This is WorkCycles’ improvised “photo studio” and a good example of how things look behind the scenes here. We’re a small and flexible firm, and everybody who works here (all seven of us!) has to wear various hats. I’m the director but can sometimes be found in the workshop wrenching bikes though more often I’m “testing products” by riding around the city with kids and cargo. Everybody here is obsessed with bikes and cycling. We get around town by bike, obsessively design bikes, tour on bikes, race bikes, collect old bikes, build cool bikes, Facebook and blog about bikes.
Our love of all things bicycle led WorkCycles to spread its efforts over a broad range of activities, far too broad really. Of course we design, build and sell WorkCycles bikes both via our dealers and directly to customers worldwide. But also we’ve… run two (well-loved) shops, rented bikes and bakfietsen (cargo bikes), repaired most any bike or trike that rolled into our shops, sold Frog kids bikes, Micro run-bikes and scooters, kids helmets and all sorts of accessories. Parts for Dutch (cargo) bikes are difficult to find elsewhere so we’ve been shipping them to customers worldwide. Then there’s also the weird stuff like building special heavy-duty wheels for most of the bicycle taxi firms in Amsterdam, repairing nice old ladies’ old E-bikes that nobody else dares to touch, or building special touring bikes for a family that cycled around the world with kids 8, 9, and 10 all on their own bicycles.
Slowly over the past couple years we’ve been focussing our efforts. First we stopped renting bikes and bakfietsen. Of course we still have a small fleet of demo WorkCycles for customers to borrow and test for a few days. Gone is the time and attention consumed by setting up groups of tourists with bikes, getting calls that they lost the keys, got a flat tire, students bickering about the prices, whatever. It was fun when there were just a half dozen bike rental shops in Amsterdam and those who rented bikes tended to be interested in cycling. Now there are hundreds of bike rental places here (even the cigar shop around the corner!) and riding a bike in Amsterdam is just a must-do item on every tourist’s bucket list.
In 2015 we closed our Veemarkt shop in Amsterdam Oost. We’d been considering this step for several years but it was where I started WorkCycles in 2003 so I couldn’t let go of it. Eventually there was just no escaping the fact that our sales were increasingly outside the Netherlands both via the dealers and end-user direct. Currently more than 75% of WorkCycles’ bikes leave the country so running multiple shops in Amsterdam made no sense, neither economically nor organizationally. It was just unfortunate to leave our many customers in the eastern part of Amsterdam without a good local shop for maintenance.
More recently we’ve been turning away most non-WorkCycles bikes from our workshop. There’s less delay for our regular customers and we can maintain a better stock of the parts needed for our own bikes, instead of for every bike in the city. Maintaining WorkCycles bikes is of course also much more predictable for us which enables the workshop to plan more accurately, making everybody happier.
The more we focus the more smoothly our business runs. Each time we forecast that the turnover will suffer but the cost reduction should compensate. In fact the turnover invariably remains constant or even increases. Why? Probably because we have more time and attention to focus on our core business activities.
What’s next? Big changes are ahead but I’ll let you extrapolate and guess for now. There are a few more minor activities to trim away but we’re also going to make some fairly serious changes to how we do business both locally and abroad. Keep posted for more news.
UPDATE 2015-11-30: OK, it’s finally time to get this back-burner project rolling! We’re sorting out the orders and will have MoreColor print the clothes. Due to popular demand T-shirts and more kids hoodie options have been added. Below I’ve added the full list with prices. Just send a mail with your requests.
Back when WorkCycles was about as much hobby as business I snapped a few photos of a cool bike I’d built for a customer, played around with some Photoshop filters and made a ghostlike image that looked like it’d be cool on a t-shirt or hoodie. My friend Stella (who also created the current WorkCycles logo and graphic style in 2007) cleaned up my amateurish Photochopping and passed it on More Color, our neighbors in the Veemarkt who do really fine, durable silkscreening. They were very popular; For several years we’d have More Color make a fresh batch each autumn. Here below is the original WorkCycles Kruisframe hoodie, modelled by my lovely wife Kyoko.
