WorkCycles 2014: Good Stuff Coming!

happynewyear-2014 (1)
That’s my family and I; a “selfie” in Lego if you will

Each first of January I wish everybody a happy, healthy and productive New Year though I have to come clean that this is my least favorite holidays. To begin with it’s on the wrong day of the year. The Gregorian calendar, and the Julian calendar that preceded it, are based on the relationship of earth and sun, the year changing with the winter solstice. Being here in dark Northern Europe I’m all for celebrating the days getting longer. The solstice, however, is on December 21 ten days before New Years Eve. The day we call December 31 is nothing special. Talk about getting off to a bad start! I also have other, more practical reasons, to dislike New Years but I’ll quit whining for a moment and talk about good stuff.

WorkCycles had a great 2013 and 2014 promises be even better. For the past few years we’ve been busy restructuring to run more efficiently, help our customers better, and just have more fun doing what we do. It was a lot of work but there comes a point in the growth of many firms when the management recognizes that disruptive changes are necessary to iron out quirks that hinder the business. These quirks get built in by the founder (yes that’s me), often an expert in his field but not in running a business (that’s me too). More strangeness gets added organically through the years by the staff the founder assembles. The trick to such a process is not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Many a firm becomes generic and ultimately irrelevant at this stage, after they strip out exactly what made them unique. We’ve been extra vigilant to avoid this because, frankly, I would have stuck with my corporate career had I wanted an easy, boring way to earn a living.

Meanwhile we’re launching not one but THREE really cool new bikes in 2014.The long awaited Workcycles Kr8 cargobike and trike represent big evolutionary leaps for the family utility vehicle (FUV?) world. Hey, FUV, I just made that up and I like it! Anyhow these bikes build on the success of the popular Fr8 and Gr8. The big Vrachtfiets cargo quad marks the start of a new partnership. More about these below but first more boring business lessons since you might not read it if the fun stuff came first.

Prinsengracht one fall morning 1
A random pretty picture I took a few weeks ago. Much nicer to look at than business stuff.

It isn’t sexy marketing to tell the world how you’ve thoroughly analyzed your business and then custom built a Enterprise Resource Planning system to help manage practically every aspect of it. Handy it is though for working faster and more accurately, for streamlining the order process, communication, work flow and bookkeeping, to help employees know what we have, what it costs and where it comes from. We looked at dozens of packages but none fit Workcycles strange needs. We’re a small firm yet we do many different things: R&D, import, export, consumer, B2B and dealer sales, assembly, repair, rentals, even occasionally consulting. Several ERP suppliers politely said “No, we can’t do that.” Mega huge SAP told us “Yes, we can do that!”… but at a price more appropriate for a firm twenty times as big as Workcycles. Once satisfied that we’d figured out what we did and didn’t need we set out to build our own system, based on a time-tested database platform. We were willing to make compromises and reconsider how we do some things but changing the nature of WorkCycles was out of the question; We enjoy doing what we do. Though it’s far from easy, it is unique and has earned us a loyal customer base.

This transformation process has been several years in the making and our home-brewed ERP system is only a part of it. Some changes were less fun. Take, for example, dumping the accountant who’d made a mess of our administration, tediously working with our new accounting firm to reorganize and re-file several years of corporate bookkeeping. As if that wasn’t enough of a time waster the Dutch tax service hassled us every step of the way because they now owed us a huge tax refund. They repeatedly demanded the most bizarre evidence to back up the reinstated administration… nonsensical wild goose chases such as all of the purchase invoices above €500 from this and this and this quarter, but only for these and these types of goods. Each time we dutifully supplied the requested hundreds of pages of info they came back with new demands, making it obvious the tax inspector knew and cared nothing about actually running a business. After half a year of this our case got passed to another inspector who looked it over, approved it and got us paid in short order. What a pain in the ass that was. But we got our money back and together with our new accountants and ERP we’ve completely streamlined our administration process. Word of advice for those starting a business: Learn enough about corporate finance and bookkeeping to structure your company appropriately from the beginning. Choose your accounting firm carefully. Yeah, I see your eyes glazing over, that you just want to make bikes or software or do whatever it is you dig doing. Really though, it’ll eventually mean the difference between running a successful business, plodding along between crises and frustration, and going bankrupt.

Dylan "acting" for TV show 5
Here’s Dylan doing business as usual, trying to ignore the attention.

Meanwhile I think we did a pretty good job of keeping these distractions from disturbing our daily business. There wasn’t much time or energy for developing new products in 2011 and 2012 but our sales remained steady and we kept building our bikes as carefully as ever. Our ever improving organization is not only better internally; it’s reflected in how we treat our customers and ultimately that’s the point. There’s much more to come. Amongst many other functions we’re working on keeping the service histories of customers’ bikes in order to signal certain types of maintenance, to keep track of issues, to see problem patterns and so on.

street of banger waste
I dug this old, badly scanned photo of New Year’s residue in the Amsterdam Jordaan streets to show what goes on here. Imagine an entire city setting off so much fireworks that it looks like this everywhere.

