Big, classic bakfietsen on the brain again


Just the other day I was waxing philosophic about big, old skool, Dutch bakfietsen after a short rant about the theft of the rear wheel of my friend Doede’s bakfiets. Then today this blue beauty came back from Clarijs the “zeilmaker” with her new Bisonyl box cover. They did a great job getting a snug fit over the strange box shape. We’ve saved the pattern and will now offer it as a standard option for the XL Classic Bakfiets.

Why blue? Hey, it was the customer’s choice. We were really skeptical but now that it’s done we see it was a great call. It stands out from the sea of similar bakfietsen on the roads here but is still timeless. Perhaps it’ll help deter scumbag thieves as well.

While I’m writing about bakfietsen again here’s some more info about what makes them tick…

workcycles-classic-bakfiets-leaf springs

Here’s a peek at the high-tech, formula one style undercarriage. Actually I’ve never looked at the undercarriage of a formula one car but I assume they’re quite similar: carbon steel multi-leaf springs with floating eyes, H profile axle and steering axis with giant sealed bearings. Unlike modern trikes of the Christiania, ‘t Mannetje, Fietsfabriek, Nihola, persuasion these classic trikes just float along like a magic carpet too heavy to get off the ground.

The hubs feature tapered steel axles and sealed bearing the size of a man’s wrist. There is not one gram of aluminium on the entire trike. Of course there is plenty of carbon though: In fact most of the 185 x 85cm mahogany box is carbon.

workcycles-classic-bakfiets-chain cover

At the rear is a similarly sophisticated drivetrain. Inside this steel chain cover a motorcycle chain connects the 1:1 fixed gear ratio. Yes, that’s correct folks: These 130kg bikes with 400kg load capacity are fixies. For 100 years hip couriers, contractors and hippies have been riding them in both skinny and baggy trousers, sometimes displaying manly butt crack as befitting the baker, the plumber and the carpenter. Being a fixie and a tricycle it’s even easy to do some “freestyling” on this baby. backwards riding? No problem. My favorite trick is the “parallel park”.

Note also the 26 x 2.5″ transporter tires, fender stay that doubles as a lifting handle and cottered cranks. We’re not quite ready to trust those new fangled square taper crank axles, and besides, nobody makes one that’d fit anyway.


Moving over to the other side we see that motorcycle chain opposite the giant drum brake. In case you’re thinking it doesn’t look so big just consider it relative to the parts around it: 4mm thick spokes, (twice as thick as “HD” 14 gauge spokes), 14mm hub axle, fat tire, moto chain etc. It’s a big drum and it does a fine job of stopping this bike… unless you load the box up with several hundred kg of stuff and point the rig downhill. Then the drum will only stop the wheel, while your puny, girlie man weight will do little to stop the rear tire from merrily skidding along the pavement while momentum inexorably carries you to your… Actually I don’t really want to worry about that so let’s move on to the brake lever between your legs.


You might be surprised to learn that the current crop of fixed gear hipsters are only the latest fixie riders to have brake levers in strange places. There’s no irony to this foot long steel bar between your legs; It’s your one brake lever and please remember that when bearing down on a group of Italian tourists obliviously arguing over an unfolded map about which way the Anne Frank house is. Above the brake arm is a ratcheting parking lock. Just flip it up while riding and down to park. Pressing the brake handle down pulls the brake rod which in turn pulls the brake actuation arm on the drum itself. There isn’t much to go wrong here, aside from forgetting where it is. This probably explains the frequency of damage on the front of our rental bakfietsen, though we’ve fortunately never had to clean blood off.

We even ride these bakfietsen ourselves. Being “truck-free” we move stuff back and forth between the two WorkCycles locations by bakfiets. Here’s a shot of Renzo moving some random junk over to our Lijnbaansgracht location shortly after we opened. Like Doede, mechanic Tom even has his own old bakfiets. He picked it up in the spring second (or maybe fifth) hand, cleaned it up mechanically and lovingly applied at least 20 coats of boat varnish to the wooden box.


