E-Urobike 2010: Same stuff, new colors?

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Richard contemplates the meaning of “tuned compliance concept” in front of a Zeppelin.

A couple weeks ago we made our annual trek to Zeppelin capitol of the world, Friedrichshafen, Germany for the Eurobike trade show. Most bike nuts would wet their pants over the idea of some 15 former zeppelin hangars full of the latest carbon fiber race wheels that weigh less than your toenail clippings, extreme downhill bikes with a meter of suspension travel, our favorite pro racers’ bikes complete with real Roubaix mud still in its nooks and crannies and more buzzwords than you can shake a stick at. I, however, am jaded by 30ish years on and off around the bicycle industry. These days I go not to ogle the latest gear but to talk to suppliers and dealers, shake some hands and meet some new people. I also like to take pictures of the dumbest stuff I see but even that’s getting difficult because it’s mostly the same dumb stuff as the past few years, maybe copied by somebody else.

I was still amused by the following little interchange: I was ending my one minute tour of the giant, enclosed Specialized stand where two attractive young women at the entrance informed me that no photos were allowed while half the visitors were voraciously snapping pictures of everything but the carpet. What they’ll do with all those pictures of last year’s silver hybrids repainted in retro colors and renamed “city bikes” I do not know. As I was approaching the same two security ladies on my way out, Alberto Contador (3-time Tour de France winner sponsored by Specialized) was on his way in. The security ladies, apparently not recognizing Contador from the 20 meter tall images of him in the very same stand, asked to see his expo ID card. Contador stood there and smiled but did or said nothing. His brother produced their ID’s from his bag and they continued along silently. I found it funny but maybe you had to be there.

Exxon Graftek 5, originally uploaded by paulmoseleyphotos.

As a teenaged bike racer and mechanic I went to the shows full of excitement to see the very latest weight-weenie wonders from names such as O.M.A.S, Pino Morrini, Speedwell, Exxon Graftek (yes, that very same evil Exxon made some of the first carbon fiber frames), Bullseye, Weyless and Hi-E. Eddy Merckx autographed a poster for me while I tried in vain to think of something to say to him. A guy at the Benotto booth wrapped handlebars with translucent “Cello-Tape” in something like five seconds per side. Phil Wood, already advanced in his years, sat at his table cutting and rolling spokes with his lovely machine. One year Castelli or another Italian firm showed up with shockingly shiny Lycra bib shorts and bibs. I was happy to trade a chafed butt and legs in black wool for looking a bit too disco.

There must have been things other than mostly Italian racing bikes and parts at these shows but I hardly noticed them. I guess Wald was there with their galvanized steel baskets and training wheels, Bendix with coaster brakes. Nishiki, Peugeot, Schwinn, Univega, Ross, Raleigh and two dozen others were omnipresent with maybe a couple real racing bikes and the rest of the display filled with caricatures of them: frames of mild steel pipe, narrow handlebars, brake lever extensions, fat counterweight pedals, stem mounted shifters, pie plates to keep the bike from committing suicide by tossing its chain into the galvanized spokes loosely holding the potato chip shaped, chromed steel rim with embossed sidewalls that maximize water holding capacity. Ironically many of these BSO’s (Bicycle Shaped Objects) are now being rescued from suburban garages and fetching small fortunes as “vintage” bikes. Actually even we found a good use for these crappy bikes back then: We dug through the semi-broken parts bins to convert dozens of them into ratty, disposable cyclocross bikes for winter training and amusement. It’s good we worked in bike shops since our “death ride” sessions through the local woods rarely ended until somebody or their bike was too broken to continue.

There were also always a few characters (sorry: “inventors”) peddling new and better ways to convert one’s muscular output into forward bicycle motion. These were (and still are) typified by a myriad of machined aluminium levers, cams and pulleys operating a web of cables, springs and short sections of bicycle chain. Since pedaling in circles is obviously unnatural and inefficient we could now row, hop, treadle or oval-pedal our way down the roads so innocently free of bicycle infrastructure. The inventors are still at it, apparently still not satisfied with pedaling a single wheel, in circles, through trusty roller chains. In the Netherlands I learned that one could make that near perfect roller chain drive nearly maintenance free simply by wrapping a plastic or vinyl chain case around it. That, of course, hasn’t stopped the development of toothed rubber belt drives.

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This one seems to have been inspired by the one below that has been displayed with much fanfare and many scantily clad young women for the last several years. Since bakfiets-en-meer is a family friendly blog Richard demonstrates it here instead of the scantily clad girls.

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For a nice overview on most of the weird and wacky bike stuff I saw through the years check out mountain bike pioneer Charlie Kelly’s site.

And voila! here’s the Swingbike at Eurobike, as shown on Kelly’s site. Of course even after 25 years it’s well preserved since it’s unlikely it has ever been ridden.
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Now this one below was actually at Eurobike’s nerdy cousin SpeziRad last year. The inventor seems to have accepted (for now at least) that pedaling in circles is OK. Perhaps a linear drive system is his next project. However he’s unsure of whether one should ride sitting or reclining… so he’s built a bike that can be rapidly switched between both on the fly with an amazingly complex system of interconnected hydraulic linkages. Perhaps with this development recumbent bikes will finally take over the world as their proponents have been predicting since I began riding bikes. I, on the other hand, predict that recumbent riders will continue to mostly be engineers with beards and dutch engineers with long commutes through the countryside.

