Eurobike 2007 Report 2: Gazelle Cabby bakfiets (MPB)

Gazelle Cabby MPB bakfiets

Gazelle displayed their new Bakfiets Cargobike child-carrier competitor. Its called the Gazelle Cabby and its based on the rear frame of their new in 2006 MPB (Multi Purpose Bike), which is a blatant, late and ill-conceived attempt to cash in on popularity of the excellent Batavus Personal Bike, which was introduced about 7 years ago. Just to note: I do work with bicycles but don’t have anything to do with either of these bikes or Gazelle or Batavus.


In contrast to the other recent entries to the 2-wheeled bakfiets category the Gazelle bakfiets is not a shameless copy of the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike. In this regard its refreshing to finally see another bike in the “bakfiets to carry children” category with some original thought.

The Gazelle follows the same basic concept of extended wheelbase with 20″ front wheel, 26″ rer wheel and steering via a linkage under the cargo area. However it also differs in that the box (bak) is comprised of vinyl wrapped around a foldable metal frame. Its definitely not pretty, but the fabric kiddy/cargo area provides some advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

      – Can be folded for transport or storage
      – Should be fairly durable in wet environments
      – Safety should be equivalent to wooden box

Cons

      – Difficult to adapt and modify, for example in order to carry twin babies
      – More difficult to repair
      – Difficult to decorate or add graphics. Can’t be painted.
      – Vulnerable and unhandy for cargo transport (its really just for kids)
      – Vulnerable for vandalism, a common problem in cities
      – Less environmentally friendly (PVC vs. Wood)
      – Will look used and ugly with age, instead of developing the”patina” of natural materials such as wood.

The Gazelle bakfiets wasn’t yet offered for test rides, but I’ve been riding and designing these bikes for long enough to make educated guesses based on what I’ve seen:

      – The steering geometry is inappropriate for a long-wheelbase load carrier. The bike will require constant attention and adjustment to ride a straight line or cleanly go through a corner.
      – The parking stand is a pathetic thing with two skinny aluminium legs and tiny riveted pivot in the center – nothing at all like the rock-steady, four-point “Stabilo” stand of the Bakfiets Cargobike.
      – The brakes will be spongy and ineffective.
      – The extremely high Maxi-Cosi (baby carrier) holder raises the center of gravity and will make the bike tippy at slow speeds and when stopped. Its also a little scary to hold the baby up where its unprotected by the box.

      Note: Its since been pointed out by Gazelle (see comments below) that the MC carrier has two positions: the high one that I saw at Eurobike, and also a lower one that can be used when its not necessary for kids to sit on the bench behind.

All in all, Gazelle is again demonstrating their ineffectiveness in the modern era. They sadly seem unable to produce meaningful innovations or build the timeless, quality bicycles that they were once so famous for. A key supplier to Gazelle recently confided to me that they consider Gazelle “the bicycle for 50-plussers”. Meanwhile long-time competitors Sparta and Batavus of the Accel Group, and a number of smaller makes such as Azor, WorkCycles, Bakfiets.nl and Fietsfabriek forge ahead with smart bikes that respond to the market.

Sorry about the lack of detail photos. I’m sure those will be up on the Gazelle site shortly.

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31 Responses to “Eurobike 2007 Report 2: Gazelle Cabby bakfiets (MPB)”

  1. Mark Stosberg Says:

    A photo of this bike would be interesting.

  2. henry Says:

    Working on it. Actually we were so unimpressed with the Gazelle Bakfiets when we saw it that I didn’t even think to take pictures. Only later when I went to write a (critical) piece about it was I kicking myself for having no images.

  3. henry Says:

    Just added a photo and some more details.

  4. Ellen Says:

    If you write a review, it should be with correct facts!

    You base your review on a prototype, forgot to mention that and forgot to ask/get the full details. Please find them below.

