// Updated January 2023 //
The Babboe Big electric bike is a three wheeled cargo box bicycle (known as a bakfiets in the Netherlands). For over 5 years, I had some fun times with my 3 kids in the cargo bike. Below is a review based on my experiences. I am currently re-building this site to provide an overview of my cargo bike experiences & provide some helpful tips to prospective cargo bike users out there.
What type of cargo bike have we been using?
We purchased the Babboe Big E-bike (electric bike). According to Babboe their bikes are designed & developed in The Netherlands. Our bike is a three wheeled tricycle bike with two wheels on the front & one at the back. The bike has seven gears & has an electric pedal assist motor installed. We chose the electric version as we have three children & where we have typically cycled is not entirely flat. After trying the non-electric version of this cargo bike, I felt it was worth going for the electric version & trust me is a lot easier going up hills!
How have we used the cargo bike?
Since we started using the cargo bike in December 2016, our routine has changed a bit. I (as in dad!) am the main user of the bike so over the past few years, I have used the bike to do some of the following:
- Dropping children to school & crèche
- Doing local shopping
- Little leisure trips such as to playgrounds
- Miscellaneous odd jobs such as recycling
What do we think about the bike?
This bike has been a great help to us, especially when we lived in the Dublin suburbs. We needed some transport to get us around locally & going for a cargo bike has been a great solution.
After discussing the idea of purchasing a cargo bike we decided early on to go for a three wheeler. Generally these are bigger bikes & in our case can carry up to four children (we have three!). There is also space to put in items such as school bags or some shopping. The rear pannier rack is quite strong so can put some extra items on the back. We have carried buggies & bicycles on the pannier rack so it has been useful.
The Babboe Big itself is pretty solid. It has seven gears so you can only go so fast but with the weight of three children in the front you are only going to go so fast anyway, even if you are making use of the battery.
Is the bike stable & how safe do we feel?
The cargo bike is stable enough once you adapt the speed to the condition of the road/cycle lane you are using. You do need to know your limits & understand your environment such as watching the road surface. If there are no passengers or weight in the cargo box area, the bicycle is naturally lighter in the front & that means you do need to concentrate more in keeping control. In my opinion the Babboe Big has been designed for use on relatively flat surfaces so it is important to not travel too quickly over uneven surfaces & certainly avoid potholes! The same advise applies if you have passengers but with a heaver load I find the bicycle is more stable.
If you are sensible & adjust your cycling style to the road surface, I find the bicycle quite easy to manoeuvre & control. While not complacent, I feel confident enough cycling on Irish & French roads with more than 20 years of being a regular commuter cyclist under my belt. I feel I am experienced enough to bring my kids out on the bike with me mixed in traffic which is quite common on atypical Irish roads & is certainly the case in rural France where we are living.
While it is a much more expensive option, we opted for the cargo bike route over using a bike trailer which is typically pulled from behind a bicycle. We felt it was a safer option to have the children in front in a sturdier vehicle construction such as the cargo bike box.
What do we think about the electric motor?
The Qwic electric battery motor is great. There are six power levels which broadly match the seven gears e.g. for the motor to kick on gear 2 you would select power setting 2. It is a great help going up gradients & hills as well has if you have a bit of a headwind against you. I definitely would recommend considering the e-bike version if you are going to invest in a cargo bike. You need to consider the fact that as the cyclist you will get older as your children get heavier! The only downside to the motor is when the battery charge gets to the lower levels such as two power level bars, I found the motor can kick out if you go up a hill & slow down in anyway.
In 2021 we moved to France to the small village of Bolquere in the Pyrenees. I used the cargo bike to take the kids to school, the local village & even the ski station! To call this area hilly would be an understatement, so the electric motor as well as my legs were put to good use. In fairness to the bike, the motor was useful if under pressure in these hilly areas. Generally I was transporting 3 kids around so the bike was full most times & the motor definitely helped. The bike would have been unusable in this area without it.
We purchased the rain cover & seat cushions for the two benches. I find that the rain cover works very well even to protect the kids from the elements whether it is the cold winter days or hot sunny summer days which do occur on occasion in Ireland, especially this summer! The rain cover works very well when it rains. The kids can see out of this rain cover without any issue. On warmer days you can roll out the side windows of the rain cover so there is plenty of air coming in & the kids have fun shouting out greetings to passers by!