Eventually we got a little tired of always making hoodies, T-shirts and shop aprons with the same design. Along came Zeptonn, über hip illustrator and new papa. We wanted some new designs and Zeptonn really needed a WorkCycles bike to carry his freshly delivered, precious cargo around Groningen, bicycle capital of the world. Done deal. We like bartering here at WorkCycles!
We were super psyched about our funny new hoodies and T-shirts with our very own family of Amsterdammetjes characters. We had LOTS of them made in anticipation of great demand. We wore them proudly. Our kids wore them proudly. Our customers?… Meh. “Do you have any more of the other kind?” they asked, “You know, the ones with the pastoorsfiets, the bike that seems to hover on your chest?” We still dig the Zeptonn kit and we did eventually sell all of them, but man, it took years to do so.
Is that not just too cute or what?
OK, fine, we’re bike builders not fashion designers. We’re good at designing bikes you love, buy, ride and rave about. Less so when it comes to clothes. I guess I got lucky once.
So now after a couple years’ hiatus it’s high time for more WorkCycles hoodies and aprons. We’ve unfortunately learned that Zeptonn’s worms are just too darn hip for our customers, yet we cannot bear to make more of the originals that everybody keeps asking for. Did I mention yet today how badly we suck at marketing? Probably we could sell the old Kruisframe accessories until the cockroaches take over the earth yet we refuse to do so. Solution to our own self-inflicted problem? Months of fettling and internal strife to create WorkCycles Crossframe Hoodie 2.0!
Introducing our new design. It’s just like the original… only better. Look carefully and you’ll see that the old one was a WorkCycles classic Kruisframe. The new one is a WorkCycles Fr8 Crossframe. Even the graphic design has been refined to help this one to really pop like a sort of neo-retro hologram in your chest.
Above the apron, though of course the new ones will have the new design.
Here’s the thing though; WorkCycles is a little bike company, not a fashion house. We’re just not into maintaining an inventory of clothes in a range of styles, sizes and colors. Displaying them, keeping them clean, folded and organized, helping customers decide which color and size is best… I guess our eyes just glaze over while we stress about the all the bikes to build and ship.
We’re keeping it simple this time. We’ll do a run of hoodie sweatshirts for adults and kids, T-shirts and shop/kitchen aprons. As always the stuff will be nice, heavy, long wearing cotton. Our previous tries with organic cotton have been disappointing; They just weren’t of the same quality as the evil cotton versions. The kids’ hoodies were a hit last time so we’ll do those again too, sizes TBD. The aprons will be, as always, long and heavy-duty, equally handy for protecting your clothes in the workshop, kitchen or behind the summer BBQ. Color options? Everything in black, black or black baby! OK, except for the kiddie hoodies which come in some colors, because they have to.
Most of the run will be sold on a pre-order basis. We’ll print a handful more for stock but if you want one I really recommend the preorder. Once these are sold out I have absolutely no idea when we’ll have more made.
Prices (all Ex VAT): – Hoodies S-XXL, black, black or black €40 – Kids’ Hoodies size 2-3, navy blue or pink €30 – Kids’ Hoodies size 4-5, black or pink €35 – Kids’ Hoodies size 6-7, black or pink €35 – T-Shirts S-XXL, black, black or black €20 – Aprons, heavy duty black €25
How to Order: Send a mail to peopleatworkcyclesdotcom. Please include… – Your name – Address, City, Postal code, Country – Phone number (we need it for shipping) – What you’d like to order in which sizes
Payment can be by PayPal, credit card or bank but please don’t mail any payment info. We’ll reply with the options and a secure link.
We’re happy to ship them anywhere in the world but unfortunately shipping small items outside Europe tends to be too expensive. Maybe you want to purchase a new WorkCycles bike have the hoodie shipped along with it?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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?
