Pascal Has a Bakfiets too

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This is 19 month old Pascal’s absolute favorite-est toy; a toddler-sized mini bakfiets purchased last year on Queen’s day for €5 and fixed up a little. Whenever he visits dad at work(cycles) (which is quite often since we live just five minutes bike ride away) Pascal immediately searches out his bakfietsje. He then races around the showroom and workshop, deliberately slamming head-on into chairs, doors and shins. Thankfully he avoids the bikes. Sometimes he’ll fill the box with bells, locks, Brooks handlebar grips or whatever products he can reach and “transports” them to far-flung corners of the building.

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The other day when I picked Pascal up at the daycare the women there commented that he seems oddly obsessed with the little bicycles, tricycles and rideable vehicles. Apparently he goes from one vehicle to the next much of the day, doing a few laps, “testing” them for fun factor, and generally hoarding them. Hmmm, how strange… I can’t imagine where he got this from.

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Pascal also likes the tiny Micro Mini scooters in the shop though this one definitely takes second place to his baby-bakfiets. Probably the scooter is actually still just too big for him. Pascal rides it without problem but the handlebar is at about his chin height, nose height before he’s standing on it.

The same also seems to be the case with the Micro G-Bike “loopfiets” (pedal-less balance bike) we have here. It’s made for kids about 2 years old and up and Pascal can just barely get his leg over it. He’ll go a couple steps, never really settle into the saddle and then fall over. He tries it every now and then but it’s clearly frustrating.

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Micro G-Bike

There are a lot of loopfietsen available, a number of which are good. We like and sell the Micro G-Bike (and its bigger G-Bike + brother) because:

  • It’s super-light (1.9kg) and compact which makes it both easier for little kids to handle and convenient for parents to bring along.
  • It seems to be indestructible; we ride around on them like circus clowns.
  • The polyurethane tires don’t go flat and won’t mark floors.
  • It looks cool and kids dig it.
  • Prices:

  • €130 for the Micro G-Bike
  • €150 for the slightly larger Micro G-Bike +
  • €80 for the Micro Mini Scooter (blue or pink)
  • They’re all available to try and in stock a at WorkCycles Lijnbaansgracht shop.

    Since Pascal loves riding these bikes and little vehicles so much I figured I’d tinker a bit to see whether he would actually ride the G-Bike already if it were lower. I replaced the 120mm wheels with a pair of 80mm inline skate wheels I had. This lowers the bike by 2cm which is a lot considering the saddle is normally only 30cm high in the lowest position. Kyoko and I each rolled around on it, clown style, and it rides just fine. It’s just slower over carpet and bumps. Of course it’ll be more inclined to get stuck in holes outdoors but once he’s ready to ride beyond the living room or playground I’ll just put the original wheels back on.

    micro-g-bike-modified

    A toddler on a two wheeler without training wheels might sound like crazy-talk to those not in the Netherlands but actually it’s quite normal here. Dutch kids grow up sitting on mom and dad’s bikes and learn to ride at a very young age. Training wheels (which are actually counterproductive) are thankfully disappearing in favor of “loopfietsen” (balance bikes, run bikes, training bikes…). Just today while an expat family was in the shop testing (adult) bakfietsen I asked their five year old daughter whether she could ride a bike yet. “No, only with training wheels.” Much to her parents’ surprise I handed her a loopfiets and commented to them that she’d ride a two-wheeler by the time they left. As it turns out my statement was conservative; the little girl pointed the bike down the length of the shop, made a couple careful first steps, pushed off and lifted both feet in the air, gliding along until another push was needed. Mission accomplished. Her folks can now remove the training wheels from her own bike.

    29 Responses to “Pascal Has a Bakfiets too”

    1. anabananasplit Says:

      Oh, that’s so sweet! 🙂

    2. John . Dublin Ireland Says:

      That is the best way start them in the Business when they are Young. Pascal can be the CEO Manager and Chief Test Operator of the Children’s Bicycles Department of Work Cycles,if he likes a Bike then it can be Sold to the Young Members of the Public.

    3. Sean Says:

      Henry

      Those pics of Pascal are great! Reminds me of my son when he was the same age – so cute!

      I love your description of your son crashing into everything – my son did the same thing in our home and now every corner of our house (at around 20-40cm) has crash marks from him riding inside during the winter. I could care less about fixing the damage as I have a little chuckle to myself everytime i see the marks.

      He may have learned this behaviour from me – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plGeF26lgnI – not sure! 🙂

      He didnt have a balance bike back then – in fact, we didnt even know about them until he was off training wheels – but we are selling balance bikes at the shop these days. We have a model from Strider and always make sure there are a few assembled so little ones can fly around the store terrorizing customers!

