The Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike is a box bike – a type of cargo bike with a smaller front wheel located well ahead of the handlebars and a linkage steering arrangement. These are very long bikes with a really big cargo area at the front. This style of bike was developed by Long John Bicycles in 1920’s Denmark and has become very popular in Holland where it is known as a Bakfiets. Box bikes have considerably more room for cargo than a longtail cargo bike, although the weight they can carry is about the same. Trikes can carry a lot more – both in terms of volume and weight – but a box bike is much more maneuverable.
The Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike is one of three models in the Raleigh cargo cycle range, this one is aimed at delivery drivers, with a large and secure fibreglass box. The Raleigh Stride 2 is very similar but the covered box is replaced with an open foam box more aimed at holding child seats and shopping. The range also includes a cargo trike. This review focuses on the Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike but most of it would also apply to the Raleigh Stride 2.
A cargo bike is all about what you can carry. The Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike has a maximum rider weight of 100 kg and a payload of 80 kg. Although this isn’t much more weight than you could carry on a much smaller longtail cargo bike, like a Tern GSD, with a box bike what you get is much more room. A longtail would split the load area up into side panniers and shallower boxes on top of a rack. With a box bike like this you get one really big box that makes it much easier to load with bulky items. This makes the Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike ideal for couriers delivering packages, street vendors and business deliveries. It’s even suited to tradespeople like plumbers and electricians transporting tools and materials.
The box has a lockable and weather-proof lid as well, so you can use it much like a car boot. This can be very convenient when stopping to drop off deliveries. Combined with the built-in wheel lock, it means you can easily park outside a building and run inside with a delivery without worrying about the security of the bike or payload. The lid is even equipped with a gas spring which makes it really easy to use.
Ride and Handling of the Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike
If you’re used to riding a normal bike, riding a box bike takes a bit of getting used to, especially at low speeds. Because the front wheel turns around a headset that isn’t directly connected to the handlebars, the wheel isn’t where you instinctively expect it to be. The extra length and weight also mean that the bike can’t react to steering inputs as quickly as a normal bike. This all means that you have to slow down, think ahead, and be aware of where the front wheel is. Manoeuvring at very low speed in tight spaces is definitely not the strong point of any box bike. Don’t expect to be able to flick the front around to avoid an obstacle at the last minute.
Once the bike is moving along at speeds over about 6 mph (10 kph) it feels much like a normal bike. The faster you go, the more familiar it becomes. When going down hill at speed, the extra length out in front actually gives a lot of stability and greatly improves braking performance, with virtually no risk of going over the handlebars.
The mid-drive Yamaha motor with torque sensor performs perfectly. It smoothly and almost instantly delivers power when you start to pedal, making hill starts easy, even when fully laden. There is plenty of power to climb hills, although since all e-bikes are limited to 250 watts, regardless of their payload, a cargo bike will climb slower than a regular e-bike. It took me up Park Street in Bristol at 8 mph.
I found that power cuts out a little bit over the legal speed limit of 15.5 mph (25 kph), it seemed to cut out for me at more like 18 mph. However, when it did cut it was quite abrupt so it’s worth watching your speed and keeping it below this, especially when climbing hills.
Raleigh uses the NuVinci continuously variable transmission for this bike. This gives stepless shifting over a reasonably wide range, but it’s not the smoothest action with the twist shifter feeling quite stiff.
When fully loaded the combined weight of the bike, rider and cargo could be 240 kg so good brakes are extremely important. Luckily the hydraulic disk brakes are more than capable of bringing the bike to a rapid stop, greatly aided by the long wheelbase.
Storage and Security
Any cargo bike of this style will be too big and heavy for a single person to lift and manoeuvre around, the Raleigh Pro Cargo weighs 60kg. This really isn’t something you can take inside a house to store, so you’ll want to think about keeping it in a garage. You will want to be able to ride it straight in and reverse it out, as turning it around would be difficult.
The size and weight also means you really don’t want to drop a bike like this on the ground. It’s therefore essential to have a good kickstand and the one on the Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike is excellent. You simply push the stand down with one foot and rock the bike onto it. The bike is then very solidly supported. When you want to ride again it’s easy to rock the bike off the stand.
The weight does have some advantages when it comes to security. The bike can be simply parked outside using the kickstand to keep it upright and the built-in wheel lock to prevent anyone from riding away on it.
Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike: Practicality and Build Quality
This is a very well-made and solid feeling bike. It’s clearly been designed for commercial use and I’d expect it to stand up to this type of use well. Practical features like the kickstand, wheel lock, mudguards, and integrated lights are really important for the useability of a bike like this. The fully enclosed chain will also reduce maintenance while ensuring you don’t get oil on your trousers.
Where to buy
The bike I borrowed for this review was the test bike from EcoMove in Bristol – which has an indoor test track and access to the traffic-free harbourside for longer tests. Cycles UK currently has a massive discount on the Raleigh Stride 2, the more family-orientated version of this cargo bike.