Before I moved to the Netherlands in 2000 I was hardly aware of carrier bikes, especially anything more exotic than a Schwinn Cycle Truck or Worksman hot dog cart. Even in cycling capital of the world Groningen where I first lived here transport bikes were very uncommon. The streets were swarming seas of cyclists but everybody just rode normal Dutch bikes. The only unmotorized bakfiets I recall was a loaner at a second hand shop called Mamamini. It was big, old fashioned bakfiets just we sell at WorkCycles. Mamamini even shows the bakfietsen in front of their stores on their website. But somehow that trike didn’t interest me. Maybe it just seemed too absurd, as if it were just a prop. In reality these bikes are actually quite easy to ride as long as the terrain is flat.
But in Groningen I met Marjette, crazy about bikes, probably ten centimeters taller than me and fond of riding her bike in absurdly short skirts. Marjette had (and still has) a hand-built carrier bike of a type I’d never seen before (not that that was a challenge). It’s a Long John type bike cobbled together from an old city bike, a folding bike, an upright from a heavy duty shelving system and random scrapyard bits. Most importantly it has a big rack in the middle to carry stuff: a couple crates of beer, a fridge or a chest of drawers etc. It might be crude but it is strong. The steering system was very cranky making the bike difficult to ride but after tweaking it here and there and lubricating the pivot points it was much more manageable. In any case that relationship didn’t last long but the obsession with transportfietsen stuck with me.
How Marjette got this bike is a good story in itself. It was made by the neighbor of an acquaintance who lived on a boat in the Oostelijk Eilanden (eastern islands) area of Amsterdam. This is the 19th century docklands area where WorkCycles Veemart shop is also located. Like a handful of the area residents this guy had a yard full of rusty, old stuff. Marjette brought him 20 liters of paint from a Groningen paint factory where you could get “seconds” paint for free. As payment Marjette could choose something from the scrap pile. She chose the Long John bike and believes the guy was very happy she didn’t go for the motorcycle next to it.loan