Last Saturday morning two masked men ran into our Veemarkt shop, put a gun to my head, waved a knife in my face, and moments later ran off with a few hundred euro in cash. I was alone since Wesley had just ridden a bakfiets full of trash off to the recycling center down the road. There wasn’t much I could do aside from stand still and subtly try to stay away from the knife the punk repeatedly threatened to slash me with without provoking him to actually do so. Several times he screamed at me “Where’s the cash?! Where’s the register?!” but it was obvious that his pistol wielding buddy had already cased the joint. He ran right upstairs to the correct drawer in the correct desk before I said a word. (more…)
Much of the world is now (re)discovering the joy and practicality of cycling for transportation, often blissfully unaware of how it’s been done elsewhere for a century. So, to use an obvious expression, they’re reinventing the wheel with, as a few examples… (more…)
Workcycles has been nominated “Best Bike Shop of Amsterdam”. We certainly believe that’s true so if you’d like to make this an official reality we’d really appreciate your vote. And there’s a bonus: Voting enters you to win a specially built Workcycles bike!
Being an American who’s founded and runs a bike company in the Netherlands, bicycle capital of the world is considered newsworthy by some so I periodically get interviewed. I’m certainly happy to have the opportunity both as marketing value for WorkCycles and also just to speak my mind. I’ll admit that it’s also fun to act like a mini celebrity in my little pond.
“Red Kite Prayer” is a blog for the cycling enthusiasts that many amongst the ranks of transportation cycling proponents decry… entirely missing the point of course. Most of the articles there involve the professional racing scene, high-end racing bikes etc. It happens to be amongst the best reads in the business, with humor, engaging discussions and nice photography. Just to make my point for the 100th time: Transportation cycling and recreational/competitive cycling are not at odds with each other. They’re just different.
The Vogelvrije Fietser, monthly magazine of the Dutch Cyclists Union (Fietsersbond) recently talked to me about some of the industrial applications for Workcycles bikes. You can download it here. It’s in Dutch but the photos are great.
The September issue of German travel magazine GEO Saison has a article in which I give a little tour of some of my favorite spots around Amsterdam’s cozy Jordaan district (where WorkCycles larger shop is). Unfortunately it’s not available online.
Before I moved to the Netherlands in 2000 I was hardly aware of carrier bikes, especially anything more exotic than a Schwinn Cycle Truck or Worksman hot dog cart. Even in cycling capital of the world Groningen where I first lived here transport bikes were very uncommon. The streets were swarming seas of cyclists but everybody just rode normal Dutch bikes. The only unmotorized bakfiets I recall was a loaner at a second hand shop called Mamamini. It was big, old fashioned bakfiets just we sell at WorkCycles. Mamamini even shows the bakfietsen in front of their stores on their website. But somehow that trike didn’t interest me. Maybe it just seemed too absurd, as if it were just a prop. In reality these bikes are actually quite easy to ride as long as the terrain is flat.
But in Groningen I met Marjette, crazy about bikes, probably ten centimeters taller than me and fond of riding her bike in absurdly short skirts. Marjette had (and still has) a hand-built carrier bike of a type I’d never seen before (not that that was a challenge). It’s a Long John type bike cobbled together from an old city bike, a folding bike, an upright from a heavy duty shelving system and random scrapyard bits. Most importantly it has a big rack in the middle to carry stuff: a couple crates of beer, a fridge or a chest of drawers etc. It might be crude but it is strong. The steering system was very cranky making the bike difficult to ride but after tweaking it here and there and lubricating the pivot points it was much more manageable. In any case that relationship didn’t last long but the obsession with transportfietsen stuck with me.
How Marjette got this bike is a good story in itself. It was made by the neighbor of an acquaintance who lived on a boat in the Oostelijk Eilanden (eastern islands) area of Amsterdam. This is the 19th century docklands area where WorkCycles Veemart shop is also located. Like a handful of the area residents this guy had a yard full of rusty, old stuff. Marjette brought him 20 liters of paint from a Groningen paint factory where you could get “seconds” paint for free. As payment Marjette could choose something from the scrap pile. She chose the Long John bike and believes the guy was very happy she didn’t go for the motorcycle next to it.