Guest Post: Cargo Bikes and the Information Revolution.

five kids on a long john bike

An introduction to the introduction from editor Henry:

About a week has passed since this post first went online and as of this moment there are 109 comments, quite a few of them rather extensive, a couple mildly angry or at least indignant. A few people have expressed dismay that I would publish such a piece, even if I didn’t write it myself. Another has requested that I add something to the introduction to further qualify the post below. That last request seems the most appropriate approach and what I’ll try to do now.

Interestingly though the post is widely criticized and has even apparently sparked offline discussions in coffee shops (both flattering and a little scary) nobody has suggested that I remove it. This is good since that would be quite a disappointment to all those who’ve invested time in writing, editing, commenting, discussing and even writing their own blog posts about this post. So now I have to actually figure out what it is that really needs to be said to further qualify this post.

That the post is, in retrospect, a grand faux pas is an understatement. But every now and then I just do that: I make a weird misjudgment and stick my foot deeply in my mouth. As one miffed commenter noted it doesn’t matter so much that it’s a guest post; It is my blog and I determine its content. Fair enough.

But what is exactly the problem? I’ve reread the post and slogged through the comments several times. I see two basic issues:

1. Several commenters dispute Josh’s experiences and opinions about two of the bikes discussed: the Bullitt and the Metrofiets. The Metrofiets I’ve only seen in photos so for the sake of discussing the post I’ll focus on the Bullitt which I’m familiar with.

Concerning the Bullitt I had already added from the beginning an editor’s comment that Josh’s opinion about aluminium being an unsuitable frame material was unsubstantiated and probably unjustified. Nonetheless a discussion raged about whether aluminium is a suitable material for such a bike, something I found rather silly.

Yet for all the defense it’s received here the Bullitt IS, in all fairness, a quirky bike. I’ve ridden several of them, loaded and unloaded (as well as being a noted bike designer who’s ridden a LOT of bikes) so I’m not in the dark here. Aside from the still underground CETMA the Bullitt really has no competitors in the world of light, sporty Long John type bikes. Structurally and conceptually it’s brilliant: light and apparently quite tough. But come on folks, please accept that it’s got its quirks too: The steering geometry is far from ideal and the ergonomics are strange. By no means is either factor a deal killer; After a little while you get used to the handing and forget it was ever a problem. You either adapt to the bike’s sitting position or swap out a few parts to make it fit better. My own bike designs have their own quirks and I really don’t mind hearing about them either.

I suspect that any criticism of a bike with such a cult following as the Bullitt will deliver some angry fans to your doorstep but Josh unfortunately digressed too far into opinion instead of more objectively addressing the bike’s virtues, faults and eccentricities. Interestingly, Josh’s Metrofiets critique stuck more closely to his own experiences but was also met with resistance.

2. Interesting material but in the wrong place: I believe the crux of the issue is that posting critical reviews on the forum of a person or company playing in that very field is just tricky business. It isn’t impossible: I do it regularly and somehow seem to find shelter in a steadily more developed mix of obvious irony, humor, absurdity, self-reflection and hard-core objective criticism that’s just difficult to argue with honestly. And, yep, sometimes I just plain old shoot myself in the foot. That I accept as a necessary consequence of keeping Bakfiets en Meer, and by extension Workcycles honest and real. There’s no fluff here folks and I’m not a professional writer.

But that’s all much more difficult to keep straight in a guest post. Josh has a lot of experience and insights and a lot to say. I was game to let him take a crack at a post and I take full responsibility for the results. But then as he notes in one of the now 110 comments below, he’s more comfortable working with metal than with words. And I have only so many hours for blogging. I do also run a company, have a wife and two little kids and like to ride my racing bike fast with my friends when possible.

We’ve discussed this experience offline and Josh seems game for another try… ahem yes, with a somewhat different approach. We’ll see how it goes.

Regards,
Henry

An introduction from editor Henry (the original introduction that is):

Over the years I’ve offered several colleagues the opportunity to do a “guest post” but maybe only once before has somebody gone for it. I’ll begin this one with an introduction and preface:

I didn’t write the post below nor do I necessarily even agree with some of the things Josh wrote. It’s an opinion piece. Nonetheless I found it an interesting and discussion provoking read and after somewhat too many hours editing chose to publish it. Even though it’s written by somebody completely independent of Workcycles, I founded Workcycles and this is my blog. So no, I can’t really avoid taking some heat for the criticism of colleagues’ bikes but I can live with that.

I’ve known Josh Boisclair for six or seven years now. He’s worked for two of our dealers, visited us in Amsterdam a couple times and spent a week or two “learning” in the Workcycles workshops. Realistically he was learning much more about Dutch culture and cycling than about building Dutch bikes because he’s one of those few, gifted mechanic types who doesn’t really need to be shown how something as simple as a bike works. With a couple hints about what to be looking for he’ll figure out the rest. Josh has spotted and solved a couple of our production irregularities from afar.

Such characters don’t generally come without their eccentricities and Josh is no exception. Perhaps Josh’s tick is that he’s brutally, sometimes painfully honest. If he sees that something’s been poorly designed or made… he’ll say it regardless of the political ramifications. If he digs something you’ll hear that too. He doesn’t kiss ass and that makes a great barometer for the thick-skinned. And I suppose that’s why you get to enjoy Josh’s take on cargo bikes ca. 2011; If he didn’t like my own bikes he’d have explained exactly why and then there wouldn’t really be any point in me publishing such unflattering stuff on my own blog.

The other tick is a rather humorous tendency toward conspiracy theory or at least a belief rooted in the misconception that everybody has innate technical understanding. Thus one who sells something that’s less than “as good as they can be reasonably expected to produce” is quickly categorized as dishonest, rather than possibly naive or disinterested.

So my dear colleagues apologies in advance for any bruised egos that result from the report below. I didn’t write it but I do trust both the technical understanding and honesty of its source. Put your hardhats on and have a fun ride!

Regards,
Henry


bergreijer-rijwielen 5
Photo courtesy of Oscar Mulder at My Dutch Bike. Photographer unknown and almost certainly no longer amongst the living.

Bicycles that carry stuff have been around for over 100 years. The Long John, of the 1930’s is still in limited production. The Dutch Bergreijer company was one of many firms experimenting with various styles of cargo-carrying bicycles at the turn of the last century. There is however, a relatively recent “revival” of cargo bicycles in the last few years. Bicycles in general have been gaining popularity. Americans like “stuff” so now more and more of us are looking for ways to carry our stuff by bicycle. Of course this isn’t really new at all: Elsewhere in the world people have been carrying stuff by bicycle for over a century. What has changed though, is the way we buy things, and how we gather information-(often misinterpreted as learning) about things.

There have always been inferior designs of machinery, low quality products, salespeople completely disconnected from what they are selling, and marketing scams. Now all these things can reach many more people much more quickly. The way we buy things and gather information has changed. We may look at pictures and read about products on the internet, all without ever actually seeing or touching the product in question. In general, there is a growing disconnection from all things material, a growing frenzy of confusion and deception… all leading toward a growing market for Crap. What follows is my brief review of this phenomenon regarding the recent cargo bike revolution in American cities.

I have been a professional bicycle mechanic for 15 years. One of the companies I worked for was The Dutch Bicycle Company (now called “The DBC”, not to be confused with “Dutch Bike” Seattle and Chicago ). We were one of the first to import the van Andel (Bakfiets.nl) Bakfietsen and Workcycles “stadsfietsen”. This was my introduction to “real” bicycles: bicycles for every day life. I moved with the company to Boston and witnessed the company’s shift from importing quality bicycles into poorly trying to reinvent the wheel with their own city bike. By this time I had ridden many bikes extensively: the Monark Long John and Truck, Long and Short version Bakfiets, Sorte Jernhest rear-steer trikes, and all of the imported city bikes from Workcycles, Velorbis and Sogreni.

I left and rode my fixed-gear bike with a BOB trailer to California. (Ed: Yes, Josh actually RODE his fixie across the USA with a trailer, folks) Here I worked in a few more shops and was introduced to the Bilenky cargo bike, and the Xtracycle. I performed probably 50 or so Xtracycle conversions, and thoroughly learned the limits of that concept. Many were very scary to ride! Surly came out with the Big Dummy, an improvement on the longtail idea, and now all the big names make such bikes. Even Bikes Not Bombs performs sketchy extended rear end conversions for developing countries.

Now I work at My Dutch Bike in San Francisco and have come full circle. Many “new” designs have popped up in the last two or three years and I’ve been able to test the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt, the Portland-built Metrofiets, the Double Dutch Birota (which is also called a number of other names under different “brands”), the Human Powered Machines cargo bike made in Eugene, a Puma/Biomega prototype at Interbike, the Fr8 by Workcycles, the Gazelle Cabby, as well as a number of local, hand-made bikes of varying quality and functionality. I’ve even designed and built my own cargo bike for my girlfriend and I to use for transporting gardening supplies, welding tanks and other bikes.

My goal here is just to provide a real, “blue-collar” review of the cargo bicycles I’ve personally ridden, and some meaningful information about others I either admire or despise.

workcycles-cargobike-violet 1
Photo from Workcycles.

van Andel Bakfiets (Bakfiets.nl/Workcycles)
This is the cargo bike that I have the most experience with. My girlfriend and I rode a short one back in Florida daily. Since real-world bicycle use is almost non-existent in Florida, the bike got tons of attention and positive comments. It introduced me to the endless capabilities of bicycles. Before this bike, all I ever had to carry things was a BOB trailer. So the Bakfiets really enlightened me to the ease and comfort of carrying 100 plus pounds regularly.

Since then, I have lived in Boston with the same bike, and now live in California and sell the Bakfiets at My Dutch Bike in San Francisco. The frames have since been modified slightly: a larger main tube in place of the old gusset along the bottom. The rear rack is also changed slightly, though it’s function is the same. These bikes represent a very aesthetically pleasing way to efficiently manufacture a strong, durable cargo frame. The stock gearing is 38 x 22, so 1st gear is a very small 23 inches, adequate for the majority of people in the Bay Area. Even after importing fees, taxes, euro to dollar conversion, and customs, the bikes are selling at a reasonable price. If you add up the parts, and consider the frame, paint, box, ball joints, 2 oversized cartridge headsets, really long steering tube, steering rod, alloy double-wall rims, 13 gauge stainless spokes, dynamo hub, LED lights…the list goes on: the bike clearly costs what the sum of its parts add up to. One thing I do miss is the internal electrical wire routing of the older frames. Not sure exactly why this stopped, although the wire is still adequately protected with plastic sheathing. Could one build a lighter-weight version of this bike and still have the same load capacity? Sure, but it would take twice as long for the factory to make resulting in a utility bike costing more than most are willing to pay. Azor/van Andel/Workcycles have engineered a perfect blend of practicality, affordability, features, and quality into a bicycle.

Hans, from Larry v/s Harry: The creators of the Bullitt
Photo by Claudio Olivares.

Larry vs. Harry Bullitt:
This Danish bike is interesting. I like are the look, the colours, and the general idea of building a faster, lighter, sportier cargo hauler. There are a few messengers here in SF riding these around in very flashy custom colours. The bike IS very light, although the cargo platform is too narrow. Also, I am curious why they didn’t make it with a lower step-through. Perhaps because the market for these bikes is amongst experienced riders. Here is great video highlighting the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt in Copenhagen. Also visible are Sorte Jerhest rear steer trikes.

What I don’t like about the Bullitt are the ergonomics, the steering geometry, aluminum frame, exposed drivetrain, inability to mount a rear rack, lack of wheel lock eyelets, and the smallish cargo area. The steering column should be taller and threaded for use with a 1 1/8” quill stem. The frame should be chro-moly steel, like the Cetma Cargo bike and others, and the top tube should be lower. Aluminum is not nearly as strong as steel and is soft. To make a frame that won’t break, the tubes have to be thick and large, resulting in a very stiff ride. If the frame flexes enough, over a long period of time, stress fractures are inevitable. Even a small dent in a tube starts to crack after a little while. Aluminum is just not a material for a long-lasting cargo bike. I am very interested to see how and when these bikes start breaking.

(Ed: Josh, I disagree on this one. I suspect the Bullitt is so overbuilt that it’ll take a lot of use and abuse before even fatigue and crack propagation kills any. And besides it just wouldn’t be the same bike in skinny steel tubes. The fatness is very much part of the bike’s charm.)

Baker's Bike!
Photo by Metrofiets.

Metrofiets Portland Manifest Cargo bike w/ Box:
I absolutely love what Metrofiets is doing in Portland. They join a handful of other cargo bike builders there, amongst them Joe Bike and Tom LaBonty. As much of a fan I am of the Metrofiets ideal, I was not impressed with their bike though. It rode like a wet noodle with gobs of lateral flex even without a load. The steering feel was very heavy and stiff since instead of heim joints they use bolts with a plastic sleeve, and the front wheel is large at 24 inches. The bike itself was huge and seemed just as heavy as the van Andel Bakfiets yet it included no rear carrier. The Metrofiets box, while nicely made, was small… especially for such a big bike. I’m also not a fan of disk brakes on a bike for everyday use in the real world, nor an exposed drive chain.

As a metal worker, it bothers me to see welds ground down to be smooth yet still having pinholes visible even through thick powdercoat. More time could be spent cleaning them up. The parking stand was also not very functional at all. It sure was pretty but style shouldn’t interfere so much with function. It was rusting where it touches the ground, the paint having been scraped off and the steel being worn down. The hinges were rusting and squeaking as well.

I talked with Metrofiets over the phone and was assured all these issues were being taken care of in the new “production version” of their frames. I was told that this particular bike was made to be lightweight for the cargo bike race. Well, it wasn’t that light, and I am not sure how long that main tube can flex so much without bending or breaking. I mean, there was no weight at all in the bike and I felt like I was riding a leaf spring. The production bikes will still have disk brake mounts, but they can build you whatever you want. I prefer Sachs drum, Sturmey 90mm drum, and Shimano IM70 rollerbrakes. Hydraulic disks are very powerful, able to stop on a dime as your pinky accidentally hits the brake lever on a bump. But the cost is too high both for the actual parts and also the extra fabrication. Maintanance and repair costs are aso higher and not so easy for the average joe just trying to get around town. Even more importantly: Is such a chassis structurally and dynamically up the task of violently stopping 500-600 lb total? I don’t doubt these bikes will get better and I wish them the best of luck. Their colours are very nice as well as their cargo bay rails and detailing. I look forward to testing one of their newer frames.

two kids in a long john bike
Photo by Workcycles.

Monark/Velorbis Long John:
This bike is tough, industrial and classic. It looks like it was designed a long time ago because it was. It has a very low trail steering design, which caters well for heavy loads, but unloaded takes a little getting used to. They cost quite a bit of money for the level of craftsmanship and components used. The rear rack is insanely sturdy. I would love to own a vintage Long John one day, but the reintroduced ones are dated. There are better options available these days.

Eurobike 2010 5
Photo by Workcycles.

Biomega/Puma Cargo Bike:
I don’t have much good to say about this bike other than that the handling is pretty good and that the steering linkage has decent heim joints. Further, the aluminum frame rides harshly and the stupidly-long-reach threadless stem isn’t height adjustable. There are no rear carrier mounts, crappy V-brakes, crappy wheels, crappy derailleur gears, unneccesarily high stand-over/step-through height, a regular kickstand, all for an extremely small and useless cargo area. Not worth your money or another word.

New Viper Chinese Cargobike Copy 5
Photo by Workcycles.

Chinese Cargo Bikes (Birota, Double Dutch, Zeitbikes… )
I started working with steel a few years ago, welding, brazing, cutting, bending, building, etc. Needless to say, I’ve learned a ton about various types, kinds, and grades of steel and what it all means in the real world. To sum it up, whatever “metal” they’re using to build these bikes is soft, weak, and full of impurities. I know this first hand: You can cut through a Chinese bakfiets with a dull hacksaw blade installed backwards in about 30 seconds. Then, you will notice that the inside of the frame tube has a thick coat of bright orange rust, even though the bike is brand spanking new. If you try to weld the two halves back together, good luck: all the impurities burn off and instead of getting a nice puddle of molten steel to weld with you get a gaping hole since all that wasn’t steel just went into your lungs if you weren’t wearing a respirator. So is it even necessary to go further and waste time talking about the shitty components installed on the frames? Or the thoughtless “design” of the frames? The amount these bikes are selling for will not last, but these bikes will always be available, and some schmuck will want to make money for nothing. Flying Pigeon bikes are still made and still sell, because you can get them for about $200, much less in China. Expect prices of the Chinese cargo bikes to drop to $300 – 600 within in the next few years. Meanwhile, the CEOs of these companies are buying their retirement retreats in Florida.

cabby
Photo by Wojofoto, and a great capture it is!

