Cargo Bike Guide – Camera Mounting Positions

This post explains some of the detail behind the various mounting positions shown in this video:

The positions are listed below in the order they appear in the video: starting from underneath and working our way upwards.

Low, Mid-Deck

This position works off the one of the Bullitt’s cross-bars, under the cargo deck.  To make it work, I’ve fabricated a custom deck out of 7mm plywood.  You can see two holes for camera mounts – the one closet to you is this position, the mid-deck position.  The similar hole at the front (just under the lock) is the next position.

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This position is great for a sense of speed and having the deck above provides a lot of visual context of the bike in action.

Low, Front-Deck

As shown in the photo above, this position is on the front cross-bar of the cargo deck.

This is one of my favorite camera positions as it provides and balances three things:

  1. It’s low so provides a good sense of speed.
  2. The front wheel is clearly visible which adds visual context of the bike.
  3. Provides good visibility of the view ahead – the wheel doesn’t overly obscure it.

Forks

This was a surprisingly interesting position.

Because it’s directly on the front forks, vibrations from the front wheel directly transfer to the camera – where as positions on the frame tend to be just that little bit more cushioned by the flex of the frame, and by being less directly affected by vibrations.

The front wheel provides a really interesting visual reference point, and stays very steady – but the view off the bike will be more shaky.

Front Frame

For this position simply using big rubber bungies gets the best results in terms of stability.  It’s high enough to provide a good view of the road ahead, whilst also being low enough to feel some speed.  The front wheel provides some visual context of the bike.

The issue with the Load 75 is that the lack of space between the panels and frame – the only you’d get a solid clip around the frame would be to remove or modify the panels.  The small hole in the frame (left photo) goes all the way through the frame and should be useful for mounting also.

Front of Load

This was the first position I ever tried.  Bascially I used cargo straps and bungies to mount the camera on top of the fish bins, at the front, to one side.

I like how the frame provides a good point of reference, as you get a feeling of how the bike is tipping whilst cornering.

Rear Deck

This position is at the top of the main frame, immediately below where the steering stem starts. This is probably the best position for “scenic” rides, where you want the viewer to get a good sense of the surroundings vs a sense of speed from some manic downhill.

You’ll need to be very careful of any cables, to ensure they don’t fowl on the camera – or obscure the camera’s field of view.

Note – in case you’re wondering, the bend on the brake cable was there already and isn’t because it’s up against the camera.

Head Set

This position is off the head set – i.e. where the frame accommodates the front forks.

On the Load 75, the shape of the frame is such that there’s enough frame to safely mount the camera using it’s bracket – without interfering with the very top part of the head set which turns with the forks.  On the Bullitt the clearance is slightly less but looks like it would work.

 

 

 

Quick Review: Riese & Müller, Load 75 e-Cargo Bike

Pepper has been invited to go to Auckland for a trade show, so I’ve been given a Riese & Müller, Load 75 e-Cargo Bike* to use in the interim.  So, time for a quick review.

(The bike shop didn’t actually say which model it is, and I’m assuming it’s a the Load 75.  For more info from R&M, see https://www.r-m.de/en-nz/models/load-75/).

Essentially the Load 75 is like the big comfy family car of cargo bikes – compared to the leaner Bullitt which feels more like a sports car.  The Load 75 is certainly a nice smooth ride, feels very stable and is a great option for anyone wanting relative convenience and comfort.

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Smooth Riding

The full suspension really helps smooth-out the ride, which is great for precious delicate cargo – such as the kids, electronics or fruit.

The other neat thing about this specific bike which enhances its smoothness is the Enviolo step-less hub.  Essentially there’s no perceptible steps between gears – because there aren’t any.  Changing the pedal-to-wheel ratio is easy – you simply twist the gear selection grip (which is the inner section of the handgrip) and the gearing increases/decreases as you like.  This shifting is perfectly continuous and smooth.  You can also change up or down whist still putting pressure on the pedals.   Because the gear selector is part of the handle it’s very safe in that you don’t really need to change your grip.

For more info, see: https://www.enviolo.com/en/automatic

Quick Comparison: Load 75 vs Bullitt

Please note, the baguette is not factory supplied.

