WorkCycles and Bakfiets.nl win Kassa bakfiets comparison test

Yesterday “Kassa” (cash register) the popular, prime-time, Dutch consumer program broadcast their test of family bakfietsen. Like some other consumer-rights organizations Kassa reports are widely regarded as quite reliable and honestly conducted. Despite my usual cynicism I felt the testing procedure they showed was quite rigorous utilizing two professional experts and a panel of experience experts, namely parents with children. A retailer specializing in child transport bikes and trikes provided lessons to get the parent testers proficient on the bikes as quickly as possible.

It was not a long-term test though, and it would be expected that some conclusions would change with further use of the bicycles. Our experience has been that the two wheelers gradually become more favored as parents get comfortable with them, while riding a trike tends to get “old” after the novelty wears off. This is apparently a particularly Dutch sentiment as our colleagues in Denmark, England and Germany swear by the trikes. Different strokes for different folks.

The testing appeared to have been conducted over a few days and many interesting moments and comments were captured on video. Amongst the most notable:

  • A woman overturning a Christiania trike, complete with two kids in the box
  • One expert noting that some bikes ride well empty but poorly with a loaded box, others ride well loaded but poorly empty and a couple ride well regardless of the load.
  • Moms trying to push loaded bakfietsen up a tall curb

  • The bakfietsen tested were representative of those available and in common use in the Netherlands, with one notable exception: the Gazelle Cabby was not present. The report mentions that one bike wasn’t delivered in time for the test but doesn’t say which one. I’ll guess it was the Cabby, since it would be fairly obvious to include the one bakfiets produced by a major manufacturer. If that’s not the case I find it a very strange omission, either on the part of the test panel or Gazelle. The bikes tested include:

    Two wheelers:

  • Bakfiets.nl Cargobike (the standard Bakfiets Cargobike sold in the NL and much of Europe)
  • Bakfietsgigant (a Chinese made “copy” of the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike)
  • De Fietsfabriek 995
  • WorkCycles Cargobike (this is the Bakfiets Cargobike sold in our shops and exported outside Europe)
  • Three-wheelers:

  • Babboe-Big
  • Bakfiets.nl Cargotrike (Wide version)
  • Christiania Light (aluminium frame, 8 speed version)
  • Dutch Bicycle Group Boxbike
  • De Fietsfabriek BF18
  • Johnny Loco Cargo Cruiser
  • ‘t Mannetje Filibak
  • Nihola Family (Dutch spec, 7 speed, V-brake rear)
  • Winther Kangaroo
  • And the winners are…
    The results were broken into two-wheelers and three-wheelers with the experts showing a strong preference for the two wheelers. Thus winners of the two wheel bakfiets category and overall test winners: WorkCycles Cargobike and Bakfiets.nl Cargobike. It was noted that the two are close cousins and the experts were asked specifically whether the WorkCycles upgrades justified the couple hundred euro price difference. The answer was a clear “yes”; the upgraded brakes, lighting, rear wheel and other features improved the bike considerably. The experts were clearly extremely enthusiastic about these two bikes.

    Amongst the three-wheelers the Bakfiets.nl Cargotrike and Winther Kangaroo were the standouts. Aside from noting the solid handling and construction, and roomy box they didn’t really say much about the Cargotrike. They did note that the cockpit is somewhat cramped for taller riders. About the Kangaroo they noted its light weight and permanent canopy. A minor downside was its width and the €3000 price is in a league above all the other models.

    And the loser is…
    The Boxbike from Halfords. This was the only bike in the test that was basically rated “unacceptable” for its sloppy construction, poor steering behavior and for only having three gears, inadequate for such a heavy trike. It was noted in the testing that it was very hard to keep all three wheels on the ground.

    We’re obviously happy about the results, though they really just confirm what we already believe. We were aware that a WorkCycles bike would be included in the test but have become cynical after seeing so many bizarre “test results”, “awards” and reviews (see my post about the TrioBike reviews). After watching the program I was mostly just relieved that it went smoothly, that they’d really taken the time and effort to do a fair and meaningful test.

    Here you can find my English translation of the original report text.
    And here is the original report in Dutch.
    Here are links to other tests and reviews of bakfietsen.

    19 Responses to “WorkCycles and Bakfiets.nl win Kassa bakfiets comparison test”

    1. Patrick Says:

      Thanks for the report, Henry.

      I didn’t realize the Christiania Light was now made from aluminum.

    2. henry Says:

      I’m not sure it applies to all Christiania Lights but there is definitely an aluminium rear frame and also a front frame available. the Christiania’s frame and geometry is excellent. Now if they’d only do something about those terrible disk brakes they’d make some serious forward progress.

    3. Patrick Says:

      after getting some work done on our trike I now understand that the front frame on ours is indeed alu, and the rear frame CrMo.

      Speaking of disk brakes, we had the cable splitter replaced with an improved unit (part of a BMX set-up, I believe) and it was placed so that the cables were of even lengths from the splitter. The front disk braking is much, much improved.

      You know, it occurs to me that you might be interested in some of the improvements we made to the trike, since it’s similar stuff to the modifications you’ve made to the Van Andel bakfiets to sell it to the N American market. Once I get around to taking some proper documentation photos I will send them along.

