Bike transport is a constant challenge at Workcycles. People from all over the world mail, call, skype, tweet, facebook, flickr and visit to buy our special bikes but unless they live in the Netherlands actually getting that bike to them can be expensive. Customers are sometimes incredulous at what it costs to ship a utility bike or trike to their home in another country and sometimes respond with something like “But Chain Relaxion will send a crabon racing bike to me for €10.” Perhaps they will but that’s really a horse of a different color. That crabon, Campagimano equipped Pinarosa weighs less than a ciabatta and can be packed, wheels off, in a torsionally stiff, vertically compliant box the size of its compact geometry frame. Further Chain Relaxion ships about a gazillion packages per day so they get enormous discounts from the shipping firms who want them dearly as customers, and really aren’t all that flexible with high-maintenance, low turnover, little customers like Workcycles.
Workcycles on the other hand, ships each week a handful of bikes that often don’t even fit into boxes. Many leave on their own wheels and if they can be boxed those packages at the limits what UPS and FedEx will accept at all, up there in the “special, oversized package” territory. Should the 30kg contents of the big box dare bulge the sides out making it a couple cm wider, UPS will then charge/fine us for the additional volume. The result is that it costs exponentially more to ship a Workcycles bike from A to B than a Pinarosa. Believe me when I say that we’re constantly looking for better options and negotiating with our transporters. That said we’ve made great strides in reducing transport costs over the last few years and can now at least ship a boxable bike (Fr8, Gr8, City bike etc) almost anywhere in the world for a fairly reasonable price. Cargobikes and bakfietsen will remain a challenge, at least until we have the new Kr8 (modular cargobike) ready for sale in 2013.
We’re here to spread beautiful, handy bikes the world over and not to enrich shipping companies so we heartily encourage our customers to get creative with transportation. And creative they often are, ever inventing new methods we didn’t believe possible. Countless customers have carried bakfietsen home in planes. I don’t fully understand how they succeed in evading the ever stricter baggage regulations but they do it. The most incredible was the guy who enlisted the help of a young employee to carry a disassembled XL classic bakfiets to the airport by train and then proceeded to fly with it all to New Zealand via Los Angeles. The airline lost the front axle but I’m still impressed.
Combining a holiday in Amsterdam with picking up your new bike is far more fun than waiting for a truck and holding your fingers crossed that it comes undamaged. We also have the opportunity to adjust the fit, explain the workings of the bike, offer some tips and tricks and generally talk bikes. Many from neighboring countries spend a weekend in Amsterdam or at the Dutch beaches and pick up their new bike(s). Some come by car, others by train. Several have ridden their new bakfietsen to the ferry terminal at Hoek van Holland, taken the ferry to England and then ridden to their homes in the UK. A few have even ridden big, classic bakfietsen (the 100kg, mahogany box, 3-wheel kind) all the way from Amsterdam to Denmark, Germany and Belgium. One fellow rather memorably rode a single-speed, fixed wheel bakfiets to Copenhagen with his girlfriend in the box. He now also runs a taxi service there with that same bike.
Not only can it be cheaper to bring your bike in the plane than to ship it, customers have found that they rarely have to pay import taxes or VAT upon arrival. They just saunter innocently through that “Nothing to Declare” door by Customs at the airport. That typically saves between 10% and 50% of the cost of the bike. If you’ll be exporting your new Workcycles out of the European Union we’ll write you a VAT refund cheque so you can get most of the Dutch 21% VAT (Value Added Tax) back at the airport.
Flying with your bike is a topic too broad to cover in this post but here are some basics:
– Please order your bike well in advance to be sure we’ll actually have it here when you visit. Our lead times vary from a week or so to about two months.
– Workcycles will box your bike up securely, when necessary taking the airline’s baggage rules into account. We can, for example, package some parts separately to keep the main box under a certain weight limit.
– The rules and fees for bringing a bike on board vary wildly between airlines. Some, like Dutch KLM, are simple: the last time I checked it cost €150 to bring a bike of up to 23kg. Other airlines seem to treat bikes randomly. If bringing bikes home is your plan we recommend researching this before purchasing your plane tickets.
A couple weeks ago we were getting quotes to ship a Massive Rack equipped Fr8 to Brussels and Attila, the mechanic building the bike, offered to just deliver it personally if we’d pay him the couple hundred euro that would otherwise go to the trucking company. Sure why not, as long as the bike’s owner is OK with his new baby being ridden a few kilometers before he gets it? We discussed it with said customer and he was fine with the idea, perhaps especially since Attila could then adjust the bike for him and answer questions on the spot.
And of course it went just fine; customer was happy with his new Fr8 and Attila was happy with a free trip to Belgium. Thanks Attila for the initiative and for the fun, fisheye photos. We won’t be able to deliver a lot of bikes personally but we’ll definitely try to do it when the opportunity arises.