The biking phenomenon has really taken off in 2020. Venture outside and you’ll see more and more families on bikes this year. With COVID-19 restrictions, many people have realised the benefits of cycling with their kids. While some families prefer each member of the family to have their own bike, one bike type is becoming more popular and that’s the cargo bike due to its flexibility.
Local Newcastle company Tribe Bikes has recently launched a line of cargo bikes. With a 100kg cargo box capacity, these bikes provide tons of options. You can leave the car at home and take four kids or two kids and a dog or just a load of groceries on family adventures by bike.
Tribe Bikes were inspired by Newcastle locals Nick Kalaf and Steve Bull’s personal struggles in getting around with two young kids each. Co-founder Nick Kalaf states “Getting around by car was stressful, whether it’s dealing with traffic, kids who didn’t want to get in the car or even just trying to get kids safely in and out of the car on busy streets. When we decided to adventure by foot, we were limited to our own suburb and we usually ended up carrying home at least one child once they had had enough. It just wasn’t fun and we knew there needed to be a better way. That’s when Tribe Bikes was born and we haven’t looked back.”
Tribe Bikes are available now through their website, priced from $1,990, with free delivery to east coast Australia. The non-electric version is priced at $1,990 and the electric version is $3,290. All bikes are delivered assembled, ready to ride and four cargo box colour options are available.
Thanks to Steve Bull for taking the time to answer questions about Tribe Bikes. He provides some background about the bikes as well as what’s next.
What are Tribe Bikes?
Tribe Bikes are 3 wheel cargo bikes designed for family fun! They allow you to carry up to 4 kids, 2 kids and a dog or just a swag load of shopping.
How did you and Nick come up with the idea of starting your own cargo bike business?
We had both had our second children and were noticing how much it had slowed us down. Simple trips out in the car required a lot of planning and weren’t fun, and on foot we were limited to our own suburb. We’d seen cargo bikes of this nature in Europe but they just weren’t readily available in Australia and if you could find them they were the price of a small car. So we found a manufacturer and ordered a couple of prototypes, spent six months refining the design, and recently launched.
Why did you name it Tribe bikes?
Our motto is “Take your Tribe”. Your Tribe might be your kids, your grandkids, your pre-school or your dogs! We thought Tribe Bikes was the perfect name to explain what these bikes do best. Plus with ‘Tri’ in the name it references the 3 wheel nature of the bikes.
Do you have a background in bikes?
I’ve been tinkering with bikes since my early 20s, converting old 10-speed racers to commuters, mountain biking and road riding. I tell my wife the perfect number of bikes to own is N+1, where N = the number of bikes you currently own. When I lived in Sydney I worked for a large bank and ran their program to get more people commuting by bike to work. I love seeing more people on bikes! I also have some family who are bike mechanics, who we’ve been able to call on for a few favours as we start up.
What kinds of things can you carry in a Tribe Bike?
The cargo box has 100kg weight capacity, so there’s not a lot you can’t carry in it! There are two benches, with four seatbelts, so carrying kids is the primary purpose. However, the bench seats can easily be removed to carry other things.
We’ve been surprised at how many dog owners have been our first purchasers. We had a lady from Carrington want to easily get her dog to Horseshoe Beach, and another couple from the Central Coast who have old arthritic dogs that they still want to get out and about. We’ll soon be launching a Doggy Door to allow dogs to easily get in and out.
We find alongside our two kids, we are generally throwing in kids bikes, scooters, soccer balls, boogie boards and snacks, lots of snacks. It’s amazing how far you can get when your kids are well fed in the front of the bike, and if we run short, quick detours to the supermarket are no problem.
What age of kids are best suited to Tribe Bikes?
We’ve had kids from 12 months all the way to 12 years in our bikes, and all love it. The sweet spot is probably 1 – 6, where kids aren’t big enough to ride their own bikes for long periods of time. We think we’ll have many years of use out of our Bike, as the kids get bigger it’ll be used for school dropoffs, and it’s such an easy way to get down to the beach whilst being able to easily carry towels, buckets and spades and boogie boards.
What’s your favourite thing about travelling places in a Tribe bike?
Having the kids ride up front really makes them part of the adventure. You can point things out and play games as you ride. They say when travelling the journey is more important than the destination, and a journey by cargo bike is just so much more enjoyable than a journey by car.
The other thing we love is just being able to carry so much stuff, and then not having to lug it from the car. On a trip to the beach, we can carry towels, snacks, buckets, spades, diggers, boogie boards, barbies and whatever else, and we pull up with the bike next to the sand. Trips to the shops involve pulling up at the doorway to the shops and locking up the bike, not having to find a car park, then unload kids out of the car whilst traffic is whizzing by.
Are there any restrictions in where you can ride a cargo bike?
You can ride a cargo bike wherever you can ride a regular bike. A common misconception is that you can only ride these bikes on cycleways. This is false, it’s perfectly legal and safe to ride on the roads. Of course we recommend practicing common sense and avoiding busy roads where possible, particularly when you are carrying children.
What is the difference between the electric and non-electric bike?
The electric version of the bike includes a 250w motor. It has a torque sensor in the crank which like magic senses when it needs to give you an extra push. It is by far the most popular model we offer, as a fully loaded cargo bike is heavy, and it’s nice to be able to hit some hills or just have an extra push helping you get started. You can get up to 50 kilometres out of a charge. The non electric version is still great if you’re predominantly riding flat cycleways, once you are up and going it pedals easy on the flat.
What has the response been from people when they see you out and about in a Tribe Bike?
They are such a unique bike that we feel like local celebrities. The bikes certainly turn heads, and it is usually followed by a big smile when people see the kids having so much fun up front. It also helps us feel much safer on the roads as the bikes are so noticeable, people will generally give you a wider berth when overtaking.
How can people learn more about a Tribe Bike? Can they test-drive one?
We’ve got heaps of information on the Tribe Bikes website. We are offering test rides regularly in at Honeysuckle. If you are interested in coming along to the next test ride, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Socials.
As a Newcastle local, where is your favourite place(s) to go for a bike ride?
Newcastle is such a great city to explore by bike. We are blessed to have the Fernleigh Track on our doorstep. It has always been one of my favourite rides, and it’s so great now to be able to get my young kids out there with me, riding through the bush and checking out the old train line ruins. My son always wants to go ride through the tunnel under the Pacific Highway!
I also love riding from Newcastle Beach to Islington Park. It’s pretty much entirely cycleway and offers some of the best that Newcastle has to offer, from the beaches to the working harbour, the Fishing Wharf, Throsby Creek and a great playground. The truth is we’re still exploring where we can adventure by bike in Newcastle!
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