    4. henry Says:

      Thanks Patrick. The standard brake setup is really a weakness of the Christiania and everybody complains about it. I know that the cable splitter can be replaced with a double cable lever but it’d also be helpful to know of a better splitter.

      I doubt the rear frame is Cro-Mo, probably just basic carbon steel… not that it makes any difference in such an application. I have seen a couple aluminium rear frames though.

      -Henry

    5. ortonauta Says:

      Thanks for the review Henry, very informative. I’m new to this type of bikes, and now I’m obsessed in getting one, specially with my 16 months old girl who actually enjoys riding a bike as much as I do.
      You mentioned the “Bakfietsgigant (a Chinese made “copy” of the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike)”, would you care to elaborate a bit more? is it a bike worth of buying if your budget is kind of limited? Their site is rather vague in details. I’d rather buy a Bakfiets Long Cargobike, but it’s a bit expensive, taking in account that I live outside Holland and shipping charges will apply.
      Any coments appreciated!

    6. henry Says:

      I know I’ve been accused (sometimes rightfully) of being overly critical of competitive products, and I’m doing my best to moderate what I write. To that end there are plenty of quality child transport bikes/trike on the market, some better than others given the situation and budget.

      But I’ll never write a kind word about the the Bakfietsgigant, also sold under a dozen other names. They seem to change names as people figure out its the same junk as the last one. Calling these “bicycles” is overly generous and that they dare to charge real money (€500-700) for them is scandalous. These things have the construction the very lowest quality €100 department store bikes, except they’re longer and far more is expected of them; namely carrying children.

      If one ever succeeds in assembling it from the flatpack of ill-fitting and non-matching parts they still won’t have a decent riding bike. It will then proceed to fail in various ways and rust at an alarming rate. In short these are made simply for somebody to earn a profit, not for anybody to actually ride.

      You can find some detailed photos of one here:
      http://measured-response.com/bakfiets/?p=8

    7. ortonauta Says:

      Thanks for the warning Henry, I suspected something fishy about that website, but I couldn’t tell what. They actually charge 800+ euros for the top model, and shipping to Portugal (where I currently live) was around 180 euros, sounded too good to be true, now I see why.
      I’ve been looking around the web and asking about shipping the Bakfiets long cargobike, some simply will not ship it, others will for 500+ euros plus taxes. Kind of heartbreaking. Any advice on that regard?

    8. henry Says:

      We (WorkCycles) ship the Bakfiets Cargobike all over Europe, but yes the transport can be very expensive, and its getting worse as diesel increases in price. €500 doesn’t surprise me at all.

      Now that the Cargobike frame has much narrower box mounting supports the chassis without wooden “bak” can be boxed. We’ll reinvestigate shipping the chassis and bak in separate packages. Since those are stackable it should lead to considerably lower shipping costs.

      Would you contact us about this. You can best talk to Chris: +31 20 689 7879 or “chris at workcycles dot nl”

    9. ortonauta Says:

      Thanks for the info, will do.

    10. dkolk Says:

      Hi all, try http://www.doubledutchbikes.com as they have already imported these into the US which takes care of the freight issue.

    11. henry Says:

      Daniel,
      Thanks for your comment but the bikes you are advertising are not the WorkCycles or Bakfiets.nl Cargobikes; They are inexpensive, Chinese made copies of them. The bikes shown on your site are sold in the Netherlands under various names including Bakfietsgigant, Bakfietsweb, Couleurs, Redy Kangaroo, Hollandia, Trendonline, Tricycleweb. Over here they sell for 400-600 Euro and are delivered as a collection of parts in a flat-pack box with no warranty. Are your bicycles delivered completely assembled and adjusted? What is the warranty?

      There have been a number of reviews of the bikes you sell:
      http://measured-response.com/bakfiets/?p=8
      http://fietsenmetkinderen.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=

      …and of a very similar trike, apparently made in the same factory:
      http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2008/12/08/guest-post-experiences-with-faya4you-bakfiets/

      Here you can find detailed photos of new and used examples:
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/10392335@N07/sets/72157612693597651/comments/

      Here you can find links to reviews of many bikes of this type:
      http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2008/07/11/roundup-reviews-of-various-family-transport-bikes/

      Seriously Daniel, I’ve generally toned down the level of criticism on my blog and I’m trying to be generous to anything that’ll get more people riding bikes around the city. However I can only be negative about the bikes you’re selling. I’m very familiar with them and they’re just really, really terrible… of negative value if you ask me. The sales proposal is that you’re getting a little less bike than the real thing for much less money. But in fact the purchaser gets something that will probably never work properly or ride safely, and will deteriorate rapidly creating dangerous situations and far too quickly add to the trash heaps of the world.

      Sorry that I have to be so negative in a public forum but it’d really be a shame if anybody makes the mistake of buying one thinking they’ll be getting something they’ll enjoy using. It’d be even more unfortunate if somebody or their children got hurt as a result.