For the benches, I would recommend the cushions. The bike has no suspension so the passengers do feel even the smallest of bumps. The cushions help make this a little bit more comfortable.
We are typically carrying around three children however there is room to also carry shopping to put beside the kids when needed. If there are no children in the bicycle, the benches can fold up to allow for increased space to carry large loads. There is a rear pannier rack with a cord to hold down items e.g. we have carried our buggy around on the back with some extra bungee cords for security.
What do the children think?
Of course, the driver is not the only one who needs to give a review of the Babboe Big. We have 3 kids & the cargo bike was used regularly to ferry them around until the ages of 9 (the eldest). After 5 years using the cargo bike, the children were enjoying taking the bike out for a local ride! What I found great is that I could still chat to them while I cycled on the bike itself. The have enjoyed playing games with motorists by shouting hello & waving at them. A lot of motorists are good sport & wave back which gives the kids great enjoyment 🙂
Not a Ferrari: It would be a lie to state that it is the most beautiful speediest bicycle on the road but that is a very superficial & minor perspective! What it lacks in stunning beauty it more than makes up for in sheer practicality!
Lack of Suspension: If there are any complaints they would be that there is no suspension so the passengers do feel a lot of the surface bumps. The bumps have not annoyed our little kids, in fact they can enjoy the bumps.
Safety Straps: The other issue that has annoyed us a little are the safety straps which we find a bit fiddly, but it is better to have the security than not. Our kids like to change places a lot & we found the straps a bit annoying to re-adjust each time one of the kids changes places.
Bulky: The bicycle is bulky, the main downside is when you are cycling on narrow roads, you may not be able to skim by traffic during rush hour. I have avoided this issue to a degree by pre-planning my journey to avoid roads that are too congested but that is not always possible. Sometimes you will just need to queue in traffic like other motorists.
Stability on Uneven Surfaces: You do need to keep a watchful eye on road surface quality. This means the speed needs to be watched to ensure you keep full control. The bicycle appears to have been designed for road surfaces that are smooth which is not always the norm! The rule of thumb is take it easy where the road surface looks in bad shape, especially if the bike is empty e.g. no passengers.
No Trip Counter/Speedometer: We purchased our Babboe Big back in 2016 & it did not come with a trip counter. For myself I kept track of the trip distances using a phone app (Strava). It looks like newer models of the Babboe Big E sold today do have this as a feature.
Front Lights: The rear light is powered by the battery. The two front lights are powered by four AAA batteries between them. On our 2016 model, the front lights while perfectly bright, were just a bit fiddly & environmentally it was a waste of batteries. It appears on the newer model sold today, this is now resolved & the lights are powered by the batter which is a great improvement.
Have we had any technical issues?
The only major issue we have had was the pedal assist stopped working in 2018. As part of the Babboe warranty, this was fixed by the shop where we purchased the bike. The cargo bike also was serviced as part of the warranty in the first two years of owning the bike.
We had a period with some punctures on the rear wheel which are par for the course which leads to some challenges in terms of repairing punctures or replacing a tube. I ended up replacing the rear wheel tyre with a more robust puncture resistant tyre & I have had no punctures since.
Would we recommend a Babboe Big cargo bike?
Yes, overall it has been a good investment & we do not regret making this purchase. While I have pointed out some issues that I had personally, they are not serious in the grand scheme of things. The bike has served its original purpose & the children still enjoy taking a ride in the bike.
Is it worth investing the money in such a bike?
The answer to this question is dependent on individual circumstances. At the time we purchased the bike we looked at several criteria:
- Where will we use the bike most e.g. school runs, shopping etc.?
- How often will we use the bike e.g. near daily?
- How long will we transport the children in the bike? Our family circumstances have changed so we are not using the cargo bike any more. However, we were using it to transport our 3 children, the eldest being 9 years old. We could still go on if circumstances allowed but we got 5 years out of the bike & we feel it was worth the investment.
Thank you for reading this review, I hope you found it of use. Happy & safe cycling in 2021!
Where did we buy our cargo bike?
We bought our Babboe Big cargo bike from the Dutch Bike Shop in Dublin, Ireland.