      Cheers!

    4. Todd Edelman Says:

      The woman at daycare said Pascal seemed “oddly obsessed”. If mom or dad, big brother, etc. used a bike to pick up a kid at a daycare in the USA or many other places, it would be unusual so they would assume the parental influence as the reason for the interest in bikes.

      In this case – in most parts of the Netherlands – I imagine the majority of kids get picked up with bikes, and unless Henry is bragging about his shop then there is nothing that stands out.

    5. Todd Edelman Says:

      Also I must say that that floor looks rather clean.

    6. henry Says:

      Todd, I think ALL of the kids go to this daycare on a parent’s bike; It’s a little off the beaten path in a nice park. You can’t reach it by car and I’ve no idea where one could even park a car within 500m of it. And no, the women in the daycare had no idea what I do for a living.

    7. Anthony King Says:

      We had the same problem with my son’s balance bike. He desperately wanted to ride it well before he was the right size for it. I also used a hack to lower the seat and he was able to use it immediately. Some of my fondest memories of the last few years are the walk to the center of town with my son riding beside me. I now have to alternately walk very briskly and jog to keep up with him.

      You’ll appreciate a light, compact balance bike when you’re far afield, your two year decides he’s finished riding and you have to lug him and the bike back home.

    8. ten Says:

      kawaiiiiiiiiiii,

      that’s adorable. Mine’s still crawling (15 months, I’m enjoying taking a perverse pleasure in how slowly he’s ‘developing’ to counter the concerned comments), but you’ve definitely given me some ideas for a good present. The comment about training wheels was helpful too.

      Oh, and I am the ONLY parent picking my child up from our daycare on a bicycle.

    9. henry Says:

      ten, As much fun as it is to have have one of those kids who’s invariably the first to do physical things I know that I was completely opposite and that, in time, all these kids will do all the things they’re supposed to do. Fifteen months isn’t even particularly late for walking anyway.

      The little bakfiets is fun and probably actually helpful as a walking aid since the child has to be reasonably handy on his feet to step over, maneuver, paddle around etc. Pascal began riding the bakfiets about when he began walking.

    10. ten Says:

      thanks for the words, but in fact I am genuinely blissfully unconcerned – so much so that I am really enjoying getting all contrary with the fussers who keep giving me tips on how to get him walking – I’ve banned my family from making him walk by holding him up by his arms (tho they are ignoring me) and if seriously prompted I give a little verbal sketch of him as an adult, crawling up to the podium……

      ….. to give his nobel prize acceptance speech (peace science and literature combined)!

      Suffice to say, as far as I’m concerned he can crawl til he’s seven if he likes.

      haha, but riding a bike is different – I’m going to get one of those g-bikes pretty soon!

    11. Mark Says:

      My son’s first bike (pre-loopfietsen here in the US) had training wheels. One day when I picked him up at daycare he was riding this little bike that had pedals on the front wheel like a tricycle. I have never seen another little bike like that but it sure seemed to speed up the transition to two wheels. When we got home I promptly removed the training wheels from his bike and that was that.

    12. Feddo Says:

      There are a number of very good wooden loopfietsen out there. Go to any specialty wooden toy store (lots of them near out there) and check them out. Also some very cool bakfietsen in smaller sizes. The seat is adjustable on them in a wide height “range”

      I think they are made from Beuk (beech?). Also indestructible, just paint chips. But that adds character. Tires are real inflatable ones, larger and very good to use outside, which the Micro seems not to be to me. Huib is almost 3, and zooms along and on downhill slopes can actually lift his legs and hold his balance indefinitely, usually until the slope runs out…

      I have the luxury of living 50 yards from a huge shopping/pedestrian area where he can safely zoom along at any speed and any distance.

      I won’t even touch the debate of wood vs. steel with a 10 foot pole in terms of “green”.

    13. henry Says:

      Feddo,
      The original Like-Bikes from Kokua are also really nice products though apparently they’re not at all indestructible. I think they’re birch (beukenhout) not beech (niet beukenhout).

      The little wheels of the Micro work fine outside too, though not on trails or grass.

      We just have the Micro G-Bike for now since they’re have some great features and aren’t discounted by everybody and their brother. If we end up selling lots of loopfietsen we’ll add others to our range.

    14. DrMekon Says:

      We got the Kokua like-a-bike Jumper for our boy. It’s a lovely piece of kit, but over-priced and over-engineered for what it needs to do. Also, the standover height is a little restrictive. We started our boy on his when he was 2.5yrs, but it was a little large. In contrast, the Islabike Rothan and the Ridgeback Scoot let the saddle drop as low as the top of the tyres.