hydraulic morph psycho recumbent 1

There was no debate, however, about the best approaches to building bike lanes in the 1970’s and 80’s in the USA; Actually I don’t think I’d heard of a bike lane until I moved to California a decade later. Helmets? We strapped leather hairnets on only when we raced and it was hip to wear a cycling cap over your hairnet, brim to the rear. I still have my shiny, patent leather (vinyl I assume) Saavedra helmet and two year old Pascal thinks it’s funny to bump into things while wearing it. Isn’t that a sort of proof in itself that helmets are bad? There were actually a few plastic helmets available by then: Bell made an enormous, white mushroom with two red stripes (had one but never wore it). ProTec made one that looked much like the current skate/multipurpose helmets, except dorkier. Skid Lid made a very creative helmet that looked kind of like a big phillips screw on your head. In 1980 or so I got an orange Brancale hardshell. It was trim and light though it probably didn’t offer much impact protection… certainly not after I bored out the many ventilation holes to about double the original size (FYI: I was 14). At Eurobike these days there’s an entire hall dedicated helmets, glasses, pads, gloves and the likes. That was handy for us since we could simply skip it. We did still see several more companies showing helmets disguised as bulbous hats in other halls though.

late xmas gift

I’m a little unclear on these “hatmets” from Denmark. If I absolutely had to live in a place with traffic conditions dangerous enough to warrant wearing a helmet while cycling around town I wouldn’t have any problem just wearing a helmet like the other cyclists there. The same is true for going fast on a racing bike with a group. In a safe cycling place such as the Netherlands or Denmark a helmet is simply unnecessary, which makes me wonder about a Danish company’s motivation for making helmets for cycling around town. I guess it’s just a vanity thing so unfashionable people like me just can’t get it.

A decade or so later in the early 90’s I began going to Interbike while I worked for Avocet, the company that (amongst other things) got cyclists hooked on putting little computers on their bikes to monitor their performance. I was always super busy building and working the booth as well as visiting their last remaining OEM customers so these shows were just a blur. This was the golden age of mountain bike garage innovation (which Avocet steadfastly refused to accept) and try-athlons were really popular amongst moneyed, type A 30-40 plussers but I actually don’t remember seeing anything at all at these shows. I only remember talking to justifiably cranky Grant Peterson when he was at Bridgestone (now Rivendell), skeptical Sky Yeager at Bianchi (now Swobo) , and my friend Ross Shafer when Salsa had soul and rockin’ parties. The Southern California contingent showed off lots of crazy neon yellow, purple anodized, white tired, elevated chainstay mountain bikes… and my memory begins to fade about there. I guess somebody must have been making road racing bikes in the early 90’s but it has since disappeared into the ether that exists between latest-greatest and classic.

But wait, just for the sake of balance here’s a gratuitous shot of some scantily clad women promoting something at Eurobike:

And city bikes, Dutch bikes, cargobikes, utility bikes, even just comfortable bikes with fenders etc? Nope, aside from cheapo beach cruisers I don’t recall seeing any of it at all until I began visiting IFMA (Cologne) and Eurobike in Germany. Practical bikes have always been available in most northern European countries, particularly in The Netherlands and to a lesser extent in Scandinavia and Germany. The bike expos though, like most of the bike industry, are much less about practical bikes and gear than bikes as sporting goods, lifestyle accessories and just plain old stuff to sell to make money. Thus 95% of those 15 Eurobike halls is dedicated to showing off the latest recreational gear. Here and there are a few firms making bikes or parts intended for normal people to ride as transportation. Real city bikes for daily use in all weather, for carrying kids and groceries and whatever, can practically be counted on your hands. Sometimes the focus on play bikes is laughable, such as Shimano who decided to not even bother showing ANYTHING from their utility oriented Nexus and Inter lines this year. The only internally geared hub to be found in their huge stand was the new 11 speed Alfine, which is disk or rim brake only. I couldn’t find a single coaster or roller-brake in their entire stand. There was a specially marked “disk brake zone” though.

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Shimano did show their new E-bike components called “STEPS”. On the bright side it’s all nicely integrated into the component set and works very smoothly and naturally (I rode it for 15 minutes). On the downside it’s not at all torquey at low speeds and some of the components (which have to be used as a complete set) aren’t suitable for the harsh, outdoor life of a city bike. No, Shimano proudly points out that this system is designed for recreational cycling.

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Each year at Eurobike brings a new hype. The buzz about E-bikes has been building for the last several years but the bikes themselves have been pretty wonky. This year was absolutely the year of the E-bike, or alternatively “E-Urobike”. Not only did Shimano show off their new STOPS system, Bosch introduced their creatively named “e-Bike-system” that they claim to have invested €440,000,000 in. Panasonic and Yamaha’s already well developed crank motors were fitted to bikes offered by several manufacturers and Heinzmann and Daum in Germany each showed new systems. Of course there were also tons of hub motors from China and Taiwan mounted as unmarked, original equipment on bikes of many brands. Even Specialized proudly showed off the e-bike Fabian Cancellara used to win Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.

We spent about half a day riding various bikes with the systems most promising for Workcycles bikes. In a nutshell the motor has to offer good low-speed torque from a near stop, be durable in a rough outdoor life, and compatible with gear hubs, roller or drum brakes, a chaincase and a rear baggage or child carrier. Since most systems are intended for “play” use very little of what’s available meet even those basic requirements. Some impressions on the systems we were able to spend considerable time with:

See above.

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Bosch crank motor. Note the ISIS crank axle, meaning that fitting a chain case will require having special cranks made. No it’s not available any other way.

We each rode a couple bikes with the new Bosch crank motor and found it good but not awe-inspiring considering the investment and hype. Probably most impressive was the well developed software which offered four different modes, each tailoring the various behavior parameters to a certain type of riding situation. Oddly enough the Sport mode was the best we’ve seen yet for load carrying since it kicked in with lots of torque from a standstill without feeling out of control. On the downside the Bosch motor was surprisingly rough and noisy and the arrogance of the reps staffing their stand was staggering. The Bosch guy I talked to basically ended our conversation when I told him that Workcycles builds just a couple thousand bikes a year.

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Daum crank motor in the Urban Arrow prototype. More about the bike later.

