Just a couple weeks ago I wrote about our mighty, new Vrachtfiets. But wait, there’s more news at WorkCycles! The WorkCycles Kr8 bike is finally here and (patting self on shoulder) it’s just fantastic! There will actually be two Kr8′s: The two wheeled version of the Cargobike/Long John type seen here, and a linkage steered three-wheeler (wheels turn, box doesn’t). The Kr8 two-wheeler is now available and the trike will be ready later this year. After ten years of selling our Cargobike (Bakfiets.nl sister bike) the Kr8 represents a considerable evolutionary step on every front; It’s much lighter, steers better, has better ergonomics, a better parking stand, more customizable and it can be packed and shipped more easily. Hundreds of important details like the bench seat and its belts have been improved as well.
As with other WorkCycles bikes, the frames and parts are modular. Both Kr8 bike and trike share the same rear end. It’s borrowed from the Fr8 & Gr8, complete with Adaptive Seat Tube which offers great ergonomics to fit practically everybody. Like its siblings the Kr8 will fit riders from somewhat under 160cm to well over 200cm. A huge improvement over our previous Cargobike is the Kr8′s more biomechanically efficient seat tube angle.
Having the Fr8/Gr8 rear end also means that the same rear carriers and accessories fit the Kr8 as well. Two kids on the rear carrier with another four in the box, and one behind the handlebar? Sure, with the Fr8 long rear carrier that’s possible. Can you actually pedal over the bridge like that? No, probably not.
Like the Fr8 and Gr8 the Kr8 also gets WorkCycles’ handy Escape Hatch so the rear tire or inner tube can be easily changed without opening the chaincase or having to adjust drivetrain parts. Separable frames and a box that flat-packs mean that Kr8′s can be packed and shipped more cheaply, with less chance of damage. The Kr8 bike fits in two boxes, each somewhat smaller than those we use for city bikes. WorkCycles exports some 75% of its bikes so the shipping factor is critical.
The Kr8 might very well be the worst kept secret in the history of bikes. We’ve actually been working on them for three years. Why the long development period? The challenge is that Workcycles is ambitious yet small, and we had all that other stuff to do the past few years too. WorkCycles begins production of a new model not on the basis of model years or other marketing based criteria, but when it’s really ready to make customers happy. We vowed that each Kr8 version had to be both unique and better than the competitors on practically every level. So we divided the project up into several components and rolled up our sleeves.
The modular chassis elements described above were the most straightforward part of the project. The rear end is actually a refinement of the unit we’ve been using to build our classic bakfietsen with 8sp gearing and hydraulic brakes. Powerful Magura hydraulic brakes are thus an option on Kr8′s too. These cost more than the standard rollerbrakes but they add braking power for hilly terrain, reduce friction and weight, and make it much easier to fit electric assist. Otherwise Kr8′s will be equipped with maintenance-free Shimano IM80 rollerbrakes.
The front frames are entirely new. The two-wheeled Kr8 has a box of the same length as our previous Cargobike Long, the sister of the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike. The steering geometry, though, has been refined to sharpen its handling and reduce the turning radius. We’ve sold so few short Cargobikes in the last years that we don’t see a need to build one, but we’ll add an Extra Long Delivery version if the demand is there. The new Kr8 trike front end is particularly nice. It’s linkage (ackerman) steered so the box remains fixed while the front wheels turn, car style. That endows it with really easy, stable handling and a remarkably low center of gravity. When the parking brake is engaged with a big handle a foot folds down under the front of the box to prevent tipping. The kids can climb all over this bike with impunity.
Developing a bike chassis might actually be easier than a good passenger compartment, especially one that’s safe, light and flat-packs for shipping. After experimenting with several box concepts we settled on a unique tubular frame with thin wooden panels. It’s several kilos lighter than our current wooden box and more damage resistant too. The current WorkCycles/Clarijs cover and canopy fit the two wheeler’s box and new ones will be designed for the trike. It’s even easy to replace or customize the panels. Want a box with clear, Lexan panels? Aluminium, colored plastic, perforated metal…?
The two-wheeler’s parking stand is also a critical feature yet strangely ignored by most manufacturers. After almost fifteen years on the market Maarten van Andel’s Bakfiets.nl Stabilo stand remained the standard (pun intended) by which others are judged, and all have fallen pathetically short. In it’s current form with magnetic latch the Stabilo is quite good. The Kr8 stand had to be at least as good. It also had to be different, both because Workcycles doesn’t imitate and because the old Stabilo wouldn’t fit the Kr8 anyway. After several tries we’ve succeeded here too. The new Kr8 stand is also a super stable four legger but its simpler, welded construction is more robust. It’s no longer necessary to flip the stand up with your foot; Just roll the bike forward and a spring linkage pushes and holds it up.
As we all know the devil is in the details and there were hundreds of details to work out: routing the cables cleanly, tough and handy benches, trimming weight, engineering the center coupling, making it pretty and actually manufacturable… Just the boxes alone were a big project. The Kr8 two-wheeler is all done and the three-wheeler will follow in a few months. They retain all the goodness of our previous Cargobike yet with improvements throughout:
- The Kr8′s are remarkably light. The two-wheeler is more than 15% lighter than our current Cargobike… and some of the competitors are unspeakably heavy.
- The sitting ergonomics, steering geometry and very low center of gravity make them easy and sporty to ride. The Kr8 is a nice bike
- Kr8 two-wheeler can be boxed for transport throughout the world. With some more development 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 a couple solid evolutionary steps beyond anything else on the market and suitable for a broader range of situations than our previous bikes. The only remaining challenge is to think of better names. Kr8 will stick but how to differentiate the two- and three-wheeled versions? Your suggestions are welcome!