Cargo Bike Modifications (wittco posted on August 23rd, 2012 )


This is the Wingman. It solves my need for a pallet of varying size. It can be a pallet with a narrow Bullitt width, or folded out to provide a bit more pallet area so that my dog can ride in the cargo hold. The bonus of this pallet is that when it is folded, it provides just enough rise so that cargo sits on it rather than the aluminum pallet frame. Making this pallet is my winter project.

In the 4 stages of cargo bike culture, the second stage is the creation of aftermarket products to tailor your cargo bike to meet your specific needs.

I use my cargo bike for several tasks. The three most common are: hauler of stuff, dog carrier, and kid transport. Each of these tasks is better with a specialty modification/adaptation/tool. I do have a box for the front of my Bullitt, but I rarely use it; I prefer the pallet.

Last fall, I had dinner with fellow cargo bike friends and I sketched cargo bike modifications on a napkin, capturing some of the ideas that collect in my head while I ride….Hmmm, I wonder if I could make a such-and-such to solve that need? Below is a piece of the napkin.

better than my napkin version

Storage Tube
Starting in the upper-left and moving clockwise, the sketch starts with an overall image of my bike. In pink are Signage & Pouch, Webbing, and Kick Plate storage which have expanded images later. One item in this first image is the little pink circle under the pallet. This is a section of black PVC pipe with end-caps for the storage of small things (tools) or the Webbing sides when not in use. I consider it a glove box of sorts. Currently, I have a superb Walnut Studiolo saddle bag for this need, but am always open to other options. The Storage Tube would be totally water proof; out of the way; rather durable. It would rest against the bike in such a way that the ground clearance would be the same as that of the steering linkage. There is a goodly amount of space under the pallet for storage.

Kick Plate Storage
I am excited to create this item. In essence, it is two glove box areas, one on each side of the down tube, behind the pallet. This is the perfect place for many of the small items that I want to have on my bike. I could carry these items in a backpack, but why? I have a cargo bike for carrying stuff. Currently, I have mock ups made out of thin paneling to check function and design. The final design will be a tough fabric like Cordura. The left will house my U-Lock(s). In the photo, I have a strap keeping the lock in place, but in the next iteration, there will be a pocket with elastic top. On the right side will be two pockets with cover flaps, stacked. This is where I will keep patch kit, inner tubes, and tools. I have not devised an attachment system for this storage. Ideally, the piece will attach to the tabs already on the Bullitt’s frame.

Oh Schnitz (rumble strap)
For a quick jaunt to the grocery store or library, I have a rumble strap for my kids to use. Top view, and side view. I used a length of webbing and a section of black soaker hose. Incidentally, I have a rumble strap on my Yuba Mundo as well, centered on the top deck. I installed the strap on the Yuba before putting one on the Bullitt. The strap on the Yuba allows the second child to have a “handle” when sitting behind a brother who gets handlebars. A unintended benefit is that I can lift my Yuba by this strap with one hand, and another hand using the seat, cross tube, or handlebars. This allows me to lift my Yuba completely off the ground and turn it 180 degrees while standing in place. Uniquely nice in narrow spaces.

Expanding Bag: The Bag of Infinity
I tend not to use a wooden box on my Bullitt as my sons are at an age where they, for the most part and for most trips, ride their own bikes. I like the pallet. It is near perfect for all tasks. However, I do find myself with more groceries than expected and I do come across free piles. In these instances I could use sides, but not a full box, to keep items in place on the pallet. In the past, to solve this, I used a bungee, a ratchet strap, or length of webbing, and it worked. However, the goal here is to create effective items that have a finished quality. This bag is my winter sewing project. It will have 5 sides, no top. However, the top will have enough extra height so that I can roll it over and close the bag off much like a river rafting bag. The bag will fold down into the pallet so that it “disappears” and things could be put on the pallet (and it) as if it was not there. Given this, I will make the uppermost part of the bag out of heavier, more durable material to reduce wear on the bag when items are placed on top.

Webbing Sides
The webbing side is not drawn exactly how I would make it. I am not sure so many vertical bands are needed. Webbing would serve a great deal of what the Expanding Bag would except it could be a better option for people who only need a little side, on the side. And for many riders, the webbing could be left up as it would not be a large weight deterrent.