    15. Seisai Inatome Says:

      I’m looking forward to meet your familly in May at Amsteldam. See you soon! ; P

    16. henry Says:

      Looking forward to seeing you too!… in just a few weeks.

    17. Mark Says:

      I’m sure that with the Razor-style scooters that are pretty ubiquitous nowadays, kids develop a good sense of balance.

      The girl in your training wheels anecdote probably already had experience on one in daycare or something. She just needed the opportunity to show her parents that she didn’t need to be so sheltered.

      While the nice thing about the hobby horse bikes is the ability to push with both feet, the low cost (due to better economies of scale), versatility (usable even by teenagers and adults- depending on the size, but certainly usable by a greater height range), and portability/foldability of a scooter makes hobby horse bikes a hard sell if you’re just working on a kid’s balance.

      Certainly, before I did buy a hobby horse bicycle (yeah, I could call it a draisine, but I can hardly spell it, much less pronounce it, let me just call them push bikes) had it occurred to me, I would have gone the scooter route.

      That said, I did see an interesting “Hobby Push-Pedal Kids’ Bike” (pretty generic brand name if you ask me). It has two rear dropout heights and a removable bottom bracket so the bike could be converted from a push bike to a pedal bike. Yes, the steering dynamics probably change when converted due to the change in head tube angle/trail, but it’s probably not that drastic.

      Given the cost- more than a metal push bike, less than some wooden ones- it’s probably cheaper than buying a regular pedal bicycle and either a scooter or push bike. If it’s durable enough.

    18. Feddo Says:

      Henry,

      Any thoughts on where to get a quality “bolderkar”? The market is as fragmented as for a bakfiets. We need one for a vacation house near the beach. I saw a good one somewhere online: €300 seemed a bit steep. One could buy half a Babboe for that money 😉

      The consensus seems to be steel frame, somewhat easy to break down into smaller parts for transport by car, some sort of betonplex/multiplex box, balloon tires big enough for sand-riding. I think some sort of tent/huif might be handy for naps on the beach for kids.

      Also: seen the Montego Barrow yet?

    19. henry Says:

      Hi Feddo, Sorry, I don’t know anything about the Bolderkarren. I’ve just seen a rather hi-tech looking one with big, soft tires, an aluminium frame and nylon fabric stretched/hung to form the bodywork. It looked fairly light and foldable. I probably saw it at an outdoor sports store, intended for taking the kids on little adventures. It was quite expensive if I remember correctly.

      Seen the Barrow. Yawn.

    20. Feddo Says:

      So that’s where the idea for the Gazelle bakfiets came from: foldable, fabric instead of wood….. I asked you because the bolderkar I am looking for is very much in Workcycles’ flavor. I know they are out there, just hard to find. It could be something for you, except of course for the (totally understandable) urban bias you have…. I see a hole in the market for Workcycles, but I do not know of there is a market in that hole….

      The Barrow: I ask because I saw it promoted somewhere, but in a “quality” newspaper like in NRC or something in an articel, not an advertisement. The designer (apparently) was the same guy that made that orange and black bike where the handlebars were removable and became a U-lock. Was the lock-cable not also hidden in the hollow top-tube? Yes, of course “Yawn”, the “packaging” seems well done though, nice looking bike, I’ll give him that. The article was full of praise because the front rack is not fixed and the swing weight made it very easy and comfortable to ride/turn. I seriously doubt that, especially if some serious weight is on that rack….

      My mother-in-law once wanted to buy a Montego and asked for my advice (she would also be using it to ferry my kids around BTW), I vetoed the purchase. Very bargain basement in the details/materials. I think the spokes already had some slight oxidation/rust in the store….

    21. henry Says:

      Well there have been quite a few three dimensional products made with bent tubing supporting fabric: lawn chairs, tents… so I suppose Gazelle didn’t have to look far for inspiration.

      I didn’t know that Basten Leijh designed the Barrow. It looks pretty much cosmetic to me and I much prefer the bike he designed that became the Giant Downtown… though the Downtown itself was much less nice than the prototype he’d shown earlier. In any case the front carrier on the Barrow will suck to ride with any decent load on there.

    22. Feddo Says:

      Yeah, that was the name in the article. And that was the bike: Giant Downtown. I liked that bike a lot. Didn’t see very many of them, and my Gym sold them at a discount with membership…

      I guess a matte-black finish was not cool back then. Giant was ahead of it’s time. 😉

      My parents have about a dozen aluminium-fabric (sorry, Henry: Aluminum) beach chairs from our time in the US. Along with several dozen Igloo coolers in varying states of decay.

