Madsen Bucket Bike Review: Best Family Cargo Bike? 

If you're searching for the best family cargo bike, we're happy to say we found it: Madsen Cycles. In this Madsen Bucket Bike review I'll share our personal experience, how it compares to competitors, specs, and all the other FAQs when purchasing a cargo bucket bike – especially with a family!

NOTE: We have the Madsen Cycle, Radio Flyer L1885, and have test rode friend's Ferla and Bunch bikes, so we'll tackle comparisons of those too in this post!

What is a Madsen Bike?

Madsen Cycles are long tail cargo bicycles with a rear bucket that allows you to transport cargo and up to four kids!

It's a pretty brilliant design that rides like an actual bicycle, with the bonus of bringing kids along with ease.

Why we love our Madsen Cycle

Backstory: our family situation

We are a one car family, with two kids (2 and 4 years old at the time of getting our Madsen) and live in a beach town where parking during “season” is the utmost desired commodity. Thus we began our search for a family cargo bike for us to easily ride around town, hit up the beach, or snag groceries with ease.

We knew we wanted a “bucket” bike so I sent my husband to do some research. He quickly came back raving about the Madsen.

I was on the fence, as I really thought a front box bike would make more sense with little kids, but he loved the back bucket. He felt more confident in its ability to safely turn and overall handling. And I do have to say he was right on all fronts.

I'm easily able to load the Madsen with groceries AND kids. I can stuff beach towels and toys under their seat benches. We shoot down the road to pick up friends' kids with ease, and even take the kids to school in it. I love that the kids can sit next to each other or across from one another depending on their moods.

Honestly, it's one of our favorite possessions that has massively improved our quality of life.

Even yesterday, I told the kids we were going to the beach, and they both groaned, saying they didn't want to go. When I told them we were taking the bike instead of the car, they both immediately perked up and said “let's go!” There's just something about the wind, sunshine, and fresh air that makes getting anywhere easier with kids in my opinion.

Testing out competitors

Radio Flyer L1885 vs. Madsen Cycle

We have the Radio Flyer L1885 which is another long tail cargo bike. It can hold up to two kids and a good amount of groceries. This bike weighs in at a whopping 75+ lbs; and you really do feel it.

The biggest differences between the Radio Flyer and Madsen are the ride and storage/seating capacity.

The Radio Flyer rides more like a moped (maybe?) – you feel the weight of the bike and power; even though the battery is only 500 watts compared to Madsens 750 watts.

Battery comparison:

The Madsen battery bars are a bit more unpredictable in terms of when they'll drop down again. Their battery seems much more impacted by the terrain, weight, and speed you go; while the Radio Flyer battery drops down at a pretty stable rate no matter how much I'm loading or using the throttle.

This does make sense though, as the Madsen motor has a much broader performance range. Its highs are higher and weight capacity is significantly more, which does translate to a quicker battery loss.

Radio Flyer only has 5 pedal assist levels, while Madsen offers 9 e-assist levels. I can easily go 30 mph on my Madsen (when throttling) and have never done more than 20 on the Radio Flyer.

With that said, the battery displays are different. Radio Flyer has 5 bars, Madsen only shows 4. When Madsen hits “empty” it still rides and is like a “fifth” bar (whereas Radio Flyer shows 5 from the jump). I've never run out of power on either, but I do ease up on the e-assist with my Madsen when I am getting close to that final bar.

The Ride

The “heaviness” of the Radio Flyer also makes it harder to steer while going slow.

The Madsen cycle rides like a regular bike, with easy handling. If I have the e-assist off, I can easily ride alongside my 4 year old; on the Radio Flyer I feel too clunky to do it comfortably.

Additionally, I find the Radio Flyer trickier to park since it doesn't have a “lock” system. Thus when I need to navigate it into a bike rack, the kickstand causes the bike to pull back too far to reach the bike rack comfortably, so I have to push it forward.

The Madsen you just lock and take out the keys. It also has a locked in cable extender that you can use with a regular bike lock on a bike rack for extra security. It's a pretty brilliant design.

The Madsen also can fit up to 4 kids with its included bucket and buckle system. The Radio Flyer requires the purchase of the kid cargo attachment, which can fit 2 kids, but if you have a toddler/baby you'll need the infant seat attachment too which can go on top of the cargo attachment. This does eat up some of your storage capacity if you plan to do a mix of kids and groceries/gear.

