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Fresh Gear: Cargo Joe C21

The world's most practical bike?


It's probably not the sexiest bike you've ever laid eyes on, but there's more to the brand-new Cargo Joe C21 than meets the eye. A collaboration between folding specialists Tern Bicycles and cargo pioneers Xtracycle, this transformer is a folding cargo bike (the first-ever, we're assured). It's a pretty simple idea that can make a big difference for urban commuters. Essentially, is a mutant combination of Tern's full-size, 26-inch-wheeled Joe C21 frame and Xtracycle's FreeRadical Classic kit.

The FreeRadical Classic is big enough to carry loads of all shapes and sizes (up to 350 pounds), but with the Joe's folding feature, it's short enough to fit on the front rack of a city bus or, when necessary, squeeze into the back seat of a car. So you can keep the car parked longer, opting to self-power your grocery runs or pedal a kid to school (junior can sit on the deck).

The Cargo Joe C21 is a smart collaboration between two companies operating at the fringe of bicycle manufacturing (at least when compared with giants like Trek and Specialized), and one intended to get more butts on bike seats.

Tern is one of the leaders in folding bike tech, and its Eclipse P9 scored well in our test of folding commuter bikes. Xtracycle is a small company that's known for making the best cargo bikes on the market. Years ago, when I interned at Paddler Magazine, I would rip down the back-alleys of Steamboat Springs, CO from the post office on an Xtracycle LongTail, panniers loaded down with piles of mail and teetering stacks of incoming paddle swag strapped willy-nilly to the "FlightDeck" (Xtracycle's name for the rack). Despite all the freight, it rode like, well, a bike.

And that's what makes the Cargo Joe so exciting. It'll carry a ton, ride well and be short enough, when folded, to transport and store with far more ease than has ever been possible before in a cargo bike. It's just been released at Interbike, but the Cargo Joe will soon be sold through both Xtracycle and Tern dealers.

$999; ternbicycles.com and xtracycle.com

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