    MC adaptors
    There are 2 positions within the aluminum frame constructions for attaching the Maxi Cosy adaptors; one high in the box (most of the baby’s body is inside the box) and one low in the box. The highest position, gives you optimal eye contact with the baby and allows for 2 other children to sit on the seat and transport one or 2 bags of groceries. When attaching the MC in the adaptors in the lowest position, the baby is fully enclosed by the aluminum frame construction.
    The MC adaptors come with spring shock absorbers, providing a comfortable ride for the baby and prevent the baby from getting “shaken”while cycling.

    The patented, foldable and detachable box saves you storage space.

    The stand is a metal 2-legged motor stand, providing stability when the bicycle is parked.

    The 7 Simano gears with rollerbrakes, cooling discs and auto-L hub dynamo, combined with the Gazelle 68 degrees bike geometrics, sturdy frame, Vredenstein Moiree 42mm tires and make sure that a bike ride is not only fun for the passengers but also extremely light and comfortable for the one driving it!

    I invite all for a testride at your local dealer in Spring 2008 to get form your own opinion based on facts and your own experience.

    To Henry (and mayby to pass on to his supplier); Gazelle offers world class bicycles for every age category.To illustrate: Gazelle Shark (26 inch) was recently chosen by the ANWB Kids choice Bicycle of the Year 2007.

  5. henry Says:

    Beste Ellen,
    You didn’t write it in your note, but you apparently work for Gazelle. Its always good to note commercial affilations up front so that biases and interests are clear. Regardless I’m flattered that Gazelle, the biggest, oldest and best known Dutch bicycle manufacturer, reads and takes an interest my blog and I appreciate your additions.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised: a couple years ago van der Veer Designers, who does design work for Gazelle, sent an employee (undercover in the guise of a student) to Workcycles to learn about bakfietsen. We learned later that this was actually in order to design a bakfiets for Gazelle. I was naturally unhappy about this incident but had since forgotten it until I saw the Gazelle Cabby at Eurobike 2007.

    Now to respond to your comments:

    It was not noted that the Cabby shown at Gazelle’s Eurobike stand was a prototype. It stood prominently in the front of the stand with detailed specifications and the €1300 retail price. It appeared quite complete and finished.

    You are correct though, that I could have provided more complete information had I discussed the Cabby with the Gazelle staff. I missed for example the dual position MC holder. That seems a smart solution, though its a pity the baby has to sit up there in the wind when he or she is not the first born child.

    I noted in my post that the foldable box saves storage space. That will clearly be an advantage for some customers, and it makes shipping of the bakfiets cheaper.

    I maintain that the parking stand looks like an afterthought, and that’s supported by the fact that its not even visible in the Gazelle Cabby literature. In the Bakfiets Cargobike that essentially made the bakfiets popular for child transport the parking stand is a key element of the design. The Cargobike stands like a house when parked and I do not believe the Cabby will do this.

    That 68 degrees parallel can be suitable geometry for a standard bicycle does not necessarily mean that it is good for a 250cm long load carrying bicycle.

    The rest of your comments are basically just marketing folder material, but its OK.

    Groeten,
    Henry

  6. chopley Says:

    Very interesting post this, even though some of your ‘cons’ are pretty subjective (I consider “can’t be painted” to be a pro rather than a con… ;-).

    I’ve never been a big fan of the traditional bakfiets, mainly because they’re so ugly and cumbersome. But when I saw a Gazelle Cabby outside a bike shop recently, I took it for a test ride straight away. With a third child on the way, I’ll soon be needing something with more carrying capacity than a standard bike.

    One of the things I immediately liked about the Cabby was that it doesn’t have a great big ugly wooden box on the front. It’s good modern, functional design. Riding it round the local streets, it handled well. And the motorbike-style stand kept everything secure while the kids climbed in. Another big plus is the fact that the box folds up and detaches. With a long hallway only 1 metre wide, I’d never get a traditional bakfiets through the house and into the shed.

    In your review, you mention the poor steering geometry. Would you expand on that a bit more in terms a layperson can understand, as it doesn’t really mean much to me. What configuration would be better for a long bike and why?

