Advice from London Courier Company

K4RGO - Bullit, blue. Creative Couriers
Four years ago, Bill Chidley pushed the management of the courier company he was working for to explore using cargobikes; his argument: many van trips could be replaced by more economical and faster vehicles.

He has now written an informative review on the lessons learned.

Here is an excerpt:

As I mentioned above, we fitted secure, water-proof boxes to all our bikes, and this is probably the most problematic area for commercial cargo bikes. You want to be able to secure the load so that it’s safe on the bike whilst the bike is unattended, and you want to be able to carry as much as possible, but clearly the box can’t be wider than the bike (this will make the bike a lot less manoeuvrable, and ideally the box will be light, as well as strong, water-proof & secure. Too big and heavy a box will demoralise the rider, especially if the rider is asked to ride 4 miles to deliver an envelope only a little bigger than his (or her) hand. This is important, because, as the old courier proverb has it, “a turning wheel is an earning wheel”, so sometimes it’s good to get some work on board, no matter how small the item, as long as it’s not wildly out of the way. It’s not a great idea to send a cargo bike to Greenwich, if most of your cargo clients are based in Clerkenwell, and send stuff into the West End.

Our first bike (8 Freight) was fitted as big a box as we could reasonably fit, and this was a big mistake. The weight destroyed the rack, and this was a big reason why the bike was so unreliable.

Repeating the mistake, we initially fitted a flight-case style box, custom made by Quentor to fit the Bullitt. Even though the box was very light for its size, it was (is) relatively heavy, and the weight dramatically affects the handling of the bike, to the point where I dropped the bike on its side the very first time I tried to ride it.

We looked around for alternatives, and considered getting an aluminium box fabricated to our spec, but the cost was not considered by me to be worth the benefit. Bullitt now sell a box for £300 (more or less, at it is priced in Euros).* We fitted this box to one of our Bullitts, and with the dyno-hub, I would say this spec is pretty much perfect for courier work. Still light enough to make envelope delivery economic and durable enough to give acceptable reliability (I find the idea of fitting carbon fibre parts, or, indeed, any race-quality parts, to commercial cargo bike ridiculous).

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One thought on “Advice from London Courier Company

  1. Bill consider using the moulded containers used by many van logistics operators. When empty they stack or pack flat to minimise volume and wind resistance. many have snap-fit sealed lids and are watertight to at least IP65. Some types are even immersible and float – loaded. I use a 22 litre box, 4 of which can fit on my Brompton, loaded, or stack on to my trailer in greater number. They are light and ‘bomb proof’ enough to throw off/on to a train, when I have my hands full with a bike to follow. Cost – in bulk, in the colour of your choice less than £10 including the lids.

    You’ll spot similar being used at pharmacies and building society/banks, often with security seals to deliver drugs/paperwork etc. Also makes for a simple charging regime – per ‘box’ per trip – client can sent any ‘package, as long as it fits your standard cargo module.

    My choice of box size has other features – it is the maximum size permitted for carry on bag (flight), and it fits under most rail and bus seats, most overhead racks (rail), and almost always the maximum width for the luggage racks in many trains.

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