    12. daniel Says:

      Hi Henry,
      Even negative I still thank you for your reply, Please allow me to provide you with some up to date details.
      I believe you are referring to various Chinese “rip off” models that entered the market in late 2007 which in fact as you stated were showing some negative results, how ever more then 7000 were widely sold all over the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany with out complaints.
      About a year ago I have started to look into the “bakfiets”, my main objective was to have these type of Bicycles build right here in the US, after tons of research, meeting up with US manufacturers I came to the conclusion that in order for me to win a place in the market I had to come up with a low priced (below $30000) and good quality product, which I was not able to pull off producing out of the US.
      I then med up with the manufacturer of the so called “Chinese models” and have been working closely with them to re design and fine tune these bicycles, after a long road of building demo’s, severe testing, re modeling and some more fine tuning I stand behind this product.
      The 2009 models are nothing like the 2007 models, I welcome everyone whom is into these type of Bicycles to keep an open mind and after seeing, riding, testing these models as I can assure you these hold up nicely compared to the higher end priced models.

      We both sell our bicycles per box with a construction manual or fully assembled to be test driven and picked up at our warehouse.

    13. henry Says:

      Hi Daniel,
      It’s good you’ve made efforts to improve these bikes since the ones sold here in Europe are absolutely horrible, worse even than most cheap department store bikes. From a value perspective it would also seem necessary since your bikes are about three times as expensive as the Dutch versions from the same manufacturer.

      It doesn’t surprise me that 7000 were sold in Europe but stating that there were no complaints is inaccurate. For a while we were seeing these regularly at our two shops in Amsterdam, often having to explain to angry and confused customers that their nearly new bike was “dead and irreparable”; Broken frames, rotted wooden boxes, terminal rust cancer, broken cranks… sometimes all on the same unfortunate bike. It’s not easy to tell this to a young mom who wheels the bike in to the repair shop with kids in the box, complaining of a “scraping noise” (the frame dragging on the ground). Others were simply never able to assemble the bike to working condition from the collection of parts in the flat-pack box, or had to replace many parts to get it running satisfactorily. We’ve heard the same stories from most of our bike colleagues here in Amsterdam. We don’t see them much anymore, so perhaps the Dutch have figured out that was one deal too good to be true.

      So what is the warranty on your bikes and is it different between bikes delivered assembled and those sold for the customer to assemble?

    14. daniel Says:

      Hi Henry,
      Thanks for bringing these past and previous complaints to my attention!!.
      After I completed my study on these models I did assess what type of improvements needed to be made, to name a view I did for instance found out that their click and fold system needed improvement as well as the steering mechanism which I re designed, further more I have added a reverse break and upgraded the gearing hub, on top of this all I have strengthened the base steel frame and treated the boxes with a double primed ultra coat layer to make them weather proof.
      In the end all I can add to our discussion is that after we re-designed and made the needed improvements to these bicycles we fully stand behind our product and its quality, as far as warranty, we work with an insurance company whom provides warranty and insurances on our bicycles.
      Of course we will replace and or handle any miss fortune experienced by our customers but I can proudly state that we have not have received any complaints up to this day which states my previous quote that we have build a solid and a quality Bicycle.

    15. Hellejoep Says:

      I’m using a babboe bike and I love it, especially since we have 2 kids, we can ride as a whole family.
      I got this one: http://www.babboe.nl/productinformatie/bakfiets/babboe-big.html

    16. Sheila Says:

      Do you have any thoughts about the Johnny Loco bakfiets? I cannot find reviews of this bike anywhere and we are considering buying one second hand. This is the one we are considering: http://shop.johnny-loco.com/collection/cargo-cruisers/coupe.html .

    17. henry Says:

      Sheila,
      Very little has been written here or elsewhere about the Johnny Loco bikes. The only time it’s been mentioned here was in the comments (7 and 10 march 2011) of a post listing reviews of family oriented cargo bikes:
      http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2008/07/11/roundup-reviews-of-various-family-transport-bikes/

    18. Alexander Says:

      Hey Henry,

      Thanks for the info backed by experience – pleasure to read. Don’t know whether this is the proper thread, but I wanted to ask you about electric assist on cargo bikes, especially trikes. I’m currently testing a christiania trike with (fun8 motor – gearless and brushless). Talked to them in Christiania, Copenhagen, and they say they haven’t had any problems with them whatsoever for the past two years since they started installing them. I have read that you (at workcycles) are generally sceptical about electric assist on bikes not the least due to the maintenance issues. But may be the technology has developed to be reliable enough (BionX, Heinzmann, Koga electric motors) – what do you think?
      I live in a hilly area close to water, so strong headwind and uphill cykling with two kids and groceries isn’t much fun (esp. for my girlfriend), but with the motor it is…

      thanks,

      Alexander

      Roskilde/Denmark

    19. henry Says:

      Alexander,
      Lots of companies say they don’t have any problems whatsoever with their electrically assisted bikes. But they all either have problems or very little experience.

      We’re still building bikes with various parts and testing and when we have a bike we know will simply go the distance without fuss we’ll sell them worldwide.

      A motor on a trike is even more problematic since you lose the hub gears unless you build the frame around a crank motor. Personally I’d rather have cheap and reliable gears than an expensive and finicky motor.

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