Daum is a German manufacturer of exercise equipment who displayed a promising, new crank motor unit. Overall the feel was quite similar to the Bosch or perhaps even torquier though the software management wasn’t nearly as polished. At low speeds the reactions of the Daum were jerky and sometimes disturbing. The people at their stand took our commentary seriously though, and promised full access to tinkering with the control parameters. Daum is incidentally happy to sell either one or a thousand systems.

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Panasonic crank motor in a remarkably unattractive and nonsensically spec’ed Flyer grocery getter bike.

Several Japanese firms have already been building e-bike crank motors for a decade and this experience was obvious in the Panasonics we rode in expensive but butt ugly Swiss Flyers. These are the first e-bikes that have ever performed well enough to make me think I could willfully ride one… though definitely NOT one of the Flyers since, like most e-bikes, they’re criminally ugly. The Panasonic motor is smooth, quiet, about as torquey and powerful as any of the 250W systems and pretty much invisible in use. You just feel very strong, like Spartacus Cancellara. Since the Flyers are built for the Swiss market they’re not governed as severely as the EU spec bikes. That doesn’t influence the pulling power but it did enable us to cruise along effortlessly on fairly upright bikes at 35km/hr. Yamaha’s crank motor is very similar to the Panasonic unit though I haven’t ridden the latest version.

So if I’m writing about e-bike motors the obvious question is whether Workcycles is going to introduce one. Yeah, good question. I’ve expressed my general dislike of both the existing models and to some extent the concept itself. On the one hand I’m absolutely in favor of anything that extends the usefulness of bicycles as practical vehicles. I’m perfectly happy to ride around in wind and weather on a bakfiets loaded up with kids and stuff but I’m not so arrogant to think or expect that everybody else is, especially if they live in a town with more elevation variation than a lot of steep, little bridges.

On the other hand the addition of a motor, a bunch of electronics and a big pack of batteries almost guarantees the end of the bicycle as a timeless, durable vehicle that can be inexpensively kept on the road for decades. When those batteries wear out or fail in a few years bike owners will discover that replacing them, often along with the battery management system, will cost as much as a decent non-electric bike. Control units will die and since there’s precious little standardization in the bike industry there will often be a slim chance of finding a replacement after a few years, never mind the question of who is going to diagnose and carry out these repairs. I can assure you that we won’t be seeing lovely old electric bikes like these still in trusty service after 70 years, or probably even ten years for that matter.

nice original old omafiets

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So did I see anything interesting at E-Urobike aside from the electric stuff? No, not so much. Below are a few of the pics I took with some commentary:

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Urban Arrow, click image to see more photos on Flickr.

Here’s the Urban Arrow, whose bottom is shown as the example for the Daum motor. This is a new two-wheeled e-bakfiets from an(other) Amsterdam firm. The design is by Wytze van Mansum whose neato Cannondale Dutchess concept bike got lots of publicity. The partners are an experienced team who’ve previously been with Kronan and Bugaboo. I haven’t ridden it but it’s quite attractive, generally seems well considered. There’s nothing to point and laugh at, such as most of the johnny-come-lately’s in this field. I’m thinking mainly of the various 2-3-4 in one monstrosities, all marketed as the perfect solution to a transport problem parents weren’t aware of.


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Urban Arrow’s expanded polypropyleen box, click image to see more photos on Flickr.

There was plenty to see on the cosmetic end of “cargobikes” though. A couple of the better examples hail from Denmark, the designer bike capitol of the world:

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I think this one is called the “Handlebrack”. Crappy handling dynamics and parking instability aside it is pretty good looking.

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This Pumiomega gets my vote for Most Pointless Poser Utility Bike. We have here a long bike with a not very big or usefully designed cargo rack, exposed derailleur gearing, cheap V-brakes, uncomfortable ergonomics, no fenders/lights/chainguard or even a darn bell. It’s sort of a Bilenky cargo/ Kemper Filibus mashup with all of the functionality removed and built with a single aluminium tube to leave it’s rider wondering when the inevitable catastrophic failure into two halves will occur. Fortunately few children will get hurt since it’d take somewhat more creativity to install a child seat than the typical buyer will possess.

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A really expensive, techno-pizza bike

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A couple Workcycles employees would jizz in their pants if they saw this spread of Phil Wood goodies. Yep, that the same Phil Wood as described above. Sadly Phil, who genuinely enriched cycling with several handy innovations (sealed hubs and pedals, cartridge bottom brackets…) passed away earlier this year.

And I think that’s enough words and pictures for one post so I’ll leave you to contemplate the following:

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37 Responses to “E-Urobike 2010: Same stuff, new colors?”

  1. Nicolas Says:

    Hey there! Thanks for the recap, entertaining and enlightening as usual. A few notes:
    – Aren’t fabric-covered helmets inherently dangerous? That’s what Copenhagenize seems to imply, and I understand the logic (if your helmeted head rubs on the pavement insted of gliding smoothly, you’re liable to break your neck). Bad helmet, ugly hat, that’s great: just like a seaplane, it’s the worst of both worlds.
    – “dutch engineers with long commutes through the countryside”: I think you mean “English engineers with long commutes through the Dutch countryside” 😀
    – Has Biomega ever released a bike that made sense? They go on and on about “urban design” or whatever, and then they try to sell stuff that’s not really more practical than your average cheapo fixie conversion. Do not want. Oh, and I just noticed that cargobike has external gears, too. Whatever. It’s like an evil, stupid version of the Bullitt.



  2. henry Says:

    I have also heard that fabric covered bicycle helmets are dangerous though I don’t know how much supporting evidence really exists. I know for certain though that it’s well documented that motorcycle helmets must be almost perfectly round and smooth to avoid snagging on the ground with dire results. It’s at least fair to state that fabric covers don’t help bicycle helmets and could conceivably cause nearly as much harm as they prevent.