That’s enough boring business stuff. Here’s another reason I dislike New Year’s: Spending an entire day hopelessly attempting to calm a crying three year old freaked out by the fireworks. You haven’t experienced New Years in Amsterdam or another European city? The cracking, booming, flashing fireworks begins a day or two early and builds to a deafening war zone in the evening. This is not the organized, pretty fireworks of the American 4th of July. No, this is populist anarchy in explosions being set off everywhere simultaneously. At midnight all hell breaks loose for an hour or so and then it finally begins to subside.

Now that you’ve successfully waded though my holiday rant and exciting tale of business management I can give you the juicy news… New WorkCycles bikes are coming!

vrachtfiets on roof
One of the first Vrachtfiets Cargos at work delivering groceries in Brussels, BE.

First up is the Vrachtfiets, a really big, heavy-duty cargo hauler on four wheels that can do things pretty much no other bike can. It’s tough like a traditional Dutch bakfiets yet thoroughly modern with an ingenious suspension system and industrial strength electric assist. It’s a robust, highly engineered workhorse that can carry a two cubic meter load. That’s a bigger load than many small delivery vans. Thus the name “Vrachtfiets, Dutch for “Freight Bike”.

At WorkCycles we’d long been considering the possibilities for a big transport bike for businesses and municipalities. The Vrachtfiets guys needed a partner with bike expertise and a way to promote and sell their bike. Add a super efficient, Dutch metalworking firm to build them and the partnership is complete. The first series of production Vrachtfietsen will be available in early 2014 and will be sold in the Amsterdam region in order to follow them closely. Ideally the first bikes will land in the hands of customers who can provide handy feedback and we’ll offer perks in exchange. Later they’ll be sold worldwide.

The Vrachtfiets’ electric assist enormously extends the range and capabilities of a bakfiets. It can climb hills and has hydraulic disk brakes on all four wheels to safely descend them too. Four wheels with suspension make Vrachtfiets super stable and easy to ride.

Vrachtfiets-pickup-multi
Vrachtfiets open Pick-Up version.

The Vrachtfiets carries its load behind the rider so it’s much less limited in volume than a classic bakfiets. The standard load platform is a full 200cm long and 100cm wide and low to the ground. Tall loads won’t impair the rider’s vision and the platform remains fixed when turning. We’ll begin with two basic load platforms: the Pick Up (open) and the Cargo (box). Accessories such as a windscreen and a range of modular box options will be added as needed. Like other Workcycles bikes customization is always an option. How can you put Vrachtfietsen to work?

Stay tuned. We’ll be putting up more Vrachtfiets info here and on the WorkCycles site in the coming weeks.

sinterklaas-intocht-amsterdam-on-workcycles-bakfietsen 2
I’ve no good photos of finished Kr8’s yet so here’s are some of our R&D staff in action testing a prototype Kr8’s fun factor.

But wait, there’s more! After three years in the works the WorkCycles Kr8 bakfietsen are finally coming! There are actually two Kr8’s:
1. A highly evolved two wheeled version of the Cargobike/Long John type with a box the same length as our current Cargobike Long.
2. A linkage steered three-wheeler (wheels turn, box doesn’t) with really easy, stable handling. It’s a trike that’s actually pleasant to ride.

Typical WorkCycles, the frames and parts are modular. Both models use the same rear end. It’s borrowed from the Fr8 & Gr8, complete with Adaptive Seat Tube (great ergonomics for everybody) and Escape Hatch (easy tire change). Two-part frames mean that Kr8’s can be packed and shipped more cheaply and with less chance of damage.

The front frames, boxes and parking stands are all new. The boxes are unique, combining a tubular aluminium frame with lightweight wooden panels. They look great, are tough and repairable, and even flat-pack for shipping.

The Kr8 two-wheeler is all done and the first examples will be delivered in February. The three-wheeler will follow a few months later. They retain all the goodness of our current Cargobike yet with improvements throughout:

– The Kr8’s are remarkably light. The two-wheeler is almost 20% lighter than our current Cargobike. The trike is only a little heavier – very light for a three-wheeler.
– The sitting ergonomics, steering geometry and very low center of gravity make them easy and sporty to ride.
– Kr8 two-wheeler can be boxed for transport throughout the world. Soon the trike will be as well.
– They look great and can be readily customized with special colors and features.

Needless to say we’re really proud of our new babies. They’re each a couple solid evolutionary steps beyond anything else on the market and suitable for a broader range of situations than our current bikes.

