Friday's Featured Bike: Riese & Muller Packster 40
Bike: Riese & Muller Packster 40 compact e-cargo bike
E-assist system: Bosch Performance Line Speed (also available with Performance Line CX) with 500 Wh battery (also available with dual battery)
Components: Nuvinci 380 with Gates belt drive, hyrdaulic disc brakes
Stock Accessories: full fenders, front and rear light, Abus wheel lock, bell, bottle cage, Ergon grips
Optional Accessories: rear rack, Abus Bordo lock, cargo box, Carry System (shown here), Child seat, Tarpulin, Glove compartment
What We Like
One characteristic common to all Riese & Muller (R & M) cargo bikes is the relatively short learning curve needed to ride the bike. In other words, they are easy to learn to ride. The Packster 40 is no exception and in fact may be the easiest to master of all of their cargo bikes. While it still has the long stable wheelbase of a front-loading cargo bike, it is also a bit more nimble than the Packster 60 or Packster 80. That means that you adapt to the box and wheel out front very quickly.
Also common to all R & M cargo bikes are the front suspension, high quality wide tires, and adjustable stem. The front suspension adds to the ease of handling AND to comfort for rider and passenger. The wide Schwalbe Big Ben Plus tires add cushioning and puncture prevention. Raise and lower the stem to accommodate rider preference/height and optimize comfort.
The compact front cargo hold also makes it easier to maneuver in tight spaces and easier to park. That tighter turning radius and responsive handling mean you will feel more confident navigating in a variety of situations from school drop offs to downtown traffic.
The front end is small but the Carry System is roomier than it appears since the higher walls add to the volume for toting cargo, whether kids or groceries. The Carry System's optional kid seat is unique in its rear-facing set-up and many parents and kids appreciate the direct kid-parent communication that allows. When the wee one is not on board, the seat can hide away in the Glove Compartment, a nifty little hatch under the floor of the box, and can be set up again in seconds. I also like that Tarpulin for covering the box and concealing any contents or protecting them from the weather.
Urban riders will appreciate the internal gearing of the Nuvinci 380 and the belt drive. In stop-and-go city situations it's not always easy to downshift before a stop. The Nuvinci shifting allows the rider to shift into a lower gear when stopped, so it's easy to pedal away in the right gear. The lubeless belt means no greasy marks on your pant leg so go ahead and ride in your good work clothes.
Other pluses: low stand-over height, light weight (~ 73lbs), fun, available in Class 1 (20 mph cap) orClass 3 (28 mph cap), and with single or dual battery.
What We Don't Like
The small front box lacks a bit of versatility. It's really designed for one child or smaller loads such as groceries so if you're looking for a multi-kid bike or one that can carry larger, bulkier items, this may not be the bike for you.
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, we're familiar with some torrential weather. For many year-round cargo bike riders here that means that a rain cover is an essential option for passengers. While the Tarpulin can be adjusted to partially cover a child, it will not keep a kiddo completely warm and dry as the rain canopies for the Load, or Packster 60 & 80 will.
I would also like to see a wider platform pedal and sweep bars on this bike, as those are my preference for comfort on cargo bikes.
The Packster 40 is a fun, comfortable, maneuverable cargo bike that blends the shorter overall length (usually found only in longtail cargo bikes) with the stable front-loading cargo area of a box bike. I think the Bosch Performance Line Speed motor is a great match for this bike as its handling will inspire you to ride it anywhere you'd ride a regular bike, so don't hesitate to use it for everything from in-town errands to longer rides in the country. If you're looking for a compact and nimble front-loading cargo bike the Packster 40 is well-worth consideration.