    Sooner or later I’ll write about how designer bikes almost universally suck eggs with some classic examples. Dutch designer bikes have occasionally escaped the trap, probably because Dutch designers are almost certainly also cyclists.

  3. DrMekon Says:

    The urban arrow looks interesting, but it’s fallen in to the same trap as the Gazelle Cabby – the box requires you to go back to the manufacturer if you bust it. If I wreck my cargobike box, I could fix it myself, or get a carpenter to make me another.

    I once saw the prototype bakfiets.nl plastic tub. Glad they never went with that – it looked rubbish.

  4. feddo Says:

    I’ll go out on a limb and state that fixing the cargobike box yourself is pretty damn tough if you would like to keep the clean esthetics. I think it’s betonplex which is cut at angles and glue-joined, noy really a DIY thing, unless you have mad tools and skills, which I do not have…

  5. henry Says:

    Concerning the repairs of different box materials: Replacing a panel of the Cargobike box is certainly a task only for the experienced woodworker but on the other hand they’re very tough so that’s a quite rare occurrence. More common repairs are cracks, chipped corners and gouges in the edges which are easy to repair with some creative glueing, clamping, sanding or perhaps adding a patch panel. Even graffiti can usually be removed from the quite hard finished betonplex.

    Wood is also easy for modifications. The entire box is fair game for bolting and screwing accessories in: 2nd bench, toddler seats, doggie leash, tie downs, maxi cosi carriers or whatever else one can invent. With foam or aluminum/vinyl boxes you’re limited to working from the frame.

  6. Todd Edelman Says:

    Wow, all the way from – it seems – intentionally similarly-endowed painted(?) women to very clearly intentionally women-friendly bikes for carrying paint (or kids, etc)!

    A few comments/questions:

    * Regarding the abilities of electric-assist bikes to take a licking and keep on ticking, it seems the industry needs pressure to guarantee this. So here goes: Some clever bike company (which obviously thinks it will benefit) should do some market research or just jump in and guarantee that its assist-systems will be repairable and replaceable for at least 10 or 20 years. (Perhaps the electronics companies themselves can guarantee it: It is doubtful that Bosch, Panasonic or Yahama are going to disappear. Daum https://www.daum-electronic.de/en/daum.html has been around for 35 years.)

    * The ease of DIY-repair should be a major consideration in a long-distance touring bike, but is it so important for a bike used in cities, such as the Urban Arrow? (My wish is that good bikes are never or rarely sold mail-order so among other things authorized repair or service is at least within driving distance).

    * That “Handlebrack” is not surprisingly from Copenhagen and called the “Bike Porter” https://www.gmtn.dk/work/introducing-the-bike-porter. It is good quite looking, so I don’t see why they could not manage to offer to collaborate with Bakfiets.nl which makes the “Pick up” downtube-mounted front racks, also sold by Workcycles. A hybrid design of the two would make it useful for carrying more than a light load, and worth the price which would certain be well over EUR 100-.

    * How come Bosch did not notice that their stuff is noisy? Is it because it is quiet compared to automobile engines?

    * Henry, can you please explain more why you think the Puma Biomega frame might fail?

  7. henry Says:

    Todd, No manufacturer would offer a ten or twenty year warranty of any kind on an electric assist system because they know it’d kill them. The more bikes they sell they more they’d lose. Like pension funds companies are extremely cautious about building long-term liabilities like this. The auto industry can do it because they’re products are (for the most part) amazingly robust. Some of us might be car haters but you definitely have to give the auto industry credit for making remarkably reliable products. As I’ve noted so many times the bike industry isn’t about producing transportation, it’s about making a buck selling toys.

    I figure Bosch probably just didn’t consider the noise and roughness aspect so important. Had it been important to them they would certainly have the know-how to make as smooth a motor as anybody. Perhaps the e-bike people came from the cordless power tool division where some noise might even be considered a plus.

    The Pumiomega frame has an incredibly obvious high stress point. Under load that single front beam will flex, concentrating the load at the weld under the front of the rear head tube. It’s aluminum which has both poor fatigue life and is highly susceptible to crack propagation; any imperfection there will eventually lead to breaking… completely releasing the front end of the bike from the rear and the rider. It will probably be a nasty crash. Fortunately few of these bikes will actually be ridden and even fewer will carry anything more than a fake, hipster courier bag (Oh but is still hip when it’s not on your back?) much so few will break.

  8. Rob Bushill Says:

    Dr Mekon, why is designing a bicycle wide enough to fit three kids in side by side, yet folds narrow enough to fit through a doorway, a design trap?
    That design feature would not be possible (very difficult) constructed in wood and that very feature makes it practical for many more folk to own.

    You can repair the tough pvc fabric with readily available tapes if you need to…https://www.haywoodproducts.com/pvc-repair-tape ..for example.
    all the ali box frame parts are available from the manufacturer if you bend them..they are also repairable if you know an ali welder…PVC and aluminum are more modern materials but just because you don’t own a PVC weld gun but do own a wood saw, say that they are not repairable.

    (another design point to throw into the mix .. which bike would you rather your child get run into by…the sharply pointed wooden bakfiets or the rounded fabric covered box of the cabby.)

    I think the Gazelle Cabby gets criticised by a lot of folk for no particular reason, it offers something thought through and innovative at a good price point. It is obvious to anyone looking, that the bakfiets and gazelle offer different things for different people. That does not mean one is bad, one is good.

    Both products have merit and are very different, both to ride and in daily use. I have yet to seriously damage a box on either.

    moving away from the asthetics of boxes……..enjoying the pics Henry, but your ladies there look a bit chilly, cannot help thinking they should have worn thicker paint…

    Todd, interesting question, i too fail to see how the Puma Biomega, a bike designed solely (sic) for the purposes of transporting one big puma shoe could fail catastophically. Perhaps two big Puma shoes for long periods might be a step too far….BUT…the coverage this bike has got, shows the power of visual asthetics that appeal to the fashionable mainstream and the ability of the large multinational machine to get things out here…
    non bikey friends have e mailed me about the Puma….If nothing else it widens people minds to a new way of thinking…never a bad thing.