Gazelle Cabby:
Great for family duties. Also good when you have an oversized vehicle in a one-car garage since the cargo bay folds up. The swoopy lines suggest the designers had fun with this bike and those lines are not entirely functionless. If you like the modern look, than you might like this bike. There is lots of plastic though, and the sub $3,000 price comes with a price: frame is made in China. The Cabby differs from the Chinese cargo bike knock-offs however: it’s TIG welded to a good standard. The frames are also very straight, and I have yet to see rust on a brand-new Gazelle. (Ed: Plenty of quality frames are made in China too, including those of many of the megabuck carbon fiber bikes.)

san francisco
Photo by Joshua Muir, Frances Cycles

Francis Small Haul:
If I were to give awards for cargo bicycle design, the gold medal would go to Joshua Muir of Frances Cycles in Santa Cruz for his Small Haul. It’s obviously not for everyone nor for heavy cargo but it’s definitely useful and absolutely beautiful! The number of connections and amount of detail in the steel frame make it totally impractical as a production bike but that is part of the charm of this small cargo bike. Muir is clearly an talented craftsman, and his Small Haul is one of the handful of truly innovative modern designs. This is the bike I’m most excited about riding one day.

workcycles-fr8-massive-rack-blue 1
Photo by Workcycles.

Workcycles Fr8, Universal Frame:
The design, craftsmanship, and detail execution on this bike are superb. Very few production bikes have the useful. little details properly executed, in such an elegant and practical package. This may be the “Heaviest Duty” regular format bicycle (without extended steering) available. Flex is nonexistent until you have more than 200 pounds on it plus yourself, suggesting its carrying capacity must be somewhere around 350-400 pounds plus 200 pound rider. The TIG welding is above average for a production bike as well as the overall frame alignment and placement/fitment of all attachments.

I don’t think any proper “city/utility” bike is as modular or interchangeable as the Fr8. Sure, there are lighter-duty bikes which may be slightly more suitable for some people carrying lighter loads less frequently, but this bike is called the Fr8 for a reason.

The Fr8 successfully blends the best elements of the traditional Dutch transportfiets, and the traditional baker’s bike, deli bike or truck bike (whatever you want to call a bike with a smaller front wheel and low front rack with a single steering column) and adds modern materials and components, insane modularity, vastly improved ergonomics, significantly increasing the bike’s versatility over anything previously made.

Surfin' with Matt
Photo from Steven Vance’s Flickr photostream.

Yuba Mundo:
This design, like the Xtracycle, and various other extend-a-bikes seems a passing fad. I mostly see people carrying two children on the back platform, or groceries, sometimes a large ladder or box,… plus an additional “counter-weight” on the other side. The drive chain needs to be very long, necessitating rollers and/or varying kinds of tensioning /anti-derailment devices further adding drag, wear, and things to go wrong. I have yet to find any “old” photos of bikes with this design. If anyone finds any, please share them and let me know! Otherwise I’ll regard them as nothing more than a 10 to 20 year-long fad in bicycle design.

One day about a year ago I was stupefied when somebody came into the shop carrying two bikes, one on either side of their Xtracycle rear end. The customer carried one bike into the shop for service, and I assumed both because, why carry two right? When I asked about the other bike, carried four miles on their Xtracycle, they said it wasn’t being dropped off, but was counter-weight to balance the repair bike. “well what is your counter weight now” I asked since they just dropped off one bike for repair. “no need, I’m just going to ghost ride it home.” “OK, I thought, why didn’t you just ghost ride the repair to the shop?” Actually I didn’t really say that last question out load since I then realized that some people just like to be seen riding their bike(s).

CONCLUSIONS
When buying a cargo bicycle or ANY piece of heavy-use machinery, go with something that has stood the test of time. Any “brand-new” design or company will be hit or miss, mostly miss. To a certain extent you generally get what you pay for except with the cheap, Chinese “cargo bikes”: in that case you’re just getting screwed.

Family transport:
Carrying multiple children distances under 20 miles is still best with either the van Andel Short Bakfiets or Joebike Shuttlebug. Second place comes the Long Bakfiets or the Workcycles Fr8, since these can actually carry three or more children. Compared to the US hand-built bikes these bikes have more real world useful features like a built in lock, good parking stand, hub brakes, enclosed chain, etc. For longer distances and/or “sport riding” with children the Francis Small Haul looks great.

Cargo transport:
For carrying cargo, there are plenty of options dependent on your needs: Bilenky or Borracho “Filibus” type cargo bikes, the Cetma Cargo or HPM Long Haul, the Workcycles Fr8… However an actual vintage Dutch Transportfiets would gain you some retro-groutch/bike snob/cool points.

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171 Responses to “Guest Post: Cargo Bikes and the Information Revolution.”

  1. bz2 Says:

    Perhaps Josh’s tick is that he’s brutally, sometimes painfully honest.

    Sounds like he’d fit right in in the Netherlands…

  2. Claudio Olivares Says:

    Hi.

    A few words about The Bullitt:

    Bullitts has been tested all around the world, from bike messengers carrying really heavy stuff, to regular citizens carrying kids, dogs, grocery and other stuff.

    From 2008 till present day, none of them has been fail in its duties or broken. I would like to know if any other cargo bike has been tested in that intensive way.

    I been riding my Bullitt in Santiago, Chile, for 8 months now. Everything has been perfect, even carrying my business partner through our really bad constructed cycle paths.

    Oh, would you add the photo credits? ;)

  3. henry Says:

    Hi Claudio,
    I also believe that the Bullitt should be overbuilt enough to provide a healthy, long life. Three years isn’t enough to say for sure but I suspect with vertically oriented aluminium tubes that big it’ll take quite a bit of damage to begin the crack propagation that Josh is referring to. I’m not worried about Bullitts breaking and I think this bike is much cooler and more interesting in aluminium.

    I might let Josh write here but it doesn’t mean I agree with everything he writes. ;-)

    Yes, in fact I’ll add visible credits (they’re already visible in mouse-over) to all the photos that aren’t my own. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Claudio Olivares Says:

    Hi Henry.

    Of course, 3 years isn’t enough time, but on the other hand, what about km. traveled? Some bullitts have passed 20000km rolling over all kinds of streets and asphalt. ;)

    Besides, this danish design it’s the most versatile cargo bike in the world. You can make it fast and sporty for delivery and cozy for passenger travel.

    Thanks for putting the credits visible.

    All the best

  5. Brent Says:

    My experience isn’t definitive, but immediately after buying a Bullitt I put in nearly 1,000 km carrying more than 25kg over eight days, and saw many kinds of terrain (dirt trails, cobblestones, etc.). This may not be enough distance/time to show long-term problems, but the bike isn’t going to collapse as soon as you buy it. Even if it were prone to failure, however, its lighter weight might make it a more attractive purchase than a heavier bike. I don’t take the Bullitt up many real hills in Los Angeles, where I live, but there are a few inclines that make me grateful that it weighs only 25 kg and not more. If it fails in a few years, I’ll be happy to buy another.

    Hans, at Larry vs. Harry, told me one of his customers has taken the bike on a long tour, several thousand kilometers, so eventually we may have real-world reports of failure (or not).

  6. Ladia skladaci kola Says:

    Hi, I ride my xtracycle for 4 years now and cannot agree with your point of view of them.
    From your holander experience of world full of cyclepath everything is quite easy.
    So imagine city almost incompatible with bikes as Prague where I live and you quickly got to know that ride up to curb with loaded bakfiet is impossible. Not so with xtracycle. Even with child and wife you should not stop for pushing it up the curb. And why do you need it? Because is much safer use parks and other shortcuts to avoid havy traffic streets. And our city is not prepared for this manner.
    And beleive me, there is no need counterbalance anything on xtracycle, I ride it with kayak on a side, even with table and other really weighty things. You just should try it and be acustomed to. Need for balanced load on both sides is myth. With really havy things just your bike rides not so vertical, nothing extra bed.
    I choosed xtracycle against bakfiet, nihola, christiania and even yuba for its ability climb hills (lot of them here so we ride much sportier bikes here, and xtra behaving follows the bike with you started conversion) and ability be light and carry anything.
    Only thing I dislike is a it of “twistiness” in frame with really hevy loads.

  7. henry Says:

    Ladia skladaci kola,
    The above post wasn’t written by a Dutchman. It was written by an American in San Francisco, California. I don’t know whether Josh was suggesting that a counterbalance is actually necessary. He seems to have been joking that some people add counterbalance weight to show off.

  8. Todd Edelman Says:

    What is a “heim joint”? And waiting for some women/non-trouser-wearers to give their opinions (good that Josh mentioned the lack of low stepover a couple of times). Interesting also that it is all about two-wheeled bikes.

  9. josh Says:

    Claudio,

    All I am saying is that I’ve seen maybe, 100 or so failed aluminum frames in my experience as a bike mechanic, and maybe half that of steel frames. The aluminum frames were all fairly new compared to the steel failures. Also, when looking at the technical aspects of aluminum as an alloy compared to 4130 cromoly steel. Henry is absolutely right: If the bike does not flex, the aluminum will not fatigue, theoretically, at an alarming rate. That would be great if these bikes do not break, it would show they really did their homework- and even just visually, it is obvious they did. I also agree that the bikes uniqueness is due to the shape and size of the aluminum frame, and what sets it apart.

  10. Frits B Says:

    Todd: I’m no engineer but I know where to look if an unfamiliar term pops up. So I now know that a Heim joint is something like the ball joint we have at the end (or beginning) of our arms and legs. Thanks to the marvels of Wikipedia :-).

  11. Todd Edelman Says:

    Frits B: Sure but I would like to hear it from Josh or Henry. This is the connector at the fork end of steering linkage? Would like to hear more since it is clearly such a crucial part.

  12. Julian Says:

    Well, at least “xtracycle” is spelled right in this version. It bugged me in the original that Josh was writing them off as “scary” and faddish while still calling them “Extra-cycle” after having built up 50 of them. Scary how?

    I agree about all of the benefits of super-durable transpo bikes, but TANSTAAFL, and Josh’s favored bikes are hubba-hubba-heavy and expensive in the US (not saying they aren’t a good value, however). I agree that it’s cool to have a bike that will outlast you, but honestly, people do tend to upgrade/trade-in/craigslist their bikes before they die, so the value of an uber-durable bike is more in its low-maintenance nature and resale value, rather than the fantasy of “my grandkids will ride this bike.” And for the time you own it, you are living with a bike that actually is harder to ride up hills and accelerate from stop.

    Which leaves a healthy amount of room in the “good cargo bike” ecology for $450 xtracycle upgrades for folks on a budget, or who live in hilly towns, who don’t mind tinkering, or don’t mind regular tuneups, brake pad replacements, etc. Viva variety.

    I’ve loved bakfietsen and my Azor Transport, but my xtracycle conversion of an early 90s hardtail MTB is a blast to ride, versatile, and more fun up hills. But it is more maintenance-needy. Tradeoffs.

  13. josh Says:

    Brent,

    no, the Bullitt is not prone to failure, and none have failed as far as I know soon after they’ve been purchased. I was really just referring to aluminum in general, over steel. If the welds are good, proper engineering went into the tube selection, and necessary precautions are taken against corrosion inside the tubes, these bikes will no doubt live a long life. while I may still have reservations about the ultimate longevity of the bike, it is purely just a hunch, and nothing more. I am not an engineer. BUT, I wonder mainly about the Bullitt’s headtube junction, and the chainstay/BB junction. And again, this is just because I was able to closely examine and scrutinize it. And the only reason I am leery of these certain joints is because of all the crazy ways I’ve seen aluminum fail in the past.

  14. josh Says:

    Heim joints, or rod ends, were invented by the Germans and were first used on aircraft control linkages. I think the british are the ones who started manufacturing them for civilian use though, and were generally called Rose Joints. The use of this type of bearing allows the steering column and the fork to rotate on slightly different axes smoothly, like a regular ball joint. Ball joints however, are inferior for a number of reasons, though often perfectly adequate for the task. A proper Heim joint has two spherical bearing races, similar in function to constant velocity joints, just without ball bearings. They are often machine-grade hardened steel with seals to retain grease.

  15. josh Says:

    Julian,

    The misspelling was intentional and meant to show that I am not necessarily just talking about that particular brand. It is more of a light-hearted play with words among some fellow mechanics to call these bikes Extend-a-bikes, or Extra-cycles. Extra-Cycle was the term i used so much since i so often saw people carrying an “extra” bicycle with them.

    Some conversions were “scary” because the bicycle used was just not up to the task. In other words, the frame itself, and or the wheels, the brakes, the fork, were just not strong enough and flexed too much. I saw no less than 3 free radical conversions break at the front mounts also. These were warrantied though our shop at the time. steel MTBs do make good candidates if you are into these conversions.

  16. Julian Says:

    Gooooootcha. Color me dense, or at least used to seeing it misspelled all over the internets.

    I still wouldn’t dismiss the longtail category out of hand because they’re the newer kids on the block. Xtracycle with appropriate donorcycle, yuba, big dummy, MADSEN 2.0, etc all are reasonable choices for people on a budget and a hill.

    It’s nice to have kid cargo in front, but not necessary, and a well-built longtail design can provide good kid/cargo capacity with less cost/complexity of the European cargo-forward designs, and have more immediately familiar handling characteristics. Long chain management seems an easier problem to solve than under-box steering.

    Cargo bikes developed in the US could learn a lot from the Euro-bikes above, but have some advantages for the market in which they were designed. Consider them an evolutionary branch of the cargo bike tree, adapted for an enthusiast market with preferences for lighter, cheaper, user-serviceable bikes.

  17. Amsterdamize Says:

    I’ve been riding (and abusing) my Fr8 for 2,5 years (PS: Amsterdam is hardly solely about smooth cycle paths, bikes get some of the worst surface beatings here) and it did what is built for: day-in-day-out use, all weather, carrying cargo of any form (incl a drunken me -220 pounds- & 2 adults), while offering the smoothest ride (my experience) and reliability. Which for any Dutchie is of essence: “Shit, my bike is kaputt, wtf am I going to do now?” Good thing that good bikes like these come with reliable service :). Cheers for this great review!

  18. henry Says:

    Josh,
    Yes, I figured your “Extra-Cycle” spelling was ironic but used so many times it just got too negative would lead to too much commentary so I changed it. For the record I’ve corrected other misspellings as well though I believe that was the only one that seemed intentional.

    But are there other Xtracycle type kits? I’m only aware of that one and now the legions of complete “longtail” bikes, some fairly original and well thought out… and others totally me-too derivative.

  19. Steven Vance Says:

    I am the owner of the beautiful blue Yuba Mundo (final bike in the list).

    I have never felt the need to use a counterweight when riding. I have towed bikes without counterweights – to do this I slip the wheel into one of the sideloaders. It has no effect on \sideways\ pulling force (just a backwards pulling force).

    The only instance I would like a counterweight is when I load up one side, or load up one side before I load up the other, as the center kickstand is not wide enough to hold the bike up when one side has 40+ pounds loaded on it. To keep the bike standing, I lean against the seat tube while loading it.

    Now after owning and riding it for 9 months, I would like to use a different bike – either a Bullitt or a Fr8, but I don’t regret it.

    See my review of the Yuba Mundo, published in September 2010 Momentum Magazine: http://www.stevevance.net/planning/cargo-bike-review-in-momentum-magazine/

  20. nicolas Says:

    Josh,

    Illuminating read. I have one question: why do you favour the short van Andel design over the long one? I remember Henry saying he liked the long version better, but maybe it was just a question of more capacity being available (for 3+ kids, but also for 1-2 kids + groceries for example). Is it about the handling?

  21. DaveW Says:

    Hi,

    I felt I wanted to respond in some depth to the comnents about Bullitts as they are so different to my own experience. So I have written a blog post
    A Bullitt owner responds

    Dave

  22. DrMekon Says:

    Does anyone know what the bottom of the stand on the Gazelle Cabby is made from? I always wondered if the Metrofiets would rust, but the Gazelle is metal too, and looks too skinny to be aluminium. What I do know is that adding some rubber feet would make it much nicer to use (or maybe the demo bike I’ve borrowed twice is missing some).

