July 11, 2021

Cargo Bike Rentals with Happy Fiets

During the May long weekend, Helen and I picked up our puppy Mozzie; a miniature poodle. While we have been carrying him around with a Basil bike carrier which got lots of positive comments, we were concerned that Mozzie would eventually outgrow the carrier. With this in mind and the need to transport other goods, Helen was looking at whether to get a bike trailer or a cargo bike. To get a feel for what a real world cargo bike experience would be like – had only done brief test rides before this – I rented a Larry vs Harry Bullitt e-assist from Robin Richardson who launched Happy Fiets back in May.

Robin (centre) showing Helen (right) and I the bike and being affectionately greeted by Mozzie

Happy Fiets uses FriendWithA to rent out the fleet of six cargo bikes. With the site being US based, the costs show in US dollars instead of Canadian dollars, though Robin mentioned FriendWithA is working on this issue. The costs range from $30 USD/day for a Babboe cargo trike to $70 USD/day for a Tern long-tail.

The Bullitt I selected – the closest to a traditional bakfiets – was $42 USD for the day, which did not include a 14% service charge and mandatory $10 USD/day for damage insurance (or $15 USD/day for damage and theft).

There is no way to opt out of insurance when renting through Happy Fiets

The total was around $58 USD ($72 CAD), though FriendWithA granted a $5 USD credit for the first use. To put that number into perspective, it’s comparable to renting a midsize car for one day and paying for damage waiver, but not the gas. The bike descriptions have been updated to make the pricing transparent, which is kindly appreciated. The booking itself on FriendWithA was very user friendly.

Booking through Happy Fiets / FriendWithA is very user friendly

Each Happy Fiets bike rental is delivered to you and picked up when you are done, while a chain lock and alarm are provided for secure storage. Since our bike rental was an e-assist, a backup battery was provided in case we had run out of battery. The bike box had a canopy which can have the roof opened – think cargo bike convertible 😉 – and rear pockets kept the spare battery and chain lock in storage. Robin was friendly and very thorough in walking through the basic functions of the bike and suggested a quick test ride before leaving us on our way for the day.

The chain lock and spare battery are stored in the rear pockets, while the blue box is the alarm

The Bullitt was very awkward to start and took some time to get a feel for the steering. After a loop around the block, I was OK to go to our first stop to pick up a vase at The Singing Lady at The Queensway near Royal York. Whereas my hybrid and road bikes felt stiff going over potholes and other uneven terrain, the Bullitt felt very smooth and the handling was good after taking into account the need to take wider turns. The Bullitt has five manual gears which can be shifted automatically if desired, while there are four e-assist settings (Off, Eco, Normal, and High). While I was told by Robin the Eco setting would best mimic a non e-assist bike to compensate for the battery and motor, I kept it off most of the time.

The four electric modes are selected using the left buttons and the five manual gears on the right. Pressing the centre button on the right activates automatic shifting.

More effort was needed to move the Bullitt with e-assist turned off than a regular bike, but it was still manageable on relatively flat terrain. I can see a non e-assist cargo bike being suitable for those who occasionally need to transport cargo and still use a regular bike for faster commuting. However, steeper hills such as in High Park – some of which require the High setting – and heavy winds such as along the Waterfront during the winter will make spending an extra few thousand dollars on an e-assist more worthwhile. An e-assist option would also be good for those looking to outright replace their regular bike.

Once we got the vase at The Singing Lady, we were able to use the bike box’s seatbelt (normally meant for kids) and openings to keep it from breaking, while Mozzie’s carrier sat neatly on the floor. He definitely enjoyed being on the bike without a need for the carrier’s mesh covering.

Our second errand took us to Chinatown for a more serious haul of groceries and some take out from Buddha’s Vegan Restaurant which is one of our favourites in Toronto. Going through Kensington Market proved to be a real challenge with lots of pedestrians and car traffic. (Seriously, ban cars from there!) Even with Mozzie inside the bike box, we were still able to fit the majority of our grocery bags inside while the remaining ones were put in Helen’s bike.

Mozzie enjoys being in the cargo bike along with the groceries and take out

While I found the Bullitt to be a solid performer, it only comes in one frame size which doesn’t really work for shorter people. Helen tried riding it in High Park before returning the bike to Robin and found it wasn’t for her. This experience proved why it is strongly recommended to rent a cargo bike for a day with real world conditions such as hauling groceries, kids, pets, or other cargo before committing thousands of dollars to buying one.

Overall, I found renting the Bullitt through Happy Fiets was a great experience with an ample supply of bikes, reasonable cost, user friendly booking, and Robin being thorough in explaining the details. Definitely worth checking out if you are considering getting a cargo bike.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Rob. I was curious about the pricing of this bike to buy. It looks like Curbside is one (if not the only) Toronto dealer, and there they are solidly in the $10K range, even without the box or other add-ons. https://curbsidecycle.com/collections/brand-larry-vs-harry

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