Archive for the ‘Product reviews and rants’ Category

WorkCycles Fr8 “Massive Rack”

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Passing through the workshop the other morning I noticed there were four Massive Rack equipped WorkCycles Fr8’s being serviced, all from different Amsterdam customers. Each were quite unique bikes as well. Electric assist via a hub motor was being installed on the black and froggy green one. The battery will go under a false floor in the wooden crate.

The China green and green bike distributes books (can carries a bulldog) “De Wolleff en de Seve Geitjes” refers to a hilarious book he wrote and illustrated with Sacha Serano. The wolf and the seven goats is twisted version of a Grimm story told in pretty much the roughest possible “Plat Amsterdams” (Amsterdam dialect) language and style. My 8 year old son and I laugh ourselves into tears reading it aloud to each other.

The silver grey one is ridden by a local artist. The parts were actually hot dipped in zinc to galvanize them. It looks awesome and will never rust but it was such a pain in the butt to build it up afterwards that we’ll never, ever do that again.

The black and red Fr8 is just wicked cool. Just about everything on it is black… unless of course it’s red. Its owner also has a nearly identical bike in grey and orange. Just because he loves them.

Anyhow back to the Massive Rack. In principal it was designed for delivery and industrial transport but it’s just super handy so a fair number of them are being used by parents (compact bakfiets), artists, photographers and other small business owners.

The Massive Rack is securely mounted (with six bolts) to the Fr8’s frame. It doesn’t turn with the handlebars and front wheel when you steer so it has almost no influence on steering and handling. It fits either Fr8 Universal or Cross frame and can be combined with other Fr8 accessories such as the front child saddle and advertising board.

Any standard Euronorm 60x40cm crate or box fits perfectly in the Massive Rack and you can either bolt the crate down or secure it with a strap or clips to make it removable. Alternatively you can make a deeper crate to increase the volume. As for a maximum load capacity we’re not really sure. 100kg is absolutely no problem. 150kg won’t break it either but you’ll have to pump the front tire quite hard to steer well.

Maybe the most brilliant part of the Massive Rack is its integrated parking stand. At 65cm wide the bike stands as solidly as a house when parked. To deploy the stand just push it down with you foot and roll the bike back a little. Roll the bike forward and the spring-loaded stand folds up automatically behind the front wheel. It’s far enough from the pedals that you’ll never hit it with your feet and high enough from the ground that it cannot bottom out when cornering.

Just in the Nick of Time!

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Whether I’ve the time or not, or a burning topic to write about is utterly irrelevant. I just noticed that in four days it’ll be a YEAR since I last added a post to Bakfiets en Meer. Jeetje, I’m sucking at this blog thing. Fortunately the blogging conditions are ideal today; The weather is too miserable for cycling and I’ve got a cold anyway. Here we go, and we’re going to begin with some photos I took at Bike Motion the local “sporty” bike expo in October. I like bike expos. You’re always guaranteed a mix of cool new gear, tons of boring generic stuff and mind blowingly stupid shit. Bike Motion 2014 was no exception.

Even though it’s in utility cycling paradise the Netherlands Bike Motion is a show for the sporty bikes. You see we ride those here too, all kinds of them actually. After riding two kids to school on my WorkCycles Fr8 transportfiets I sometimes go the the local Velodrome to train for my hobby: track racing. I was a decent endurance trackie (the kind of racers that sprinters think are roadies and roadies think are sprinters) when I was younger. I got back into the sport a couple years ago but am just now finally getting my act together to bring in some results.

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I’m the old dude in black and yellow Gaul.nl kit racing against the young studs. I do OK too.

If the weather’s OK I often spend my Fridays riding through the countryside for five or six hours. One of my favorite routes is through the dunes, sometimes from Bloemendaal aan Zee down to Scheveningen and back through the bulb fields. Other Dutchies go touring, do ride cyclosportives or race BMX, or even ride mountain bikes here. Never mind that there are no mountains. The Dutch are creative and flexible in their thinking.