Pros
  • Radio Flyer offers a more stable and longer lasting battery
  • Radio Flyer costs less
  • Radio Flyers infant seat is probably the safer way to transport infants
Cons of Radio Flyer
  • Smaller carrying capacity as a whole (less kids, less weight, less cargo)
  • Getting the kick stand up and down (especially when loaded with kids) is HARD. I've hurt my foot on this quite a few times. The Madsen you just walk forward and the kickstand automatically pops up.
  • To load big kids, I have to take the kickstand off, then hold the bike steady while they climb in; which does require a bit of strength/stability on my end.
  • Only a key for the battery, not the actual bike when powered down; and locking it can feel cumbersome at times
  • Need to buy additional attachments to convert for kids and infants
  • Basket cup holder is useless

Ferla + Bunch Box Bikes vs Madsen Bucket Bike

The Ferla and Bunch cargo bikes are pretty much the same design so I'm lumping them together here since it's a similar experience between the two compared to the Madsen. Towards the end of this section, I'll briefly touch on the differences between the Ferla and Bunch box too if you choose to go that route.

Ferla and Bunch are both tricycles; not bicycles.

This means neither has a kickstand, as the bikes are already “upright” on the three wheels. Overall, I'd say this is definitely easier for getting started/ending a ride; but not a deal breaker by any means as it's a quick learning curve on the long tail cargo bike kick stands. Plus, disengaging Madsen's kickstand is a breeze, you just walk the bike forward.

Back vs Front buckets

Second, the Bunch and Ferla bucket bikes feature their box in the front, while Madsen Cycles is in the back.

Honestly, this is a personal opinion that I know some families will disagree with: but I like the rear bucket. I find it easier and safer to steer. The front box makes it so you essentially have to stop to do a turn, and even then it has to be WIDE. I have to regularly get off and walk these bikes to do a proper turn.

Aside from the easier handling of the rear bucket bike, I like that I can focus on riding, not policing my kids and dishing out snacks (which they 100% ask for incessantly when upfront).

I'm not the type of person who feels comfortable carrying a convo while riding a bike, so this setup really works for me. Plus as an added bonus, I get a quiet break during the ride! I can absolutely slow down and hear them/have a convo if needed, but they understand I literally can't help them while riding the bike.

In and out

The other note on buckets: The Ferla and Bunch have options with doors (you'll have to pay more for them) while the Madsen has the option to add rock climbing pegs for kids to climb up and in themselves. As an adult, I can easily climb into the Madsen, while I found the Ferla and Bunch bike to be a bit deeper to climb in without a door.

In terms of battery, I'd say Ferla has the weakest (250-500w), Bunch's is similar to the Radio Flyer at 500 w but feels weaker and not nearly as stable; and Madsen offers the strongest (500w for Canada, 750w for the US).

Inside the bucket

The Madsen does have holes in the bucket to drain out sand/water easily; the others don't.

The inner capacity is a little different too. The middle of Ferla and Bunch's buckets is open, which is nice if you plan to have riders and a bike chair. The Madsen bucket sits on top of the tire – it's how it provides such a low/stable ride – which does mean there is a ridge in the middle section to separate the two sides.

Meaning I can't put a standard beach chair and kids in there. Instead you could use this style chair in the bucket, ride with a standard chair on your back, or we just bungee chairs onto our Radio Flyer.

Pros of Ferla + Bunch
  • No kickstand making it easier to start/stop or handling while waiting at lights/intersections
  • Overall a larger storage capacity with some options able to hold up to 6 kids. Also easier to fit a beach chair and kids at once
  • 3 Point harness seat belts included; though they aren't great and could use a chest strap as kids can shrug them off
Cons of Bunch + Ferla
  • Essentially need to stop on turns due to much larger tip hazard (they even come with steel bars for added safety)
  • No suspension (at least it didn't feel like it and neither site confirmed having suspension)
  • Can't ride as fast if needing to go longer distances or get somewhere quick
  • Overpriced: Can purchase dupes for these on AliExpress for half the cost
  • Bulkier which can make it harder to park when needing to squeeze into smaller bike parking areas

Customer service + production

The last thing I want to note about Ferla and Bunch bikes vs Madsen: the former are essentially American reseller companies of Chinese bikes you can purchase for half the price on AliExpress:

Madsen uses parts from Taiwan and the United States, and they specifically designed their bucket and really do build/assemble each bike here in the USA. You won't find a Chinese dupe for their bikes.