So… do you now want one of these babies? They begin at €3000 including the 19% Dutch VAT and you can check them out on the “Professional 3-wheelers” page on the WorkCycles website. You can even rent a big bakfiets for a big job, a picnic, your wedding or just to ride the family around Amsterdam in.

13 Responses to “Big, classic bakfietsen on the brain again”

  1. seb Says:

    I would have loved last time i moved (which was 3 months ago) to find such a bicycle to rent. I tried to organise my move with such kind of bicycle but was unable to find a place to rent one….as if the only way to move (even for a 2km distance move) is with a huge and expensive van…
    why don’t you open anew shop in Paris? :p

  2. Todd Edelman Says:

    Thanks for all the details but where is the kickstand? I told my lawyer. It is gonna call you.
    But also is it possible to get an “aero” cover? I am sure there would be less wind noise. Thanks.

  3. henry Says:

    Seb, People keep saying we should set up shop in Paris or at least have a dealer there. The problem is that it seems to be very difficult without a French language site and French speaking staff. We do have two guys who speak French but they’re already busy with other things.

    In the meantime we just have lots of French customers visiting our Amsterdam shops.

  4. henry Says:

    Todd, We’ll get right to work on that trike kickstand. There’s no aero cover planned but we highly advise the canvas braking parachute for when you’re going so fast that the big drum brake isn’t adequate.

  5. Erik Sandblom Says:

    Very cool.

    Why doesn’t it have brakes on the front?

  6. henry Says:

    So… You guys have all pretty much hit the various nails on their heads with regard to the lack of brakes. Of course it’s possible to build system of balanced brakes on the front wheels but the complexity, cost and maintenance requirements it would add would be prohibitive. And yes, using the front brakes hard would just tip the beast onto it’s nose anyway.

    Sometimes it’s just better to accept and work with the limitations of a format rather than seek out technologies to push the boundaries. I feel the same way about gears. Many people are stuck on gearing their bike to ride in every possible situation but it’s also OK to just gear for the 95% of normal riding and accept that you’ll occasionally walk up a hill or run out of rpm down a hill or with a tailwind. If you accept those terms you can ride a considerably lighter, simpler, cheaper, easier to maintain bike.

  7. Todd Edelman Says:

    Thanks, Henry.

    Idea: How about magnetic brakes for when out of control bikes cross or ride on tram tracks? Or a gun or machete to flatten a tyre?

  8. Todd Edelman Says:

    Erik, regarding “brakes on the front”: I am sure Henry will have something to say, but aside from other things I would imagine they would have to be balanced for both wheels which could complicate things enormously, or perhaps obviously make things worse if they didn’t work right.

    But also I think of automobiles… how anti-lock brakes might just make people take more risks and never learn to articulate braking action AND also how the 2CV is one of the safest cars because it is so delicate.

  9. Erik Sandblom Says:

    Todd, true. And I guess it would tip forward if you apply the brakes when heavily laden. And then you would have to go *up* the hill…

    *must understand strange vehicle*

  10. Mark Says:

    I imagine if it was heavily loaded using a front brake could cause it to pull to one side or the other.

    I came very close to being run over by a bakfiets on my first trip to Amsterdam in the late 80’s. At that time I rarely observed traffic lights while riding my bike. As I was running a red light I noticed a woman yelling at me in Dutch while locking up the rear wheel of her loaded bakfiets to avoid smashing me. It was the first time that I really noticed a bakfiets.

  11. Todd Edelman Says:

    Ha ha ha, just got the “carbon” joke.

    Henri, hurry up with your report from E(uro)bike.

  12. P Says:

    Hello Henry !

    I met you in your workshop this week-end, as I was admiring this mammuth. Just wanted to thank you for what you are doing. Someone needs to do the same here in Brussels. One day I’ll have to find a work which implies cargo-biking, I am jut not ready for that yet. But seeing your workshop comforted me in this idea and that’s great !

    Keep up the great job (blog+shop) !

  13. Jack Bramwell Says:

    I am looking for two rear wheels for an existing velocycle. (thru axel). Do you sell the wheels separately?

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