    Cheers,
    Chris

  7. henry Says:

    Hi Chris,
    Let me first put my commentary in perspective: It was written in the beginning of September, 2007 thus many months before the first Gazelle Cabby’s rolled off the assembly line. The Cabby is now to be seen on the streets and it seems to have been developed further since its show debut. Note that the image from then didn’t even have a parking stand. Its unfortunate I couldn’t get photos at the expo but that show bike did have a really pathetic stand. It was a model that we found inadequate for our city bikes… made about twice as wide. I’ll have to check out a current production Cabby to see what they’re fitting, but if you’re comfortable with its stability it must have been improved.

    You refer to a “traditional bakfiets” but I’m guessing you actually mean a Bakfiets.nl Cargobike, the bike that inspired the Cabby and many infinitely less creative copies. The Bakfiets Cargobike is actually not even an old design. Maarten van Andel brought it to the market in about 2001. A real “traditional bakfiets” is actually a huge, 150kg three-wheeler with a fixed gear and hand-operated drum brake on the rear wheel:
    http://www.workcycles.com/workbike/bicycles/professional-worktrikes/workbike-classic-dutch-large.html

    As a builder/dealer of these bikes I see the wooden box as super handy in its “open source” nature. Any slightly handy soul can adapt it to their needs: a door for an old dog to climb through, a lid for delivery, business graphics, chalkboard on the sides for the kids, twin maxi-cosi holders… its all a matter of creativity. But all the same I can respect that the wooden box doesn’t suit your tastes.

    Steering geometry… Hmmm, that’s tricky to explain in a blog comment and something I’d rather other bike designers don’t figure out. I’ll just say that the combination of head tube angle, fork rake, front wheel size, front tire section, wheelbase and load distribution (and a few other factors to a lesser degree) determine the handling characteristics of a bike at various speeds and in various situations. I’ve now spent quite a few years studying this for special load carrying bikes and have learned to pretty quickly and accurately estimate the steering behavior of a bike. The ideal steering geometry for this format bike turns out to be rather different from what’s regarded as “common practice”, because such bikes were never discussed in the textbooks. Of all the bikes of this type I’ve only seen two that were clearly designed with an understanding of these parameters. The Bakfiets.nl Cargobike is one and the Cabby is not.

    That doesn’t mean it will necessarily ride badly, but under some situations (particularly when riding very slowly and/or heavily loaded) the Cabby will be more difficult to ride smoothly along a straight path.

    But I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s party. I’m happy that Gazelle designed and produced an original bike that does some things that its predecessors cannot. I’m also happy that people are buying them, riding them and enjoying them. There’s plenty of room on the streets for many, many more bikes, and if we begin to run out of room we can always begin taking back the space that the cars occupy.

    Happy cycling!

    Groeten,
    Henry

  8. Gazelle Cabby : bakfiets.co.uk Says:

    […] times was the Gazelle Cabby. It doesn’t seem like much has been written about the, with the thread on Henry’s blog being a rare exception, so I figured I’d post my impressions in the absence of a full […]

  9. EthanPDX Says:

    I think it very interesting that the article links out to every manufacturer mentioned except the one making the bike in question. Poor form at the least, bias at worst.

    I certainly prefer the utilitarian looks and nature of the bakfiets.nl version, but for someone with different needs this might be just the ticket. I have wished I could easily convert the box to a deck for the “bike moves” that are becoming popular here in Portland. This might be easier with a design like this.

    I will say that whereas I LOVE the restraints on my Quinny Zap (and the now discontinued mandarin orange), I LOATH the ones on my bakfiets.nl, and am already looking to replace them.

  10. henry Says:

    Hi Ethan,
    Actually I only linked to the little, local producers mentioned and not to the major firms. Somehow linking to Gazelle, Batavus and Sparta seemed silly, like linking to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. But I suppose you have a point: fair is fair…
    Gazelle
    Batavus
    Sparta
    General Motors
    Ford Motor Company
    Chrysler

    The Cabby was also just a show model when I wrote this post and wasn’t yet to be found on the Gazelle website. Here’s the Gazelle page for the Cabby since its very well hidden in their site.

