We have owned our CETMA for two whole years now, so I figured it was time to write a review.
In short: It. Is. Awesome. It’s even more rad since we kitted it out with a Stokemonkey in October, but that’s fodder for a whole other post.
What you will absolutely love
I am obviously a huge fan of the bakfiets/long John/wheelbarrow-style cargo bike. (Which I will refer to as a bakfiets, hereafter.) After having owned and ridden three different longtails (Yuba Mundo, Xtracycle Edgerunner, and Bike Friday Haul-a-Day) and our bakfiets, I believe bakfietsen are the best cargo bikes for year-round, all-weather riding with kids in the city.
The CETMA ride
The CETMA is smooth. So smooth. Silky, in fact. This is in part due to the frame design, in part due to the steel.
It corners extremely well and it has a wicked tight turning radius for a cargo bike (which really surprised me when we first got it). It is also quite good at climbing hills. It is no Edgerunner in this regard, by any stretch of the imagination — which climbs like a monkey. Nor is it quite like its race-y aluminum cousin, the Bullitt, or so I’ve heard. It is, however, extremely good at climbing hills with the Stokemonkey.
There is some flex in the frame, more when heavily loaded especially if you have a kid who likes to sit at the prow (like I do), but it does not feel spongy. It transfers energy well and the flex helps to absorb some of the bumps in the road.
I consider a step-through frame a must for a cargo bike. I am an average height of 5’4″, which is on the shorter end of things in the male-dominated biking industry. Even my much taller CETMA-loving friend feels the same way. When you are getting on and off of a fully-loaded (possibly wiggly) cargo bike, you do not want to be tipping your bike. It’s uncivil. Not dangerous with a bakfiets-style bike, but awkward. A lot of European brand bakfietsen don’t even have a top tube, that’s how much of a true step-through they have!
The step-trough of the CETMA is the ideal height for me (and my inseam is maybe 75 cm/29.5″). I can even dismount side-saddle style, threading my right leg over the top tube, before I come to a full stop. It’s perfect.
Lane handcrafts these bikes with care and you can tell. The lines are clean, the welds are beautiful; lots of features have been well thought out.
Plus, if you’re Canadian, like me, and nervous about buying items from the USA because of the wildly unpredictable nature of duty fees, fear not: because these bikes are made in the USA, there is no duty under NAFTA (only GST).
The kickstand is extremely stable and intuitive to use. I can put it down and stabilize the bike when fully loaded. I find it a bit awkward to disengage the kickstand while straddling the top tube, even though it might be the more stable way to use the kickstand when fully loaded. But, because of the step-through frame, I have no problem putting up the kickstand and then hopping on the bike, even with live cargo. And, really, with practice, I could probably get used to putting up the kickstand while standing over the top tube — I think it’s mostly just a matter of habit because I had to disengage the kickstand my way when riding longtails (I couldn’t do it while straddling the bike).
Expect the rubber cane tips to die quickly though (they are replaceable if you want). Without the cane tips, beware of the kickstand scratching floors if you are like us and have to bring your bike inside to have a warm place to work on it in cooler months.
Bi-what, you ask? Bi-partable: You can split it in two.
The frame is split along the top and down tubes. There are flat plates at the end of each section of tube that rest together and are secured with three bolts each. Once assembled, we have never had to tighten this bolts (although I do check them, periodically).
While we have yet to use this feature, it was a selling point for us. We do not have a lot of storage space so, theoretically, we could reduce its footprint by splitting the frame in half for longterm storage. But, now that I bike year-round (even in winter), we have no need for this feature for that reason. However, we are still stoked that this feature exists as it means that we could transport the bike in the back of our minivan or on our hitch-mounted cargo tray, if desired. With practice, apparently the bike can be broken down within minutes and even fit in the back of a Prius!
What you won’t like
Waiting. Nobody likes waiting. The man behind CETMA, Lane Kagay, is an extremely talented dude, sincerely kind, and has the best intentions and desires to be punctual.
What you need to do in order to be a happy customer is to expect the build queue to be 6-24 months for a turnaround and then be pleasantly surprised when it takes less. If your concept of time is like mine, then it will not jive with Lane’s.
There are other bike builder’s out there whose queues are longer than a year! Can you imagine?! I heard a story of a guy who paid for a deposit on a really nice bikepacking bike and got a call a few years later saying that it was ready. He had completely forgotten that he had even ordered the bike it took that long. This will not happen to you if you get a CETMA! But, you will have to be patient to get your hands on your bespoke beauty.
I know the owner of the second CETMA Lane ever built and it is still going strong and in heavy use. We have our bike and it’s gorgeous; we received it in less than 6 months. We also have some neighbours who have just received their brand new yellow CETMA which they did have to wait quite a long time for (a little over a year, I believe) — I think that its build might have straddled Lane’s move back to Eugene (from LA) — but, it’s here, I can’t wait to see it, and I’m sure the twins who will ride in it will love it.
All this to say, if you order a bike from Lane it will arrive and will be immaculately built, it just might take longer than you initially expected. (So, if you’re pregnant and want this particular cargo bike so you can ride with your baby, order it stat! Ha.)
The frame is standard, other than you get to pick your colour. He used to weld on hand built racks, but I don’t think he offers that anymore (at least not when we ordered ours).