    Would love to hear Josh’s brutal take on trikes.

    FWIW, on front versus rear loading for kids, I much prefer front loading for social reasons, but can’t deny that the Madsen and the Burrows 8-Freight are easier to ride (albeit you do adapt quickly), better for climbing, and generally faster.

  23. Trailhead Coffee Roasters Says:

    I’m taking a moment out of my busy cargo-carrying day to refute anything negative about the metrofiets setup. I’ve road tested this cargo machine not only on the rigors of daily coffee deliveries in all weather but also along the entire route of the amazingly well organized ride here in the Pacific NW called Cycle Oregon. I logged over 350 miles with epic climbs and descents handily topping forty mph. The bike handles like a dream. I don’t see how one can build a significantly lighter machine without subtracting strength or cargo capacity. I got a bit of press for doing this I might add…
    http://www.trailheadcoffeeroasters.com/Press_Release.html

    I’m very much amused when referring to the handling as a “like a wet noodle with gobs of lateral flex” as flex is welcome when moving so much mass. There’s no efficiency loss in power transfer if one can ride with a remote amount of pedaling smoothness. The flex reminds me of the smoothness of a classic roadster. With any machine, you can work with it or fight it. There is a beautiful rhythm when riding any well made machine and this is no exception.

    When I hit bumps with 200+ coffee on board, I’m really grateful for the expert engineering that went into this beast. It’s all smooth sailing for me…flawless.

    No they aint cheap but nothing good ever is eh? I’ll pay for real craftsmanship any day. There is no other bike that would have worked for me remotely as well is my Metrofiets.

  24. Richard(icargobike) Says:

    Thank you for the insights Josh but I must say I was surprised by your take on the Metofiets and longtail designs. I rode the Metrofiets Manifest in Portland for a day (carrying a 40 lb. suitcase) and really enjoyed the ride far more than the Gazelle Cabby or the Bakfiets nl. At 70 – 75 lbs. it is at least 15 lbs lighter than the gazelle and 25 lbs lighter than the nl. The Metrofiets is also made of Cromoly, as opposed to Hi-tense for all the others. This translates to a smoother, livelier ride. I hope you get a chance to try one again soon. Now on to longtails. The Yuba Mundo is the best cargo bike on the market for the money($1100) The frame will hold lots of weight, Rides wonderfully under heavy loads and one sized frame fits fits many different heights. We have been fabricating custom racks for these in my workshop to carry surfboards, fishing poles, and long lumber. The frame has so many options to tie into that the possibilities are endless. Thanks Again and I look forward to more of your musings.

  25. joshua Says:

    i’ve got one of the Metrofiets from the talented gents in portland, oregon. love the bike, great for everything i’ve used it for, dog, kids, lumber, groceries, junk, takes it all. it’s an impressive ride as a bicycle as well and i appreiciate that. previously owned a bakfiets which is fun to ride for about 2 minutes. i blew up the nexus hub several times, had repeated brake issues, the headsets fell apart after a year, the bike weighed a lot. the metrofiets was spec’d with king headsets, disc brakes, the alfine hub, quality spec that has endured the test of time.

  26. josh Says:

    nicolas,

    The Short Bakfiets, in my opinion is a little more agile and its shorter length is great for crowded bicycle parking. Also, it is plenty large enough for two children, OR a good sized load of groceries. The Long version can indeed carry more stuff. It’s just a personal favorite of mine I guess, the shorter one, maybe since I ride slightly aggressively. I recall one occasion, I was riding the long Bakfiets, had a couple beers, and was racing a friend back to work. The front wheel slide out right from under me in a turn which was far too sharp to be taken at that speed, especially with such a long bike! I know this experience isn’t really relevant to the bike’s intended uses at all, but maybe just some insight as to why I liked the Short version so much!

  27. josh Says:

    Trailhead Coffee, Richard, Joshua,

    The Metrofiets IS spec’d with high quality components, and it’s craftsmanship is above the quality usually seen on Production bikes. However, I felt that the details added up quite a bit-the Missed details, on this particular bike. Also, of major concern to me is the frame. I am not an engineer, but have been around bikes long enough I think, to properly assume that the bike was not really “engineered”. It was built after an existing, successful bike already in existence: The van Andel Bakfiets. Since they are making these by hand, and with relatively limited tooling (judging by photos of their workshop on flickr) they are limited by the size of tube they are able to bend by hand. (bending cromoly tubing this large is very tough!) I feel the frame design is compromised too much. Yes, a cromoly frame can ride “livelier” due to the tubing not needing to be as thick-walled. But diameter is important too. I just feel the main frame tube flexes too much, and either multiple tubes should be used, or a larger diameter tube. Yes, they do put a gusset along the bottom, aiding in vertical strength and stiffness, but laterally is where I feel the bike could use some improvement. Metrofiets does a great job catering to custom needs, and their specialty bikes look stunning. In my opinion, with improved steering and some lateral frame supports, the bike would be great.

  28. josh Says:

    Richard, Henry,

    The Yuba Mundo is a huge improvement over the bolt-on conversions available. I can see how this design would indeed work well for those long things like surfboards and fishing poles. The ones I rode though, seemed unnecessarily heavy, with pretty low-quality components. Sure components can be changed, and the bike is lighter than a long Bakfiets. As far as counterweight, I also agree that it is NOT necessary, I was merely pointing out how I thought it was funny how some people go about things sometimes. There are no other bolt-on conversions in production that I know of, I was mostly talking about the Free Radical kit, and the various conversions done for developing countries by a few different shops/organizations around the world. I think that the Mundo will remain in the “niche cargo bike market” while the much anticipated and welcomed “mainstream cargo bike market” will continue to develop more refined bicycles, each more refined than the previous. I feel that these will generally be front loaders for a number of reasons: drivetrain simplicity/durability; versatility of cargo area; social aspect of carrying children; center weight distribution of common loads such as laundry, groceries, dogs, etc. I do see how this design is easier to hop curbs though!

  29. josh Says:

    Dave W,

    Excellent blog about the Bullitt! Honestly, the Bullitt was a bike I was very excited about riding. My real criticisms of the bike are things we seem to agree on, except for the frame material, cargo area and ergonomics. As far as the cargo area, I admit, the ones I rode all had the smallish box, not just the platform. I can see the advantage of the bike being able to be ridden right through a normal doorway too, as seen on that video I linked to. It seems you also prefer steel as a frame material, as well as I for numerous reasons: ride quality, re-useability, methods used in its manufacture/mining, ect. What bullitt did is a great Idea: to make that bike out of steel and just as light, it would be MUCH more expensive, and definitely not look the same. I am just speaking about aluminum, and in general it does not have a good track record at all. And personally, I’ve seen crazy frame failures where the tube just tears apart 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch from the weld. My main concern on the bullitt is the head tube and the chainstays. Generally speaking, aluminum is not ideal for the mainstream cargo bike user, and the Bullitt was not necessarily going for the mainstream market either. The bike works for some people right now and that is great. more people on bikes is never a bad thing.

  30. josh Says:

    DrMekon,

    the Cabby center stand is powdercoated steel. It also has no rubber feet.

    I was considering adding trikes but the whole thing would end up being too long. maybe in the future, once I get a chance to actually test more trikes i will review some of them.

  31. DaveW Says:

    Josh,

    Thanks for the response to my blog post. I would still like to clarify a few things that I don’t understand.

    a) The Aluminium does not worry me in structural terms eg the chainstays are huge. My preference for steel reflects it’s ease of repair and the higher environmental cost of aluminium. However, we have had many aluminium bikes over many years have not had a frame failure – maybe just lucky, maybe just not buying cheap rubbish.

    So far there does not seem to be a steel alternative to the Bullitt (CETMA is maybe closest [but is it as good to ride?] but it is newer and so less proven also it is not convenient to buy in UK). Until I can buy a steel bike with the features of a Bullitt the argument that steel is better is not very relevant, essentially academic at best.

    b) Can you explain your criticisms of the Bullitt ergonomics and steering geometry as I don’t understand what is wrong with the Bullitt in these areas (unless you are only referring to the lack of a step through frame).

    Thanks

    Dave

  32. pfischer Says:

    long live the cargo bike!

    our family picked up our cargo bike from metrofiets last november and haven’t had this much fun since 1999!

    they do have a rear rack option:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pfischer/5193064763/in/set-72157623332453038/

    more photos of fun:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pfischer/sets/72157623332453038/

    i am looking forward to seeing more cargo bikes on the road here in san jose, ca!

  33. josh Says:

    DaveW,

    ergonomic features I was not happy with are things that aren’t actually specific to the Bullitt alone: high stand-over/step-through; long threadless stem; fairly low steering column; and choice of handlebars/saddle on the stock bikes. I am a very picky person mind you! BUT, many people would like the bars higher and the threadless system gets quite unsightly adding spacers/stem extenders, as well as more things to break/adjust/go wrong.

    Steering geometry. I prefer steeper head angles and less trail. The Bakfiets.nl is also prone to a speed wobble unloaded or with a light load. Steering geometry is a delicate balance and most cargo bikes are designed to be as user-friendly as possible. What I consider Ideal cargo steering geometry for this long a wheelbase, is a little too light-feeling unloaded for most people, meaning it’s overly-sensitive unloaded, but with weight becomes magical. The Bullitt’s steering is not bad, just in comparison to others it doesn’t stand out as great.
    If the fork were raked out more with camber it could help more with shock absorbing, and potentially add life to the frame, while making the ride softer.

    Steel is definitely not generally “better” than aluminum. But I feel it is a better material to use for the majority of cargo bike purchasers who want strength, a softer ride, and longer service life. Steel also fails, but it does so more predictably, it does so less often. Steel is the most manufactured metal there is. Steel tubing is light-years ahead of where it was just a decade ago. It would be much more expensive to build a light, steel cargo bike, and currently Cetma, Francis, and Human Powered Machines are the only ones I know of building comparable machines.

  34. DaveW Says:

    Josh,

    Thanks for your quick reply.

    Step-over: agreed it is a compromise. The Bullitt gains a very rigid frame and performance orientated riders like the look but is not fully step through (still low for a cross bar though). If fully loaded I always get on and off the bike with the stand down anyway (otherwise the bike can pull me over step-over or not. Saw a good example of this with a WorkCycle cargo bike on one of the US websites).

    Long threadless stem: Did the bike you rode have the “easy-up” system? I love it’s easy adjustment (I have even changed the handlebar height while riding). The handlebar height goes well above the saddle for me and if that were not enough you could always change the stem or the handlebars. To me this seems a much better system than an old style quill stem which it seems to me would be very floppy if it gave as much height adjustment.

    low steering column: I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The spacer does not bother me at all and I like the way that the low steering column means that a Bullitt can be shipped in a smaller box. It also allows racers who like it to have very low handlebars.

    Steering geometry: Ok the science is beyond me. Practically I like the handling of the Bullitt and I don’t think it can be too bad given that it does so well in cargobike races :-) As no frames have yet failed the longevity of the frame can’t really be said to be an issue.

    Steel: So no steel alternatives to the Bullitt in Europe. Oh well I’ll just have to suffer quietly on my Bullitt, lucky for me that I am happy to continue to suffer in this way for a long time :-)

    I am surprised you like the Francis so much as it has a very high cross bar, no quill stem, exposed drive train, narrow and inflexible cargo space, rim brakes and cable steering. That is a lot of disadvantages to put up with in order to have a steel frame :-)

    Dave

  35. henry Says:

    I’m having fun sitting back and watching the sparks fly on my own blog. It’s very relaxing actually.

    It strikes me that most of the discussions here are very techie in nature and not really all that related to the actual use of these bikes. Really, with the correct engineering and manufacturing it’s possible to build a good frame from many materials. One could, for example, design and build very good (though expensive) cargo bike frames in, amongst others, wood, titanium, stainless steel and carbon fiber. The boxes can be effectively fabricated from various materials in various constructions, as can many of the other parts.

    But a good utility bike (which a cargo bike is a type of) is actually much more than its parts. As I’ve noted in this blog several times before, frames get a lot of attention but much less sexy and obvious features such as a good working parking stand and canopy will be the deal maker/breaker for a young family. Mom will happily ride with a little “flex” and certainly a couple extra kilos in exchange for keeping the kids and groceries dry in a rainstorm. I could name twenty other such examples.

    To me it’s also rather funny to see the bikes being compared here. A Bullitt vs. a Fr8 seems about as sensible as comparing a monster truck to a Sprinter van. But I suppose the bike industry has become so niche focused that it seems normal to lump all these bikes together, but really we’re comparing apples to oranges to watermelons to cucumbers. There are at least some themes though: family carrier bikes, racy courier cargo bikes, heavy duty utility bikes, me-too pretender bikes…

    Keep the commentary coming and civil!

  36. Julian Davies Says:

    Amen to stand and canopy being major selling points on a kid cargo bike.

    One other proposal for podium in the urban utility bike with kid capacity: Brompton with ITchair.

    This has ended up being my favorite bike in this category. I can carry my 4yo up front (a la FR8), which is rare. It has frame-mounted cargo: the T Bag up front can swallow 1-2 full grocery bags, is low-down, and doesn’t impact handling. Of course, that luggage block won’t hold a drunk friend or christmas tree, but for everyday use with impromptu grocery trips it’s plenty.

    It’s quick off the line in stop-go urban conditions, climbs well, feels faster than it is, has practical-enough-for-me accessories, and I love the handling. It’s a jetpack for two.

    Plus it’s multimodal in a way that many US families with asymmetric interest in bikes need … it fits behind the driver’s seat of my wife’s car, for when our trajectories intersect.

  37. DrMekon Says:

    amen re the stand and the cover, two things that blighted the DeFietsfabriek 995. However, it was ahead of the game with its twin bar low step, that resulted in a much stiffer steerer tube than the bakfiets cargo bike. Also, I liked the flexibility of the frame mounted box (duplicated by metrofiets), albeit there is a weight penalty.

  38. Lane Says:

    Not sure if anyone reading this is interested, but there’s a CETMA cargo bike available for test-rides in San Francisco at Pushbike: 3049 22nd St. (in the Mission). 415-647-7456

    This isn’t an intentional sqeeze for publicity, just mentioning this as my bike came up a couple times in this discussion.

    Hi, Henry!

  39. g.perty@hotmail.com Says:

    Hi Josh,

    Regarding the Gazelle Cabby review…

    “There is lots of plastic though, and the sub $3,000 price comes with a price: frame is made in China.”

    Why is ‘made in China’ referred to in a negative context? Are Chinese people less capable of making things than non Chinese? Chances are the computer you are typing from is ‘made in China’ too.

    Thanks,
    Gert.

  40. DaveW Says:

    Henry,

    “It strikes me that most of the discussions here are very techie in nature and not really all that related to the actual use of these bikes.”

    This is rather disingenuous. You published Josh making a number of claims about your competitors bikes. They included:

    Aluminum is just not a material for a long-lasting cargo bike. I am very interested to see how and when these bikes start breaking.

    It also included a number of disputed opinions presented as facts (the Bullitt “cargo platform is too narrow” and “The steering column should be taller and threaded for use with a 1 1/8” quill stem”).

    By all means let us talk about the use of cargobikes. I am quite happy to talk about how I looked at both the FR8 (and had a test ride thanks to bikefix) and the Bullitt among others (including Yuba Munda, Kona Ute) before choosing a Bullitt as being more suitable for my needs. I write a lot about how having a cargobike has replaced a car for my work and allowed us to sell a car.

    But it is not surprising that it is harder to talk about how to use cargobikes to replace cars when the discussion starts with inaccurate presentations of your competitors products.

  41. josh Says:

    DaveW.

    Nothing in my very brief review was intended as Fact, besides the technical stuff about the physical characteristics between steel and aluminum as a material for bicycle frames. Comparing the FR8 to the Bullitt is as Henry says, comparing apples to carrots. The two styles of bike excel in different uses for sure. I do not feel that my review of the Bullitt is inaccurate though, since I have been looking at, comparing, servicing, building, and modifying bicycles ever since I was a kid. As said earlier, I am glad certain bikes are working for certain people, I was merely giving some Opinions I thought might be helpful for people new to cargo bicycles. If people already know they don’t need a low step through and that they want the bars lower than the saddle, they are probably not new to cycling. Glad to hear that you sold a car!