MTB Wedstrijd Noordwijk 2014 10
This is my son P1, then five, tearing it up on his little 20″ wheeled mountain bike in Noordwijkerhout. Coach Randy is following his motivated student. We learn ’em young here!

Modern mountain bikes, though, leave me cold. I’m sure there were hundreds of them at Bike Motion but I didn’t notice or take pictures of them. I’m still happy with the old skool bike I built back around 1990. Mostly I really dig riding with my son, just getting a kick out the fact that it can actually enjoy trail riding with such a little kid. When the trail is tight he just flies, sliding that teeny bike around like he was born with it on his feet. At 19kg he climbs hills like a scalded cat too. In a few years he’ll kick my ass and badly.

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Yeah, Old Skool, that’s my mountain bike!

In no particular order here’s some stuff I found worthy of taking pictures of a few months ago:

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In the fairly useless but still cool department was this UNDER 2500g fixed gear bike by Carbonreparaties.nl. I hefted it with my very own fingers and felt no reason to doubt the claim. It was bizarrely lacking in mass. Exactly what one does with such a bike isn’t clear but it’s nonetheless neat that somebody built it. It’s in the same category as fully functional model-sized V12 engines and musical performances made with offshore fog horns. Guy stuff.

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Moving on toward more useful developments the availability of steadily fatter, high quality road tires is a trend we’re happy to see. The 1990’s was a low point in tiredom with horrible, harsh riding, super skinny 19 and 20mm jobs. Those fortunately disappeared in favor of 23mm as a standard. Like many others in the last couple years I’ve gone from 23mm to 25mm on most of my wheels and would try 27-28mm for rougher conditions. I managed to flat in two of two cyclo sportives last year and believe that at least one of those (a pinch flat while descending at eyeball rattling speed) could have been avoided with a bigger volume tire. I’m riding 25mm Veloflex tires on the road but these 27mm Challenges look a lot more than 2mm bigger. In fact the 25mm Veloflex measures the same as a 23mm Continental and for that matter only 1mm bigger than the 22mm Veloflex Records on my track training wheels (with narrower rims no less). In other words take manufacturer’s size designations with a grain of salt and measure stuff yourself.

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Another development WorkCycles has been following are toothed belt drives, with an eye toward them being practical for utility bikes. They offer some advantages over chains but for various reasons just haven’t yet been practical for WorkCycles utility bikes: mainly that they’ve been too expensive, require too much precision and that the belt preload stresses internal gear hubs. Chatting for some time with the fellow at Gates we came to the realization that we were acquaintances from way back when. It was Frank Scurlock who I knew from various bike industry firms in California. It seems Gates is aware of these issues and is busy with a new belt system for 2016 or so that should make the belt practical for bikes like ours. It’ll be more fault tolerant and a wider pitch will enable cheaper cogs and rings (i.e. molded plastic, cast metal etc). The currently available city bike cranks, chains and cogs wear disappointingly quickly, sometimes under hard use within a year for a set. We’re thus curious to see what Gates comes up with.

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Gates belt drive: Promising. Mando Footloose “hybrid drive”: Stupid. I’d seen this thing getting blogged up and touted in social media but hadn’t yet seen it in the flesh. Seriously, if this is the future of cycling I’ll just walk. The Mando Footloose is dubbed the first “hybrid” electric bike, meaning that there’s no direct, mechanical connection between the cranks and the rear wheel. Like a diesel locomotive the cranks power a generator which charges a battery. The motor in the rear hub is then powered by the battery. Even using aerospace quality components (which they’re most certainly NOT using) you’d be lucky to achieve much better than 50% efficiency. Compare that to well over 90% for even a dirty chain drive. Even appalling efficiency numbers aside the system removes the feeling of a direct connection between pedaling force and forward motion. Nooooooooooo!