Pallett Riser
Different spelling is intentional because it is a pallett for my Bullitt. The honeycomb board pallet that can come with a Bullitt is good. I use it. However, it sits just below that of the frame on either side of the pallet so that if an object is larger than the honeycomb board, it rests on the aluminum sides. I will happily carry a chunk of concrete home from a free pile. However, I do not want that concrete resting on the side rails of the frame. To solve this, I have a thin wood pallet riser that goes just above the frame rails. Now, a piece of concrete rests on the Pallett Riser. The wood also allows for solid purchase when strapping items to the Pallett. The Pallett has little nubs that fit into the 4 existing holes that Bullitt has on the inside of the pallet rails for the attachment of their accessories. The nubs in the Pallett Riser keep the pallet in place (the nubs are seen in my sketch as the circles in the corners). But this riser does one thing more. In my sketch, you will see 4 darkened rectangles along the center line of the Pallet Riser. The Pallet Riser can be taken off, separated, and then installed into the same 4 existing holes, but this time using the pegs that are along the center line, creating two side panels. This solves my periodic need for something to keep “groceries” from falling out of the pallet, and the benefit is that I do not have to ride around with a wooden box on my bike.

Signage and Pouch
I like the look of classic Longjohns with a sign on the cross tube. This sign often has a company logo. I have a sign on my Bullitt along this look that serves as company signage and storage place. The one on my bike is currently a piece of discarded paneling so that I can check size and effectiveness. Sewing this item will be another winter project. The idea is to make it as two sides that have been sewed around the perimeter; the right side will have a full-length zipper for access to the sizable storage pouch for holding things like electronics, tools, business documents, or snacks. It is a “glove box.”

Extension Arms
Extension Arms
Another way to bring the Bullitt pallet above the side rails so that large items can be carried without contact with frame are these Extension Arms. Hardwood with nubs (label “a” on right-side sketch) that fit into the existing pallet holes, and are the full length of the pallet. Now a chunk of concrete can be placed on the pallet and carried home to my house without scratching up the side rails. Bonus–these “risers” can then be turned perpendicular to the pallet, using the other nubs (label “b”), and now the pallet has outriggers (seen in sketch on left side) that can support awkward items or give more width if needed.

The Extension Arms are alternative to the Pallett Riser. Both items serve the function of raising the pallet clearance, and each on has a different bonus feature. Would a person need both? Likely not. Each person will find the few items that fit their niche needs.

Hinged Pallet Box
Hinged Pallet Box
Yes, I have many ways to have a “box” on the pallet of my Bullitt without having a box. I just do not use boxes, but on that rare occasion, I want to be prepared. The idea behind this item is that it would serve as a pallet riser, clearing the aluminum side rails, and could be opened to create four sides, although 3 or 2 sides may be all that is needed.

Packitt 1
Packitt One
The thinking behind this arrangement is that the pack would make use of the slanted front, using space that may otherwise be out of the cargo area. I can keep a small kit of tools, personal belongings, or lunch without having it crunched by the bail of hay I am hauling because cargo can still butt up against the down tube.

Packitt 2
Packitt Two
Last year, I used my backpack, or a spare pannier, to solve this need, but again, the goal is to create solid, quality produced items to add to the market use of cargo bikes. Splendid Cycles created a solid answer to this need. An in-house made pannier bar that bolts directly into the existing holes on the steering tube arms. Then, a selection of panniers fit right on. Easy on. Easy off. Why did I not think of that?

My mind is constantly thinking of cargo bike tweaks. For the cargo bike race in June of 2011, I added wooden platforms on three areas of my Bullitt so that I could throw whatever rusty chunk of washing machine metal was in the race. Sadly, the majority of the cargo would fit in a backpack.

I used a pair of my son’s old overalls to create a “glove box” for my Work Cycle bakfiets.

An outrigger on my Bullitt would be sweet, turning it into a “trike” and having added storage up front.

Everyday activity will give rise to personal modifications. What are your modifications?

4 Responses

  1. KYouell says:

    I saw online that the new bakfiets have an optional locking box below the bench. I want to add a piece of plywood and a lock so that I have a one. It’s rare that I flip up the bench for a load I’m carrying, but I often stash things under the bench. My older idea is to have 2 wood flap that attach to the top edge of long sides of the box (with piano hinge?) that
    can flip up, interlock and the lock so that the sole box can become a locking trunk when we park. I’ve seen plastic totes that have tops that interlock in this fashion & think it’s doable.

    Nice post! You got me thinking that I think these ideas through more and actually do them.

  2. Tom says:

    Travis, this is a very interesting read and it shows how great minds think alike. After I catch up on orders, my winter project is going to incorporate ideas addressing some of the same issues that you sketched up. The design and execution will be a bit different, but in the same direction all the same. Tom

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