  42. josh Says:

    Gert,

    No, nothing against anyone or any country at all. But why do manufacturers go to China to have their bikes built? For the lowest possible price. Not for super-high quality. This is the fault of everyone involved: the consumer who demands lower prices, the retailer for supplying a certain demand, and a producer willing to do whatever it takes to produce for the ever-changing demands. Higher-quality parts are more economical in the long run, and I feel we should all look for ways to build longer-lasting, higher-quality, more refined machinery, instead of cheaper pedaling devices. Sure, maybe China makes great computers, but computers are not my interest right now,
    and for the record, I hate computers.

  43. Joe Bike, Portland Says:

    1. I want to invite everyone here for beers in Portland this summer. Say sometime in August, since you Europeans get the entire month off. We can organize a weekend of cargobike competitions of various sorts and generally attract a lot of attention to what these bikes can do and how much beer we can drink. Portland not only makes some of the best cargobikes in the world, but we brew the best beer.

    2. It should be pointed out that Metrofiets frames have a lifetime warranty. You have to respect that.

    3. Now for the shameless self-promotion, let me just say we at Joe Bike (joe-bike.com) designed and built the ShuttleBug because we couldn’t find a cargobike that had and did exactly what we wanted a cargobike to have and do. So this is what we made:
    –4130 chromoly frame
    –weight: 40-45 lbs. complete, incl. accessories and aluminum treadplate cargo deck (not box) (sorry, no kilo conversions today, I’ve got to run)
    –10 lb. box made of messenger-bag fabric over chromoly frame
    –modular design: quick-release box mounts let you switch from kids to cargo in seconds, without tools or (unless you’re tall) bending over
    –available quick-release top rack, about 4 ft long, that gives the bike a double-decker rack system. The two together provide the greatest total surface area for cargo of any two-wheeler I’ve seen except for the Metrofiets beer bike.
    –compact, accessible, step-through (but with low cross-brace) frame that anyone from 5 ft tall or taller can ride
    –Gates belt drive+Alfine 8/11 or n360 or SpeedHub; dual disc or roller brakes
    –Bell, lock, fenders, dyno hub, lights, etc.
    –With 39/24 Gates combo and Alfine 8, one of our female ShuttleBug owners daily climbs a 22% grade with one child in the box (grade documented via Google Maps). I’ve ridden the prototype up our local volcano (grade 6-12%) with over 200 lbs. in the box and I’m not even that strong.
    –Adjustable, hammock-style child seating with 5-pt restraints
    –Super-stable, magnetically held kickstand with rubber feet
    –Unique rain canopy that doesn’t separate you from your kids with a sheet of wet plastic; instead it covers your hands and is tall enough that it acts as a fairing.
    –Unique sun canopy: same as the rain canopy but with a shade-making, breathable mesh

    In short: the ShuttleBug is light, silky-smooth, swift, and intended mainly for hauling kids, but it’s also a very capable, versatile cargo hauler.

    And I’m serious about this summer.

    And thank you, Henry, for giving the world this forum.

  44. josh Says:

    I’m game! I have two weeks vacation I’ve been trying to figure out how to use! Best beer!? ahhh, i don’t know about that! ;)

  45. henry Says:

    Joe,
    Oh you Portlanders have to make an event of everything. For the Euros a cargo bike weekend would be akin to a refrigerator festival.

    And that list is definitely some shameless self-promotion. But I’ll let it slide.

    ;-)

  46. henry Says:

    DaveW,
    I don’t appreciate the “disingenuous” comment. I added, for example, a comment below the very statement you quote above to note that I disagree with Josh about the fragility of the Bullitt frame. And of all these bikes the Bullitt is only very peripherally a “competitor” anyway. As I noted in my previous comment it’s a completely different animal from anything Workcycles makes or would even consider making. It’s only the immaturity of this market and the homogeneity of the rest of the bike industry that pushes these bikes into the same corner.

    Further you’re clearly a sharp enough guy to recognize that this is an opinion piece written by somebody with a fairly black/white perspective. For the record Josh’s original writings did include a number of “in my opinions…” which I deleted since I felt that it was plainly obvious that it’s entirely his opinions. They’re largely well grounded opinions but opinions nonetheless.

    And my comment about the techieness was leveled not only at the commenters but after rereading the post also at Josh. Consider me somewhat of a bystander here. I loaned my forum and editing time to a colleague who wanted a suitable place to post his work. I vetted it for not being overly unfair, cleaned it up from a writing perspective and added a couple editor’s comments where I strongly disagreed with Josh. I avoided editing the life out of it because had I done that there wouldn’t be so much enthusiastic commentary following.

    Sure, Josh and I could have gone back and forth for a couple weeks investing countless hours in writing a really great, fair, technically solid piece. But between running a company and being a dad to two little ones I don’t have time for that. So after about a day of editing I felt that the result was good enough to be posted and enjoyed. And indeed the 50 or so mostly quite friendly comments suggests I got that right.

    So by all means let’s talk about the USE of cargobikes…

  47. henry Says:

    Gert,
    At Workcycles we get the China bashing thing all the time. Customers even write sometimes (always from the US or UK) to ask whether our bikes are made in China (they’re not) or whether there are any Chinese made parts on them (there sometimes are).

    It’s just become an easy insult to hurl around. Lots of cheap crap does come from China, but as I commented above some very high quality products come out of China. Josh does make a good point though that, for the most part, the only reason a company goes to China for manufacturing is to reduce costs.

  48. DaveW Says:

    Henry,

    From my perspective, as someone looking to carry stuff but not looking for child transport, the FR8 and Bullitt are actually quite close competitors.

    I have a number of types of things I need to carry around a relatively small area (generally under 15 miles round trip).

    The stuff includes laptop, projector, projector screen, bag of books/paperwork etc, changes of clothing, boxes of books, shopping.

    I need to be able to fit through the appalling attempts at cycle infrastructure in Leicester so I can avoid major roads and benefit from short cuts.

    I need to be able to park through a normal sized door for security.

    From this view the FR8, Bullitt, Kona Ute, Surly Big Dummy, Yuba Miundo Filibus, Lorri, are all potential options.

    Everyone seems very focused on child carrying for cargo bikes. However, your kids don’t stay young and small for very long ;-)

  49. Mr Colostomy Says:

    I own a Yuba Mundo. I like the idea of a Bakfiets, but it is unaffordable for me for the foreseeable future. The Yuba meets an important need, there are plenty of people out there for whom most of the other bikes on this list are completely unaffordable, but for whom the Yuba is affordable. It isn’t perfect, but if you have the expertise to keep the bike running (dérailleur gears/rim brakes etc. need a bit of looking after) then it is a very useful bike. There is a certain DIY element to the Yuba Mundo, but I think that is part of its appeal, and it doesn’t deserve to be dismissed so easily

    As for the Xtracycle rider using a second bike as a counter-balance, I fear that the problem wasn’t the Xtracycle, but the rider’s brain. Towing a single bicycle on a long-tail is remarkably easy (I have delivered single bicycles to people 10s of km away by towing them on the Yuba). It is no more of a challenge than having a pannier on only one side of your rack.

    As I frequently tell people who scoff at the Raleigh DL-1 I use for my daily transport, just because a design or an idea is old doesn’t mean it isn’t still valid. The same can be said for an idea or design which is new.

  50. philippe Says:

    Re Bullit :Early models have had seat tube cracks. That one has been used 5000 kms by a messenger and is one of the first 50 built.
    The design is now siad to be stronger.

  51. DaveW Says:

    Philippe,

    Thanks for sharing that (I think).

    I think my frame looks a bit different at that point. So I guess there have been changes since the “pre-series” especially as there are now many couriers who have done a lot more than 5,000 km

    Mr C,

    It has been good to see the Yuba develop over the years. The version 3 looks like it has really moved on. I have ridden earlier ones and they were very comfy and adjustable.

    I have a (fairly recent) love affair with hub gears, it would be nice to be able to have a hub gear that was compatible with the super thick Yuba rear axle.

    I remember a discussion with Mike Burrows about the 8Freight and his take on the lack of a long history for bikes with the load behind the rider. I think he felt the chain length was probably the key reason. Nowadays we have much more experience of long chains thanks to recumbents. Of course if you think of tandems longtail cargobikes are not really very surprising as a development.

    Anyway it seems accurate to me to describe the FR8 as a semi-longtail design.

  52. josh Says:

    Mr Colostomy,

    Glad to meet another Raleigh Roadster enthusiast! I too have a love affair with the old British Iron, but since I commute by subway to work everyday usually choose not to bring them in to work much, since carrying one up the stairs gets old come about Wednesday. There’s a magical feeling riding those 180mm cranks, 12 inch high bottom bracket, and 28 inch wheels!!!-ooops, a little to techie, but you probably know what i mean :)

  53. josh Says:

    philipe,

    My close friend here in California is a Pro MTB racer but is not signed to any major teams, so he has to pay for everything on his own. The catch is, is he never has to pay for a frame because he keeps breaking them (they’re aluminum) and he actually gets quite a kick out of breaking them every few months or so and just pulling it apart and sending it back, getting a warranty frame in the mail. So he always has a back-up bike too, ready to use. He is currently getting tired of it though and looking into getting a custom steel frame from Rick Hunter here in Cali.

  54. josh Says:

    I just remembered the OTHER aluminum cargo bike, it’s called the Wallaroo made by Winther, from Denmark. Judging by the photos it appears to be the same frame as the Bullitt but with very low step-through. I’m sure both Winther and Larry vs. Harry are connected in some way and that the frames are likely made in the same factory. I’m not too familiar with the brand, does anyone have any experience with /insight into these Winther bikes?

  55. DaveW Says:

    Josh,

    Not seen the Wallaroo before. Some details from Splendid Cycles:

    “The Wallaroo is the same bike as the Bullitt sans top tube and 8-10 inches longer. The lack of top tube drops the weight capacity in half to 200 pounds. Also, unlike the Bullitt, the Wallaroo comes only one way-and that is with the 2 child kid carrier. I will give a full report once it arrives”

    They have some nice pictures on Flickr

    Looks a nice option for a step-thru dedicated child carrying bike.

    Of course given the discussion earlier it is interesting to note that the loss of the cross bar has a significant impact on the weight capacity.

    I wonder if anyone has seen these in the flesh yet.

  56. DaveW Says:

    See also the product page at Splendid Cycles

    Note too that it shows nicely that the Bullitt cargo platform is not too narrow. Instead it acts a s a very wide support compared to single tube cargobike designs :-)

  57. josh Says:

    DaveW,

    yes, I realize now that I should have said “cargo box” not platform, and that the advantage to a narrower box is that it can fit through normal doorways easily, this would have been more useful information for the potential cargo bike owner. I agree, that the “perimeter” style frame is superior in many ways to the single tube design. The Cetma cargo bike utilizes the same principal.

  58. josh Says:

    Uses of Cargo Bikes:

    Judging from the information already out there, I see a lack of information regarding riding style and how it relates to what ergonomic and drivetrain features one would prefer and be happy with, regarding cargo bikes specifically. Some people are fast-paced, in life and in cycling. Some people are leisurely. Some cycle just because there is no other way to get around. Others cycle because they want to and choose it over other forms of transportation. In this regard, the Wallaroo seems out of place because its ergonomic and drivetrain features are geared more for the fast-paced and the experienced rider but with some obvious “mom” elements thrown in, and the low step-through is more important when you have stuff loaded on a rear rack, which it cannot accept.
    I think it’s very important for the potential cargo bike owner to think about how they will ride the bike, in addition to what they will carry.

  59. Jim Says:

    It’s clear now, later in the cargo bike game, the xtra was conceived for those whole like their bike, and cargo, lightish. Yuba founder Benjamin Sarazzin wanted more capacity so built the Mundo, which reminds me of a longtail fr8.

    Alu does break, but my 20 year old Klein is still going strong. An Xtra attached to a lightweight, modern alu frame, whether it’s mtb, hybrid or road, is asking for trouble. Not Xtra’s fault, more a marriage of circumstance.

    I did test ride the fr8 from your shop and went up Nob Hill, Josh. Not something I’d want to do regularly, but in the Bay Area one must deal realistically consider weight reduction, even for a cargo bike. The Xtra is my daily ride and functions perfectly for me. Judging from the number I see in SF and the East Bay, it functions perfectly at the right price point for those riders as well.

    Jim

  60. Matthew Sellens Says:

    Henry,

    Wow. I’m a little surprised at the format of this ‘gust posting’. it seems more as opinion masquerading as fact with you the having your Work Cycles bikes come out out on top. It’s classic of release the hounds.
    Why you would want to promote such un unrefined approach laced with assumptions and bias. It strikes me as counter productive to the cargo bike culture and extremely disingenuous to all those folks trying to move the concept forward. I know you’re better than this based on past informative posts. Shame on you. There is no need to slam other brands and call it “bruatlly honest” when its nothing more than self promotion. You control the site, its look and feel and to throw your hands up in a mock ‘oh my sparks are flying’ is just plain laughable.

    For the record I test rode five of the models reviewed (4 were scorned) and thought them all virtuous in their own way. I ended up with a Metrofiets for its look (minimalist) and feel and most importantly for its versatility. I often carry very heavy loads upwards of 400 pounds. The ability to change out my pallet for a sleigh to carry kids is quick and easy. Unloaded the bike is very lively/stiff and under load is a dream with a lovely flex to even out the bumps. Admittedly this bike was built over size in length and tube dimension but it still weighs less than a .NL by 10# with my beefy pallet. These are custom bikes. They are not ‘borrowed” concepts as you tester eluded to. They are engineered for their designed purpose and to say other wise smacks of ignorance. Correction. The stand needs refining. Jamie you listening.

    Your tester rode A Metrofeits bike designed to meet the requirements for the Oregon Manifest as the Ultimate Utility BIke. You testers beef does not jibe with its result of 7th over all and first in its race class. It covered 77 miles of gravel – ascending and descending – pavement and off road for a total of 5000 ft of climbing not to mention burning up STP (self supported) at some 250 miles. It was built to prove a point and to push the limits of what defines a cargo bike. As such it has done much to bring to the fore front the concept of cargo bikes as being more than kid carriers. This was obviously lost on your tester. FYI your photo representing Metrofiets is not the model bike tested.

    I don’t think I am alone with this point of view.

    http://on.fb.me/hMZdc6

    Respectfully
    Matthew Sellens

  61. josh Says:

    Mathew,

    My intention for releasing my thoughts to the public was for the benefit of people and bicycles in general. I did not “scorn” anybody or any thing. Do you realize how excited I was to get to test ride the Metrofiets? Very. I am sorry that I was not impressed, and I tried to make it clear that I tested a specific bike. But, Metrofiets did choose That bike to represent what a Metrofiets is or can be at the Manifest. I really want their bikes to get better than the one I rode, and they will. Ask them. I spoke with them in depth after test riding it and spilled it out. Why? because I genuinely love cargo bikes and want there to be lots of people building them and riding them, and I think this type of bicycle in general can and will get more and more refined throughout the next few decades.

    I have worked at other shops that did not sell Workcycles bikes. I am not employed by Workcycles. I work wherever I want to. Guess what cargo bike I ride myself? One I made myself. Why? Because I am a picky SOB. This review was merely intended as a guide and spark for would-be cargo bike owners. You already own a Metrofiets, and I am glad you are happy with it and riding it. I purposely put strong opinions out there in such a way as to rouse responses, so that the reader gets not just some blog entry by someone, but a worldwide conversation about cargo bicycles and what we all think about them. This short article is a success. It forced people to come out and speak, whereas if I watered down my thoughts, there would not be enough of a spark to ignite anything worthwhile and……useful. You see, I said nothing bad about any company or what they are doing. I got down to details. On purpose. And now what we have is a global community of people discussing certain cargo bike companies. This could have been done no other way that I know of, and in the end, I bet Metrofiets, Larry vs. Harry, Cetma, Joe BIke, and Joshua Muir of Francis all gain a customer or two thanks to this conversation we are now having.

  62. Ladia skladaci kola Says:

    - Sad to say, but future readers would not read whole comments rather stay with article only. And original article it is just shouting on anybody other, every potential competitor got his part. Bakfiet rulez! FR8 for king! I consider shouting opinions on competitors as weakness.

    – Please use use your personal experience, not opinions and with all facts. Your experience with xtra conversions can be scary, but from your other comment it looks that main part of this bad experience comes from bad bikes used for those conversions. Also this experience can not be shouted on Yuba immediately. If anything, Yuba is pure overbuild, weighting almost same tone as bakfiet and has same horrible climbing geometry of omafiet.