  9. Todd Edelman Says:

    @Rob: Regarding the Biomega, there is a place for intuition and professional experience. Many people in N. America only know external deraileur bikes, so don’t see advantages of other systems. Men tend not to notice that these new/”new” designs are almost always high step-over. A lot of bad processing is encouraged by popular websites like Treehugger which almost never road-test anything, and tend to lazily regurgitate press releases. Some thoughtful, even radical graphic designers I know think that the following is actually useful: http://tinyurl.com/344u5jd. In the area of one-man blogs, Henry sometimes approaches a perhaps too negative thing but if he explains why and you agree the stuff he likes seems great, trustworthy and buyable. Compare this to Mikael from Copenhagenize who I feel is very thorough in his criticism of the fear-no-helmet culture (and even gracious upon occasion, e.g. just the other day saying that IF someone rides because they have a helmet, it is fine) but says almost only good things about every Danish product, like Treehugger but with better writing. He also reviewed this Biomega bike and his opinion was pretty much 180 degrees from Henry’s – though he did road test it 🙂 (In my ideal world, no bikes can be mail-ordered nor mentioned in editorial unless they have been ridden).

    BUT now about the cargo and child-carrying Cabby… there is this issue of “bicycle thinning”. Let’s try to compare it to the one-person Brompton and how both solve basic function and the off-the-bike thing.

    The Brompton gets folded extremely compactly and can be carried upstairs etc. to one’s bed if so desired. And of course on PT and 42 bikes in one parking space http://tinyurl.com/284mu3s. In a way it solves the main problem of a bike big in an extreme way, an all the way way, practically putting a bike into a portable hole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_hole. Still, people praise its riding quality for even not so short trips.

    On the other hand the Cabby can go through doorways but I would guess rarely if ever goes upstairs. And not on public transport, unless e.g. an extremely generous open space design on some regional trains matches up with a very liberal conductor. My experience in apt. buildings in NYC, Prague and Berlin is that it is not door width which is the issue, but stairs or more precisely destinations far above ground level. So, the Cabby cannot go far enough as a solution in terms of thinning so I think a more popular solution for cargo bikes is ground level storage, on the street, like with cars!, but perhaps in a cage, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/25vdjn4. Seems that the Cabby might compromise too much for a partial solution? Not sure as I have not road tested it!

  10. Thorsten H. Says:

    @Henry – nice posting again! And I’m really happy to manage to go for vacation at the Ijsselmeer and hopefully will have the chance to visit your shop and try some of the bikes.

    @Todd – there is a nice solution for the question Brompton OR Cabby it’s called PackBernds https://www.bernds.de/pack-bernds-en.html

  11. henry Says:

    That PackBernds has been shown at the expos for several years and as far as I can tell it’s always the same prototype. I’m not even sure it’s fully rideable but in any case the basket is just that: a basket with no consideration for carrying children or cargo or whatever. Even if it is actually a complete bike for sale it’s just an enthusiast’s bike with a big basket. In that sense it doesn’t really belong in the same discussion as the Cargobike, Cabby and Urban Arrow.

  12. Roger Says:

    @Rob Bushill
    Sorry i disagree with you in all points regarding the Gazelle Cabby:
    Just to be different does not result in a better construction.

    *The frame design with a seat tube left away is in contradiction to the
    constructional findings of at least half a century.
    It will result in a even stronger wobbling, which bakfietsen with a similar
    wheel base suffer from anyway. If you take aluminum as a frame material,
    it will fail sooner or later in the rear “triangle” area.

    *PVC is a material which is known for decades as a threat to human health
    and environment. I wouldn´t deliberately expose children to this.
    The leading manufacturer of bike-trailers for whole Europe an North America, chariot carriers from Canada, has replaced side windows and rain covers out of PVC for exactly that reason a couple of years ago.

    *Passing doors with a bakfiets is no real life situation, nevertheless this
    could work with a box-type bakfiets like the bf cargobike and similars.

    *In 18 years of running a Christiania almost every day i wouldn´t have
    liked to give up the box for a handful of tubes and fabric for a single moment. At least under german traffic conditions you better go for the most
    solid solution possible.

    * So, to make a long story short, at a retail price of 1500 Euro, which is
    slightly under a reasonable equipped bf cargo, what´s the advantage?

    @ Todd
    I must confess, i haven´t ridden the cabby…

    Sorry we didn´t manage to meet on Eurobike. Sent my reply too late, i assume. Maybe we can talk in Amsterdam before Spezi in April.

  13. DrMekon Says:

    my long reply appears not to have posted. In short

    1. the issue is repair when the manufacturer has ceased to exist or lost interest. I know a bunch of carpenters in my small village, all of whom could make a functionally equivalent box. If I lived next door to Clarijs and an ali welder, it might be another matter.

    2. I don’t see that a bike that can fold for storage represents an advantage over a bike that’s resilienbt enough to live outside, but perhaps there are a few people for whom this feature is necessary.

    3. I like the cabby, and the modest differences between bikes are hugely outweighed by the benefits any kiddy carying bike that allows easy conversation confers Be happy with whatever you have, even if you bought a Taga. Riding with your kids is the best.

  14. Rob Bushill Says:

    Roger, i never said the cabby was of a better construction…
    as for rigidity
    skip to about 1minute 30 unless you want to scare yourself regards the high respect ‘cargo’ bikes have here in the Uk’s cycling city (this was a cargo bike challenge as part of the cycle festival).

