Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Year and a Half with the Torker Cargo-T

Back in 2009 I was looking for the perfect transportation bike. I needed something that I could ride to work, a 7+ mile ride one way that's fairly flat. I wanted to be able to commute in my work clothes, so it had to have full fenders and a decent chain guard. Another requirement was a grocery getter since we have three grocery stores within a 3 mile radius. I ended up with a Torker Cargo-T ordered from a local Torker Dealer. 

The Cargo-T is a copy of the Batavus Personal Delivery Bike minus the galvanized frame, chaincase, wheel lock, dyno hub, rear roller brakes and other Dutch goodies. The Cargo-T was a discounted 2008 version that came with a Shimano 3 speed and coaster brake with a front roller brake.

What's worked:
  • The lack of rim brakes is great for the rain (and those lazy with bike maintenance). The front brake can lock up the wheel and just requires a little grease every 6 months or so.
  • I've thought about swapping out the 26x 1.95 Kenda tires, but they've held up well, soaked up bumps and are generally forgiving
  • I'm completely spoiled by the headset lock (keeps the front wheel fixed when parked)
  • The front and rear racks are beefy and they're used to carry adult passengers in Europe, so they shrug off bags of ice and gallons of milk.
  • The step through frame is great for mounting with a full load. I guess I'm spoiled now by being able to do sidesaddle moving dismounts.
Components that were replaced:
  • The double kickstand failed on the first use. Torker sent a beefier-looking replacement and has worked flawlessly since.
  • The pedals that came with the Cargo-T were plastic with a nubby rubber surface. The nubs were ground to a pulp after a few months. Apparently they were not made to withstand hiking boots in 20 degree temps.
  • The plastic rim tape was installed incorrectly that caused a flat. I've been meaning to replace the tape in both wheels but haven't gotten around to it.
  • The rear wheel was missing a spoke nipple. I'm told this *never* happens, but yep, I was missing one.
  • The chain guard has cracked so now the bike is missing part of it (see photo). It looks, um, not so great, but it works. I would like to replace with a full chaincase if possible.
Things I've added that work well:
  • I got the ultralight mirror after seeing it on Dotties Rivendell.
  • The tiny black bell that came with the bike is now on my folder. I've added a proper Crane brass hammer strike bell that really is louder with a nice long sustain.
  • I was excited that the Cargo-T has frame mounts for a wheel lock; however, I had to zip-tie my Velo-Orange wheel lock in place because it's too narrow for the mounts. Wheel locks are great on a big heavy bike like this one. I can't image fetching carryout with a U lock.
  • The bike now has three baskets... a Wald mountless basket zip-tied to the front and two Wald folding baskets on the rear rack. All are zip-tie mount. I can carry 4 bags of groceries now.
  • The MKS RMX pedals look great and do a better job of gripping tennis shoes than rubber-topped pedals.
  • I used the light mount on the front rack and some stainless hardware to make a Planet Bike Blaze mount.
  • The sprung vinyl saddle that came with the bike worked OK, but was a little, ah, swampy in the summertime. I'm (still) breaking in my VO Model 8 saddle. It's a little squeaky at this point but it looks fantastic.

Two questions I always get: "How much does it weigh? Isn't it slow with the three speed?" OK, so it's heavy, about 50 lbs with the current array of baskets. It isn't particularly slow unless your climbing. I've had people on road bikes, after catching up with me after a stop, comment on how I was riding "faster than expected for the bike." They may have meant "for someone not wearing lycra" but I'll let that go. I like the three speed, but have often wished for a 7 or 8 speed. You'll just be in a sub-optimal gear sometimes and have to push harder... not the end of the world.


Anonymous said...

Nice one. Loving the step throughs.

Jens said...


Can you provide another picture on how you attached the mirror. I have the same mirror (on a bike with similar bars) and I can't seem to position it right. It seems to be made for drops.

Freewheel said...

Must be a nice cushy ride with those wide tires!

Tom said...

Yes, it's cushy. My other bike has "narrow fast tires..." they're 1.75" x 20!

I added another pic showing not only my messy garage but the mirror mount. It would look nicer mounted over the bar, but then I would have a nice view of my forearm. The under-bar mount gives me a view behind, but it can interfere with my ski gloves in cold weather. I would like to add some different handlebars if I can find a 4" rise and enough sweep.

jens said...

Thanks! You got the mirror below the handle bar, gotta try this.

2whls3spds said...

Great review!

Might want to note that for 2011 Torker has now gone with Sturmey Archer 5 speed and a 70mm drum brake. I am still on the fence about getting a Cargo T (like I need another bike) If I did I would probably promptly swap the front hub out for the 90mm drum brake/dyno hub unit.

FWIW a AXA Defender wheel lock is a bolt on fit, and comes with the option of using a plug in chain or cable.


Tom said...

It looks like Blogger lost about 5 comments on this page. Hopefully they'll be restored.

Aaron the Sturmey Archer XL-FDD 36h 90mm Dynamo Drum Brake Hub is on my Amazon wish list. The current wheelset is very sturdy. My LBS just put in an all new 3-speed hub cartridge for me (last set ruined b/c of their mistake). A bike shop near here had a real Batavus Personal Delivery used for $700 -- that would be a better value than the Torker + accessories +dyno hub.
Thx for the info on the lock.

Velouria said...

I considered this bicycle when I too was shopping for a new transportation bike in March 2009, but in the end decided it was overbuilt for me. Your description suggests that it is an appealing option for those who want an American version of the classic Dutch transport bike.

I think the defects and wear and tear you've described are within the realm of what's to be expected nowadays, and the performance sounds pretty good.

Oh and I too constantly get the "you're pretty fast on that bike" type of comments from roadies whenever I am on an upright bicycle! I think that some of them have an exaggerated idea of how slow transportation cycling is compared to road cycling.

Tom said...

@Velouria This is not a bike to be carrying up stairs, either. I can't imagine having to lift the Cargo-T on a regular basis.
It's very much a "no excuses" bike. There's barely anything to adjust or lube, you can just hop on it and go in regular clothes.