    – One time a long john was 10 year long fade, even safety bike was 10 year old fade one time.

    – There has been comment about friend and warranty of Alu frames used in pretty emotional manner. ALL of my friends (even couple of keen hobby racers) use alu frames on their mountain bikes and NEVER EVER any of these frames failed. Do you feel weakness of sentences like this? What it says about just completely another design like Bullit? Yes I also prefer steel, but cannot shout out on every alu bike for this reason only. If you have seen broken Bullit, that is another story, have you? Or another angle, have you seen broken steel frame? I bet you have.

    – Not everybody need capacity of bakfiet everytime so a BIT BIGGER but still LIGHT bike with ability ocasionaly get BIG load aka xtra on trusty bike is perfect solution.

    – Not everybody likes omafiet geometry of bakfiet, so sport mountain bike geometry of Bullit fits them (and their hills) better. There are hills around the world, uncomfortable geometry of racerbike used on Tour has a good reason. Bike geometry is everytime compromise between efficiency and comfort. You have mentioned Gazelle as better bike, I should say it is slow, fat beast with climbing ability of snail. I tried it. Etc. Etc.

    – I rode almost all bikes you have mentioned and finally choose xtra on sturdy steel mountain bike with more comfort geometry (means saddle and handlebars in same level). My fade lasts for 4 years now.

    -I almost have bought Bullit because of lightness and sporty cockpit.

  63. Ladia skladaci kola Says:

    Holland bikes are designed for cities where you store your bike outside, in part our world we should fit our bikes not ever through the door but in elevators and store it inside of our flats (godthank they are bigger than in holand) have you ever tried lift up bakfiet?
    Bike stored outside is yet not stolen bike, or at least not yet broken cannibalized bike.

  64. henry Says:

    Ladia skladaci kola,
    Please understand that Josh Boisclair, the mechanic in California wrote the article. I’m the founder of Workcycles and this is my blog. I posted the article for him… but I didn’t write it.

    I agree with your complaint that Josh could better focus more on his personal experiences. Much of his article is certainly based in his extensive experience but he does drift into opinions too often.

    I think by “fade” you mean “fad”, as in fashion trend. Actually I don’t think the Long John was ever a fad. Bikes of that type began to appear in several countries between the 1910’s and 1930’s and have been produced, mostly by small outfits, for commercial applications ever since. In about 2000 Maarten van Andel began producing the family oriented Cargobike which revived interest in the basic archetype.

    The safety was definitely not a fad in any sense. From my understanding the safety type bike utterly stormed the market and effectively replaced the high-wheeler shortly after its introduction in the 1890’s or so. It was clearly a better way to build a bike for almost every application.

    Josh’s essential complaint about aluminium frames for utility bikes is valid but he simply takes it too far and injects too much opinion. As I’ve now noted several times above the Bullitt looks to me to be well engineered in aluminium and it’s very much part of the character of the bike.

    I also agree with you that a totally upright sitting position (omafiets type) isn’t ideal for many situations…. but I don’t think anybody has claimed that here either. Nor is it even correct to call the seating position of a racing bike “uncomfortable”. That’s actually the most balanced and comfortable way to spend the entire day cycling athletically. Interestingly I’ve ridden several Bullitts and oddly found the seating geometry steeper than on my own racing bikes. It didn’t suit me but I do understand that lots of people are happy it. So be it.

    I don’t think Josh said or even implied that the Gazelle Cabby is a better bike than a Bullitt. That’d be like stating that snails are better than frogs.

  65. DaveW Says:

    Josh,

    “the Wallaroo seems out of place because its ergonomic and drivetrain features are geared more for the fast-paced and the experienced rider but with some obvious “mom” elements thrown in, and the low step-through is more important when you have stuff loaded on a rear rack, which it cannot accept.”

    This is absolute rubbish.

    Why might someone want a lighter and faster cargobike to carry children that has a step through frame?

    – maybe some of the riders like to wear a skirt sometimes, but that does not mean they want to ride slow all the time
    – maybe some of the riders just like the ease of getting on and off a loaded bike when it has a step through. It does not mean they want to ride slowly all the time
    – maybe they need to be able to ride up hills, so lightness and geometry help
    – maybe they have to lift their bike past obstacles to store it safely. Lightness is essential.
    – maybe they have longer distances to take their children so more speed and less weight help
    – maybe the weight of the children is enough to carry up the hills without any extra weight so a rack is not wanted
    – maybe they don’t like the handling of a bike with a back rack, maybe they are buying a cargobike to avoid a back rack
    – maybe they are buying this just to wind you up

    Your remarks were pathetic sexist rubbish.

  66. henry Says:

    DaveW,
    That is a strange and unqualified remark about the Wallaroo though it doesn’t strike me as particularly sexist. I’m all for a lighter, sportier, family carrier in the cargobike format. Obviously that has to come with some trade-offs but as several commenters have noted, heavy bikes of the park-outside Dutch type don’t suit everybody’s needs.

    I’ve only seen the same photo of a Walleroo on several sites so I can’t say much about this particular bike.

  67. Mr Colostomy Says:

    @DaveW

    Looking at tandems, the longtail bike does seem like the sort of development which would’ve come along eventually. There are Yuba owners who have installed hub gears onto their bikes, using 14-10mm axle adapters. Megan Lee Web wrote about her experiences installing a Rohloff 14-speed hub on her Mundo, and the folks over at Long Walk To Green have inspired several Yuba owners to install a Nuvinci hub after testing it in their Surly Big Dummy. Some have also used less exotic hubs like the SRAM P5 cargo in theirs. The 14 mm axle in the Yuba is only needed because of the freewheel (most likely chosen because it is cheap and ubiquitous); many people swap the back wheel for a 48-spoke cassette wheel with a 10 mm axle without reducing the cargo capacity of the bike.

    @Josh

    The Raleigh Roadsters are a pain to carry upstairs. For me it is not so much just the weight but those giant 700B wheels which make it hard. Luckily I have a bike lock-up at work and at home, so I rarely have to haul it upstairs; I can just enjoy riding the thing. There is something truly great about riding a huge upright bike.

  68. DaveW Says:

    Henry,

    “the experienced rider but with some obvious “mom” elements”

    a) implies “mom” won’t be an experienced rider
    b) implies that men don’t want to transport children
    c) implies step through frames are only for “mom” and not just practical for all people in normal clothes.

    Yep, sexist it is.

  69. henry Says:

    DaveW,
    I agree that it’s a strange and unqualified remark but I still think you’re reading the sexism into it. It’s just a rather poorly written statement. I don’t believe he meant to imply a, b or c but I’ll leave it to him to qualify further if he wishes.

  70. DaveW Says:

    @Mr C,

    Thanks for the links explaining about the axle size. I had been expecting changing down to a 10mm axle would reduce the payload.

    Mind you the Yuba payload is way more than I need anyway :-) As I don’t need so much weight capacity I find the simplicity of loading a front box a real benefit.

    I am thinking about front box side extensions for my Bullitt, it would make it easier to load a full trolley load of shopping which tends to end up a bit balanced on top at the moment. A lid would also keep the pizzas dry :-) At the moment when I go shopping I tend to fill it too full for the waterproof cover.

  71. Pat Says:

    I own a metrofiets here in Portland, OR and love it. My wife and I ride it hard everyday in all kinds of weather and it has performed marvelously. I’ve never ridden the manifest bike, but I have seen it and there is quite a difference between that bike and the more standard models. I think the other posts have covered pretty well how nice the metrofiets are I wanted to add that I have been amazed at how well this bike climbs. We have ridden up some steep hills here in portland with kids and cargo without a problem. You should test ride a bike more representative of metrofiets.

    Also Joe Bike I think that is a great idea. I think there should be a alley cat type race included. Each team consists of a rider and a passenger. The rider has to stay with the bike at all times and the passenger navigates and hops out each waypoint to get directions or clues to the next waypoint.

  72. Norms Says:

    Funny how you foreigners all get worked up about technical details and ‘the best’ cargobike. The comment about the ‘sexist’ mom comment made me think of the annual mamma bakfietsrace here in Amsterdam. There’s no ‘dad’ bakfietsrace although in the last race some dads did compete. During the mamma bakfietsrace in the clip below you can see different kinds of bakfietsen in action.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cy0UmakZck

    Maybe you should do something similar during the get-together in Portland with all your different cargo-bikes :-).

    This is the 2010 race
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLmhibUVifc&NR=1

  73. josh Says:

    Ladia,

    AS Henry says and I mentioned earlier, “racing” ergonomics is actually the more comfortable position for aggressive fast-paced riding, and an upright position is more comfortable for shorter distance, slower riding. Again, this seconds my comment that there should be more info out there regarding how ergonomics of a bicycle should fit the type of riding one plans to do and it should be considered a very important part of the decision making process..

  74. josh Says:

    Ladia,

    also, there is already a comment on here with a link to a broken Bullitt. However, almost EVERY production bicycle experiences failures, either one or two, or many.

  75. josh Says:

    DaveW, Henry,

    ok, i should have used the word “parent” instead on “mom” . sorry.
    i was not speaking superficially about the actual bikes and what “parents” should or shouldn’t have as features. I was referring to the combination of features on the Wallaroo, and taken in the context of what I was talking about. Look at that link to the Mom Cargo bike race/competion. What are they all riding? Not to say there arent better bikes to come, but they were riding what they choose for a reason.

  76. josh Says:

    DaveW, Henry,

    it was a poorly written comment. not intended to be sexist AT ALL. I hope this is realized.I make my living with a wrench and torch, not a keypad, so my apologies for slight wording mistakes :)

  77. josh Says:

    Pat,

    Yes, I totally agree with you, and I WANT to ride another one of their bikes. There is another here in SF at Suppenkuche (i probably spelled that wrong) but i would love to try it. LIke i said, I was very excited to ride the bike, and since it is the bike they chose to represent their capabilities at the Manifest I thought it helpful to voice my thoughts about it. Part of the goal was to get all the Metrofiets owners’ voices on here and defend their bike with some amount of articulation since there are now some specific things to defend/talk about/ argue. But believe me, most negative things mentioned are being changed on their production bikes. I still considered it necessary to mention what I did though, so people have a point of view of what may be undesirable or desirable. The whole point is this: now somebody looking to buy a cargo bike and is considering a Metrofiets, a Bakfiets, a Joe Bike, a Cetma, a Bullitt, –they have these technical comments from a mechanic who doesn’t own these bikes, AND they have Real World commentary of how Owners are using their bikes and how the bikes are working for them. I am very glad to here that you are thoroughly enjoying your bike! and great idea about the cargo bike competition BTW. I would love to attend.

  78. Philippe Says:

    Josh, the owner of the blue cracked bullit is now making a living by importing them in France. I guess he’s pretty happy after all.

  79. Travis A. Wittwer Says:

    I finished reading the comments a second time. (… and, damn, there are a number of comments and good to read as a way to see the back-and-forth discussion, sometimes back peddling.) I read them a second time so that I would feel comfortable with my comment given the topic. This topic is obviously one that has caused some heated discussion here, in the comments, as well as on Twitter, through emails, and even at a coffee shop.

    Within all of these comments and opinions, one thing is clear: every one has one and of course theirs must be correct because it is their opinion. I can understand that. These bikes, cargo bikes, are gorgeous creations when looked at as works of art or utilitarian devices. I love cargo bikes (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wittcogmbh/5024324122/in/set-72157624777855278/).

    Henry said the discussion would be a “provoking read” and is has. Thanks.

    Josh started his post with the idea that his review would provide “a real, ‘blue-collar’ review of the cargo bicycles” he has ridden, and I think he has done that. Josh sets out to share his experience with the bikes.

    But now it is time for my comments, and just like everyone else, I have my opinions so I will throw them in the mix for what it is worth.

    I have owned 4 cargo bikes–bakfiets, Madsen, Mundo, and Bullitt—and ridden, extensively, Metrofiets. I currently own a Mundo and Bullitt. I live in Portland. Okay, there those are my biases.

    My first was a bakfiets from Work Cycles. I loved it. Strong, sturdy. Slow, sound in performance. It did what it was supposed to do. Sadly, I had to sell it to pay the mortgage. However, when I was financially able to purchase another cargo bike, I looked at more of my options.

    I am unclear what amount of time Josh tested or rode some of the bikes, e.g., Metrofiets, but what I have found is that I (a common bike, family man, consumer) has to live with the bike for awhile to see all of its possibilities. Perhaps that is just a weakness of not being educated in bikeness.

    For example, my Bullitt. When I first test rode one, it felt squirrelly the first block, got better after a few minutes, and then when I came back from my 30 minute ride, I was intrigued. I took it out for a day on another test ride before buying it, and loved it. Now that it is my daily bike, I really appreciate what it offers for me. And I think that is the key—what it offers “me”.

    I do not need a larger cargo pallet. What it comes with is fine and when I want a large cargo box, I will make one because its format allows for so many modifications with all the attachment points. I like the narrow cargo bay and find it enough for my daily life, when I need something larger, say, for carrying 3 kids, I will plunk a large box on it. Have you seen what Joel at Splendid Cycles (Portland) did to his Bullitt, Big Pink? Super large cargo space and it rides smooth. The adaptable cargo area is one of the things that drew me to a Bullitt.

    The top tube on my Bullitt is not a concern for me. I like it. The extra triangles it creates in frame are good for the riding I do.

    I own a Mundo from Yuba. This bike is probably the best one for carrying odd sized anythings. Have a futon frame you need moved—easy. I have not found balancing it to be an issue. Perhaps the balance issue is really a rider issue rather than a bike issue because I would not overload a bike, or any brand, on one side and I have not found carrying one bike on one side of my Mundo to be ackward. In fact, that is how I rode my Mundo home—I rode one bike to the store, and rode the Mundo home with second bike on side.

    Now Metrofiets, I was surprised by the write up on these bikes. I have enjoyed every ride on their bikes. (The bike is the photo is not the Manifest bike to which Josh refers.)

    I do not know bike geometry or specs, but if the front wheel is large, it is probably chosen as such for a reason, a reason that must have had a moment’s thought since the other cargo bikes out there like this have a small wheel. Why not just copy the small wheel? Must be a reason. I found the large wheel provided a smooth ride and at no point were my turns wiggly, at any speed, like they are on my smaller-wheeled cargo bikes. No bump is a problem. The bike sails over the bridge joints. Turns are glorious and graceful. Hell, pop up a curb if you want.

    I had the great pleasure of riding the Metrofiets Manifest bike over 200 miles in two days loaded down. A buddy did the same with another Metrofiets bike, Suppenkuche. And when, on the Metrofiets, I was sailing past people riding traditional bikes, it was with little effort. I did not train for this ride and was not sore from the ride. I loved the Manifest bike. It is a sexy bike, and a sexy ride (I slept with it at the mid-way point.)

    Metrofiets is a newer company and their bikes are evolving, getting better with each build and changing to meet the needs of their customers. The price is also coming down.

    I am going to end with a general comment about taking these cargo bikes as a whole. Making one small issue, like commenting nearly fours lines on kickstand design, is a lot of space for something insignificant (in the grand scheme). That would be like me critiquing my bakfiets’ kickstand because the “gate latch” rarely worked well, in my experience.

    Cargo on!

  80. Travis A. Wittwer Says:

    Ps. we do have a cargo bike race of sorts in Portland open to all genders, Fiets of Parenthood.

  81. Norms Says:

    I came across this independent Dutch cargobike test:

    http://kassa.vara.nl/tv/afspeelpagina/fragment/de-bakfietsentest/speel/1/

    (use google translate)

    Here´s a clip from the above test with a mother and two kids falling. It´s a Dutch clip so the kids aren´t wearing helmets. Not a drop of blood and the kids aren´t even crying :-).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMUEnUh5MMM&feature=related

  82. Todd Edelman Says:

    So that Mama Bakfiets race only now only involves three-wheeled bikes and is sponsored by a automobilist trade association – BOVAG – which was among other things putting hi-viz vests on children sitting in the box in the daytime? This is alarming.

  83. Frits B Says:

    Todd, please. The Viva (a girls’ magazine) bakfiets race was run in at least two categories, as it would have been rather unfair to threewheelers to have them compete with twowheelers. And BOVAG simply was there to provide technical services in case anything went wrong.

  84. Todd Edelman Says:

    Frits: OK I did not see any video of the two-wheeled races. Hi-viz vests handed out for free (I would assume)? Go wrong?