  • Physicality: the Load 75 is longer, slightly wider, slightly heavier and feels larger.  The extra width may be an issue for anyone who needs to get through very narrow doors, or the more aggressive rider who likes to weave through traffic.
  • Ride: the Load 75 is a comfortable ride, whereas the Bullitt feels more racy.
  • Load carrying: the Load’s fixed side-frame cargo space is great for convenience but not as flexible as the fully open Bullitt.  The cargo space is longer and wider making it excellent for most scenarios, assuming a closed cargo space fits your needs.
  • Load Securing: The factory supplied side panels are nice and sturdy, but there’s an absence of gaps and holes useful for securing loads.  It does have some narrow slits useful for flat cargo straps.  Without side panels the frame would provide plenty of lashing points.

Security

The nature of the frame does not offer many anchoring points if you have a D-Lock.    The best option for securing to vertical posts is to loop through the small bracket that strengthens the seat post. However, the physicality of the bike is such that getting close enough to secure objects to lock the bike to is finickity.  The easiest method requires a post that is relatively freestanding as the protruding nature of the rear cargo deck frame will get in the way of anchoring points that are part of a flat wall.  This won’t be an issue if you don’t have the factory side panels attached, or if you cut suitable holes in the panels, or if you make custom ones with such gaps.

Alternatively you can position a D-Lock through the rear suspension arm and wheel.

Camera Mounting

One of the implications of the factory supplied panels is that there’s a dearth of mounting points for cameras.  I ended up lashing my camera to the front frame with bungies – which mostly worked ok.

Above, a slightly reserved descent in the wet, down through Brooklyn; below, some off-road single-track action.

 

 

 

Cargo Bike Lifestyle

The Cargo Bike: Bullitt by Larry vs Harry

Larry vs Harry is a cargo bike maker based in Denmark, and Bullitt is the name of their flagship cargo bike.  They offer e-assisted and ‘manual’ versions (I’m fortunate enough to have the former).  You can see lots of great pictures that give you a broad sense of the bike on Instagram – links at the bottom.

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How Does It Feel?

It handles really well.  It’s essentially the longboard of bicycles.  The front-loading cargo deck configuration means that the center of gravity is kept low (stable) and loads are visible (safer).  The cargo deck is still relatively narrow (less than the width of the handle bars) so it’s relatively streamlined and can still manoeuvre through tight traffic.

Basically the Bullitt is a great example of great European design: functional, elegant and balanced.

It is rated to carry 180 Kgs including the rider, which equates to you and a small truckload of groceries and or children.  My heaviest regular load is the weekly market shop for fresh fruit & veg (~20-30 Kg’s worth?) – more on that later.

As you can see, it’ll accommodate a wide variety of load types and can be used in a number of ways.

It goes fast.  Bullitt’s are equipped with the Shimano STePS system, which will assist you up to ~25 Km/h, after that it’s up to your legs and/or gravity.

Battery & Motor Performance

To understand this some local context is needed.  My daily commute is just over 4 Km, of which 3.3 Km’s of that is a steady 150 m vertical ascent (heading home).

The battery lasts me 5-7 days, based on approx. one return trip to town a day (x7), and depending on how much additional riding I do.  The journey home usually drains ~10-12% charge depending on how charged it is.

The STePS system has 3 assist modes: eco, normal, high, as well as no assist.  I tend to ride with the e-assist off except for when going up-hill or into a string head-wind.  Unless my load is especially heavy (or my knees are feeling particularly weak) I’ll stick to Eco-mode assist for the normal commute home.

According to the specs a full charge will assist you for 145 Km on the flat, for comparison High will assist you for 65 Km.  I tend to use eco to get better endurance, and frankly the extra power achieved by the more powerful assist modes isn’t something I find I need – but it’s good to have it in reserve.

Loads & Configuration

My goal is never to carry anything on my back ever again; I want to maximize the bikes ability to carry stuff and my own comfort.  I’m also keen for my configuration to be as flexible as possible.

My solution to this is:

  1. Flat open deck – no permanent / fixed side walls.
  2. A pair of large fish bins (approx. 41 x 64 cm) with lids for general cartage.
  3. A pair of army surplus ammo pouches for small items.

The bins have the same width and length but slightly different heights (28 cm & 19 cm), the idea being that the variety might come in handy.  They both have (interchangeable) lids which provide adequate protection from rain.  Depending on their relative orientation they can stack on top of each other or sit nested inside each other.

I have sliced up a foam camping mattress for padding – you can see it lining the front bin in the picture above.  A single layer of this seems to protect fruit adequately, as well as laptops, and you can always use a double layer (I got three sections from the one mattress).  The foam also helps raise your items off the very bottom of the bin, so if any moisture does make it inside your stuff is less likely to get wet.