Sure, I understand the potential advantages of a chainless drive system. It’s clean. You could potentially use a folding geometry that wouldn’t be practical with a chain in the way. Well actually I running out of advantages right there. So basically it’s an interesting idea for a folding bike. Why then does is this beast remain enormous when folded and why is it sooooo friggin’ heavy?! I don’t mean “heavy” as in heavier than my 9kg Brompton. I mean “heavy” as in almost impossible to lift at all, and it’s not even cleverly designed to roll along on it’s own wheels when folded.

Why else is the Footloose totally stupid? It’s touted as a practical development yet there’s no provision for carrying anything, no lights and it sports only vestigial fenders. The saddle height is only minimally adjustable. And it’s fuckin’ UGLY!

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The Mando’s little pedal mounted kickstand is kinda cute though even that isn’t nearly as convenient as the foot operated one it replaces. Can’t the thing just balance like a Segway?

henry's 1980ish DeRosa

While we’re enjoying being snarky critical let’s talk about De Rosa for a minute. Back in the day when men were men and sheep ran scared De Rosa was one of the most highly regarded Italian race bike builders. Eddy Merckx always rode De Rosas, even when he wasn’t supposed to be riding De Rosas. I rode a De Rosa too for what that’s worth, though mine seemed to be something of a Friday afternoon Chianti job. The geometry is rather strange, the cast seatstay caps have their De Rosa logos upside down and I broke one of the diamond shaped chainstays after only ten years of racing and training. It was and still is pretty though, and it’s for sale in case you’re interested.

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They now build boxy carbon frames with the most hideous graphics in the business. I was planning to snark about how De Rosa just sells frames made in the far east but I just did a little last minute research and discovered that they still build all of their frames (even the boxy carbon ones) in their own workshop in Cusano Milanino, Italy. Well takes the wind out of my snarky sails. OK, never mind… good on you De Rosa for maintaining your own Italian production while your competitors sell generics sourced in China. Do please hire a better graphic designer though.

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Speaking of local production the craft of custom framebuilding had almost disappeared in the Netherlands. Back in the day (see above) there were hundreds of Dutch frame builders. Hand built steel frames have had something of a revival in the US and to a lesser extent in the UK, Italy and elsewhere. In the NL though there seemed to be no emotion for the craft element of cycling. RIH, the last of the famous builders retired and closed his doors a couple years ago. RIH was legendary for building dozens of world championship winning bikes in their long history and an Amsterdam Jordaan icon. Wim van der Kaaij’s shop was around the corner from WorkCycles. Around the same time that Wim was retiring local interest in hand-built bikes was finally emerging and a number of young Dutch framebuilders were getting started. The bike above is from St. Joris Cycles in Eindhoven who builds really clean looking full custom bikes.

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Many cyclists in Amsterdam lamented the loss of RIH though and just couldn’t let this iconic make disappear. There was continuous rumor and speculation of a restart, despite Wim van der Kaaij being in his late 70’s. It really happened though; A number of young Amsterdammers opened a fresh new RIH atelier in Amsterdam Noord, complete with Mr. van der Kaaij building frames and teaching them his admittedly rather archaic framebuilding methods. Their stand at Bike Motion was amongst the most popular, constantly busy. I visited them last summer and I finally learned the origins of the frame of my old winter training bike that I’d bought for 100 guilders in a Groningen 2nd hand shop. It’s a 1960’s era RIH.

Henry's Winter Road Bike 2014 6

Sadly Wim van der Kaaij suddenly passed away in December. R.I.P. Wim; a big chunk of cycling history passes on with you. As for the future of RIH we’re curious to see their next moves. Good luck however you guys choose to go forward!

Overhaul time: Why is My Bike Soooo Sloooow?

Monday, January 21st, 2013

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Almost done; Just a little more Dremel action to make room in the chaincase for the Nuvinci hub’s large shifter unit.

