In my work around cycle training in Suffolk and potential upcoming developments in active travel and cycle training, I occasionally get the opportunity to try something a little bit different and explore an aspect of cycling that I wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to try.
One such recent adventure involved a chance to take a new Raleigh Pro Cargo Bike, on loan from The Way To Go Suffolk, out for a test ride through the streets of Bury St. Edmunds on a very wet and soggy Wednesday afternoon: An experience that I found more enjoyable than I anticipated, despite the less than agreeable weather.
The first thing that struck me was how much bigger the Pro is over my usual rides. It’s certainly much longer and feels broader, although I suspect the latter is psychological due to the cargo box as the handlebars aren’t any wider than a regular bike.
The controls for the electric system are intuitive and I had the bike’s systems operating within a couple of minutes of my initial look round. Unladen, it was easy enough to take off it’s stand to move, although I suspect that fully laden (an extra 75 Kg), that might be a little trickier and perhaps take some getting used to.
Having never had the opportunity to ride a cargo bike of any description before, I spent a good few minutes riding the bike around an empty car park to get a feel for it before venturing out onto the road. I immediately found that both the steering and the electric assist were very responsive, even given it’s additional weight and extra length which is necessary to cater for the electric systems and cargo box.
That excellent responsiveness initially made things feel slightly ‘twitchy’ as I executed my first few tentative turns, but I found that I quickly got used to how it handled and was happily swooping around the rain-swept tarmac with comfort and ease. After I was satisfied that I had a reasonable level of control over things, I then decided that it was time to venture out onto the streets to see what else the Pro had to offer.
Even given the treacherous weather (by this point the steady rain had turned into a downpour) and that the roads were getting busy as we approached rush hour, I still found the Pro a pleasure to ride through the town. Whilst it felt very stable on the wet roads, the Pro was agile enough to negotiate the plethora of roadworks that seemed to have grown overnight and move around into the correct road position amongst the slow moving traffic.
A fair portion of my journey made use of the cycle lanes around the town and the Pro’s additional size did make these sections feel quite narrow, especially those with the pop-up bollards. As I mentioned previously though, I wonder how much of that was psychological given the fair size of the cargo box.
The e-bike’s brakes and tyres performed admirably, even when having to slow while going fairly fast downhill. At one point, I had to perform a ‘Quick Stop’ as a fellow cyclist stopped in front of me with no warning and the Pro gave me a feeling of confidence as I came to a rapid halt. Likewise, the electrical systems feel powerful and responsive, giving the impression that it would be possible to ride all day without overly exerting yourself. Even on the hill climbs back towards where I’d collected the bike, the electric motor did the majority of the heavy lifting, allowing me to enjoy the ride.
Slow speed manoeuvres, like U-Turns, were just as easy, even on narrower roads and I had no trouble getting the bike where it needed to be. However, the one thing that did cause me some issue was the twist grip gear shifter. Whilst it was responsive and smooth, it’s action is reversed from that of a ‘normal’ shifter and I found myself trying to change gear the wrong way on more than one occasion.
Other than the above, the only thing I found that gave me a little trouble was my feet slipping off the pedals in the wet. This could partly be down to the shoes I’d opted to wear given the weather conditions but if I was to purchase a Pro for myself, it’s definitely the one thing that I would opt to swap out very early on.
Overall, I found the Pro a real pleasure to ride with a great deal of grin factor even while in the pouring rain during rush hour. The electrical systems are well designed and intuitive to use, giving a strong “I can do this all day” impression as you ride around town.
- Intuitive to use
- Stable, comfortable and easy to ride
- Electric systems are powerful and responsive
- Twist Shift gears take getting used to
- Pedals seem slippery in the wet
- Possibly hard to manually move when laden by riders with smaller stature.