Oh wait, I almost forgot that stupid thing about New Year’s “resolutions”. Which genius came up with the idea that suddenly, ten days after the winter solstice, you’re supposed to start doing something you didn’t previously do? My humble opinion: If it’s worth doing wouldn’t you already be doing it already?

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22 Responses to “WorkCycles 2014: Good Stuff Coming!”

  1. Aaron Says:

    I am waiting for you to come out with the WorkCycles H8r. That’s the one I want.

  2. henry Says:

    Aaron (and others),
    Maybe you can help us speed up the H8r development process by telling us some of the features it should have. Looking forward to the responses.

  3. ubrayj02 Says:

    The H8r should have a full crabon front fork and ceramic bearings in the pedals.

  4. Rowan de Bonaire Says:

    Holy Modular Quadricycles Batman! This looks excellent so far. I have had experience running a loadbike business in York, UK, using Cycles Maximus trikes. Once we put pedelec assistance on them, not only was it transformative, but in terms of the “is it really a bike” comments, well despite the lack of a wheel, it was actually heavier and less bike-like than this proposal. I also owned a Brox quad, and was friends with its manufacturer, the late Rob Brock. That too was definitely a ‘cycle’, and with power assist (which I did not fit as they were not so prolific 12 years ago) it would have been similar to this. Some Broxes still run around ‘Dam I noticed. Anyhoo, the only downside with Brox was the lack of frame articulation in the Mark 1 model, leading to lifting wheels and lost traction. When AVD developed their quad, Brox quickly adopted articulation and the problem was solved. I wish this project well, and I’m sure it has a future. Our little parcel delivery co-op was before it’s time. It’s time is now!

  5. Rowan de Bonaire Says:

    The H8r definitely needs to come with drop handlebars, covered in white tape.
    A full matching lycra kit will be sold with the bike – in white again.
    Definitely have an integrated locking system which will not release until the clasp on a helmet strap has been engaged, ensuring maximum H8 from the internets.
    Clearance for 25mm tyres only.
    33-speed conversion on a SRAM dual-drive hub, with triple chainset and Schlumpf speed drive. The resulting 198 gears should just about do it for the fixie lobby!

  6. Patrick Barber Says:

    The Kr8 trike looks amazing! Does it have/can it easily accommodate a dyno hub? If it does I will stamp my feet and hold my breath until mummy buys me one.

  7. Mackey Says:

    The H8r would need to have aged and yellowed pie plates (performance model could have front pie plates as well). I feel that it should probably have roughly dutch bike geometry but with full aero tuck bars.

    Seriously though, 2014 looks awesome for you.

  8. Nicolas Says:

    I want crabon skirtguards on my H8r. Merry new 2014!

  9. henry Says:

    Should the H8r not be a fixed gear with electronic shifting and a gargantuan red hub that talks to your iPhone? It’d be totally epic and we could curate them in creative colorways.

  10. henry Says:

    Patrick,
    Unfortunately no, there’s no dynamo hub option on the Kr8 trike. As you probably realize it’s difficult to do with single-sided front hubs.

    I’m considering an (optional?) upgrade to Magura hydraulic disk brakes and if we do that it will be possible to build a wheel with a (very expensive) SON hub dynamo. Mind you we’re adding several hundreds of money units to the price with such niceties. You could put three very nice battery powered LED lights on the bike for much less.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Great news about your new bikes in the pipeline but it would be lovely to see some pics of the new two wheeler.

    I’m in Surrey in the UK and am in the market for a 2 wheel cargobike, so do I wait? Act in haste, repent at leisure?

    More info asap would be fantastic.

  12. henry Says:

    Anonymous,
    I’d seriously recommend waiting a bit. We’ll be shipping Kr8 two wheelers by the early March or so. It’s such a big step forward from the existing bikes that the rather short wait is justified, especially in the middle of winter.

    Some hints for how it will look:
    1. The box construction and rear frame are the same as on the Kr8 three-wheeler shown above.
    2. Rear frame looks just like Workcycles Fr8 & Gr8.
    3. Components are almost the same as the current WorkCycles Cargobike, which is almost the same as the Fr8 and Gr8 as well.
    4. Box cover and Canopy are the same as current Cargobike – backwards compatible so to say.
    5. Like Fr8/Gr8 the mudguards are painted to match or contrast.
    6. You can choose either no rear carrier, Gr8 or Fr87 carrier.

    Starting price for the NN8D (8sp, roller brake) version is €2000 including VAT.

  13. fab Says:

    wow – the two wheeler sounds great!

    since i am considering an upgrade from a short cargobike (the family has grown meanwhile…) i would have some questions:

    – will there be an (optional) suspension fork? would that even be an advantage for longer and faster commutes with children in the box, partly on cobblestone streets? and/or will the big apple plus 55mm fit? i use those on my normal bike and i think they are more comfortable than the 47mm marathons.