Ferla's customer service is notoriously horrible (to be expected from a reseller), while Bunch has more eyes on them thanks to their Shark Tank appearance/investors, so their customer service is pretty great from what I've heard. If you do get a Ferla or a dupe from AliExpress, you can check out Bunch bikes Youtube and follow some of their tutorial videos with some tweaks. But personally, we chose to avoid both.

Personal experience with the Madsen kids cargo bike:

Unboxing / Setting up

When the box first arrived, we excitedly pulled up the “unboxing” video and followed the instructions. We know absolutely nothing about setting up a bike so we were a little unsure if we could handle it.

Afterall, the Radio Flyer L1885 comes disassembled. Novices like ourselves typically need to bring to a bike shop to set up; which costs around $300 in our area…

Shockingly the hardest part of setting up our Madsen bike was actually just cutting open the box! We didn't have a proper box cutter and I don't recommend a kitchen knife or scissors, but alas they did the job!

From there, setting up the bike was incredibly easy with the instructions provided and took us probably about 30 minutes once the box was actually open.

The First Rides

Ok, I won't lie to you, our first rides were interesting. I think that's to be expected for any transition to an e-bike OR a cargo bike; and well… this was both.

Plus we definitely made some poor choices, so learn from our mistakes:

We had like 8 kids at our house from 2 to 11 years old when we unboxed it, and they ALL wanted to jump in right away. We were so excited and the bike is SO stable when the kickstand is engaged, we just let them all hop in without doing a solo test ride first — whoops! Definitely don't recommend that!

The Madsen has an easy “walk forward” feature that disengages the quickstand easily, at which point we quickly tilted over with 4 kids in the back!

In other words: this thing is SO stable and so easy to get off the kickstand, it's easy to not realize just how much you're carrying.

I would definitely recommend being smarter than us and taking a few rides by yourself to start! Then add one kid, then another, etc. as you feel more comfortable.

Even without doing a proper test ride by ourselves, we were able to ride with 2 to 4 kids on our first rides around the neighborhood once we got on our feet.

Madsen Electric Bike Review:

We chose the electric bucket bike from Madsen, which means our bike came with pedal assist. I highly recommend this when choosing a box bike for the family. Without it, you can definitely feel the weight in the back. With it, the bike rides like a regular bike.

Additionally, if your state allows electric bikes with throttles, I strongly suggest this!

I'm on the shorter end, so I tend to tilt bikes to get started while pedaling. Normally this isn't an issue, but with the added weight in the back, it meant I only felt comfortable with 2 kids.

Once we got the throttle installed, I was able to ride with 3-4 kids easily! I just walk forward to disengage the kickstand, sit on the seat, throttle to get started and then switch to pedaling.

Customer Service + Maintenance

One of the major things I love about Madsen, is they offer so many videos and great customer support, that even a bike novice like myself essentially learns how to care for the bike.

On their Youtube you'll find simple videos for regular maintenance, swapping out chains, tubes, and all the adjustments you'd ever need to make.

When we decided to get the throttle after receiving the bike, their easy to follow video for removing the handlebar grips and adjusting things around to add it on made things a breeze!

Plus learning how to assemble the bike initially, left us feeling pretty confident in “knowing our way around” the bike if any issues come up.

Budget Friendly DIY Bike Options

Lastly, if you do want a more “budget friendly” route without sacrificing quality, like the box trikes I mentioned earlier, Madsen does make it VERY easy for DIYers.

You can purchase their regular long tail frame which comes with the bucket, then purchase your own motor kit here (same one that comes with theirs but without the custom programming and set up for the Madsen like this one), and do your own install if you're savvy. With that said, I'm NOT savvy and Madsen does have a pretty custom setup to add electric assist to their bikes, so that *may* not work. But throwing it out there if you're handy and can figure it out.

MADSEN also offers their own e-kit for sale to add to a non-electric bike if you want to convert it to electric later, with their custom bracket and detailed YouTube instructions for installation.

NOTE: Their bucket will only fit onto a MADSEN; it doesn't fit other longtail cargo bikes without significant modifications ot the frame.

Safety

The Madsen cargo bike includes four over the lap seat belts.

Honestly I was a little nervous about whether or not these would work. With a two year old boy, I secretly hoped they had an “over the shoulder” option – both in terms of keeping him secure in case of a fall, but also keeping his curious toddler self inside the bucket while riding!

