stronger than a pannier, and the additional length means more space for carrying your load.


A front-load style cargo e-bike comes with a bucket, box or flatbed installed in front of the rider. Front-loaders can come in either two or three-wheeled styles.

There’s a lot of flexibility in these kinds of cargo e-bikes, with open and closed compartments available. Some riders also prefer the feel of having the load visibly in front of them too.


A front-load style cargo e-bike comes with a bucket, box or flatbed installed in front of the rider. Front-loaders can come in either two or three-wheeled styles.

There’s a lot of flexibility in these kinds of cargo e-bikes, with open and closed compartments available. Some riders also prefer the feel of having the load visibly in front of them too.


As the name suggests, a rear-load cargo e-bike positions the load behind the rider. This style usually requires more stability in the chassis, so is available with either a three or four-wheeled layout.

They are the ‘heavy lifters’ of cargo e-bikes, capable of carrying up to 250kg.

How much can electric cargo bikes carry

A lot! Depending on the model, they can carry up to 250kg of load or two meters cubed volume, which is about the same as a small hatchback boot. The capacity could equate to around 50 delivery packages, up to five small kids (if seats are fitted) or your weekly shop with room to spare.

Safety features

What’s very important to consider when choosing your cargo e-bike, are the safety features that protect you and your cargo whilst riding. Cargo e-bikes are usually larger and heavier than regular e-bikes so it’s important to look out for the following features:


Disc brakes are the norm with cargo e-bikes, thanks to their superior performance in all conditions (especially wet weather). They are necessary due to the extra work that they need to do to bring you and your cargo to an effective halt.

The best performing disc brakes are hydraulic models. Instead of a standard mechanical cable pulling the brake calipers closed onto the brake rotor, hydraulic fluid is used to activate them instead, generating much more power and control.

Cargo box structure

If you are looking to carry children on your cargo e-bike, look for extra reinforcement in the box and features around the box to protect your kids, including high compartment sides and rain shields. Covers can also provide additional protection with struts around the top of the cargo box.

At the same time, ensure that you have seats and seat belts installed. These should fit natively inside your cargo box compartment, and our experts can help to make sure you’re kitted out with the safest options.


As with all bikes, helmets are an essential accessory to protect you and any passengers while riding.

Check out our full range of adults and kids helmets.

Cargo E-Bikes & Kids

Cargo e-bikes are great solutions for transporting kids, whether you are taking your little ones to school, to a friend’s house or on a family weekend adventure to a local park. With the secure seat belts and child seats your kids will be held securely and safely, and we often hear that it is much easier than trying to get them into a car!

Usually, cargo e-bikes can accommodate kids up to 13 years old, and lots of cargo e-bikes can take an adaptor to fit a safe and secure baby carrier.

Key questions ask yourself when considering an electric cargo bike

  • If you plan to ride up hills, a frame-mounted mid-drive motor will provide a better weight balance for hill climbing. Power delivery is more direct, while you’ll also usually benefit from improved stability and gear-changing capability when climbing too.

    Conversely, hub motors might be less powerful, as well as less direct and responsive, although for the occasional hill or steady incline (no more than 4-5 per cent), they are perfectly adequate.

  • If you plan to go off-tarmac, this will influence the type of tyre, suspension and motor type you would look for on your cargo e-bike. For improved grip on grass, dirt tracks and gravel we recommend you choose a model with dirt tires for extra grip.

    You may also want to consider suspension, which on some cargo e-bikes can come in the form of a front suspension fork or in the frame for dual suspension capability, like the Riese & Muller Load 75 Vario – an excellent bike for off-road cargo fun!

    Motor choice is an important consideration for off-road conditions where you may benefit from a more responsive mid-drive motor that reduces the chance of tire-spin by delivering the power directly to the drivetrain rather than the rear or front wheel.

  • Cargo e-bikes are big and so thinking about where you will store it is important to consider. Do you need to transport the bike in a lift to reach your apartment? If so, you might consider a Tern GSD with folding handlebars and a stand that you can fit upright in a standard size elevator.

    Plus, you can also buy covers to fit a cargo e-bike in case that you need to keep it outside while protecting it.

  • Cargo e-bikes are fantastic for taking your family exploring and on a daily commute to school or nursery. You may look for a series of child seats to carry your kids or you may want them to sit in a bucket under a protective rain canopy on their ride in to school.

    Depending on the age of your child there are options for bench seats with seatbelts, child seats and Maxi-Cozi adaptors for baby carriers. Our experts are more than happy to help find the perfect comfy combination for your precious cargo!