Return of the Cycle Trucks

Historically, various companies have made a particular type of bike called by several names such as Cycle Truck, Low Gravity, or Delivery bike. Raleigh and Roadmaster made a lot of them. And Schwinn made them from ’39-’65, but chances are good that you have never seen one of them. Think about that for a minute. ’39 to ’65 was exactly when cycling in general was on the decline, yet Schwinn sold enough of these to make it worth their while.

Primarily used by Mom and Pop grocery stores and on Hollywood movie sets, they are also used in factories, often by the maintenance men. WDW used them for years in the tunnels. The rear wheel is usually 26×2 1/4 and the front wheel is 20×2 1/4 so that the basket can be larger. The front basket is attached to the frame because that increases the weight carrying capabilities. Raleighs and the Indian knock-offs of Raleighs, used a wicker basket. Here in the US, wire was favored.

By 1965, though, they pretty much died out in the US. Raleigh and Schwinn stopped making them for the US market. Roadmaster had stopped years before. Worksman and some companies in India and still make them though, even today.

But there are signs of a revival. Cargo bicycles are making a comeback in the US as gas prices rise. The comeback is coming from Chicago.

Alex Wilson, the fellow from whom I knocked off the design to my bike is winning some converts (besides me). And HERE is a NEW Cycle truck from David Wilson in Seattle. The page says a US manufacturer will be making one soon.

4 replies
  1. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Interesting …..

    I was thinking about getting an XtraCycle or a utility trailer for my bike for those commuting cargo trips. Not sure I’m skilled enough to build something on my own. Of course, there is also the option of a Surly BigDummy or Kona Ute …… do you consider them cargo bikes as well?

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    XtraCycle is fine. I don’t think much of trailers only because they take up too much room, both at the store and at home where they have to be stored. Much easier to just hop on and go.
    The BigDummy is an Xtracycle that Surly builds. I wondered about that kickstand and sure enough, this fellow reports that is an annoyance.
    When I was building my bike up, that was one of the improvements I made. All the cycle trucks used some sort of stabilizing kickstand, but they varied. Some used the motorcycle style, like I use. Some use the basket rack and some use a triangular piece in the back.

    I thought that the Xtracycle would be more stable since I have heard my whole life “keeping the weight lower improves stability” but if it does that, I can’t tell. I have baskets that I can attach that are low slung on either side rather than the high baskets, and when I load them up the ride is about the same.

    One thing that is different about the frame loaded bike in regards to handling is that the bike wants to keep moving forward even when the wheel is turned, so it feels, when loaded, that there is a loss of control. Just an illusion.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Hard to tell if it old a rusty. There are certain features unique to each brand and there were about 10 companies that made cycle trucks in America.

      Most modern bikes have a serial number stamped on the bottom of the bottom bracket shell and that may help.

      There are Schwinn collectors out there that may help you, too.

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