  85. philippe Says:

    I hope that this lively debate will not inspire Henry to shy away from strongly assertive posts.
    As far as I’m concerned, it would be a shame. Debate’s good and I’m enjoying this one. Thanks to Josh and Henry.

  86. henry Says:

    Philippe,
    Thanks for the support. No, I’m not one to shy away from controversial posts though this experience has me considering new approaches.

  87. Mark Bromley Says:

    Our Cargo hauling company here in Burlington Vermont is a proud owner of a Metrofiets. Workmanship, and attention to detail are simply the best. After trying many rigs we settled on the Metrofiets and have no regrets. Since June we have collectively hauled about 12 tons of produce and pedaled about 10,00 miles with the Metrofiets contributing significantly.

    We also ride Big Dummys and a Bilenky with Bikes at Work trailers. They all have their place in the line up.

    I love the Metrofiets ride and utility.

    Mark Bromley
    One Revolution LLC

  88. henry Says:

    It’s good to hear that people are indeed happy with their Metrofietsen. It’d be shame for all these cyclists to be wallowing down the roads like wet noodles with gobs of lateral flex!

    Meanwhile I’ve figured out the explanation for the greatly differing opinions about the stiffness of the Metrofiets. It’s because the laws of gravity and physics in general work differently in Portland. There are two basic reasons for this:

    1. Portland is (nearly) in the northwestern corner of the US and everybody knows that the world revolves around New York, Wall Street to be specific. With Portland spinning all the way out at the rim of the wheel, so to speak, the gravity there has a considerable lateral component.

    2. Anything involving a cargo bicycle in Portland becomes an event gathering hundreds of like-minded “cargonistas” and “cargonauts”, their bikes and loads suitable to demonstrate their bikes’ capabilities. This sudden accumulation of metal and material creates its own local, lateral gravity.

    Combine these two lateral gravitational systems and the result is a bizarre sort of stasis that allows even the sketchiest home-built cargobikes and tall bikes loaded to the gills with microbrew beer to track perfectly.

  89. Travis A. Wittwer Says:

    Henry, “cargonauts” … Ha! Love it. And I agree with Philippe, and others, that this dialogue is important and would not happen with a safe post. I am unsure , Henry, what other approaches you would want to take. I think this worked out well.

    On another subject, and I am not sure where Metrofiets have decided to fall on the issue, but general agreement amongst the cargonauts is that Metrofiets is a collective noun (of sorts) so no Metrofietsen ;0)

  90. DaveW Says:

    Henry,

    Philippe,
    Thanks for the support. No, I’m not one to shy away from controversial posts though this experience has me considering new approaches.

    My view is that you can be as controversial as you like. However, I think it would be courteous and honest to update your introduction to in some recognise in some way that the comments illustrate clearly that no owner or frequent user of your competitors bikes agrees with Josh’s negative comments.

    We all know that many people will read a post and not the comments below. In this case the comments clearly demonstrate the unhappiness that many users have with Josh’s opinions. Yet there they remain, unchallenged in the post itself.

    To leave the introduction as it is and not acknowledge the unanimous disagreement with Josh’s opinions is unhelpful and petty.

    I find your attempt to divert the issues with humour in very poor taste while you leave such damaging accusations of your competitors products up without a public acknowledgement that nobody has come forward to support Josh’s views of the bikes he has trashed.

  91. Travis A. Wittwer Says:

    Josh, if the goal is to get th voices of some o the users (RE: Metrofiets), then you could have asked forthat rather than getting it as backlash which ultimately makes everyrhing negative. I hope everyone, especiallytbose who tookthe time to read the comments and their dialogue, can pull some redeemable bit from this discussion. I hope.

  92. Jurgen Says:

    Being the importer of Bakfiets, Workcycles Fr8 and Bullitt in Australia and New Zealand I would like to share some thoughts. We started our business with the filosophy to bring quality load carrying bikes to Oceania. Others had tried and failed. Maybe they were too early or didn’t push the right buttons. The market here predominantly consists of road bikes and mountain bikes. Bicycles are used to exercise. It’s a male thing.
    Being Dutch – it’s a difficult concept to understand that someone would refer to a road (race) bike as a normal bike. It will take 5-10 years for Australia and New Zealand to pickup on the pragmatic concept of using a bike as urban transport. We think this will certainly happen. Probably faster than in the USA.
    I hope in the meantime that Bakfiets, Bullitt and Workcycles Fr8’s will find the right users and their designs will be further fine-tuned and optimised. Finally it is important to understand – Bakfiets, Bullitt, Fr8’s etc bikes are very different and as such proper advise is key – including budget/maintainance and resale considerations. At the same time I am sure other brands will come up. Some will stay and some will not. For now – let’s get more people enthusiastic for this great alternative to the car – the Cargo Bike !

  93. henry Says:

    DaveW,
    That’s just great. You suggest updating the introduction and then lambast me for not having already done so. It’s a good idea and I will do it, but I hadn’t thought of it yet nor had you or anybody else suggested it.

    I will not, however, completely discredit Josh in the introduction. That several Bullitt and Metrofiets owners have defended the virtues of their bikes doesn’t mean that Josh is flat out wrong nor that there is unanimous disagreement with his opinions. I know most of these bikes myself and have ridden several of them so I’ve a reasonable feeling for where he stands on most of the issues.

    Concerning my addition of some much needed humor: It’s my blog and I’ll laugh if I want to.

  94. Frits B Says:

    Todd: “Go wrong”? Women drivers.

  95. DrMekon Says:

    dave

    I am surprised at the tone you are using.

    I can’t speak for the bullitt, but until you blogged about it, I’d only heard bad things about its handling – albeit I see one of the 3 people I’d heard from (Julian upthread) has revised his view. I still have concerns about aluminium, having seen headtubes tear off in front of me. not saying Ali can’t work in these settings, just that when it lets go, you usually dont get a warning. I’ve snapped Ali stems bars and cranks in my time. it just doesn’t warn you. your posts have me intrigued enough to try to get a test ride, but if I owned one, I would check for cracks before and after big loads, just as I used to on my Ali full sus after a jump session.

    re the cloned cheap bakfiets, the rotting examples I’ve seen suggest he is spot on. he was also generous about the gazelle, so painting it as an entirely partisan account is unfair, and make you look a bit like a 14 year old fanboy defending his choice of game console (ooh it is fun being a keyboard warrior, I feel giddy)

  96. DaveW Says:

    My apologies for a humour failure yesterday.

    Please stop punishing me with every more complicated captcha’s to type.

  97. henry Says:

    Apologies completely accepted.

    ReCaptcha is indeed getting out of hand. It can be pretty tough if you don’t know how to type umlauts, tildas and the likes. Try the audio version; It’s quite fun too.

  98. Ladia skladaci kola Says:

    to henry:

    I tried complain about lot of things which are wrong by my opinion.

    What I wanted to say at most Is:
    There are good reasons here for other designs than joshs prefers.
    For example: Bullit is onlyone bakfiet type of cargo bike which I can lift up one handed. I also feel better be in steel, but there are not now :-( and seems quite a lot of them done and used with good track :-)

    Holland bikes are superior sturdy solution for safe flat areas as amsterdam, short trips and outdoor storage. It is not situation of all cargo bike fans.

    Fad x fade – my mother language is czech, so sometime I should just hope you got the meaning :-)

    Gazelle, yes Josh never compare bullit and gazelle, nor me in, I just added another piece together with bullit, rather it should stay separately:
    Josh somewhere mentioned gazelle as quite good one, so I added my experience for contrast.

    And for last piece: Americans say (rather strong, sorry) Opinions are as an asshole, everybody has one.
    Internet tough me differ strongly between opinion and experience aka fact.

    I you do not like changing original article (which I think is not good idea) can you add to your blog also other article compilated from this interesting discussion? I think it can be quite good one (or even better one) also.
    Or it does not fit your own selfpromotion here?

  99. Ladia skladaci kola Says:

    should be
    If you …. not I you in last part :-(

  100. Drew Says:

    That was a great article and I enjoyed reading it and the comments. Hard to step on toes when one voices honest opinions, but it is a good thing to see the lively discussion it generates. Please invite more guest articles in the future!

    I was inspired by the Frances Smallhaul too, The cable steering and spaceframe cargo bay seemed like a good solution for a bike to carry my dog. I ended up making one, but with a few differences. Dual 406 wheels, very low cargo basket (which doubles as a kickstand), and drop bars. You can read about it on my blog posting:
    http://drewsminiblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/making-cargo-bike.html

    The Oregon Manifest should be interesting this year. I predict there will be a good showing of creative lightweight cargo bikes.
    http://www.oregonmanifest.com/

  101. josh Says:

    first of all, it should be noted that nothing I have mentioned about any of the bikes can be considered “wrong”, except when I said the Bullitt’s cargo platform is too narrow.–I corrected that when I realized the Bullitts I rode all had a Box, and That is what I thought to be quite small (but is working out fine for many people).–not the platform.
    I stand behind what I have chosen to say about all these bikes, and put a lot of thought into it beforehand, making sure nothing was technically wrong with my statements. I also don’t see any unanimous disagreement with anything posted.

    Once you own a certain bike and like the looks of it, it is very easy to get used to and live with certain aspects of the bike you would otherwise not tolerate if you didn’t like the look and/or owned something else (steering feel, flex, frame material, details, etc). In this sense, this is why I thought it helpful for someone with experience, but who does not own any of these bikes to communicate thoughts about them.

    Yesterday I extensively tested the Cetma Margo. I was thoroughly impressed. The chassis on the Cetma bike should be a new standard by which to judge all other modular, and industrial/courier 2 wheeled cargo haulers. It was that impressive. I did not want to give it back, and I strongly recommend giving these bikes a try. I rode it with 0 to 150 pounds, all through San Francisco including China town which is very hilly. I was confident enough to squeeze between rows of cars at speed and crank through corners. The bike weighed 60 pounds. The combined features of the frame are impressive: low-enough step-through, bi-partable, an excellent parking stand mounted to the frame, tubes where they are NEEDED. I won’t go on and on but i bet if Cetma moved shop to Portland and had the marketing skills of Larry vs. Harry these bikes would be insanely popular.

  102. josh Says:

    also, i can second the linear gravity thing…when i was riding from Boston there was Something i couldnt really describe luring me or pulling me this way but I couldnt put my finger on it. I got as far as running to the ocean and then realized how cold it was so went no further.

  103. Todd Edelman Says:

    OK, some possibly semi-related lightening-of-the-mood: “The Loaded Warrior” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXm739lXGgA

  104. Wendy-jane Anderson Says:

    Well I have read all this and I just want to know about the e-version of the cargo bike.nl available in Australia. I have test ridden all the available cargo bikes and even though the china version $2,000aud cheaper I just cant buy it. Just smells rusty. I am a Mum rider who is 50, and my youngest has an auto immune disease and gets tied. I just want a quality e-bike cargo, I will pay the $4,500aud, if I can get back up service and really don’t want to clutter my head with the techi stuff, about the hubs gears etc I am aware they are important, but no-one has reviewed the e-versions. Melbourne is hilly and I need a little help sometimes when carrying child dogsx3, sand, boogy boards (we live near the beach).I want my bike to last as my old one did for 20 years so I can still motor/peddle to the shops at 70, I have a car but really like riding. I LOVE BEING a Mum rider and just take all the room on the bike paths but indicators on the back would be helpful with a full load letting the handlebars go with kids and dogs and stuff is a bit wobbly and the step thru is great at 165cm and street clothes..It works for me. Please review the e-version

  105. DrMekon Says:

    I am sure I wrote up a review. its on my site. if you can’t find it, holler. the summary is that it its expensive, good if help with headwinds and hills is what you want, not so much if you wantt the millennium falcon

  106. DrMekon Says:

    Wendy – here’s the link – http://measured-response.com/bakfiets/?p=264

  107. henry Says:

    Sorry folks. There are too many comments here for me to devote much time to them individually. Just a few responses to follow:

    Ladia skladaci kola,
    I will follow up with at least an addition to the introduction to clarify things in advance. No, one cannot expect that everybody will read well over 100, sometimes extensive, comments.

    “Or it does not fit your own selfpromotion here?”

    Get real. I hardly think this article reflects positively on Workcycles if that’s what you mean nor did I expect it would. Such a slick marketeer I am not. It’s my personal blog and I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes stick my foot in my mouth and shoot myself in the foot. Perhaps I don’t always have great judgement or I get caught up in details and miss a greater picture. Those who follow this blog might recall some other good examples. In this case it would have been helpful to spend longer pushing Josh to refine his article. But (American expression) hindsight is 20/20. (You always see things more clearly when looking at the past.)

  108. henry Says:

    Wendy-jane Anderson,
    We’ve ridden, worked on and built a lot of electrically assisted bikes. What you’re asking for is technically possible… but it isn’t available yet. There are e-bike versions of several cargobikes on the market but they’re hub motor bikes and even the best of them won’t fulfill your wishes. The uphill pulling power will be fairly minimal and they will require much more maintenance than a non-assisted bike.

    Within the next couple years the better load-carrying e-bikes will abandon hub motors for crank based motors which is a more integrated system that enables the motor to make use of the bikes gearbox (the internal rear hub). Such a bike can offer both uphill pulling power AND a helpful boost to your cruising speed.

    The first such cargobike is the Urban Arrow, also from Amsterdam. The prototypes look very promising but it’s still an untested product. We’ll see.

  109. henry Says:

    Drew,
    That’s a very cool bike you built and I enjoyed the step-by-step explanation of its creation and the various decisions made along the way. I wouldn’t call it “pretty” but technically it looks quite solid and it does have considerably charm.

  110. Drew Says:

    Hi Henry,
    Thanks for the compliment. Its rather awkward appearance is less noticeable when the dog is riding in it, so I try to take her with me whenever I can!

    If I ever build another, I would use a tube bender, and incorporate some graceful curves.

  111. josh Says:

    Drew,

    ah, you gotta love jig-less building! Seeing these bikes makes me want to get a dog :)

  112. DaveW Says:

    Henry,

    Thanks for the revised introduction. I for one appreciate it.

  113. Mikael Says:

    Rule number one: Never take ‘reviews’ seriously when presented by someone who has a competing product. Just isn’t credible.

  114. henry Says:

    Mikael,
    An extensive discussion of exactly your point can already be read in the introduction to this post as well as having come up several times in the comments above,

    And if I may politely add: Though not directly associated with any company you’re hardly the model of fair and unbiased reporting yourself.

  115. Todd Edelman Says:

    Mikael! (If this is indeed Mikael Colville-Andersen). At least a year ago you did a film for Biomega – you worked for them – BUT in September 2010 you did a review of a Biomega product – I think the same one which was the subject of the film, the Puma – reviewed above by Josh – and mentioned nothing about it! Myself and another guy mentioned this in the comments on your Blog, but no retraction or correction was forthcoming (also not from Biomega). Odin is watching (I used to drive a Volvo and my dad has lots of Danish furniture, so I can say that). I am sure everyone would accept an apology.

  116. Wendy-jane Anderson Says:

    Hi Henry, Josh thanks for the info on the newer e-bike. I am not related to the other Anderson or any bikes….people get flexible in your thinking. This is bicycles we are talking about, look at the world we live in… we are blessed to have choice and freedom to choose .Thanks for the new intro henry I didn’t think it was necessary as I understood the other one and thought Josh is a real person with his own opinions. thank goodness the world still has people who can think for themselves and for having a different voice….congratulations on those who have courage to stand for their difference….

  117. nicolas Says:

    Wow Mikael, that is one disappointing piece of drive-by commenting. And I say that as

    Concerning the Biomega bike: isn’t it pretty much a concept bike anyway? I was surprised to see it on John’s list. Henry gave his opinion in his E-Urobike report, and I’m not inclined to disagree.

    …aaaaaand the frame’s aluminium, I think? Let’s all pile on THAT one :D

  118. nicolas Says:

    “i say that as *a fan*”

  119. josh Says:

    Wendy,

    thanks for \getting it\!

  120. josh Says:

    nicolas,

    supposedly the bike is/was scheduled to be released this March.
    It will sell because it looks cool. Unfortunately, everything Biomega does is really far from the “practical/useful” end of the spectrum and way over on the “Designer” side which for some reason has so far always been a bad thing. I’m not sure why “Designers” can’t just make something that works. I guess that’s why they are designers though :)

  121. philippe Says:

    Is “Mikael” M C-E ?
    Who’s, indeed, reviewing Biomegas ? (And think they rule because japanese tourists dig the Puma logo and he thinks that counts as cross-cultures dialogue).
    That would be rich. And sad. And dumb.
    And MCE is a lot of things but not dumb.