The bins can be used a number of configurations:

  1. Stacked on top – as seen in the first picture above.
  2. Stacked within each other.  If the taller bin is placed in the lower one you get one big bin with the ability to expand out if you need the extra capacity.  f you stack the lower bin in the taller one you get a split level; e.g. you can put laptops and other ‘nice’ things in the bottom and other items in the top -like wet raincoats, dirty boots or whatever.

Bindings:

I have two cargo-straps: 1 x 3m and 1 x 4m.  The 3m will comfortably loop around the cargo deck and both bins top-stacked.  (Note: the strap needs to pass between the frame and the steering rod as you don’t want to impede the steering rod).

The 4m strap will comfortably to a double “n” loop over both bins high-stacked.  This is the configuration I am most using currently.  Imagine the loop starting at the top of the load – it passes down one side, goes under the frame and back up again; down the opposite side, under the frame and back up again, where it completes the loop.  This technique give s nice firm double strap.

Above: showing the double “n” loop, and an ammo pouch for small items.

I also carry two lengths of 6mm rope from the local marine supplies shop, which is great for random stuff.

Above: for comparison – the shorter fish bin inside the taller one; and “high stacked”.

Finally, I also have a few rubber bungies, these are made from recycled car tyres with a bit of dowel for a handle.  Basically you just need to carefully cut an intact cross-section so that you have a nice strong loop of rubber, and then loop one end around the dowel and back through itself (a little bit like the first step of tying a cats-paw knot).  You can extend these by hitching a second loop onto the first (like the longer of the three bungies, below).

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The only minor pain is that with strapping stuff in I’m frequently forgetting things – either that I should have out, or need to put in, so I find myself messing about with straps and so on a bit.  But on balance its a pretty minor problem to have.

Manoeuvrability

You’d think the longer wheel-base was a challenge – actually it’s not too bad, but you’ll want to be a little more conscious when planning stop-offs so that you can avoid having to do U-turns on the footpath.

The biggest challenge I find is inner-city stops where you want to change direction – you can pick up the rear of the bike and pivot on / manoeuvre with the front wheel easily enough, the only real challenge is available space.

As you can see in the video below, slow cornering around tight corners is no problem provided there’s enough space.

In terms of slow riding, I can stay upright doing as little as 4 Km/h.  The relative size of the wheels to the overall bike means the ratio of gyroscopic force the wheels produce is not as great.  But in general the Bullitt is really well balanced and great to ride.

Have I Ever Fallen Off?

Just the once.  It’s hard to pin-point the cause exactly.  It was early on in my Bullitt days, doing a sudden lane change on a wet smooth road.  There was a gap in the traffic and a car was offering me entry into the far lane.  I had both bins high-stacked with a bunch of gear.  I turned into the lane and rode across it, then sharply turned to straighten-up and the bike flipped over on it’s side and slid.

Did I hit a patch of oil?  Impossible to tell.  I think it was partially the sharpness of the turn, the wet conditions, and perhaps overall speed – not super fast but not hanging around either.

Once I fell I was pretty much just tobogganing along, the nature of the frame meant I was somewhat lifted off the ground by the mid-frame “h” shape off the handlebar stem, so apart from some minor scuffs I was unhurt.

Interestingly, I had the fish bins lashed down with a single cargo strap and they were totally intact – didn’t really move at all, so picking the bike up again and clearing the road was pretty easy.

Conclusion

Front-loading cargo bikes are super versatile, possessing good speed and manoeuvrability but with prodigious carrying capacity.  The Bullitt is an awesome example of this architecture of bike, and makes for a great car replacement.

References

  1. http://www.larryvsharry.com/ – designers and manufacturers of the Bullitt.
  2. https://www.shimano-steps.com/e-bikes/europe/en/product-information/city-trekking/e6000 – more information on the Shimano STePS system, 6000 series, which I have mounted on my Bullitt.  Various Bullitt models use different versions of the STePS system.
  3. https://www.bicyclejunction.co.nz/ – local Wellington Bullitt dealers.  They also carry other types and brands of cargo bike.
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGPl3HPPotY&list=PL-oWnHyIj78AIrTyp9gTUnRd9iNKMEv1i – The Adventures of Pepper the Cargo Bike; me & Pep’s cruisin’ around Wellington and beyond.