    – will there be an electrified version (for the long school run…) ?

  14. henry Says:

    fab,
    There’s really no need for a suspension fork because the wheelbase is very long and the long frame is vertically compliant. It would also only be a hindrance to designing the bike ideally since the clearances around the front wheel and frame are very tight.

    Fatter tires will fit but I don’t recommend them. We’ve tested various tires and the Fr8 (or a current WorkCycles Cargobike) handles much better with the Schwalbe Marathon than other tires.

    A robust electric assist system is an option and it adds about €1500 (including VAT) to the price.

  15. Roger Says:

    Good stuff indeed! I just would have liked to have it equipped more
    convenient for out-of-NL use…
    We have bad roads where balloon tires give kids a smoother
    ride and disc brakes let us stop more reliable in hilly areas.
    I´m not talking about sometimes overrated high-end solutions but reasonable, proofed, safe and simple equipment like the single-sided hubs
    with mechanically operated disc brakes on the Flevo Greenmachine. Even
    the cheap chinese made brakes on the single-sided hubs on a danish
    Christiania trike do the job!

  16. henry Says:

    Roger,
    We’re investigating disk brake systems for the three wheeler but the brake upgrade for the two-wheeler is Magura HS33 hydraulic rim brakes. They might not be sexy but they are fantastic brakes; powerful, reliable and practically zero maintenance. Much better than disks for this application. What more do you need for out-of-NL use?

    FWIW I like Christiania trikes but their mechanical brakes are absolutely awful. They make a good bike into a very mediocre bike.

    As I noted fat tires will fit in the Kr8 two-wheeler but the profile of the Marathon is unique and just makes the bike handle better. 55mm tires will fit though, if you insist.

  17. patrick Says:

    Henry, thanks for the info. I’m well aware of the limitations of trikes vis a vis dynamo hubs, alas. Was hoping you’d worked out some magical thing.

    Fwiw we upgraded the front disk brakes on our Christiania trike to Avid Bb-7s a few years back. Still mechanical, but a much much better performance thank the junk that was provided as stock.

    Also fwiw, we do fine with Marathon tires in our non-NL home. And i tried using 2.25″ big dummy tires for a spell, but they were nowhere near as durable and didnt add much in the way of comfort. I find that a few layers of blankets on the floor of the box do a lot to mitigate bumps and rattling.

    Cheers all, can’t wait to give these new machines a test ride.

  18. Tien Says:

    I’ve read that the KR8 is suitable for shorter riders from 150cm. Please confirm. I’m 156cm and my hubby is 178cm. Would the 2-wheeler be suitable with seats that are easily adjustable for both. We intend to use the cargobike or 2 young kids + medium sized dog.

    Please let me know when the bike is available to order. Please may i have the power assisted version? We are thoroughly excited that you are catering for short riders too.

  19. henry Says:

    Tien,
    The first series Kr8’s have a Fr8-based rear end and in half a year or so it’ll be replaced by a Gr8 type rear frame (2cm smaller). We officially say that Fr8’s fit riders from roughly 160cm and up. That said there are also many riders under 160cm happily riding Fr8’s. My 160cm wife rides our Fr8 with the seat post extended by about 5cm and her 150cm mom rides the same bike when she’s in Amsterdam. We also have a couple tricks to lower the seat by a few cm when needed. So, in short, unless your legs are particularly short for your height you should be just fine on even the first series Kr8.

    The maximum rider size is far larger than your hubby’s 178cm so no worries there. Yes with our Adaptive Seat Tube geometry the bike can be easily adjusted for each of you.

    We’ve already sold a handful of Kr8’s in Amsterdam and they’ll be delivered in the coming weeks. We’re taking orders. When those first bikes are complete we’ll take photos and put the Kr8 on our website of course.

  20. Jon Says:

    Hi Henry

    Could you provide some details on the differences and similarities between the current cargo bike long and the new Kr8?

    Will you still be producing the cargobike long?

    Thanks

    JP

  21. Pauli / Liikkuva Laatikko Says:

    I am also hoping some good solution for trike lights on the coming Kr83. Usability of battery lights is usually not good. You will need to switch those on and off all the time. If you forget that, you will cycle without lights. And batteries run empty if you don´t shut them down (or kids turn those on). There are some automatic battery lights that switch on automatically when it is dark and they sense some motion. These could work? Newest versions REELIGHT might also work, but I haven´t tried those yet.

    However, some dynamo lights would be nice at least as an upgrade option. In Oulu for example sun is up for 4 hours in December compared to Amsterdam´s 9 hours..

  22. henry Says:

    Pauli,
    We just heard from Sturmey Archer that they’re going to begin making their 70mm and 90mm drum brakes, not only with single-sided axle (already available), but also with hub dynamo. So yes, we’ll be able to fit the Kr8 Trike with dynamo lighting after all.

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