  122. henry Says:

    Yes, just for clarity “Mikael” is my esteemed colleague from Copenhagen.

  123. henry Says:

    josh,
    I’ve discussed “designer bikes” here several times before. Some examples:

    Maybe not coincidentally another Biomega:
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2009/07/30/unclear-on-the-concept-2/

    The world’s most uncomfortable bike:
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2009/11/22/missing-the-point-city-bikes/

    Amongst the worst bikes to ever win awards and get massively “praised” (on the internet that is):
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2007/10/04/triobike-internet-reviews/

    And this one:
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2010/10/20/shopping-bike/

  124. josh Says:

    Mikael,

    perhaps you wouldn’t mind sharing your thoughts or opinions about your preferred/favoured cargo bike and how it is working or not working for you. That would be far more helpful!

  125. josh Says:

    Henry,

    wow, great review of the Triobike. And yeah, I often don’t understand how some things get certain “Awards”. I also don’t understand how certain people get into “judging panels” -a furniture designer judging the Oregon Manifest event? I’m just sayin’, money seems to have too big a role in this game…….and there are a lot of things (wheeling and dealing) happening “behind the scenes”

  126. nicolas Says:

    Mikael is a proud Bullitt user – got a custom seat made for it too, which I gotta say looks fucking cool. also had a Longjohn (a Velorbis, guess) but I haven’t seen it on CCC or Copenhagenize in a while. Plus, tested (“reviewed”) the Biomega Puma.

    Thinking again bout the accusation of bias: one thing I love about this blog is the strong voice that never shies away from saying “this is what i build, i do for such and such reason, if you don’t agree with my way of seeing things i’m happy to discuss it but you’re also free to take your business elsewhere, no hard feelings”. i respect that.

  127. henry Says:

    Josh,
    And by what criteria will these groundbreaking designer bikes at the Oregon Manifest be judged? A hint:

    “This rigorous road trial will assess the real function of every bike in the challenge, in real world environments including hills, highways and off-road sections. It will include several on-road checkpoints where judges will evaluate specific features of each bike. The Field Test requires riders to keep a brisk pace that will stress their bikes to the limit, and demands a well-crafted, expertly assembled entry in order to complete the route in good time.”

    Highways? Off-road? Stress bikes to the limit? What ever happened to just getting around at a relaxed pace on whatever bike one’s got? For more than a century much of the world’s been doing that so who’s so arrogant as to think they’re going to reinvent the wheel here?

    Yes indeed, one of the essential flaws of our society: The assumption that a new technology will always come along to fix the problems caused by a previous technology.

  128. henry Says:

    Did I ever mention that I am actually trained as a designer? I’ve a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design. I never did work as an industrial designer though. Before completing my degree I decided that Design was often rather empty headed (example: Designer bikes) so I studied Human Factors / Ergonomics for a couple years and got a Master’s in that too. Then I worked for a renowned design firm for 6 or so years but I did research and testing instead of designing.

    It’s very good I didn’t become a “designer” since I really suck at the design for design’s sake most design firms thrive on. It bores me to tears.

  129. Todd Edelman Says:

    Levi’s wants to further their urban image… commercially-grown cotton is nasty stuff, so this is urbanwash….

    Levi’s® and Oregon Manifest

    Two wheels, some tubes, a chain… Levi’s® believes that good design can change the world.

    A well-built bicycle represents balance in motion; simple construction that solves multiple problems really well. Bicycles are not exactly new, but they are our future. And like all thoughtfully crafted objects—like a good pair of jeans—a well-built bicycle is so much more than a simple tool.

    Leviʼs® has always been committed to purposeful design and quality construction. We are proud to support the Oregon Manifest craftsmen and celebrate their dedication to the same, simple values. We know that utility is a virtue. If you’re not solving problems, you’re complicating things. So, for over 150 years, Levi’s® has been dedicated to finding solutions in denim. Now, we applaud these builders who accomplish the same with carbon, steel and titanium.- http://oregonmanifest.com/sponsors/levis/

  130. Jim Says:

    Henry, perhaps you are being tongue-in-cheek but didn’t you used to be a road racer? Wasn’t light, strong and resilient the watermark of a good bike?

    I see the new cargo bikes like the Metrofiets and Bullitt as a design progression suited for the right environments, namely places where bike infrastructure sucks, vehicular cycling the norm, and the hills steep. Nothing wrong with it but the prices progress hath wrought: $6k?

    Jim

  131. josh Says:

    Someone should design a bike (trike preferably) to help these guys out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG0Lxjldlas

  132. henry Says:

    Jim,
    I suspect I don’t really understand your comment. Yes, I used to race (road, mountain and track through the years)) and still enjoy riding athletically on the road and track.

    I’ve certainly never argued for building bad bikes, or for bikes that weigh more than they need to or for bikes that are unnecessarily flexible (or stiff) because of silly “designer” frames, cheap construction or just indifferent design.

    Are we talking about two different things here?

  133. Jim Says:

    Henry,

    My reply was in response to this:

    “Highways? Off-road? Stress bikes to the limit? What ever happened to just getting around at a relaxed pace on whatever bike one’s got? For more than a century much of the world’s been doing that so who’s so arrogant as to think they’re going to reinvent the wheel here?”

    My point is: the Manifest event is like a brainstorming session. Some good ideas will shake out and be applicable to a different market than a Bak.

    Your bikes, as good as they are, are dictated by flat topography. Horses for courses, as it were.

    Jim

  134. henry Says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for the compliment but I wasn’t at all specifically referring to Workcycles bikes in that statement. Nor is Workcycles specifically focused on bakfietsen.

    I understand what a brainstorm session is, having led and participated in dozens of them during my design days. The Manifest Constructor’s Challenge (or whatever it’s called) is not like a brainstorm session at all though; It’s a competition with a specific set of criteria. The problem is that those criteria are absurd and largely irrelevant to designing bikes that will help convince more people to ride and regard bicycles as transportation.

    In fact the bikes are hardly the weak link in the chain here. Good utilitarian bikes have been made for a century. They’ve been commonly used in places that are flat, hilly, hot, cold, paved, rural, urban, wet and dry. The main challenge toward popularizing cycling (again in many places) is that the automobile has been allowed to take over the roads and public space at the cost of all other road users. Until that situation has been rectified cycling cannot be popular as it is in the few remaining “cycling cultures”.

    For extensive evidence, examples and statistics demonstrating this point please see my colleague David Hembrow’s great blog: http://hembrow.blogspot.com/

  135. Jim Says:

    Henry,

    The Challenge is a conceptual conceit for sure; it’s like any judging contest of something subjective. A total abstraction.

    From the Manifest site, goals are:

    “FIRST, to inspire and foster real design innovation around a bike that recognizes the needs of modern living. SECOND, to celebrate and champion the resurgence of American craft—bicycle craft in particular. THIRD, to show riders and enthusiasts that a well-crafted bicycle isn’t just for sport and recreation, but can also be a tool integrating seamlessly into everyday life.”

    I have nothing to do with this event and believe there is a bit of nebulous “concept” talk in their mission statement. I read it as: bike fetishists and roadies unite in this one of a kind event.

    I ride up a 17% grade to get home on my cargo bike; an event like this lets me know what new design and tech can do for reducing weight and increasing speed. If that’s all it does I’m all for it.

    Then I throw it all out the window once I take a gander at the $6k price tag.

    Been following Hembrow; he’s nuts to ride where he lives.

    I get infrastructure, the lack thereof and changing reliance on car culture. Nothing a huge check, the scarcity of crude oil and decades of hard work can’t solve, tho.

    Jim

  136. henry Says:

    Jim,
    Just a note: David Hembrow lives in Assen. A small city in the north of the Netherlands. It’s a lovely place to cycle. Might you be confusing him with somebody else.

    Not to beat a dead horse since we’re on the same page anyway: The goals of the Manifest Challenge are fine. It’s the judging criteria and road trial that won’t lead to those goals.

  137. DaveW Says:

    henry,

    “It’s the judging criteria and road trial that won’t lead to those goals.”

    Clearly the best option is for Josh to be the judge. Everybody will be happy then :-)

    NB this is a joke

  138. josh Says:

    DaveW,

    Besides your sarcasm being a distant second place, I will say that the Oregon Manifest has too much to do with Oregon (namely, Portland) than it does the rest of the world. But I do admit, I haven’t been to that state yet, so perhaps they do have an amazing cycling infrastructure and are thus so far ahead of everyone else so as to justify any attempts made to improve upon this”failed technology”.

  139. Feddo Says:

    So, anything good on TV? I have been watching “Portlandia” lately and can highly recommend it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3nMnr8ZirI

  140. josh Says:

    that is the funniest shit i’ve seen in a long time, thanks for sharing.

  141. peter van der veer Says:

    Thanks

  142. Feddo Says:

    If you liked that, please note that Henry was/is an extra on that show.

    Henry pops up from sec.45 onwards. Just to the left and behind of Fred Armisen (the main guy).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE_9CzLCbkY

  143. henry Says:

    Josh,
    A couple weeks and 142 comments later there is one thing I’m curious about and I’m surprised that nobody’s mentioned it yet: You conclude the article naming the Joe Bike Shuttlebug one of your top choices. Yet that bike was never even commented on, never mind critiqued, in the article.

    Have you actually seen and ridden this bike? If so why didn’t you write about it, instead just mentioning it in the end?

  144. josh Says:

    Henry,

    I’ve only seen the ShuttleBug a couple times on critical Mass rides and “sunday streets” here in SF. The bike and the company just seem really down to earth and the bike looks like a good example of a US-built Bakfiets without any Hype, frills, or superfluous detail. I was also impressed by the attitude of the couple who owned one I saw-just a normal family with a good sense of what they were doing and why . However, i am not sure why every single “new” cargo bike needs disk brakes, an exposed chain, and threadless steerers. I do like how many different cargo box options they have, especially the ShuttleDog! The bikes are not cheap, but their website has a great “review” of differing cargo-carrying options for the potential buyer to peruse. I do know they make other cargo bikes besides the ShuttleBug that are cheaper and heavier, not sure about those. But the Shuttlebug looked cool, and it should, at $4,750 for a frameset. Out of the range for most people, but hey, try building your own and see how long it takes and how much work it is and how much skill is involved with building something even as simple as a bicycle!

  145. josh Says:

    henry,

    Oh, and I didn’t really mention it because frankly, I don’t know enough about the bike…..their website has other cargo bikes that are much cheaper so I’m a little confused and have never called them up to clarify. I’ve also never ridden one, but as you know, when you’ve been looking at bikes for so long, you can often take a 30 second glance at a bike you’ve yet to ride and understand its geometry enough and related numbers regarding how the bike would ride. But no, I didn’t ride it.

  146. Mary Westmacott Says:

    That top Pic is very cute too, Thanks Henry, You’ve got some really good posts here, I so glad i found your blog, and i’ll be back for more soon, thanks again. x

  147. andy Stretton Says:

    Hi Henry and Josh,

    Firstly I’d like to congratulate you both on the article. Having written an apparently ‘contentious’ one myself, a few weeks ago (that was roundly criticized in some quarters), I can fully appreciate what you are going through! Please don’t shy away from posting more brutally honest reviews, we need more NOT less of them.

    My partner and I own Gen 1 Yuba Mundo’s that I have in part re-engineered and modified component wise, for our specific purpose. I also make an Electric Assist (Solar recharged) Trailer called the Watt-Bot, here in Australia. We use the Yuba’s with the trailers during our tours, traveling 80 to 90 Km’s (50 – 55 ml) a day, carrying 40 – 45 Kg’s (90 – 100 Lb) of weight.

    The Watt-Bot has been designed to push weight over long distances and not for speed. The Yuba’s perform with the Watt-Bot very well in this application, but we (and our lifestyles) are a rarity. Most people who contact me regarding electric assist are in reality looking for a ‘moped’ or ‘scooter’, something they don’t have to pedal and something that can ‘go fast’.

    It’s why, in many ways, I agree with Josh about the Longtail ‘Fad’, I rarely see them being used for serious day to day work, they appear more-so, to be used as trendy accessories that help get the kids or lightweight shopping around Town and Coffee Houses.

    That said, they do have potential for more. We have two sets of friends that have now gone ‘Car-less’, one couple with Extra-Cycles and the other with Kona Ute’s. Both are using them in day to day work, carrying 60 to 70 Kg’s of weight over short (commute) distances. It will be interesting to see how the frames perform over the long term however. We have now done some 7,000 Km’s (4,500 Ml) on our Yuba’s and they are showing no signs of fatigue.

    Anyway, keep up the good work! If you’d like to check out our exploits:

    http://www.mechanarchy.com.au
    http://www.theunconventionalcellist.com

    Kindest regards
    Andy

  148. Julian Says:

    OK, as long as being brutally honest is being celebrated here, I suppose I’ll jump back into the fray.

    I think that Josh and Andy have it backwards about what is faddish here, at least in the North American market.

    The Dutch bike boomlet of the past few years has indeed turned a lot of people (like myself) onto the possibilities of cycling for transportation. And sure, plenty of people continue to put heavy, indestructible Dutch roadsters or bakfietsen to regular “non-trendy” use in the US, particularly in flatter cities.

    But there are also many owners drawn to the classic style of Dutch bikes who don’t end up using them for more than “trendy accessories”, and who sell them on Craigslist a year or two later as “rarely ridden, always garaged” bikes. Or who have painful breakups with their Dutch bikes as they graduate to lighter, better-hillclimbing transpo bikes.

    The features celebrated by Henry and Josh are those that evolved for everyday use in a flatter, year-round, shitty weather, store your bike outside culture. And have quite successfully adapted for that culture over time. And work fantastically well if your local environment and needs and riding style are similar (I don’t happen to think that’s the majority of US cities or riders, though).

    But when I look around my town and think about who’s doing “serious day to day work”, it’s the longtail riders. Who were here before Dutch bikes showed up, and will still be schlepping themselves and their cargo around town on beatup xtracycles when current trends move onto Bromptons or ebikes or whatever the latest bike fashion is.

    I don’t care what people ride, as long as it meets their needs. And I don’t think it’s helpful for people in shops, or influential folks online, to dismiss casual use for nearby errands or “lightweight shopping” as somehow less worthy than the hardcore exploits of the carfree or epic loads & distances. It’s precisely those short car trips that are easiest to replace with a bike. Subtle or overt snobbery about that is counter-productive.

    The Shuttlebug does look amazing. But $4,750 frameset bikes are not going to save the world. Getting more people and families out of their cars, at least for the shorter easier trips might. A $500 upgrade to their rarely ridden MTB can do that just fine. As their perceptions of what’s possible develops, and as US cities become more hospitable to everyday cycling, I hope to see more of them on multi-thousand dollar bikes. I love that much of that money supports businesses with honorable practices and living wages. But for the near future, the US market will continue to need reasonable thrifty alternatives.

    What will those be? And do we really want to dismiss their owners as trend-riding lightweights?

  149. andy Stretton Says:

    Cool Julian, great to read your thoughts!

  150. henry Says:

    It seems like a couple commenters are implying that I dislike or don’t see the value of longtail type bikes. In fact I have nothing whatsoever against longtails and have even tinkered with developing one. I’ve decided however that this format will always be a niche player in our home market. Why is that?

    1. Longtails are undeniably handy but they can’t really do so much that a sturdy regular bike can’t do. With a little creativity and perhaps discomfort you can occasionally carry a large house plant, a contrabass or a gas powered generator (just saw that ride by) on a city bike. This morning I saw a woman riding her (old) bike with boyfriend sidesaddle on the rear carrier holding the handle of a wheeled suitcase bouncing along behind them. Without making a game or show of it how much more does one really need to bring along?

    2. Longtails have been shown to make fine kid carrier bikes, but don’t offer a combination of features to make them particularly attractive for the dutch family. You can carry two or three kids but so can more normal bikes which are cheaper and fit in bike racks. Compared to the popular bakfiets the longtail can’t carry little babies and can’t keep the kids warm and dry, both critical to young families dependent on their bikes in a northern European climate.

    3. The handling and braking dynamics of a good longtail are certainly better for hilly terrain than a bakfiets (or a crappy Dutch bike for that matter) but there are few hills here.

