Portland’s cargo bike love and expertise spreads to Texas

Participants in a cargo bike building
workshop in Texas led by Portland resident Tom LaBonty.
(Photos: Tom LaBonty)

There are few things I love more than to see bike culture spread. It happens so frequently, I think, because people are passionate about bicycling and they can’t help but share it with others.

For southeast Portland resident Tom LaBonty, his passion is cargo bikes, and he just got back from Texas where he gave two-day workshop on how to build them. LaBonty was invited to Texas by Bike Friendly Oak Cliff (BFOC), a group of advocates based in Dallas (as part of their Cyclesomatic event). They learned about LaBonty after viewing “One Less Truck,” a documentary by Portland-based filmmaker Joe Biel.

LaBonty shared more with us about his experiences in Texas via email. He said the workshop was held in a high school auto shop (thanks to BFOC board member and shop teacher Tim Martin). LaBonty brought along a newly developed portable jig (to lay out the builds) which he left behind for future use. About 14 people pre-registered for the workshop. The project they focused on was a front-loading style cargo bike that BFOC will use to promote and perform their advocacy work.

At work on the bike. Note the custom jig designed by LaBonty and donated to BFOC.

Test riding.

Once the bike was done, LaBonty said, “Within minutes it was working.” After the workshop, LaBonty and a few of his new friends rode the bike to downtown Dallas to talk future plans. “It was really cool to see people’s reaction to the the bike and get questions,” recalled LaBonty. “One young lady, who stopped us, mentioned she had heard about the local bike advocacy group and expressed interest in joining in on future events.”

With their new knowledge of DIY cargo bike building, Oak Cliff will probably “have a small fleet of cargo bikes” in the near future says LaBonty. In fact, it’s been about a month since the workshop, and one of the attendees sent Tom a photo of the bike he just completed…

This is Brennan. He made this bike himself, using tools and knowledged gleaned from the workshop.

“Seeing someone follow all the way thru to a useable bike,” shared LaBonty, “is very exciting to me.”


Learn more about LaBonty — including his fantastic “Hydrofiets” project — in our archives or on his personal website TomsCargoBikes.com.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Chris Sanderson
Chris Sanderson
11 years ago

That’s awesome. Will he offer that same workshop here?

11 years ago

This is great to see. Joe showed his 17 minute “One Less Truck” documentary about LaBonty during our stop in Fort Worth on the Dinner and Bikes tour this spring. After that we heard that a group from Dallas was talking about flying Tom in… it’s so great to see this actually happened.

By the way, that event in Fort Worth had 100 people attending — one of our larger events — and a group bike ride with over 100 other people came by and circled the building a couple of times in the middle. And I think there was yet another competing bike event going on that night. Texas is on fire, y’all.

Jonathan Braddick
11 years ago
Reply to  Elly

Elly, we wished we had been able to organize a day for ya’ll then, but in a couple years when you’re back we hope to be ready for you! Please keep my email address and contact me.

Jim Lee
Jim Lee
11 years ago

Who builds the elegant front wheels? Is there a front brake?

There are two good old bikes in my garage that would benefit from Tom’s ministrations.

First class work!

Opus the Poet
11 years ago
Reply to  Jim Lee

I’m pretty sure that’s either a Lowrider bike wheel or something off a BSO BMX that can actually handle a decent load after rebuilding the hub with good quality races and bearings. I used the latter on my first cargo bike, one that I got from a Curb bike (like a Dumpster bike, but left on the curb for the trash pickup). 48 spokes on a 406 ISO rim makes for one stout wheel.

Jonathan Braddick
11 years ago

This is so exciting to see we made bikeportland.org! I really want to thank you for highlighting us in Dallas, specifically Oak Cliff. We have a unique and thriving bicycle community setting the pace for Dallas.
Elly, I attended your dinner and bikes in Ft Worth which inspired me to contact Tom to come to Texas! Any group interested needs to contact him to make this happen in their community. It was such a great weekend for us, and already the guy pictured above with his built bike and I are researching the potential to hold and sell these bicycles right here in our city! He’s already built his second! Thanks, Jonathan

Yes the front bike was a 70 spoke BMX style bike

was carless
was carless
11 years ago

I would love to learn how to build one of these puppies. I know Tom has some instructions on his site, I have some buddies who weld, and there are plentiful companies in Portland who sell steel tubing. Can you DIY one of these guys and graft it to an existing bike??

11 years ago

Well done Tom. Is there a page where we can keep tabs on bikes built by participants in the coming months?