As you may have read in a recent edition of BikeBiz, when asked the question “how do you tell a quality cargo bike from a bad one?” cargo specialist Really Useful Bikes answered by saying that the most important thing is strong foundations.
“I look for a bike with components that will last, will look good for many years and that has good function,” said owner, Rob Bushill, who perhaps not coincidentally was pictured with a Donky in the background.
“Our spec is virtually bombproof,” explains Ben Wilson, the designer of the modular, cargo-hauling, steel Donky. “It’s capable of hauling up to 50 kilos on each end.”
So robust looking is the £500 Donky that Wilson tells us of a story where thieves chose to pinch a Donky to use as a getaway vehicle in a smash and grab raid.
“I make no apology for the fact that they’re heavy,” says Wilson. “The inspiration comes from the old butcher’s bikes, which just seem to live on and on. We think the Donky presents a great opportunity for the bike messengers of London, or anyone looking to deliver by bike. With 20-inch wheels, the Donky has a low centre of gravity and so is very agile and tough. We have fleets of Donkys that are currently used by sandwich delivery people, workshops and takeaways, among others.”
Bespoke racking is something available to anyone buying a Donky, with the bike’s design offering a quick release system that slides on and off a square beam at either end. When BikeBiz first had a spin we were aboard a bike that had a rack customised with springy netting, perfect for stashing clothing or shopping. With a UK-based workshop and a network of fabricators, Wilson has used his architecture, engineering and design knowhow to design many custom racks previously, as well as accommodating child seats.
“We loaned a bike to a guy I met one day on a dog walk. Just one week later he’d sold his car! We know a Donky won’t replace a motor for everyone, but it can be a game changer for some, especially those with reasonable commutes,” says Wilson. “Again, my best friend’s a plumber and he’s been using a Donky to make house calls for a while now. It saves him a big chunk in fuel costs, so he can make more money on each job.”
At the entry level of the cargo bike market, the Donky opens doors to those on a budget who would rather not have the costs of running a car, but does that describe the typical customer?
“People generally don’t know they need such a bike until they’ve applied the versatility of the racks to their own lives or businesses,” explains Wilson. “London Burrito restaurant Poncho 8 are a good example. They were looking for a more efficient way to deliver food on London’s often clogged roads. The Donky was an obvious answer and it is far cheaper to run than a moped.”
There are obvious advantages for say a mobile cycle mechanic in riding a Donky, one reason why Wilson is hoping that cycle shops will consider taking on stock, but what other incentives are there for the retailer?
“We’ve not got a minimum order,” says Wilson. “We’re happy for a bike shop to just order one when they need it, or to have an example on the showroom floor for customers to test ride – that’s a good way to show the customer what’s possible on a bicycle. We’re considering adding a kids version too, on which kids would easily be able to carry a basket full of toys or a football. From there they’ll grow up thinking differently about the bicycle as a transport option.”
Donky is also looking to expand abroad and has openly asked global distributors to get in touch.
“Drop us a line on the Donky website,” concludes Wilson. “We’d love to hear from dealers and distributors alike.”