Well a week after getting our Madsen, my husband was riding with both kids on a forest trail home from the beach where he hit a rock in the road and had a pretty bad fall. Somehow the bike bounced from one side, hit a wooden post, then bounced to the other side where he landed on the ground.

Fortunately the seatbelts really do work and both kids came out unscathed. The rim of the bucket provided plenty of cushion from the fall and neither touched the ground (unless they reached their hand out to do so).

NOTE:

We've now riden 200+ miles on our Madsen since that fall. My kids wouldn't ride with my husband for a while, but always felt fine with me (which is funny because it literally took me 6 years to learn how to ride a bike (not exaggerating!) and hated it before our Madsen). I truly think it was just a freak accident with the rock and have always felt extremely secure/stable on turns. One time I went through a pretty dense soft sand patch and felt totally confident with its ability to navigate.

The Ride

The Madsen rides like a regular bike and performs best on regular roads in my opinion.

We have some very small hills and I'm happy to have the pedal assist and throttle. I couldn't imagine doing a big hill with kids on the back! But I think that applies for any cargo bike with kids.

Additionally, we have a lot of “bumpy” parts on our sidewalks with tree roots pushing them up. I find that the Madsen has a much more comfortable “bounce” over them compared to our Radio Flyer thanks to its suspension (Radio Flyer, Ferla, and Bunch don't have any).

UPDATE: Turns out the Madsen does not have suspension! According to the brand, it rides so great/feels like it does because of the steel frame and geometry of the bike design.

Lastly, living in a beach town, I do go over sandy stretches pretty regularly and find it handles them well – like any other bike.

Madsen Bucket Bike Electric Specs

  • 750 Watt Bafang Mid Drive Motor (500 Watt for Canada*)
  • 120 Nm of Torque
  • Pedal Assist System with 9 Power Levels
  • Frame is made from OST Hi-Ten Chrome Moly Mix (super strong, durable steel)
  • Gear Sensor for Smooth Shifting
  • Wheels: Double wall alloy, 36 stainless spokes, 180 mm rotors
  • 48.1V 11.6Ah/558 Watt Battery with Charger
  • Bucket: Impact resistant, UV stable so it won't fade, HDPE Rotomolded, fits 40 gallons
  • Custom MADSEN Mounting Bracket with Integrated Junction and Lockable Battery Mount
  • LCD Display
  • Sleek, easy to park design

Accessories + Colors

See all the current accessories here!

  • Madsen Electric Assist Kit
  • Soft Top weather cover
  • Front rack
  • Maelkekasse Crate
  • Cable lock
  • Middle bucket seat
  • Cup holder
  • Bucket climbing rocks
  • LED front lights in steel
  • Brass bike bell
  • LED Rear light
  • Water bottle
  • Honey colored leather saddle and grips
  • Black saddle and grips
  • Electric Assist thumb throttle
  • Colors: Vintage blue, petal pink, periwinkle, mustard yellow, candy apple red, white, lime green, true navy, classic black

Just a random note/thought on colors:

We got the vintage blue which is beautiful – but in retrospect, I wish we got the mustard yellow (or lime green or red if that's more your vibe). This is more of a safety thing I realized after the fact about being as “bright” and noticeable to cars. I didn't think about it when we initially got the bike as we lived on bike trails/sidewalks, but our new house does cross as 8 lane highway to the beach so I quickly got this highlighter yellow helmet.

FAQs about Madsen Cycles

Where are madsen bikes made?

Madsen Cycles are assembled at their warehouse in Utah!

The buckets are molded in Idaho, alongside kayaks and canoes in a roto-molding factory; and it really does feel that durable/quality!

They are a small family run business with impeccable customer service you'll feel proud to support.

What is the Madsen bike length and width?

Tip to tip with wheel forward : 91Lx27Wx44H
Turned Handlebars (to fit in an elevator) : 79Lx27Wx44H
Turned Handlebars with front rack : 84Lx27Wx44H

What is the weight limit on the Madsen bucket bike?

The Madsen bike can hold 600 lbs or 271 kg.

This includes the rider and whatever cargo you're riding with.

How much does the Madsen bike weigh?

Shockingly, the MADSEN weighs around 100 lbs; I literally guessed 45 lbs before finding that info out though!