    The cabby is the only ‘Bakfiets’ style bike i can ride loaded with no hands, so the frame is stiff enough (i am 19 stone, so a fair test…with a 50 kilo cider barrel full of cider.)…and there is a seat tube subsitute if there is not an actual seat tube…if you look closely….and the frame is not ali.

    Not sure why a wooden box and an ali and canvs/pvc box would fair much differently if left outside….The wooden box does have advantages, its easy to bolt to….the main thing is that it ‘feels’ more solid …but the cabbys box really suits the maxi cosi… horses and courses….

    regards the PVC…i do kind of get your points….perhaps a winter project is to find an alternative, willow might do it….waxed cotton would work well….i will check and see if it is actually PVC.

    as probably the only one here who sells and rides both bikes, i am surprised my postive cabby comments have been poo poo’ed.

    Both bikes are good, very good ,the bakfiets a higher spec and classier image, the cabby slightly more practical for young families, i tend to ride the cabby given a choice, don”t really know why…with regards sales….the bakfiets win to the cabby about 60/40…

    Dr mekon, i agree, riding with Kids/dogs/stuff in a bike of this type is a joy…regardless of the model, bike lovers of this type should join together in praise of the bikes generally. Long live the cabby, long live the bakfiets, long live workcycles, without them our lives and the lives of our children would be a worst place.

    No comments about frontal impacts to other pedestrians…not sure i have heard it brought up before….

    Thanks for your blog Henry, you can never tell where the comments are gonna end up can you….cheers for your work..

  15. DrMekon Says:

    The cabby was the first cargobike I rode, and got a couple of test rides with my wife from Station Cycles in Cambridge, who had also sold both the Cabby and the bakfiets.nl bike for a while (now sell neither). This was back when the bakfiets.nl was £1210 and the cabby was £999 (albeit the raintent was vapourware back then). I ended up buying a DeFietsfabriek 995 for £900 including the raintent. It’s my experience with De Fietsfabriek (their inability to handle requests from the UK distro in a timely manner and their subsequent demise [and resurrection?]) that has made me slightly leery of bikes I don’t think I could keep functioning in the long term.

    At the time, I thought the cabby was going to clear up in the UK because of the £1000 cyclescheme limit. I think in the UK, that remains an important barrier. Still, definitely not poo pooing the Cabby – I’ve recommended it to friends in the past.

    Out of interest, is my recollection that it feels a bit long correct? Could that be changed by adjusting the lever ratio between the two bars that join the steering tie rod? On the De Fietsfabriek, it was adjustable, and the setting that mimicked the bakfiets NL (front lever shorter than the rear) really improved the handling, making it less steery and feel shorter.

  16. Rob Bushill Says:

    It my feeling/experience that the cabby is now (and it is evolving) easier to ride first time out, more intuative, yet it is the Bakfiets that ‘cyclists’ prefer….

    I must confess that i am a little defensive of the cabby because the bakfiets.nl bikes has such good exposure, through Hugh and Workcycles, that i feel i need to fight its corner….
    The Cabby is lovely to ride….the equipment is not as ‘nice’, the price reflects that…we can up spec here but whats the real point…the video i hope gives a hint at its capabilities….50 Kilos on the front is not so much, but 19 stone rider is a lot i think…so the video is a good indicator of what the cabby is capable of…..(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcIUn1KkiU4 3mins 10 in for the hands free bit…) but…the bakfiets.Nl/workcycles bike looks very sexy ….great fun riding them back to back, side by side through Bristol..
    again what a great style of bike, regardless of manufacturer…

    Puma is design for the sake of it…(who did design it…..??)
    but dutch colours do not work in UK….a generalisation…black included….so puma have a point….
    (and duck for cover…..)again)

  17. Roger Says:

    Rob, of course you´re right with the steel frame.
    Since Gazelle sold or wrecked the machines for the lugged steel frames
    i only became aware of new models based on imported Aluminum frames.
    I introduced bakfiets.nl in our shop a couple of months ago, trying to sell
    one to everybody who shows up to buy a bike trailer for kids…
    Now i´m surprised by people willing to order a \bullitt\ – an aluminum bike
    with an amazing two years warranty – arff
    Do you have experience with that kind of bike as well?

    kind regards

  18. Todd Edelman Says:

    Roger, whataya mean by “amazing two years warranty – arff”?

  19. Rob Bushill Says:

    Roger… lugged frames…i’m not sure i am aware of those….
    as for trying to sell bikes to folk, it is my opinion that with bikes as ‘revolutionary’ as these you can only get folk to try, you can never persuade…its all about the riding, and if it suits the customer…then they have the decision to buy…for a salesman…Its not all about profit with these bikes, but a way of life, thats my opinion anyway….

    Bullitts are loved by their owners….i’ve not ridden one so cannot comment…sportier bikes are loved by UK, not as practical for the family or non living ‘cargo’…hence they are not sold as that…i am sure they stop and accelerate quicker..the bigger picture is that there is a big job to be done to convince folk that the even the hub gear is better for them, let alone that the bike its attached to is very good and life changing too….
    the big picture can scare us and is well worth concidering when picking fault with bikes that work very well.
    with the puma, as with all design, the proof is with the riding, the good will always rise to the top, unfortunately its an unlevel playing field….but a clue to all as to what some folk think is where its at….

  20. rob Bushill Says:

    last entry written after a rather nice sunday lunch..basically my point is…
    whilst we pick at details, the world at large struggle with the very concept of bakfiets/’cargo’ bikes, even of low maintenance hub gears. So whilst we bang on about stuff, some informed some not, we should think a little about the folk that read these blogs struggling to find answers to questions about currently available bicycles in order to facilitate ownership but only end up getting more questions and becoming confused and mis-informed.

    re the Puma, We can all take heart that puma for example are showing an interest in cycles generally and indeed we can/should all take note of its design details because these are the informers and shapers of mainstream fashion. The puma may be inherrantly flawed but to my eye its a nice looking thing, kemper and bilinky may have something similar but the puma has it on style stakes…. IMO.