Here is a techie tale of real world, long term product testing and what an enormous influence bike maintenance can have on your cycling pleasure. You may recall that I use my own bike to test components and accessories, usually for a couple years unless something just sucks. Then I just remove it as quickly as possible. If I really like something I just call it “mine” and leave it in place until I have a reason to do otherwise.

About a year ago during a several week cold spell I decided that my own Fr8 was deadly, painfully slow compared to others. But I hate repairing my own bikes so I just kept on riding it through the winter, spring, summer, fall and some more winter until a couple days ago. Nothing was really broken nor made even an annoying peep; I just had the feeling I was pedaling pretty hard while grandmas with flowers in their hands and moms on bakfietsen loaded with four kids glided on past. Was I just a little tired… for an entire year? Cycling on this bike just wasn’t as much fun as our others but usually I wouldn’t notice it and if I did notice I’d forget about it shortly after locking up (or not!) and walking inside.

This is exactly why we exhort you to regularly service your bike, unlike yours truly. A well maintained bike is just nice to ride and a crappy running bike is less so, even if you don’t actually notice it. Why sweat more than you need to? Why feel that click, clack or sloppy drivetrain when you can daily enjoy the pleasure of pedaling along silently and effortlessly. This must be one of the world’s cheapest pleasures.

I assumed the abundant friction in my bike had something to do with the NuVinci N360 infinitely variable hub since that’s its most unusual feature. With the bike in the lift the rear wheel required a good tug to turn and it didn’t spin at all. I was totally wrong about the hub but will get to that later. We’ve discussed the Nuvinci friction thing ad infinitum on the @Workcycles Facebook group. Unfortunately a Facebook group can’t be searched so finding those discussions again would mean hours of scrolling. No doubt Mr. Zuckerberg is snickering this very moment while he employs his own powerful FB search engine to scan the Groups for info about Nuvinci hubs and Workcycles Fr8’s.

I spoke to the folks at Fallbrook/Nuvinci. They assured us that that the cold should have little influence on the hub’s efficiency so there must be something wrong with my hub. A replacement hub was quickly dispatched. It then waited patiently for a half year, for the day that I have both the time and willpower to pull my Fr8 apart, build a new wheel and put it back together. The other day the temperature dropped well below freezing and my rear brake and shifter cables froze. After spinning madly to school and work for a few days in the tiny ratio it was stuck in I declared my bike officially “broken”. The operation could commence. I gathered several other new parts to try and stripped my bike.

With the wheel out of the bike and the rollerbrake removed I clamped the axle in the vise and spun. It spun rather well I must say. I mean this ain’t my track bike whose unsealed, oiled bearing wheels will spin for several minutes before gradually stopping, but the Nuvinci wheel did spin almost as well as most other multigear hubs do. Further, spinning axles with my fingers, I couldn’t detect any difference between the 18 month old, ridden daily and stored outdoors Nuvinci and the brand new one. As far as I can tell this hub is as good as new.

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A fresh, clean Monark centerstand, aka “The Mother of All Centerstands” on the same bike when it sported skinnier tires and a single gear.

What then is dragging my ass down? Could it be the Hebie Chainglider, which “glides” along the chain instead of being attached to the frame? It and the chain running through it were both filled with a gritty, slimy paste of oil and dirt. It was vaguely audible while riding and sounds take energy to create. I decided: Away with Chainglider! I only put it on this bike because I was too lazy to cut up a real Hesling chaincase to fit around the Nuvinci’s shifter interface and the Monark “Mother of All Centerstands”. Actually I’m still kinda lazy; I removed the Monark centerstand and installed another Ursus Jumbo. I’d previously tested and broken one of these but it’s apparently been improved since then. Time to try it again, and very convenient that it just barely fits together with the chaincase.

Fr8 Henry 2012
My bike in the spring with the sludgy Hebie Chainglider still installed. I’m very happy to have a real, silent, frictionless Dutch chain case on my bike again.