    23. gwadzilla Says:

      the children size Bakfiet is GENIUS!

      I would love to build one of those for my boys

      they are slightly older
      so it would be larger
      but really
      it would blow the world’s mind to see the child get into the utilitarian cyclist thing!

    24. henry Says:

      Gwadzilla,
      Oh I dunno if it’s so revolutionary… millions of Dutch and Danish kids are already into the utilitarian cyclist thing; They ride bikes to school, to football practice, to their friends’ houses…

    25. ten Says:

      just got to add that inspired by this post, I graduated Allen to the bicycle seat between my arms.

      The previous method was carrying him on my back (in a baby sling) – it worked well, especially as I could get off and go round a shop without having to worry about unloading him, and also he could easily go to sleep, but he is now getting so heavy that I didnt want to ride my bike with him any more (not good).

      The new method is a (cheap, second-hand in an LBS) seat that attaches to the handlebars, and it is no exaggeration to say he LOVES it – I have a little mirror on my handlebars so I can see his face (instead of just the back of his head, cute tho that is) and his expression as he watches the world go by is just a picture. Riding back from daycare every day is currently the best bit of both of our days!

      The only problem is if he falls asleep – I may try to rig up some kind of u-shaped padded headrest….

    26. henry Says:

      Ten,
      I also love riding with Pascal between my arms. He pats me on the arm and points things out: “kak” (truck), “wanwan”, (dog), “bee bee bee…” (any emergency vehicle), “baaah” (sheep or goat) etc. He’s also learned to ring the bell, which he does at every inopportune moment.

      The Bobike Mini seat I have one one of the bikes has a little foam handlebar/headrest. It’s really handy for Pascal to hold onto. It’s actually meant as a headrest but he doesn’t do that; I do however lean my arm on it so Pascal can rest his head in my arm while he sleeps. As I’ve noted in another post we’ve cycled many a kilometer like that.

      Concerning riding with a child in a back carrier I’m not too keen on that concept. I’m the last to call practically anything associated with cycling “dangerous” but the back seems a relatively vulnerable place for a child. Judging from my racing experience people tend to crash on their sides and backs, generally protecting the front of their bodies. We also have our arms to protect our faces and chests… but not our backs. Of course I’ve no hard evidence here but it just seems to be like this.

      Here in Holland it’s quite common for people to cycle with infants in slings on their chests. It’s probably OK given that we’re generally talking about a jogging pace on quiet streets but it still seems a little wrong. I’d rather just push a buggy or ride a bakfiets for those few months. Of course that’s easy for me to say; I live in the city center within walking distance of everything we need and I can ride any bike I wish any day of the week.

    27. ten Says:

      Henry,

      thanks for the comments, its a good point about back-carriers. My policy for the back-carrier method was to ride no faster than a jogging pace and on the sidewalk – reducing the risk of (substantial) collision to virtually nil – I felt pretty safe. Probably I could push a buggy nearly as fast, but this method meant the journey to the daycare was much quicker, and the downhills more relaxing, even if the journey back was pretty slow overall.

      Gotta say, I am starting to see the value of a bakfiets for kiddie haulage – mainly because of the raincover, and the easy sleeping. But unfortunately I don’t have a bike shop to choose from (takes a moment to imagine having all those bikes to choose from every day…drool). The mundo is less definitely less comfy tho possibly more versatile for bulky loads. But I confess I have started thinking about a bakfiets-style bike – tho I better bide my time on that one or my wife will kill me.

      And finally – right now Allen’s only word on the whole trip is “wanwan”, he loves dogs (maybe because we have one, an adopted mix who incidentally went 10km each way to the vet by bicycle just this morning). I’ve got to start making some effort to speak to him in English, so now every time he says “wanwan” I enthusiastically reply “yes, its a DOGGIE!”

      Happy riding

    28. peggy Says:

      i want to change the wheels from my Micro G-Bike into “80mm inline skate wheels”. where can i buy these wheels (affordable) in amsterdam?

    29. henry Says:

      peggy,
      I suppose any shop that sells quality inline skates should have a selection of wheels. Skates use the same bearings as the Micro G-Bikes so you only need the wheels.

      Interestingly Pascal lost interest in the G-Bike until he turned two, at which point he was tall enough to ride the G-Bike with the original wheels… so I switched them back. Then just a month or two later he decided he liked the bigger G-Bike plus better and switched to that one. Yes, it’s handy to have a dad who owns bike shops.

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