    It might be ‘S**t’ but at least its pretty.

    Roger, i don’t sell the bullit, it can only take kids if their bungied on…but it seems popular with courier companies. i am not sure how its distributed here, i have seen it on ebay…!!??

  21. Feddo Says:

    @ Rob,
    Your thoughts in helping people get informed are noble, but I tend to think that is better that (quote)”the folk who read these blogs” are well-informed. If that makes the decision making process more difficult, so be it.

    People should just get on one of these bikes and try it out anyway. People regularly try out my Cargobike and are amazed at how easy it is to ride. “I was looking for a 3-wheel cargobike, that just seemed to be more stable than a 2-wheel one…”

    I don’t even explain but just let them try mine. Non-cyclists are not interested in the technical explanation.

    If potential buyers are looking to spend their hard earned cash on a (expensive) bike, then rather they spend it on “the best” product for their needs. The world (or garages) are littered with well-meaning but ill-informed or ill-advised purchases. I would think that someone would be better off buying a bike that meets their needs, will wear well over time and be reliable, then buying something that is (perhaps) slightly cheaper, looks cool, but is unfixable once broken or just does not ride well. That would put them off getting on a bike again after adjusting to their disappointing purchase.

    UPDATE 2: I am back home and am shocked at how much better my Cargobike Mark1 rides than the Mark2 I rode on Vlieland. It also seems lighter. Because I was so happy with it, I ran it through the car wash. 4 years living outside: no rust, rides like a dream, sparkly black paint still, bak inside nice and clean and drainholes are unblocked again. My only gripe is the stand, that is WAY better on the Mark2.

  22. rob Bushill Says:

    Hi Freddo,

    Noble my ideas maybe, but with practical application,

    All informed opinion is a good thing, comments about a virtual experience and theroetical weaknesses are not so useful in the real world and can stop folk making the journey to the test ride that will inform their decision from then on.

    i am apprieciating your comments as user of a bakfiets.nl, as a rider of both models myself, i find the same.

  23. Roger Says:

    this was supposed to be ironical, since 2 years warranty is the absolute
    minimum, required by european-wide law. Many manufacturers grant 5, some even 10 years deliberately.

  24. jennifer Says:

    On the Cabby- how long do you actually think it will last? You out grow the maxicosi pretty fast and then if you have more kids it must get pretty tight in there. Kind of a glorified double stroller you can push with a bike.
    We carry at least four kids and groceries in our bakfiets not counting the baby seat we can attach and that we can ride it really loaded down with full panniers on the rack. No hands.. not in Chicago traffic in the snow by and large.
    For a good laugh check out the american Momentum magazine \ cargo \ issue. Full of overpriced prototypes and terrible reviews for the most part. I think the guy from Joe bike was too spooked to put a picture of a bakfiets next to his very bad copy. I still think the Cabby is a waste of money.
    We finally put a short guide to buying a box on a blog as we are still swarmed after more than three years with ours on the street and we are tired of explaining what to look for before buying to everyone that asks and then answering questions about where to look. Not everyone in the world gets a chance to get a blast from Henry about what to look for- love him or hate him over time the whole earfull we got years ago in Amsterdam proved right.

  25. jennifer Says:

    oops-mistyped my website

  26. Rob Bushill Says:

    I refer to my previous comments.
    but if you have to move 4 + kids regularly, the bakfiets long is probably your best choice.
    jennifer, have you ridden a cabby lately?, it’s not designed to replace a bakfiets.nl in the world of bikes, but to provide option and choice.
    The cabby’s optional maxi cozi fittings, work a treat, bakfiets only has essentially home grown efforts to offer. its horses for courses. there is room for a least two boxbikes in the world, both suit different folk.
    as for advice given years, the world has moved on, so has bakfiets (not for the better some would say..see comments above) the cabby has improved…(see comments above).
    its because of this outdated attitute to the cabby that i have both bikes to test ride together, back to back so that you can see the differences and see which bike suits your situation best. I let the bikes sell themselves.

    one thing we can agree on is that the world is better for a boxbike.

  27. henry Says:

    Feddo, Rob,
    On Sunday while trying to repair (yet again) the Sram i9 gear hub (for testing) on Kyoko’s Cargobike 1.0 the shifter exploded in my hands… again. Those who know me will vouch for my mechanical aptitude. Since the bakfiets is her daily transportation I brought a rental Cargobike 2.0 home, first checking the bike over and adjusting the saddle and handlebars to approximately the same as her own bike. I rode the rental bike the whole day, first empty and then with one and two kids aboard.

    My verdict: If set up properly and adjusted for the same ergonomics they ride almost identically. The only differences I could detect were a slightly higher steering effort and a larger turning radius on the Cargobike 2.0.

  28. Feddo Says:

    It’s all in your head, man. You WANT them to ride the same.

    Those who know me can vouch for my total unbiased-ness, utter objectiveness and “dead-on” perceptiveness.

    The customer is always right, anyway.

  29. Rob Bushill Says:

    its an interesting point you raise Henry, ergonomics, bikes feel different depending on seat height, bar height, angles…something that most test rides do not take time to include, and the customers are generally to shy to ask for changes. the height of the seat for example makes all the difference to my power and comfort on both bikes, the higher the better for me.
    I see my local council spending loads of money telling folk to ride a bike to work, ride more generally, then at their own events, hundreds of people turn up with underinflated tyres and seats too low and nothings said. two things that make life uncomfortable on a bike,that cost nothing to rectify and yet folk carry on in ignorance giving themselves a hard time.
    most folk just want a boxbike to forfil a purpose, be reliable and last them a long time. its then the details that can ownership easier, more enjoyable.
    people do need to be told/taught that they can raise/lower/rotate handlebars, seats can be moved back and forth, up’ed and down’d.
    lots of folk just don’t know that its possible. (in the UK at least)

  30. Feddo Says:

    Analogous to this: high-end cars with underinflated tires (ask an “average” person how often they check tire pressure on car or bike), or cars with VERY cheap tires that severely undermine performance, running cars on the cheapest gas/diesel possible which negatively impacts performance, saving on preventive maintenance on a car/bike.