The disc system Lane offers is good. We have mechanical Avid BB7s and they’ve been fine if not excellent, even though we live in a hilly part of Calgary. I believe Lane has switched to predominantly using hydraulic Tektros since we bought out CETMA, so go with those if you are predominantly riding flat terrain. Otherwise, my mechanic buddy says to stick with mechanical BB7s or go hydraulic with either Hope 4-piston brakes (for stopping power) or Shimano XT (for durability).
We have upgraded one of our rotors from 6″ to 8″ so far and it made a noticeable difference, helping to dissipate heat better on steep downhills (one of which I regularly use at it shaves a bunch of time off of my school route and we often stay too late playing at school and the girls’ stomachs are growling… so we need to get home ASAP). We will upsize the front rotor, too, before we ever switch to hydraulics. The plan is to see if the BB7s need rebuilding or replacing after this winter’s weather (due to corrosion from salt); if it is replacement, we may switch to hydraulics.
You can spec out the drivetrain many ways and it really depends on the terrain you ride and the type of winter you have.
Your least expensive and really very functional option, which offers a wide range of gears, is to just get a traditional derailleur set-up with mountain-bike style gearing.
But, cargo bikes and internal hubs (IGH) were made for each other. The only IGH that you can get to gear easy enough for hilly terrain is a Rohloff. The CETMA is approved for use with a Rohloff.
BUT (!), if you are thinking of adding an e-assist, namely a Stokemonkey, definitely use a Nuvinci hub. The stepless throttle of the Stokemonkey paired with the stepless gearing of the Nuvinci are a match made in heaven: you can always find the right combo of gearing and assist by twisting a little bit this way and a little bit that way. I think that the Nuvinci is an awesome (and more affordable) IGH choice that pairs well with the CETMA, but I wouldn’t recommend it for hilly terrain if you don’t plan on electrifying your bike; if you’re like me, you will reach a point where your loads will get too heavy to enjoyable ride the bike without an assist (and I’m not weak, I promise).
Because we have an IGH, we also went with a Gates carbon belt drive and it is so quiet, clean, and seems very durable. It doesn’t get rusty in the winter, either. I heard recently that they’re only rated to -24C (-11F) or so, but a) I’ve used it in colder and it didn’t all of a sudden snap and b) while we do get real winter here, we so rarely have temperatures that are truly that chilly. Lane exclusively uses an eccentric bottom bracket, which is a necessity with a belt. The only irony about our belt is that we ended up adding on a Stokemonkey — which operates with a chain — so we lose a bit of the beautiful quiet the belt has as when the Stokemonkey isn’t engaged the drivetrain now sounds like a fishing reel zinging.
We got a Blaqpaks cover right from Lane and would highly recommend it or rigging up something on your own. A canopy is essential for rain or cold temperatures and it acts like a little greenhouse, helping immensely to keep your little passengers cozy and warm.
The box Lane provides comes unfinished, but it was easy to sand down and apply a a few coats of finish. There were 3-point straps included with two sets on the bench. I recommend getting the shoulder strap pads off of some expired car seats to make everything a bit more comfy. (We used the straps for the first year or so, but now both kids are almost too big for the straps, at 3 and 6 years old.) We also cut down some foam floor tiles to put on the bench and the bottom of the box, to add over 1/2″ of padding. I might add another layer in places. Upon adding the Stokemonkey, I also transformed the bench to be on hinges instead of immovable (the battery and controller are mounted to the deck under the bench seat).
We chose to mount the stem backwards in order to make the riding position even more upright for me (the shorter rider in our family), but also to prevent any head bonks inside the box.
I love the Metropolis handlebars and Ergo grips. The Bar Mitts Townie/Moustache style fit these handlebars for winter use.
Believe it or not, if you are using this bike to carry a kid or two or more, you will very likely need a rear rack. I keep a bungee cord on our rack at all times, just in case. And, sometimes I attach a pannier or basket; a basket is really handy for collecting loose ends or wet swimwear, etc.
A dynamo hub is now standard for these bikes and it is excellent. The last thing you need to do is worry about whether or not you have your lights charged when you’re biking with kids. I also love that the front light is mounted so low, no worries about blinding fellow riders or walkers on pathways and the like.
We added our rear rack ourselves, so we need to move our rear-mounted dynamo light on to the rear of the rack (it currently is on the left seat stay so can be less visible from behind or even completely blocked if I have a pannier or basket mounted on that side of the rack). More recent pictures of new CETMAs show the rear light mounted to the rear of the rack if the customer elected to have a rack.
I believe an ABUS Frame Lock mounted on the front wheel is standard now, if not: do it.
We also use an ABUS Bordo or two, depending on how long we are gone for or where we are locking up. I keep a shorter cable in the box as sometimes I need it to better connect the bike to a rack, because North America hasn’t exactly figured out cargo bike parking, yet.
- Momentum Mag: Cargo Bike Review – CETMA Margo (no longer in production, the slightly smaller boxed version of the Largo; Medium Cargo… “Margo”)
- Cargo Bike Lane: 48 Hours with the CETMA Cargo Largo
- Tucson Velo: First Impressions of a CETMA Largo (video)
Please note that this post is in no way sponsored by the builder. We bought this bike with our own coin. While lucky enough to have another CETMA in our city that we could check out in person, I am writing this review because there are so few in the ether and I would have appreciated more opinions when we took the plunge to order our bike. This review is genuine and unbiased, not spoiled by the wrath of influencers.