    Its certainly true that not everybody wants a bike with a wooden box. We occasionally hear this in the shop and it sometimes comes up here in the blog. Just read through the battlefield of comments that followed my Triobike post last year for a glimpse of some strong opinions here. Our feedback in the shop is fairly unanimous that the soft box is inappropriate for the rigors of the big city, but it seems a very handy construction for a lighter duty bike for in the countryside or for recreational use.

    I totally agree that the harnesses in the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike are a pain to adjust. The big challenge here is that they need to fit a much bigger range of kid sizes than other, similar child seats. Kids from 1 to about 6 years old sit in the Cargobike.

    Henry

  11. amermaidmmv Says:

    I stumbled upon this post looking for pros en cons for the bakfiets. I also noticed the gazelle cabby. Interesting discussions going on here. Anyway if you don’t mind me asking, would you have any views on how easy it would be to ride the bakfiets around in hillier environments than Amsterdam (despite the steep bridges)? Also would you know whether it would be possible to get a bakfiets with electro motor to help cycling? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  12. henry Says:

    Hi Amermaid,
    Just to note this report about the Cabby is about a year old and was posted before the Cabby was on the market or even available to be ridden. Its rather outdated at this point. The discussion is still interesting though. I recently posted links to a number of reviews, one of which compares the Gazelle Cabby to the Bakfiets Cargobike:
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2008/07/11/roundup-reviews-of-various-family-transport-bikes/

    More info about riding a Bakfiets (or Cabby for that matter) in hillier terrain can be found on this page full of Bakfiets Cargobike tips and tricks. I hope you find it helpful.
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/bakfiets-cargobike-tips-tricks-faq/

  13. Green Idea Factory Says:

    Hmm. Well, maybe this is too simple but if I got a Bakfiets I would fit a Cabby cargo unit to it… and if I got a Cabby I would make a wooden box for it. I would leave one installed – whichever I used more often as the default – but would be able to switch to the other if needed.

    I definitely see the use in having something lighter and collapsible (possibly for taking into trains where tandems are allowed) but also a hard, tough box.

    How tough to have the best of both worlds?

  14. henry Says:

    We’ve certainly considered other box options for the Bakfiets Cargobike, since no one design is ideal for everyone. A collapsible box for the Cargobike is possible, but I’m not sure modifying the box is possible with the Cabby. The Cabby’s box frame might be a structural part of the frame meaning that the frame would lose strength without it. I don’t know this – its just a guess based on what I’ve seen.

    But really, having two boxes for one bike is an overkill that few would make use of. Thousands of customers have been riding around with the wooden boxes for years and few have asked for more than minor modifications of the current box. They pile things on top, add tie-downs and accessories, paint them but rarely do more. This also reflects the nature of living in Holland where few have room to store something like a cargobike box (even collapsed) inside.

    -H

  15. Green Idea Factory Says:

    Thanks, Henry.

    Yes it seems that a conversion either way would require all the necessary parts — I am not sure how the Bakfiets box is connected but from close-ups I saw in the video it is clear that the Cabby has some custom parts which in aggregate withe th frame give it strength.

    For city use the “Bakfiets Hardpack” – with a locking lid – would work but I would find it useful to be able to take a cargobike on the train. The length is similar to that of a tandem, but not the width, unless it is a “Softpack”. I want to take my TWO dogs along on the train.

  16. henry Says:

    Cargobike in the train? They do fit into shipping containers which travel on trains, but I suspect that’s not what you had in mind. These bikes are waaaay too big and heavy to be taking along on any passenger trains I’m familiar with, never mind the contents of the box.

    Regardless you’re talking about very theoretical possible uses of these bikes that would be employed by few people. 95% of these bikes are used by moms and dads to carry their kids and groceries around the city.

    The market for cargo specific versions of these bikes is miniscule. We’ve made fewer than 10 Bakfiets Cargobikes with enclosed boxes in comparison to about 10,000 standard family transport versions.

    -Henry

  17. swopo Says:

    Hi!

    I read all the comments here and other reports of the “Cabby” on this site.

    As I am looking for a product, that could easily be transformed into a “e-bike”-solution, the initial idea of “gazelle” seemed quite suitable to me (apart from traditional and ideological points of view on that subject).