    4. There are actually Dutch longtail type bikes here but they predate Xtracycles and modern longtails by three decades. The main reason to ride a longtail type bike here is to carry twins thus they’re called “tweelingfietsen”. I wrote about them here:
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2009/02/19/tweelingfiets-twin-bike/

  151. Frits B Says:

    To illustrate Henry’s point (1): there was an item in yesterday’s newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden about prized possessions. One was a sidetable with built-in winerack, in good sturdy wood. The happy owner said she had been looking for one forever, so when at last she found one she had simply bought it, put it on the rear rack of her bike and had pedaled home. Judging by the photo it was quite a handful but she said her husband was out with the car and she hadn’t wanted to leave it behind.
    As for he twin bike, how about this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/5476148244/

  152. josh Says:

    Along the lines of the last few posts, It’s possible to carry anything you want with either proper equipment, or above average motivation and creative problem-solving. However, this video is the first time i’ve ever seen a Bakfiets (or Triporteur) carry itself!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNM9_p0AjnA&feature=related

    it made my Week seeing this.

  153. Feddo Says:

    Regarding the twin bike: a friend of mine has a model made by Azor, and (I think) it differs to some of these (better) designs in that the “tail” sticks out farther past the back wheel/axle, so that the wheelbase pretty much stays the same as a normal bike.

    I think this is how the bike is/was made – I am going by memory and common sense- judging by the fact that my friend always complains that 1) going uphill and applying power the front wheel lifts off the ground, and 2) whenever the weight on the back shifts even a tiny bit, he gets that “counter-lever” (I am not a techie) effect that the front wants to lift up and diagonal. He has dropped the bike numerous times (with kids). TERRIBLE BIKE!
    The reason this

    I am sure Henry can chime in on this, he knows pretty much every Dutch bike of the last few years.

  154. henry Says:

    No, your friend’s bike is not an Azor twin bike. Azor just introduced their twin frame a few months ago and it has a very long rear end.

    Probably what your friend has is a kit installed on a regular bike, which is perhaps an Azor. I forget the name of the manufacturer but there is very long rear carrier available which includes a pair of backrests, padding and footrests for two kids. Nice idea but it puts the weight too far back to handle and park properly.

    Real twin bikes work fine if they’re well designed but their appeal is just somewhat limited.

  155. EthanPDX Says:

    Massively biased as usual. The Bullitt merely represents one solution of many that will form the next wave of cargo bike thought/design. The handling issue is arguably a big problem from a sales standpoint, but it has nothing to do with the actual operation of the bike (took me 1 day to become accustomed to mine). Bullitt’s ride beautifully.

    Judging a Metrofiets from an early prototype or a custom-built bike is likewise dubious. I don’t like the use of “quotes” to cast doubt on their workmanship. No Bakfiets ever won a handmade bike show award . . . their bikes are generally works of art. Had I looked to replace the Bakfiets with something superior but similar in size, I would have chosen a Metrofiets hands down.

    The Bakfiets, with it’s inadequate brakes, high weight and inefficient riding position, will be remembered mostly for it’s quasi-progenitor role (I own one btw), as it is really only suitable for very flat communities. To take that bike seriously anymore, it would have to be made from chromoly and have disk brakes . . . and be competitively priced . . . don’t hold your breath.

  156. josh Says:

    funny, i’ve never heard a complaint about the IM-70 brakes on a Bakfiets, unless it was from someone who goes down a hill regularly and loaded which they only got up with an electric assist motor screwed to the frame. also, no current disk hubs are “cargo rated” –rather they are designed for mountain bike/commuter/hybrid/sport. correction, the Rohloff is rated for cargo use. also, if a bike is a work of art, it should be marketed as that, and not something else. your comments about the bullet are productive, and is the point of this whole thing, so thanks.

  157. EthanPDX Says:

    Never heard a complaint? I spoke at length with a Bakfiets owner in Boston (non-electric btw) who had the brakes fail on the relatively short hill outside his home ( 1 kid onboard). These bikes carry kids much of the time, so this issue is not a philosophical one. He (and I) both replaced the brakes with BR-IM80’s, which actually work quite well and stop the bike with confidence. The Bakfiets (with or without electric assist) can get up to good speeds on even moderate downhills, and the brake inadequacy is well established, which is probably why Clever and other retailers have the IM80’s in stock. A good friend of mine had his IM-70’s lock up on a descent here in Portland, again no electric motor involved. My personal installation of a StokeMonkey does not invalidate my points about the platform’s shortcomings. I do not use said motor to take my bike up into steep terrain, as you imply, but simply to go greater distances a bit faster. I will never agree that the IM-70s are anything but a very bad idea on a heavy cargo bike. Long, loaded descents with cargo bikes will always be potentially problematic unless fitted with drag brakes, but I choose to just avoid that kind of terrain.

    That said, I would take the Bullitt into/down the west hills with a moderate load. Longer/steep descents are only part of the equation. Stopping power is a huge issue with those tiny roller brakes as well. Mt Bikers have long ridden at extremely high speeds in dangerous and rough terrain using the feather-light response of hydraulic disk brakes . . . the assertion in the article that this same capability is somehow dangerous on a bike slated for pavement is not credible. I can and have stopped the loaded Bullitt from 20mph in unbelievably short distances. The only bike I have ever ridden capable of this type of braking is my tandem (with disc brakes on the front). The ability to do this with my pinky fingers if I wanted is a good thing in my book. The brakes are smooth as glass and honestly they have ruined me for the mechanical brakes on my other bikes (discs included).

  158. henry Says:

    Ethan,
    “Massively biased as usual” is quite an accusation. Kindly scan through the last 20 or so blog posts (about half a year) and show us some examples of my “massive bias”. I am biased: toward bikes and cycling, particularly of the utilitarian kind. But really, this post has already been discussed to death and twice re-explained in the introduction. Perhaps you should try putting your extensive experience, knowledge and creativity in your own blog, and then see how it feels when people you don’t know insult you in the comments.

    I disagree with your basic premise that “The Bullitt merely represents one solution of many that will form the next wave of cargo bike thought/design.” Firstly as I’ve noted before the Bullitt and Cargobike are apples and oranges so the comparison is essentially silly but if it has to be discussed again… The Bullitt represents not a new order but two steps forward (lighter, stronger brakes) and many steps back. That weight reduction has come at an enormous reduction in the daily practicality and comfort of the bike. Some hundred or so thousand Cargobikes, Christianias, Fietsfabrieks, Gazelle Cabbys, ‘t Mannetjes and Niholas amongst others are carrying families around as I write. Their riders love them because they can load up several kids and groceries, keep those kids warm in dry under a canopy, store the bike year-round on the street, ride them comfortably in any clothes, flick the dynamo lights on at night, carry a passenger on the rear carrier etc. As cool a bike as the Bullitt is citizen “cyclists” will never make the sorts of compromises necessary to use it. A bike fits their life or it doesn’t. The alloy of metal used to make the tubing or braking technique doesn’t change that fact unless it makes or breaks the utility of the total machine.

    Concerning roller brakes: Yes, I’ve noted a dozen times in these virtual pages that Shimano IM40’s (the basic model rollerbrake) are inadequate for Cargobikes in hilly terrain and not even all that pleasant in a flat city. Before anything better was available we built some Cargobikes with them. Then we switched to the much better IM70’s. We’ve since sold several thousand IM70 rollerbrakes and aside from the annoying rattling of the cable fixation absolutely not a single complaint has made it’s way back to us. Of course that doesn’t mean they can’t wear or fail but it’ a strange case if one does; Either the brake was heavily used without periodically replenishing the special grease, the brake was defective, or the rider really rode it beyond it’s capabilities (which are considerable). IM70’s are now being phased out for IM80’s with a larger diameter, sturdier actuation mechanism… and no cable rattle. To turn your logic around, the IM80’s are totally outdoor life practical brakes that will provide adequate stopping power for all but the hilliest terrain where such heavily loaded bikes aren’t practical anyway.

  159. Jesse Says:

    One thing longtails like the Yuba have that I woud love to see on the fr8 is the running boards. I love the idea that adult passengers have a sturdy place for their feet. I also love the idea that heavy cargo is supported by a metal frame on bottom so I don’t have to worry about it ripping thru the panniers. I want to be able to haul big heavy objects that won’t fit into dutch panniers and I’m not sure how to do that without running boards.

    I’m wondering if it is or ever will be possble to get running boards installed on a fr8 or gr8. I would also love to see a readymade adult passenger seat but I don’t think it would be hard to improvise that.

  160. Todd Edelman Says:

    Jesse, not sure what you mean by adult passenger seat but see here: http://www.pimpjefiets.nl/Webwinkel-Product-2226058/Fietskussen-Mexicaans-Tafelzeil-aardbei-blauw.html

  161. Jesse Says:

    Thanks Todd, that’s exactly what I meant!

    Any suggestions on installing running boards?

  162. Herb Says:

    Another small manufacturer of bakfietsen in North America is True North Cycles (http://www.truenorthcycles.com/true-northwike-box-bike/). The only one in Canada as far as I know. They’ve designed a nice-looking bakfiets/cargo bike, which, like it’s other custom-built bikes is probably well-made. They teamed up with a local bike trailer manufacturer, Wike, to create the boxes. Sadly they don’t seem to be making boxes for carrying kids. You’ll need to order from them directly.

    I’ve tried out the bike briefly so can’t say much about its durability, etc. Looks like it has a nice double tubing reinforcement and has a coupler (http://www.flickr.com/photos/36450622@N03/3655067018/in/set-72157620407207778/) to make shipping easier.

  163. res Says:

    wow- great [long] discussion / article. I am in berkeley and in the market for a utility bike and came across this site. and have test ridden a few, although not very extensively, A couple of comments.

    1. They are all heavy as hell

    2. as a tall rider [6'4"] they are all too small.

    3. Sounds like personal preference has a lot to do with the whole front vs back argument [bakfiets vs yuba] which seems to get lost in the discussion – although I really want a front loader [dad with kids] – i will probably buy a rear loader based on cost; and the fact that metrofiets and joes are backordered like…6 months

    my second concern [being an east bay/SF rider] is hills, which we got. I have a sneaky suspicion that the rear loaders climb better, just based on physics. not really a discussion point, – just instinct. although my experience towing 2 kids in a burley up to grizzly peak was less than pleasant.

    3. I raced on alu. frames for years [road] – they break all the damn time – and, personally I hate the stiffness. That being said; they are still the most value for your average rider and they rarely break under non-stressed [non-race] conditions, again personal preference should rule.

    At the end of the day it is always a cost-to-value ratio, and which the yuba and the fr8 seem to offer a lot of [for diff reasons] with some trade off’s, and may add to the staying power of the long bikes. Nonetheless the front loaders have a certain elegance that cannot be denied and if their averaged price was just a little less of an up-charge, i would be there in a heart beat

    Nonetheless; thanx for the great article and comments.

  164. iamnotacyclist Says:

    It always surprises me how people calculate the cost of things. While most are happy to spend £100 for a bicycle that will disintegrate within a year, they wouldn’t spend £2000 for a bike that can last a couple of decades.
    The way I see it – I spend £2000 up front, then use a comfortable, well made bicycle, which needs almost no attention and maitenance for let’s say ten years, then I will be able to sell it for about £1000. Comes up to around £100 a year – is that really a lot? I don’t think so.
    Anyway with bicycles the equation looks like this in my opinion:
    cost of crap bicycle + maintenance + accessories = cost of good bicycle + maintenance + accessories
    It’s better to spend more on a valuable product than buy a load of crap at a bargain price, no?

  165. EthanPDX Says:

    Notacyclist, I am not sure I would characterize less expensive cargo bikes (Yuba as an example) as cheaply built or prone to any kind of failure. Quite the contrary. 10 to 1 cost difference is like comparing a Bullitt with a department store bicycle . . . affordable longtails are about a 1/3 the cost if memory serves.

    Here in the US, the equation (for me) is not at all about the comparative costs between bikes; it is the comparison with (more common) auto ownership that really should be looked at. Truthfully, the most expensive cargo bike I could ever want is a relative bargain if I opt not to own a car as a result. With that algebra the higher end bikes like the Metrofiets begin to make all kinds of sense and a Bakfiets.nl or Bullitt look absolutely middle range pricewise.

  166. iamotacyclist Says:

    If you look at a bicycle as at an investment (which it is unless it’s purely for recreation and sunday trips) the price stops being such and important thing – you look at what you want to ride, because you know full well that your investment is going to yield a return. And that’s what I meant.

  167. watson Says:

    Josh, the owner of the blue cracked bullit is now making a living by importing them in France. I guess he’s pretty happy after all. Payload Bags

  168. John Says:

    Dear Henry, I think some of your points are total crap… others are spot on… Telling folks not to try anything new and that not to buy anything other than the trad old bakfiets is just plain bad advise. I rode one of those things and hated it.And the guy who owned it rode my bike and loved it and agreed with me. The rider compartment is too crowded, and it’s hard to stand and pedal the beast. The geometry of the bike is just not good. The fork tube is too vertical so when you try to tun sharply the steering feels like it’s going to keep going. And as for the Bullit being crap because it’s aliminum… ask any professional deliver person what kind of handtrucks they use? Guess what… they are all ALUMINUM! Can or will it break? Sure it can happen but I believe that’s the risk of a having a lightweight cargo bike. What I do agree with is that the Francis is a cool bike. I saw it at the NHABS in Sacramneto and it inspired me. You see I’m a bridge builder and I used to design lattice type crane booms. I wanted to make a bike with a mountain bike riders compartment… one that didn’t need a big wooden box. something with a low step through and most of all light strong and lightweight and most of all affordable…. I make them in steel and aluminum, optionally bipartable, and different length cargo areas and different sizes for different size riders. If you want to try one I’ll deliver it so you can try it yourself. Prices for my bikes start at about $1,000

  169. John Says:

    Sorry I directed my comments to you Henry, I now see it’s Josh I should be addressing… and I see he tried and liked the CETMA… so opinions are changing…

  170. Laura Says:

    I’m always mystified that the HPM Long Haul hardly ever rates more than a passing mention in these types of articles. It’s a great bike, with a great ride feel and great steering. It’s been evolved in the HPM shop in Eugene, OR over 20 years of rigorous, real world testing. I wouldn’t hesitate to trust it with 400 lbs, and it comes with a variety of box/flatbed/rack/weatherproof lockbox options.

    It’s $1000 cheaper than the metrofiets while still being locally handbuilt in Oregon. It’s also lighter, weighing in around 55lbs fully built. It’s also the only long-john style cargo bike I know of that you can ride hands-free (so long as your load is balanced). It has a longer cockpit than most long-johns, and height-adjustable handlebars to suit a wider variety of riders. The only drawback I can imagine for some riders is that like the Bullit it lacks a step-through frame, but given the Bullit’s popularity I wouldn’t think that would be a big deal for experienced and committed riders.

    I freely admit that I am fairly biased on this matter, as I did the HPM framebuilding apprenticeship last year and came away with the Long Haul I built in the program. I immediately rode it 840 miles down to the redwoods and back from Eugene, and then used it as my commuter for most of the summer (commuting 20 miles round trip from a farm just outside town). I have ridden this bike thousands of miles with a huge variety of loads, and am completely in love. Also as a note I am a relatively small person (5’3″) and find the long haul pretty easy to handle nonetheless. My friend who is 6’4″ also greatly enjoyed riding it.

    I don’t really understand the Bullit fad but I understand those guys are great at marketing and most people haven’t ever encountered a long john under 80 lbs before. I’m in agreement with Henry about aluminum as an unsuitable material for a cargo bike. It seems the rigidity would adversely affect the ride quality, and while it hasn’t become a problem for the Bullit yet, I imagine that in ten years people who really put it through it’s paces are going to become frustrated with it’s lack of durability under persistent lateral stresses and it’s lack of easy reparability (which is where steel really shines).

  171. henry Says:

    Laura,
    There is no mystery at all about why almost nobody knows about or mentions the HPM Long Haul: HPM has simply done a fantastic job of keeping it a secret and apparently making them exceedingly difficult to acquire. I’ve heard several stories of potential customers trying in vain to purchase a Long Haul, only to be ignored or eventually give up waiting after several months. My only firsthand experience here is that a couple friendly attempts to reach out to HPM never received a response.

    I don’t doubt that an HPM Long Haul is a better value and maybe even simply a better bike than the Metrofiets or the Bullitt but that doesn’t make much difference if no effort whatsoever is made to actually promote or produce the bikes.

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