In the near future essay, WIRED contributor Paul Ford put forward a great unified theory of things – namely, that almost everything you buy will give rise to a second round of buying things for your things. Nowhere is this easier to see than with electric cargo bikes. To get the most out of one, you need clothing – such as a jacket, helmet and shoes. You need a bicycle lock, possibly a child seat and front and rear stands. For safety you need lights and a bell. It takes some time to accumulate all this extra equipment, especially when you have already paid a lot for the bike.
Don’t get me wrong: the Cero One is a pretty great electric bike. It is short, maneuverable and has some high-end components. But one of its best aspects is that it has its own cargo system. You can buy a bike fully loaded with Cero – front basket, rear trunk, etc. – or customize your own brackets to its bolted system. Wearing all the recommended accessories can do mine the work on recommending peripherals is outdated, but if it makes more people ride bikes, I don’t mind.
Cero One has a very distinctive design. Both wheels are asymmetrical, with a smaller front wheel for maneuverability, a larger rear wheel for stability and an upright stepped frame. He is influenced by a number of sources, including the traditional Japanese mamachari bicycle and the Schwinn bicycle truck.
It seems a little strange, but Cero says that the asymmetrical size of the tires and the compact frame are designed to shorten the overall length of the bike. This made me nervous about driving in potholes until I realized that my own Tern GSD used tires of the same size and for the same reason.
One of the reasons why some electric bikes cost more than others is that they are usually safer. As a parent, there are some gadgets that I can handle – I don’t need high-end training headphones, for example – and others that I just won’t do. I load the most valuable cargo of all, my children, on my electric cargo bike and carry them through the streets that drive 15 miles an hour to cars. I don’t want to worry about stopping the pedals or squeezing frames. I also don’t want to start a fire in my garage in the middle of the night while I’m charging.
I usually prefer Bosch engines because they seem more natural and for a long time Bosch ebike engines were the only ones that were UL certified – that is, they were tested for safety by a non-profit, independent safety standards organization. Cero One is not UL certified. However, it has been tested for safety according to DIN EN15194, which is the German safety standard used in Europe, and the shelves and baskets meet the safety rating ISO11243.
I’m not surprised that the Cero One meets international safety standards; uses nice components. This includes a Shimano Steps E6100 motor with internal gears; Gates carbon belt drive; Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and Schwalbe strong tires. Gates’ carbon belt drive and inner hub mean much less maintenance for the cyclist, who often only has five minutes to get out the door.
Speaking of coming out the door – I love my Tern GSD ebike in pieces. It works great for what I have to do, namely leave and pick up two writhing children from school every day, quickly and without hassle. But it takes a three-point turn to get it out of my garage, and the long tail can be heavy to lift over curbs or maneuver on a bike rack. If I didn’t have two children – or even if I only had one – I probably wouldn’t buy it.
Cero One is much more flexible. Yes, it weighs almost 60 pounds and has a wheelbase of 44.8 inches – in fact, not much less than Tern. But feelings like a much shorter bike, one I could actually ride outside for a quick joyous ride on a rare sunny January day in Oregon.