Some stories have to be told, even when you know in advance you’re going to piss some people off. I’m writing this post much more out of sense of justice and to spare a few people some frustration than to further WorkCycles’ interests.
The topic of the horrible, Chinese made family bakfiets copies has come up here intermittently but I’ve never written anything in depth about them. For those unfamiliar I’m talking about bakfietsen sold under various and constantly changing names, some of which are listed in this post on bakfiets.co.uk. Regular readers already know my conviction that these crude constructions of randomly “designed”, stamped and welded pot metal in the shapes of “bikes” and “trikes” are actually of negative value to their unfortunate purchasers and the world in general. The various fly-by-night firms selling them without warranty promote them as less expensive though somewhat simplified alternatives to similar looking, quality bicycles made by Bakfiets.nl, Christiania, Gazelle, Fietsfabriek and WorkCycles. If this were really the case I’d respect their activities, helpful or detrimental to those of my own.
However they’re just pandering to wishful thinking; Sure, it’d be great to have some inexpensive bakfiets options for families but the laws of physics and economics even apply to bicycles. The quality models simply cost what they have to, given the heavy duty demands, the need for safety and relatively small quantity production. Depending on the format and how deluxe it’s equipped they cost (in the Netherlands) between €1300 and about €2300. Anybody who can come up with a better price-quality-feature ratio will succeed in this competitive market.
The “bak-fakes”, on the other hand, are sold solely to earn a quick profit. They’re designed and made to such low standards that they’re really not useful machines. The customer is not getting a less pretty version of a €1500 bicycle for €600, she’s getting stuck with a flatpack full of ill-fitting, fast rusting steel pieces, paperboard panels and inappropriately chosen bicycle parts sourced from the very lowest level of department store bikes. Even if one pays a professional mechanic to do the assembly and replace the completely unusable pieces a decent riding, safe, semi-acceptably durable family transporter will never emerge. Even if no physical harm results from riding the thing, it’ll deteriorate with amazing rapidity. Oh, and there’s NO warranty. When your bike breaks in half (yes, they do that) you’re just outta luck.
The Dutch seem to have lost patience with the bak-fakes so we’re seeing fewer and fewer of them. Dutch people might be famous for loving a good deal but they do actually ride their bikes, so really crappy bikes tend not to stay on the market very long. Look how Kronan’s success here was so short lived. I guess that explains why the Chinese bak-fake manufacturers are seeking out new markets. Now they’ve just shown up on American shores through a firm called DoubleDutchBikes.
Ian at Bakfiets.co.uk has been following my discussion with Daniel Kok, who’s written a few comments on this blog about the bicycles he’s importing from China to the USA. Judging one’s character just by the comments they leave on blogs and by their website isn’t exactly a reliable science but the picture Ian’s post paints is indeed pretty sketchy looking. Blog comments pretending to be a customer of your own business and roundabout non-answers to questions aren’t good signs.
Daniel initially commented as “dkok” here in this post, though referred to Doubledutchbikes as “they”. Clicking the link he left behind I found on his site that the proprieter seemed to be a certain Daniel Kok. Given the Dutch name and similarity to “dkok” it didn’t seem too great a leap to guess that Daniel was our poster. Returning to the site today I cannot find his name there anymore. Whatever. I understand that the small business owner just needs to get the word out there and who expects the etiquette police to be following like hawks.
So anyhow Daniel and I discussed whether his bikes are or are not the cheapo bikes in question. Ian of bakfiets.co.uk picked up on our discussion and apparently did some further research. If such things concern you go ahead and read about more of Daniel’s blog commenting activities on Ian’s site.
On Bakfiets.co.uk Ian shows a bunch of pictures of these bikes with commentary about certain features. Some of the images actually originate from my own Flickr photo set you can see in the slideshow below.
Daniel claims to have made extensive changes to the bike so I suppose the crux of the matter is whether DoubleDutchBikes has really made so many improvements to justify:
A. Selling them at all.
B. A price increase from about $650 (€500 in NL) to $1900.
That would seem a tall order but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen more. Until then CAVEAT EMPTOR, folks… and happy cycling, whatever you choose to ride!