    As “Gazelle already has an “e-bike” in use (the “Easy-Glider” seemed to me as a good base of transferring this technologie to the “Cabby”) I would like to know, if anyone of the “traditional” producers of cargobikes has an idea to produce a “e-cargobike” as well.

    I do see the difference between a “traditional” cargobike and a “lifestyle-product” like the “Cabby”, and therefore I am still in doubt, for what I should decide under the aspect of creating a “e-bike-solution”..

    Any opinions?

  18. henry Says:

    Swopo,
    You’re the second commenter to refer to this “traditional cargobike” (see Chopley above) but I’m still not sure what you are referring to. In Holland the traditional bakfiets is a giant 3-wheeled freight mover with a wooden box. I’m guessing you mean a Bakfiets.nl Cargobike family carrier like we sell? Of course there’s no tradition at all behind mom and dad carrying the kids and groceries in a bakfiets.

    As for an electrically assisted bike of this type its being worked on. A couple weeks ago I rode a prototype pedalec Bakfiets.nl Cargobike that worked quite well. The hub motor supplier still needs to sort out the rollerbrake mount but its otherwise pretty much ready to go.

    I doubt Gazelle will do a pedalec version of the Cabby in the near future. They don’t seem to be investing seriously in the product and apparently haven’t even made a decent rain canopy or parking stand for the bike yet. But you can better ask Gazelle about their plans – We’re not a dealer.

    -Henry

  19. swopo Says:

    Henry,
    It is always difficult to express himself correctly in theoretical subjects like these. I am not so deeply “in the subject” as you are, I am just looking at the market as a “user” or future client. I asked “Gazelle”, they did not answer, yet.. Anyway, as I wrote above “I would like to know, if anyone of the “traditional” producers of cargobikes has an idea to produce a “e-cargobike”.. and please forget the “traditional”, I understood your answer in the right way.. So,tell me more (I you would) from your e-prototype, I am interested..

  20. henry Says:

    Hi Swopo,
    The electric assist kit for the Cargobike is proprietary, with a front hub motor, rpm sensor and LiIon battery in a quick change bayonet housing in the rear carrier. Its not overly complicated and ise relatively easy to service – no computer needed for example. One important point is that the front hub will still fit a Shimano rollerbrake. This last feature has been difficult and we don’t know when it will be sorted out. I would guess first delivery in the spring of 2009, but that’s just a guess!

  21. swopo Says:

    ok, thanks for the input so far. I will wait.. ;-)

    One last thing: You wrote: “…the front hub will still fit a Shimano rollerbrake.”
    Is the front hub a gearless one, like the BionX-System for ex.?

    I think, one of the probs adapting a pedelec to a cargobike, is the weight of the bike itself and the necessary “torque” when starting up with “full load”.
    I could hardly imagine a gearless hub to work this out with only 250 W…
    (of course it will several times, but the battery won´t like it..)

  22. henry Says:

    Yes the front hub is brushless and computer controlled. I’m not really an expert in this field but this seems to be the direction of the future. The geared hub motors such as the Heinzmann are strong and reliable but more expensive to manufacture and much noisier.

    You’re absolutely right that the startup torque is the most difficult part, all the more so because it requires a torque sensor to actuate the motor before the bicycle actually moves. Retrofitting a torque sensor to an existing bike and having it all be easily serviceable is quite a puzzle.

    This system for the Cargobike keeps it simple: its just rpm sensing. We know its a compromise but its easy to retrofit and trouble-free. Aside from the lack of help for the first meter the system feels quite good. Perhaps a torque sensing system will be an option in the future.

  23. Bastiaan Says:

    What I miss in this discussion is the weight of the bike. On the web I find very little information on this. I believe the Cabby is made of aluminum, a material which isn’t used by all box bike manufacters. Add the leight weight fabric box and in my opinion the Cabby is much leighter to bike than any other box bikes. Am I correct with this assumption?