Still, I couldn’t believe that either the Chainglider or the filthy (but almost new) chain were really causing so much friction. Spinning the crank backwards the friction was negligible, despite the scraping noises. So the Chainglider wasn’t helping the bike’s efficiency but it also couldn’t have been the root of the problem. Nonetheless a real Dutch chaincase is always better if it fits. After half an hour of Dremel grinding and careful adjustments to the brackets the chain ran through the Hesling case silently and with no friction whatsoever.

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Shimano Rollerbrakes exposed; The IM80 rollerbrake has a much bigger, sturdier brake unit.

Next stop: Rollerbrakes. The Shimano IM80 rollerbrakes on this bike have performed admirably since I installed them. They stop the bike with authority and have good lever feel too. The braking power was confidence inspiring even while cycling in the steep hills of Brussels with two kids and baggage aboard.

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Little did I realize, however, that my powerful rollerbrakes were braking ALL the time. Once the rear brake was in my hands it was obvious who the real culprit was; A fine paste of Shimano’s sacred, expensive rollerbrake grease and road dirt filled the brake unit requiring serious hand force to rotate it. The front brake was better but not much. Did I screw them up myself by putting too much grease in them? I don’t remember.

With copious quantities of brake cleaning fluid and compressed air I removed every trace of everything from the brake units. Wonder of wonders they spun almost freely now, rather like the name “Rollerbrake” would imply. No way I’m going to sludge these babies up with that stupid grease again! What else could I put in there to keep them from rusting and lubricate the innards? After a quick inventory of the dozens of little bottles and cans on the Workcycles shelves we decided that a thick, clingy OIL ought to work, even if it violates all instructions, death-warnings and warranties. After all these brakes are fairly well enclosed and don’t see any substantial heat here in cool, mostly flat Amsterdam. The most likely problem I anticipate is that they’ll have to be oiled periodically but whether that means monthly or half yearly remains to be seen. Even generously lubed with oil the rollerbrakes spun quite freely. Back in the bike the rear wheel and brake now spun totally normally.

While I was at it I adjusted the front (dynamo) hub cones: They were waaaay too tight, as delivered from the factory. Now my front wheel spins and spins as if it weren’t filled with magnets and coils. Take that, hub dynamo haters!

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Of course I also had to fix the problem that pushed me to tear the bike down in the first place: All four cables were removed and given the super special Workcycles anti-freezing treatment. That was when I discovered that the Nuvinci shifter’s adjustment barrels had rusted solid. I just replaced the whole shifter, noting that the new one came with smoother, drawn cables. This is then the only problem the Nuvinci hub has had thus far, an excellent record for a first generation product.

The last update for the day was swapping the older 44T steel crank for the new Sugino 38T forged aluminium crank we’ve begun using. The 44/20 gearing had always seemed a little on the tall side so I figured 38/20 should be about right. Like the Shimano Nexus 8sp hub we fit thousands of, the Nuvinci’s 1:1 ratio is in the upper middle of the range. That is, these hubs have somewhat more undergearing than overgearing, generally quite handy for heavy duty bikes with full sized wheels.

Everything back in place, grips securely glued to the handlebars… and let’s see how it rides. I rolled out the door, pedaled along and Lijnbaansgracht and immediately found myself spinning out in the highest ratio? Huh? I did lower the gearing but not by so much and it was too high to begin with. It was dinner time so I just continued my spinning session for the kilometer home to deal with the gearing later.

henrys-own-nuvinci-workcycles-fr8-chaincase-cutaway
That little silver thing next to the chain is the shifter interface and has to rotate most of the way around the axle – thus the cutaway.

The following morning I hung the bike up again and pulled the wheel to check that the shifter was installed correctly and reaching the full range of ratios. It was. Then I swapped the 20T cog for an 18T making the gearing almost the same as the old (too tall) 44/20. That was a considerable improvement but bizarrely the gearing is still much too low. Once up to speed on any flat road I just twist it into the highest ratio. Even the steepest bridges require shifting down to only about halfway through the range. So I’ll try 17T and 16T when I find them.

