RIPPL #47: The (heavy-duty) Elefant in the room

At the International Cargo Bike Festival in Berlin last month, it was impossible to ignore the Elephant in the room… sorry, aircraft hangar.

German cargo bike manufacturer Radkutsche brought with them a huge, eye-catching pedal-powered trailer they’re calling the Elefant. The trailer has a capacity of up to 500kg and building it has been Radkutsche’s way of exploring the trend towards larger, more heavy-duty designs in cycle logistics.

The Elefant in the room. Well, hangar actually – this is from the International Cargo Bike Festival in Berlin, held at the city’s former Tempelhof Airport. Photo credit: Radkutsche

The Elefant is designed to hitch to the back of a Radkutsche Musketeer trike and there is space on board to carry three Europallets. Because 500kgs can be difficult to stop when it has forward momentum, the trailer also has the ability to brake – this is achieved by a hydraulic coupling. Similarly, an electrical connection allows rear brake lights to function. There is also an additional parking brake for parking on uneven or steep areas.

Originally designed for a Swiss company who needed to transport several bikes throughout the city, the Radkutsche team quickly realised that the Elefant could be adapted for more than just one purpose. But according to Radkutsche’s Cullin Flynn, the design is currently a way of exploring the possibilities:

“The idea is to re-think intercity transportation. And not just that, but also the dynamics of cargo bikes in general: how much weight can it carry? Or, how much surface area is realistic for bike transport? It’s more about asking questions about what’s possible than it is about finding a definite solution to these challenges.”

Photo credit: Günter Jakob

To this end, Radkutsche decided to bring the Elefant “naked” to Berlin, leaving it up to the imagination of those who saw it, and collecting feedback on peoples impressions. Flynn said:

“Everyone had something different to share or suggest for its use: Greenpack’s Benjamin Georg used it as a stage to broadcast during the cargo bike races; a French woman was eager to rent it for a band to play live music during a summer event; and others perceived its utility when moving or switching apartments in a city.”

As well as hauling pallets, freight and passengers, there is also potential for the Elefant to be adapted for containerisation – an area that Radkutsche have already begun to explore alongside other manufacturers.

Although it isn’t the only trike-pulled heavy-duty trailer on the market, the Elefant has made its debut at a time of increasing interest in higher capacity cycle logistics. As cities like Gent, Oslo and Paris and many others around the world make efforts towards increasing liveability and reducing air pollution by restricting motorised traffic, demand for pedal-powered, heavy-duty solutions is only likely to increase. Cargo bike manufacturers need to innovate in order to anticipate and meet this demand.

An Elefant on the loose at Tempelhof. Photo credit: Jérôme Thiriet

Organisation: Radkutsche
Sector: Commercial
Country: Germany
Basis: Permanent
Facebook: @Radkutsche
Instagram: @Radkutsche

Tom Parr Interview with Cullin Flynn, Radkutsche, April and May 2018