August 10, 2021

First Impressions of the Muli Cargo Bike

Last month, Helen and I rented a Larry vs Harry Bullit e-assist cargo bike to get a feel for cargo bikes in real world conditions. It was overall a solid performer and can be customized to transport all kinds of cargo, but had its shortcomings such as the high top tube not suitable for shorter riders and its length. When trying to find something more compact for urban living, Helen found a German made Muli Muskel which has a collapsible 100L basket and is only 195 cm long (compared to 243 cm for the Bullitt). She ordered it from Montréal-based Âllo Vélo – the only Canadian distributor for Muli cargo bikes – and we went to the Beagle Bicycle Company in Mississauga on Saturday to pick it up.

Upon picking up the bike, the person working at Beagle Bicycle noted how light it was (24 kg or 53 lbs); something which could come in handy when bringing it on public transit. I tried lifting it with the basket closed and found it to be easy with the basket handles. There was one immediate problem in which the seat post could not be fully lowered due to the welding inside the seat tube, so the shop’s technician cut the seat post for it to be lowered enough for Helen to ride as well. The bike shop – about 23 kilometres from our home – was friendly and we were told they don’t usually get cargo bikes due to low demand in the area.
A size comparison between a Brompton and the Muli Muskel with Mozzie inside the basket

Aside from the seat post issue, I was impressed with the bike. The basket – when opened to 60 cm wide – offered lots of room for Mozzie. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put him in for the ride home as we needed to transport the Brompton (and basket) Helen rode to the bike shop, so he had to sit in the bike carrier for the return ride. On Sunday, I did a grocery errand in Chinatown with the Muli Muskel and found there was lots of room leftover after nine grocery bags and a pannier, so it should be possible to transport both Mozzie and the groceries once we can put in a divider. This is not surprising given the Muli’s basket is similar in size to that of the Bullitt. For added capacity, we opted to add a rear luggage rack, while dynamo front and rear lights were included.

Don't let the small size fool you. This Muli can haul 100L or 70 kg.

The ride quality was pretty smooth and the steering felt easier to maneuver than the Bullitt thanks to the shorter wheelbase, lower top tube, and lighter weight. When the basket is closed to 28 cm wide, it almost feels like you are not riding a cargo bike. The Muli uses hydraulic disc brakes which are powerful and don’t require much effort to stop the bike. Even when carrying a Brompton (which weighs 9 – 12 kg or 20 – 28 lbs) or groceries, the pedalling effort was not overly difficult without an e-assist, though going up some hills required dropping a few gears. While I haven’t tried going up the steep hills in High Park yet with this bike, I did read some reviews about the Muli Muskel citing difficulties when climbing steep hills due to the large crankset ring with 50 teeth. Fortunately, e-assist versions of the Muli are available for those who need more power to tackle those hills and/or regularly transport heavy cargo.

The Muli Muskel with the basket closed. It opens easily with the pull of the blue lever.

Muli offers a few accessories such as child seats which can allow children to either face the front or their parent riding, as well as a rain cover to keep children and/or cargo dry. The pricing of $4,495 (Canadian) for the chain drive - or $4,995 for the belt drive which we opted for - is on par with the Bullitt depending on how you configure it. Sure there are cheaper cargo bikes out there such as the Babboe City which start at under $3,000, but their 60 kg (or 132 lb) mass makes them impractical for not-so-flat cities such as Toronto. The lighter mass of the Muli also reduces the need to spend thousands of extra dollars for an e-assist version which starts at $7,295. Even so, the price of the e-assist Muli is on the low end when many e-cargo bikes can cost over $10,000.

Video from Muli showing the capabilities of the cargo bike

For a first impression, the Muli Muskel has certainly delivered with its compact size, collapsible basket, light weight, and great handling. There were some minor issues such as the need to cut the seat post, as well as the lack of customizability compared to the Bullitt. This Brompton of cargo bikes is a cargo bike worth a serious look of you plan to buy a cargo bike and I hope Muli can get a Toronto area distributor as soon as possible.

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