The upshot is that I’ve basically been dragging a plow around behind my bike for at least a year. Fixing the brakes, chaincase and front hub wasn’t just a “marginal gain”. It has improved the bike’s efficiency by so much that it can be ridden much faster with the same effort. I can’t be bothered to do the math but it really must be at least a 25-30% speed difference. That’s huge. Faster is funner and easier is nicer… so maintain your bikes folks! It really matters.

The Bakfiets is Safest. Probably.

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

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I had to read this article several times to understand exactly what was going on and what was confusing me. Namely a piece in the Belgian newspaper “Nieuwsblad” (means… “Newspaper) proclaims the bakfiets as the safest type of bike for carrying kids, safer thus than bike trailers or child seats on conventional bikes. Now that’s no great surprise for me and not a finding I have any reason to argue. I carry my own two precious ones in a bakfiets and further earn my salary making and selling them. Workcycles has thousands of bakfietsen on the roads and thus far, knock wood, we’re not aware of any notable injuries. Then again we’ve also sold thousands of conventional type bikes, many of them equipped to carry kids and ridden daily, and I’m not aware of any notable injuries there either. So that’s not a terribly conclusive comparison; It just suggests that carrying kids on bikes is a very safe thing to do.

The Nieuwsblad article refers to a recent test by the German Automobile Club (ADAC). So I searched the ADAC site (geez it’s handy to be able to understand a few languages!) as source but nowhere could I find any mention of a bakfiets, never mind a test comparing the safety of kids carried by bakfiets with anything. I did however find an ADAC test comparing child carrier trailers with child seats on conventional bikes. In this study ADAC compared one top-tested trailer (Burley Cub) against one top-tested rear child seat (Römer, model not specified). Nieuwsblad reported that they simply rammed each rig into a stationary object at 25km/hr but on the ADAC site they show each rig being rammed from the side by a VW Golf and report that the head-on collision was also tested. That covers a broader range of high-danger crash scenarios than Nieuwsblad 25km/hr head-on bike T-bone. Not surprisingly, the trailer tended to remain on two wheels while the much higher mounted child seat on regular bike was consistently knocked over.

Just for background info our German neighbors LOVE testing products and they relish putting a big “Zeer Gut” or “Gut” in red letters on advertisements and products. They’re also renowned for their rigorous testing methods. The bike tests run by German cycling magazines absolutely put to shame the fluff published by the US bikey press. The Dutch bike rags fall somewhere in between but they still bore me to death.

But how then did Nieuwsblad conclude from a test comparing trailer and rear child seat that a bakfiets is the safest?Good question! Well it seems that Roel De Cleen of the Belgian Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union) just made that part up. I don’t mean to imply that it’s an unreasonable conclusion. It is actually a very logical extrapolation… but it’s just not supported by the data cited in the article. Moral of the story: Be critical when reading test results, especially when not reading the original source.

Happy New Year everybody!

I hope I’ll have more time to write in 2012 since 2011 was rather sparse.

Guest Post: Cargo Bikes and the Information Revolution.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

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

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Workcycles: Voted Best Bike Shop in Amsterdam

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010


best bike shop in amsterdam, originally uploaded by henry in a’dam.

Thanks to everybody who voted Workcycles the Best Bike Shop in Amsterdam!

That’s no mean feat in the bicycle capitol of the world with no less than 250 bike shops and half a million daily cyclists.

“Bicycle Mania”… Great book about Dutch cycling

Monday, January 18th, 2010

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Every fan and promoter of urban cycling simply needs a copy of Shirley Agudo’s “Bicycle Mania”. You can regard it as a photo book, with probably the best collection of Dutch cycling photos ever assembled. Even as an Amsterdam resident and amateur(ish) photographer I marvel at the shots in these pages. Have a peek at a few examples here at the Eduard Planting gallery.
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New Cordo Anti-Rain Spray!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

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Wow, I sure wish we’d known about this stuff earlier! It’s been cold and raining for almost a month straight here in Holland and I’m really itching to get out for a nice, long bike ride in the countryside. Well this new “Anti-Rain Spray” from Dutch distributor Agu just showed up and I can’t wait to try it.

