Ridgeback’s Butcher is a classic design, made new. The delivery bike of yore gets a good quality motor system and up-to-date transmission. It’s well-built and turns heads, and you can carry plenty of stuff on it, but in terms of its overall usefulness it’s outstripped by other cargo bike designs.
The butcher’s bike is a variation on the long john design really, in that it uses a linkage system to move the front wheel forward and puts load space in front of the rider. This bike uses an alloy frame with a crossbar, and it’s a reasonably big bike available in one size only, so it won’t be for you if you’re smaller of stature. I’m 1.89m and found it a very comfortable riding position. The bike has a 26” rear wheel and a smaller 20” front, connected to the handlebars via a short linkage. In a nod to the 1970s, both wheels feature Woods valve inner tubes, which I didn’t even know were still a thing. You can get them pumped up with a normal smart-head track pump but it’s a bit of a faff.
With a long john bike that load is low to the ground in a bucket, or on a flatbed, between the rider and the wheel. Here the wheel isn’t pushed as far forward, and the load area is on top. The wheel doesn’t move quite as far away from you, so it’s a slightly easier learning curve when you hop on for the first time. They’re not hard bikes to ride, but it is a slightly different skill.
The load platform on the Butcher is a flatbed with a wooden base, and a rail around the edge. It’s easy to sling some bags of shopping in there, or a crate of beer, or whatever. The rail isn’t especially high, which means that the unsecured load capacity isn’t especially big; if you were using the Butcher day to day you’d probably want some kind of crate that fitted in there for shopping and general carting.
The other issue with this design is that the load sits quite high, raising the centre of gravity of the bike. The Butcher has a sturdy double kickstand, so loading it up isn’t too much of a problem, and riding it is generally okay, but if you’re stop-starting through traffic lights or weaving through traffic calming measures you need to have your wits about you a bit. It’s quite similar to riding a bike with a child seat on a rear rack in that regard: it’s not impossible by any stretch, but lighter and less able riders may find it difficult. On the subject of kids this isn’t a bike really designed to carry them, although it has rack mounts at the back so you could fit a rack-mounted seat easily enough.
Ridgeback have used a Promovec hub motor system on this bike, with the Promovec 50750 rear hub motor and a 600Wh battery transverse-mounted under the front load bay.
There’s integrated lighting, with two front lights hanging from the deck and giving the bike quite a quirky and personable look; it’s definitely a bike that makes people smile when they see it. The rear is integrated into the rear mudguard.
Control of the system is via a bar-mounted remote which displays battery state in five blue bars. Change the assistance mode and the remote will momentarily switch to green bars showing which of the five modes you’re in. It’s pretty straightforward. Five assistance modes is, as ever, too many.
The 5070 motor is rated by Promovec at 43Nm of torque; that puts it below nearly all mid motors and that aligns with how it feels on the road. It’s certainly a capable motor, and cruising round the flat bit of town requires no real effort. The bike uses a cadence sensor rather than a torque sensor so you can just spin the pedals to keep the motor engaged. There’s a bit of motor lag away from a standing start as there is with all cadence-based systems, but it’s pretty good.
Once you start to head uphill you’ll have to add some of your own effort. The Butcher didn’t struggle too much on my benchmark commute hill (1.5km at 5% average, with a 12% section) when it was just me, but if you add 20kg of shopping you need to put in a decent shift to get over the steep bit. Nothing like as much effort as you’d have to dragging 20kg of shopping up the hill under your own steam, mind. As ever, it’s horses for courses: If you live somewhere reasonably flat you’ll probably never test the limits of the assistance, even with a full load.
The Shimano Altus 9-speed transmission gives a good range of gears for cruising and climbing, although it could probably be weighted a bit more towards the climbing. The hydraulic discs make stopping a fuss-free experience. As with all linkage bikes where the front wheel is so far ahead of the rider, you need to take a bit of care with the front brake, as steering and braking at the same time can cause the wheel to skip and skid.
With a 600Wh battery the Ridgeback Butcher has a good range. Realistically if your use case involves doing a long commute on a daily basis this wouldn’t be the bike you’d pick, but for running around town and picking up the shopping you’re probably not going to need to charge it more than once a week. I managed four and a half laps of my commute, which is only 40km, but with about 700m of climbing. On the flat you’d probably get double that.
You can charge the battery in situ or take it out and leave the bike in the shed; it’s a fairly big bike and the basket is quite wide, so you’ll need a decent space for it. Manoeuvring it in tight spaces isn’t that easy either, as the steering lock on the front wheel due to the linkage gives it a wider turning circle than you’d imagine. It’s not a bike you’ll be wanting to lift up or down steps either. Provided you have somewhere spacious to store it, with a flat (or at least not stepped) entrance, you’ll be fine.
As cargo bikes go, I’d describe the Butcher as quirky. If you don’t need massive capacity, and carrying kids isn’t part of the use case, and you live somewhere reasonably flat, you’ll probably get along fine with it, and it’s a jolly looking bike that makes people smile.
At £2,699 you certainly wouldn’t call it a steal with the middling motor system; It’s a similar price to some other cargo options with hub motor systems such as the Babboe City E, but overall it’s less versatile than that bike, with a lower carrying capacity. And there are some - the Rad Power Radwagon, for example - that are much cheaper.
To be honest, assuming that you’re not carrying anything that has a footprint bigger than a rear pannier, the Butcher doesn’t have a massively higher capacity than a normal city bike with some big bags on the back, and there are loads of options out there with high quality mid-motor systems that would cost less that £2,699 to fully spec out for fetching your shopping. Too many to name, but as an example Cube’s Kathmandu Hybrid One gets Bosch’s excellent Performance Line CX motor, a 500Wh battery and a better transmission for £300 less. Add some panniers at the rear (and the front too if you need them) and you’re good to go. You won’t be able to carry /quite/ as much, but it’s a much better bike overall.
I didn’t dislike the Ridgeback Butcher: it’s a fun, unusual bike that’s pretty practical and easy to load up with stuff. It’s not as useful or versatile as other cargo designs, though, and the capacity isn’t far enough above a standard city bike for me to put up with its quirks, or its mid-pack motor power.