By Eric McKeegan
Well, look here, a longtail from one of the big players in the bicycle game! Surely a sign of a healthy practical biking culture taking root here in the U.S. Electric assist, too! The future of urban transport? I hope so.
Aluminum is the material of choice here for the frame and fork. Even with the battery and motor, the Transport isn’t overly heavy. I really dig the sloping top tube—so much easier to step over when the rear rack is loaded with cargo or kids.
That rear rack is huge and welded on. The attachment points for bags are bolted on, and a few of the bolts rattled themselves loose—nothing a bit of thread locker didn’t fix. The top rack is rated for 100lbs. The handy side platforms can each hold 50lbs., and they fold up when not in use. Another 25lbs. can be hauled on the front rack, for a total capacity of 225lbs.
The single included bag can easily hold two overstuffed grocery bags and a few other bits. One outside pocket is perfectly sized for a U-lock, and few inside pockets can carry smaller stuff like tools or keys or the battery charger. I’d recommend picking up a second bag ($130) with the bike, as it’s much more versatile with two bags. The zipper closure is nice—no chance of cargo bouncing out, and it keeps your organic fair trade coffee out of sight and away from sticky fingers.
The bags attach with three plastic clips at the top that use a piece of spring steel to provide retention. This makes the bags easy to remove; maybe a bit too easy, as one bounced off once while riding. Fortunately I ran the straps through the bottom of the rack, so it just dragged beside me until I was able to stop.
The cockpit was nicely appointed: a pair of swept-back bars provides both comfort and leverage, and the seat was comfortable but supportive, great for riding in street clothes. The 16-speed drivetrain was fine around town, but I spent a good bit of time wound out in the highest gear on long straight stretches. Adding a third chainring is an easy and cheap upgrade. The wheels seem quite stout, the tires are flat-resistant and the tubes have sealant inside—changing a flat on a loaded cargo bike can be a bummer, so I’m glad to see Trek is thinking practically here. Where’s the rear fender, though?
How’s it go, you ask? With quiet authority, I answer. The 350-watt motor is the pedelec type, so it only works while pedaling, no throttle to twist. Located in the rear hub, it is completely silent, and on full power it allows me to get up all but the steepest of hills without shifting out of the big ring. The assist has four settings: 25-50-75-100% power, easily changed with the handlebar-mounted control. Full power can be addicting, but draining on the battery. My 15-mile round power to insure I had full boost to get up the almost half-mile hill to my house.
Charging is pretty simple: about four hours for a full charge from empty on standard household current, and the battery can be easily removed once unlocked if your parking spot doesn’t have nearby electric outlet. With the abundance of storage space on the Transport, I played it safe and usually carried the charger with me. Batteries should last 600-700 charging cycles. The battery, mounted under the rear rack, also incorporates a red taillight and is wired to an LED headlight mounted under the front rack; both are turned on and off with the motor control unit on the handlebar.
With light loads the handling was spot-on; quick steering, but the huge wheelbase kept things stable. The frame did exhibit a good bit of flex; most times this was just an annoyance, but throw in a heavy load and a rough road, and it became hard to predict exactly where the Transport was heading. I never crashed, but it would be a disconcerting feeling, maybe even scary, to newer riders. Standard commuting loads or a single kid on back while traveling on smooth roads pose no problems.
Loading it up, particularly with the single bag, could be challenging. The included center stand is a great idea, but it is too narrow and flexy to work well. The length of each leg can be adjusted by hand, which was helpful with unbalanced loads, but a wider stance would do the same thing with no need to keep the bike upright and fiddle with the center stand at the same time. I wouldn’t trust it to hold the bike up with kids on top.
The kid situation might be the big weakness with this bike. Trek doesn’t offer any seats, pads, or accessory handlebars for the “replace the minivan” set. It seems like most cargo bike folks are into some DIY action, but I think plug-andplay options would be helpful in getting more people to try bikes like this. Fortunately, a lot of the kid-carrying kit from longtail competitors Xtracycle and Yuba can be used on this bike with little to no fuss. I talked to Travis Ott, Trek’s lifestyle brand manager, about the kid situation and he said, “We’ve looked at it, but are waiting to see how big the market for cargo bikes really is. It’s the first project in the queue, because we’re hearing the same request. Sometimes ‘children’ and ‘cargo’ are one and the same.“
I’m pretty excited to see a company like Trek taking this part of the utility market seriously. The addition of an electric motor that operates seamlessly will open up new worlds of possibility to many riders who live in hilly terrain and/or whose fitness would prevent them from utilizing a bicycle more. Those willing to tough it out unaided have the choice of the $1390 Transport: same bike, no motor. And yes, the motor does double the price. I sincerely hope to see Trek continue to develop the Transport line-up to meet the needs of the growing group of families and other folks looking to do more on two wheels.
Gina, Eric’s wife, on the Transport+:
Although we didn’t know each other well, we had a connection—some may say an electric connection. I regret not getting to know him better, but you know how it is with kids…he just didn’t seem to be interested in them. I was so excited when I first met him. I thought, “Surely this hunk is just the assist I need!” I pictured long, purposeful rides together, just the four of us. Why, he should be just the boost of confidence I need to take on the mountains I face. When it was just he and I, things were great! I could really unload on him and he knew just what to do, always giving me just the right amount of support I needed. Sigh—I guess it’s just not the right time for us to be together. Maybe someday he’ll be ready for a MWLTR (mom who likes to ride) like me, but until then, our affair is sadly over before it has begun.
Height: 5’ 11”
Vital bike stats
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Sizes Available 17”, 20” (tested)