We have the Radio Flyer L1885 which weighs about 100 lbs too (75 lbs for the bike frame, then an extra ~20 for the cargo baskets), and you feel every pound of it.

The Madsen simply felt half the weight of it in terms of handling and maneuvering that I always assumed it was around 50 lbs, but alas I was wrong and am utterly shocked! It feels SO light in comparison.

How do you transport a Madsen bucket bike?

You can transport a Madsen bucket bike in a trailer or truck; or if you have a four bike trailer-hitch rack that carries by the bike frame (not the wheels) on your car you'll be set. You'll need the extra space on the rack to accommodate the width of the bucket, so if you plan to transport more than just your Madsen go with a one that carries more bikes.

Alternatively, the bucket pops off easily for transport by loosening a couple of bolts, so you can put that inside your car, and put the frame on your cars bike rack.

What colors does the Madsen bike come in?

Madsen Cycles come in vintage blue, petal pink, periwinkle, mustard yellow, candy apple red, white, lime green, true navy, classic black.

We have the beautiful (and popular) vintage blue. In hindsight, I would've gotten the mustard yellow (or lime green or red if that's more your vibe).

I like the “bright” colors for safety reasons, making us more noticeable to cars. I didn't think about it when we initially got the bike as we lived on bike trails/sidewalks, but our new house does cross as 8 lane highway to the beach so I quickly got this highlighter yellow helmet as the earth tones easily blend into the foliage/background.

How fast does the electric cargo bike go?

The maximum speed you'll hit on your Madsen electric bucket bike varies on terrain, load/weight, gears, and throttle in my experience.

On pedal assist 9, I tend to go about 20-23 mph with 2 kids in the back. If I throttle it, I average around 25 mph.

Without any kids, I can do about 30 mph.

What wattage is the motor?

750 watts; the strongest legal motor in the US! Just make sure to shift your gears while riding – use easy gears when going uphill, and shift to higher/hard gears when going fast.

Which is better: a front bucket bike or rear bucket bike?

We personally prefer a rear bucket cargo bike thanks to its easy handling.

The front cargo bucket bikes I've tested felt like they had a much greater margin of error in terms of steering. The fall hazard feels a lot higher. You basically need to go like 1 mile per hour on a sharp turn, and it's pretty easy to miss/mess up. Additionally, with the front being so big and the turn radius being so big, it just feels harder to steer; it's like riding a Costco shopping cart.

Lastly, as a mom, it definitely seems nice to have the kids up front where you can see them, but I found my kids didn't fully grasp the seriousness of riding a bike while up front. They kept wanting to talk to me or wanted me to get snacks for them. In the back, they seem to understand we are going fast, I'm focused on the road, keep your hands inside, and I'm not available to chat/help.

The rear bike puts the kids in the back, which also means I get some quiet time and can focus more easily on the road. I also find it easier to steer and park as it rides like a normal bike. The width of the bucket doesn't exceed the width of the handlebars so it's pretty seamless.

What is the best way to load/unload big kids and adults?

To load big kids and adults, just leave the kickstand engaged and let them jump in. It's very stable. Then step through, and with one foot on either side of the bike, walk the bike forward to disengage the kickstand and you're all set!

For unloading, I suggest standing firmly with the bike between your legs, letting the big kids and adults jump out, then shifting back to put the kickstand down and unload little kids or cargo.

Does Madsen Cycles offer discount codes?

Yes! Currently they are doing $250 off your bike with Madsen discount code BACKTOSCHOOL!

If you check the first and last photo of this post, I'll keep it up to date with the latest Maden bike promo codes!

Can I test ride a Madsen bike?

Yes! They sell direct out of their shop in Salt Lake City, Utah where you can go in for a ride. If you're not local, they offer the MADSEN Map, which allows you to connect with owners who live in your area to ask questions, get feedback, and potentially meet up to check out the bike in person.

Final thoughts on Madsen Cycles

Madsen Cycles was created by a husband (who had been building custom bikes for 20+ years when he designed the MADSEN) and wife team with little kids, and the end result shows. It's a carefully crafted design that's thought of and refined every little detail to make riding a family cargo bike easy and comfortable.

Having our electric bucket bike totally changed our quality of life, and has made it incredibly easy to get the kids where they need to go quickly and safely.

I love that it rides like a regular bike, with one of the most powerful motors you can have in the US. Parking it is a breeze and we really couldn't be more in love with it!

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