I know that the Dutch continue cycling for transportation regardless of weather... but riding recreationally is another story. I’d much rather cycle under a sunny sky, or at least when it’s not pouring and slightly above freezing temperature. I stopped racing years ago so I just don’t NEED to do that anymore.

If it works well WorkCycles will add it to our wonder spray range, right next to our famous High-Tech Antitheft Bicycle Spray.

Reading the instructions I’m already a little disappointed though; It says to apply the Anti-Rain Spray to jackets, bags and shoes. Problem is that I don’t always wear the same clothes and shoes to ride. So it already looks like more work than I expected but if it brings the sun out, or at least keeps it from raining for a couple hours I’ll be more than satisfied!

Missing the point: “City Bikes”

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

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Appropriately found on the Geekologie site: “Inner City Sports no Chain, Comfort“.

It’s entirely unclear what is supposed to make this bike better as a city bike (and better than what anyway?). The design seems to be focused on the elimination of that most impractical and divisive of all bicycle developments: the drivetrain. So instead of employing a chaincase, belt, shaft, gear, hydraulic, lever or treadle drive (all have been done) the designer has destroyed the ergonomics of the bike. 150 years of development? Hah, they all had it wrong!

Imagine what a wanker you’d look like as you waddled through town on this thing, busting your bottom and getting splashed from each puddle, trousers dragging on the sides of the fat rear tire. One more demonstration of how “designer bikes” usually suck. I’ll just walk thanks.

Nice color scheme though.

Eurobike 2009: First impressions

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

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This past week Richard and I made our annual mandatory pilgrimage to zeppelin land Friedrichshafen, Germany for the gargantuan European bicycle industry orgy known as Eurobike. It’s probably the thousandth such bike expo I’ve attended thus my lack of enthusiasm and low expectations. I’ve simply come to learn that it’s pretty much all been done before and for the most part all that changes are the fashion materials (titanium is out, boron is nowhere to be found and carbon nanotubes are in) and attempts to cash in on current trends and themes. More about these later. In any case 99.9999999% of the displays focus on racing bikes, mountain bikes BMX bikes and other sporting goods which, while fun to look at, are irrelevant to this blog and to WorkCycles. As expected I’ll show you some stuff you won’t find in the glossy rags.

Upon arriving at the fairground shuttle bus stop we were greeted by a motley pack of WOOF bikes from Amsterdam via China. These one-trick dogs were introduced with massive press attention a few months ago and have already become the scourge of Amsterdam. You can hardly throw a rock with hitting a fashion victim riding one. Sorry but I just fail to see the attraction to this cheaply made bike missing most of what makes a Dutch bike great, and the feeble output of the built-in LED lights doesn’t do much to sweeten the deal.

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Cheaply made you say? How’s this for attention to detail?… Coaster brake only combined with forward entry fork ends, no axle/chain tensioners and not even hard serrated washers to hold the axle in place: Good luck keeping that rear wheel in place and better luck stopping when your wheel slips forward dropping the chain. At least you won’t break the headlamp when you crash.

But that wasn’t the last we saw of WOOF. Again and again they reared their ugly headlamps.

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And just when we thought it was safe sailing we found that the WOOF had won (or perhaps purchased) a Eurobike award. The nature of the award I didn’t see nor care. We did note though that the bike displayed on the award stand was completely different from the nasty production models.

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If you’re going to make something pointless, please at least do it with a sense of humor such as these grips from OGK in Japan. For those unfamiliar with (or too young to remember) OGK, they’ve been around forever. Back in the day when yours truly rode a BMX bike, OGK made lots of BMX grips as well as helmets and other molded plastic goods.

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We’ve got Sumo wrestlers, geisha girls, bacteria and German flags.

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