Cargio began operating in the Fall of 2020. This Ostrava-based startup produces cargo bikes, which are currently aimed primarily at businesses. It has very ambitious plans for the future, as we discussed in an interview with Lubomir Fridrich, one of the three founders of Cargio, along with Tom Bartl and Vit Sebela. How does his wedding relate to the company? How many bikes have they already produced and what are their future plans?
This is an English translation of an interview that was held in March 2021.
How did you come up with the idea of producing cargo bikes?
During the summer of 2020, I finished working at Rekola and a friend who was helping with logistics for the largest e-commerce company in the Czech Republic contacted me. They were looking for a last-mile solution that wouldn’t involve a car but also wouldn’t be a regular bike.
At the same time, I was getting married and I left with my wife on a cargo bike after the wedding. A photo of me and my bride on the cargo bike went viral on Twitter. As a result, several people asked me about the wedding cargo bike. It was homemade by one of the co-founders of Cargio, Tom. So based on that, we decided that if there is demand, we will start producing these cargo bikes.
Practically right after that, we were at the Prague conference Cargobike.live that presented a cycle depot at Florenc. There we had the opportunity to learn about the basic problems with cargo bikes that trouble „parcel carriers“ such as DHL, DPD, and so on. The most basic problem they had was the delivery time of the bikes and the method of financing. For them, it is difficult to pay for the entire bike at once, and they need to pay for the bike monthly. These are the three main points that shaped Cargio.
Why are you doing this?
One motivation is the fact that it will improve cities and help in the „fight against white vans“. Personally, I am not completely motivated by the „eco“ aspect. What motivates me most is that it is more efficient. There will simply be more space for living on the streets.
Is Cargio the first Czech cargo bike manufacturer?
I know about the manufacturer Fort, which supplies cargo bike frames to foreign clients. Jirka Štrupl also makes great bikes, which are longtails made of thinner wires. As far as cargo bikes like the „bakfiets“ or „Long John“ that we make, I don’t think anyone else in the Czech Republic is making them, but I’m not 100% sure (Citybikes.cz also makes this type of bike, note by editor).
How many bikes have you produced so far?
I don’t want to give a specific number, but so far it’s just a few units. During March, we should be renting out about 10 bikes. Plus, we’ve sold a few.
Is there interest in your bikes?
Yes, there is interest. We have apparently managed to set up a product that meets the needs of our customers. We are able to provide them with service or replacement vehicles in case of breakdowns.
Who are you targeting?
We focus a lot on the B2B market (Business to Business), we are trying to find corporate customers, and we are succeeding in doing so. We have a major customer in Prague, and three bikes are now being used by them. Last week, we also agreed to cooperate with one of the large courier services. We could supply them with hundreds of bikes in the coming years.
So it’s not for families with children yet?
Exactly, we don’t want to carry children on our bikes yet. It is very important for us to have as much information as possible about the bike, so we can say it is completely safe. We believe it is safe now, but children are simply the most expensive cargo, and we are not yet confident in transporting them.
Earlier you were involved in the bikesharing sphere, have you considered introducing shared cargo bikes?
We want to cooperatie with Rekola, so that our bikes will be used as a tool for servicing and transporting spare parts. We haven’t talked about cargo bikes that would be available to all users within the app yet. I’m not opposed to it, but there are obstacles such as high initial investment and the need to have the skill to ride a cargo bike. Not everyone can easily handle it the first time. But I think that such a service will come in the next few years.
Will there be more cargo bikes in the Czech Republic thanks to Cargio?
I certainly hope so. The Czech market is not attractive to many foreign companies, perhaps due to complex legislation or a lack of awareness about cargo bikes. Because of this, most cargo bike manufacturers do not have representation here, and they are mainly sold to enthusiasts.
I noticed that you supplied one bike to the Institute of Planning of the City of Prague (IPR), tell us more about that.
Representatives from the Institute of Planning expressed interest in our bike at the Cargobike.live conference held in the IPR building last fall. They use it, for example, for delivering materials to events, for communication with the public, and for internal purposes. We gave the bike to IPR for only the cost of the components; we wanted to express our gratitude for their work and were also pleased that they were interested in it.
What are the plans for the future?
We have an ambition that goes beyond the Czech Republic. Within five years, we want to make a million bikes per year. I think that in five years, everyone will laugh at me for saying something like that, but we are simply aiming for a million because the demand is clearly there, and it has not yet been met.
Are your bikes unique in any way?
Mainly in the fact that we provide them as a service – we reduce our customers‘ worries about bikes to only what they transport on them. I don’t know of any other company that provides this service in this way. From a technical point of view, the bike is currently quite ordinary. We can select the best balance of components and price to make it the best product on the market. We are currently working on several innovations, such as an improved cargo box, software services, and electronics.
Do you plan to add more models in the future?
Certainly a so-called four-wheeled bike will appear. It will be used for transporting larger cargo, especially for courier companies. There will also be variants for domestic use.“
Have you encountered any obstacles?
Elon Musk was right when he said „prototypes are easy, production is hell.“ Currently we are trying to obtain an estimate of production time, but we cannot say exactly how long it takes to produce. Like other start-up companies, it is difficult for us to purchase a large amount of parts at once. That is why we are currently also looking for investors.
Do you have a cherry on top?
I want to emphasize that our goal is for the cargo bike to be a joy. And that we are fighting against white vans. At the same time, I thank both co-founders and our talented employees who help us fulfill our mission.
Thank you for the interview for Městem na kole.
Thank you too.