In a recent essay, WIRED contributor Paul Ford expounded a grand unified theory of stuff—namely, that pretty much anything you buy will beget a second round of buying stuff for your stuff. Nowhere is this easier to see than with electric cargo bikes. To get the most utility out of one, you need apparel—like a jacket, helmet, and shoes. You need a bike lock, possibly a child seat, and front and rear racks. For safety, you need lights and a bell. It takes a while to accumulate all this extra gear, especially when you’ve already paid a lot for the bike.
Don’t get me wrong: The Cero One is a pretty great electric bike. It’s short, maneuverable, and has some high-end components. But one of its best aspects is that it has its own proprietary cargo system. You can buy the bike fully loaded from Cero—front basket, rear rack, et cetera—or customize your own carriers to its bolt system. Carrying all the recommended accessories might make my job of recommending peripherals obsolete, but if it gets more people on bikes, I don’t mind.
The Cero One has a pretty distinctive design. The two wheels are asymmetrical, with a smaller front wheel for maneuverability, a larger back wheel for stability, and an upright step-through frame. It draws influence from a number of sources, including traditional Japanese mamachari bicycles and the Schwinn cycle truck.
It’s a little odd-looking, but Cero says the asymmetrical tire size and compact frame are intended to shorten the bike’s overall length. It made me nervous about steering into potholes until I realized that my own Tern GSD uses tires that are the same size, and for the same reason.
One reason some electric bikes cost more than others is that they’re usually safer. As a parent, there are some gadgets that I will cut corners on—I don’t need high-end workout headphones, for example—and others that I just won’t. I load the most precious cargo of all, my children, on my electric cargo bike, and I cart them around on streets going 15 miles per hour next to cars. I don’t want to worry about pedals braking or frames crumpling. I also don’t want to start a fire in my garage in the middle of the night while charging it.
I usually prefer Bosch motors, because they feel more natural to me, and for a long time, Bosch ebike motors were the only ones that were UL-certified—that is, they are safety-tested by a nonprofit, independent safety standards organization. The Cero One is not UL-certified. However, it has been safety-tested to DIN EN15194, which is the German safety standard used in Europe, and the racks and baskets meet the ISO11243 safety rating.
I’m not surprised the Cero One meets international safety standards; it uses nice components. That includes a Shimano Steps E6100 motor with internal hub gears; a Gates carbon belt drive; Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and sturdy Schwalbe tires. A Gates carbon belt drive and an internal hub mean much less maintenance for a bike commuter who often has only five minutes to get out the door.
Since we’re talking about getting out the door—I love my Tern GSD ebike to pieces. It works great for what I need it to do, which is to drop off and pick up two wriggly kids from school every day, quickly and with no hassle. But it does require 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 had only one—I probably wouldn’t have bought it.
The Cero One is much more versatile. Yes, it weighs almost 60 pounds and has a wheelbase of 44.8 inches—not really that much smaller than the Tern. But it feels like a much shorter bike, one I might actually wheel outside for a quick joyride on a rare sunny January day in Oregon.