  24. henry Says:

    Hi Bastiaan,
    The Cabby frame and fork and steering linkage are definitely steel, though maybe the arms that form the top structure of the soft box are aluminium. I do not know the weight of the Cabby but colleagues have complained that it is very heavy. That strikes me as strange since it seems unlikely it weighs more than a Bakfiets.nl Cargobike, and very unlikely it’s heavier than the Fietsfabriek (which is heavier than the Cargobike). More plausible is that the Gazelle steers or feels heavy in use as a result of it’s different steering geometry.

    I must admit that I still haven’t ridden the Cabby (16 months after having first written this) but I’ve heard so little positive feedback and seen so few of them it just hasn’t been a priority. What’s to learn from the effort, after all?

  25. Laurent Says:

    Hello Henry,
    I’m a swiss guy with 3 kis and a lot of hills arround… and very interrested in the electric assist kit for the Cargobikes… Is there something new since your last post? what are the differents possibilites?
    Thanks and kind regards

  26. henry Says:

    Laurent,
    I have to admit that e-bike projects are pretty low priority for us so we haven’t made much progress here. So far we still haven’t been overwhelmed by the EU legal setups we’ve tried. But Switzerland is not EU so you can actually use a considerably more powerful system. Though I still think riding with 3 kids in a Cargobike in a hilly area is an ambitious plan, we’ve been working with a local supplier who seems to quite enjoy such challenges. If you’re serious about it and understand that more power equals bigger, heavier, more expensive parts (especially batteries) we can investigate further. I’d expect it to cost at least 1500 euro above the price of the Cargobike. Just send me a note at workcycles (henryatworkcyclesdotcom).

  27. ringthembells Says:

    Hello All-

    Just thought you would like to hear from someone who owns a Gazelle Cabby. It is much lighter than the bakfiets.nl cargobike (when the box is empty and folded I can carry it into and out of my basement) and the folding feature is a huge plus. I can lock it to standard bike racks or just ride with it folded if I dont have any cargo.

    I am not sure I understand the point about the geometry. Yes it is more challenging to keep the Gazelle in a straight line than a regular bike but that is to be expected. The brakes are a tad spongy at times, especially when the bike is fully loaded but you can’t have everything. It is super fun to ride and is great on corners even when loaded up.

    I know how much bakfiets riders love their bikes. The wood does look nice, however the Gazelle Cabby suits my needs much better and seems a bit more practical. People forget how heavy all that wood is. I live in a major US city and leave it locked outside around town once in a while and no one messes with it. These bikes are SO uncommon theives don’t know what to do with them.

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  29. ubrayj02 Says:

    I own and have ridden one of WorkCycles excellent bakfiets for several years now, all but raising my daughter and doing a large chunk of shopping and errand running for home and business (I own a bike shop in LA with it.

    We recently picked up a Gazelle Cabby for the shop. At the moment (2010) Gazelle’s US distributor is just a few miles away, and it was impossible to resist the urge to have one of these in the showroom.

    I’m still trying to figure out the Cabby, but the version I’m using does have a bit more of a sluggish response in turning than the Bakfiets. The bike itself has a bit more heft in the rear end than the Bakfiets. By all other measures, however, it is a finely made machine, setup to handle the rigors of daily shopping and baby carrying for a year or two until it’s regular servicing is required.

    Once we’ve put the bike through its paces, I hope to provide more info about how all these stack up.

    Thanks Henry for, once again, opening the debate on these matters. The dialogue that goes on between you and the general public, bike makers, rip off artists, imitators, and dweebs like me really does help people out when they’re looking to buy a good cargo bike.

  30. Rob Bushill Says:

    This is an old thread but one that still shows up at the top of some search engines. not much bad is said about the cabby now. Its a good machine. some would say great, but it will have it detractors and those for whom other machines are more suitable. The bakfiets.NL has also changed since this review (can i call it a review, perhaps reactive comments to a show prototype) was penned. If you are thinking about a bike like this, and many are, the best and only way to make up your own mind is to ride them both. You can do that near Bristol Uk at http://www.reallyusefulbikes.co.uk. unbiased facts and tests rides back to back. sales and service for all boxbike types.

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