    Also analogous (a.k.a. the American approach): take a “sport bike” with external derailleur/gears, fix flimsy and non-protective plastic fenders to it and a very crappy pannier, keep the crappy seat and very “sport” riding position, wear gloves, helmet, all sorts of “protective” clothing and then call bike riding “tough” and “not practical in everyday life”.

    Having lived in Amsterdam: I am still surprised on a daily basis how Dutch people who are so bike-minded can tolerate the pieces of crap they ride on every day. Rusted, squeaky, craptastic bikes.

    So, Rob: people can be very happy riding really bad and uncomfortable bikes on a daily basis without complaining. I am convinced it is a mindset or cultural thing which we happen to have here in NL.

  31. henry Says:

    Of course you know that I’ve been designing and testing bikes for long enough to judge objectively. After replacing the rear wheel and shifter of our own bike I rode our own bike home again. I’ve decided that the steering is meaningfully different though I’m not sure whether I prefer Cargobike 1.0 or 2.0 in this regard. Cargo 1.0 steers very quickly and sharply so it demands a light touch. Cargo 2.0 has slower, more forgiving behavior. I find it easier to be precise on our own Cargobike but the inexperienced rider might have trouble riding a straight line. In any case the tighter turning circle of the older version is a nice advantage.

  32. feddo Says:

    Irony or sarcasm in my post about objectiveness, Henry. Take your pick.

    Funnily enough though, I did notice yesterday what you refer to in your post, the turning circle is tighter. I presume that is also what makes the 2.0 more forgiving as you put it?

    Added thought: would it not be good for the 3.0 model to make the front fork “trailing” so the cargobike wants to go forward if left to it’s own devices? You know I might be handy with a tool (no joke intended), but I am no engineer. Isn’t there some sort of mechanical law (I’m thinking of shopping cart or Bugaboo wheels here) that if the front fork is the other way around the wheel tends to want to go straight?

    As this is not prevalent in bike design, there is probably some sort of insane downside to this steeering setup as I suggest?

  33. henry Says:

    OK I rode Cargo 2.0 again today and decided that I do prefer its steering feel. This bike feels more planted and stable and is more relaxing to ride. The big downside is the larger turning circle. The two are actually unrelated; the larger turning circle of the Cargobike 2.0 is caused by the extra fat fork blades which hit the steering stops earlier.

    The different steering feel must be caused by differing fork rakes between the two models, since the head tube angles and almost everything else relevant here is the same. Unfortunately it’s difficult to measure fork rake accurately without removing the fork… maybe we have both 1.0 and 2.0 forks in our parts bins though. My suspicion is that the 2.0 fork has slightly less rake (offset) giving the bike more trail which would lead to more centering effect while cycling. The flip side to more trail (and the answer to Feddo’s question about forks with reversed rake) is that more trail also means more wheel flop, which is the enemy of load carrying bikes. Too much wheel flop will cause the bike to be unstable at low speeds.

  34. jennifer james Says:

    Hi Rob-
    We can’t find a Cabby to ride here- I went looking again the other day. Probably the closest we can get is the Kangaroo that J. C. Lind, a nice shop here has now. I’m sorry we can’t as it would be nice to have more options always. I think that we are lucky here in Chicago to have a huge burst in the last two years of cargo bikes to try- most are admittedly more expensive then the Cabby. I think your point on the maxi cosi is well taken- we did not use ours very much in our box and had our third kid in a bobike mini seat on our handlebars for a time until he could ride in the box this summer. I do think that it is best to ride everything possible before buying a cargo-diiferent needs to suit! I think it does help to shop for any of these bikes with a mind to how fast babies do grow to become kids with stuff and dare I say it sometimes…. siblings!

  35. Josef Bray-Ali Says:

    I just picked up a Gazelle Cabby to sell in my shop. I of course took it for a quick ride after checking it over and noticed right away that the slack seat tube angle made it a bit easier to ride, but that overall it felt sluggish compared to my Workcycles Bakfiets 1.0.

    About the folding cargo bag on the Cabby – this actually made a lot of sense to me as I have to park my bakfiets in our garage by squeezing between our one car and our washing machines.

    I think that the Cabby will be sold in my shop as a deluxe shopping/baby hauler, whereas my bakfiets is a little closer to a more general cargo hauler with special consideration for kid carrying (like that awesome ledge on the front of the box, which makes package delivery annoying but allows my daughter to climb in and out on her own).

    We also carrying Nihola cargo trikes in the shop and are set to receive a few Christiania’s from a small company called Boxcycles. These bikes all have their benefits and designed trade-offs. The Cabby I’ve got in the shop is enough of a fully fleshed out design to make sense for some people.

    I don’t view these bikes as competitors in my shop for limited cargo bike buying dollars. The market in the U.S. is so small that having these all in one room helps push the sales of everything in my shop – as someone can show up with their husband and kids and take a tour of cargo bikes.

  36. Rose Graham Says:

    Irony or sarcasm in my post about objectiveness, Henry. Take your pick. Funnily enough though, I did notice yesterday what you refer to in your post, the turning circle is tighter. I presume that is also what makes the 2.0 more forgiving as you put it? Added thought: would it not be good for the 3.0 model to make the front fork “trailing” so the cargobike wants to go forward if left to it’s own devices? You know I might be handy with a tool (no joke intended), but I am no engineer. Isn’t there some sort of mechanical law (I’m thinking of shopping cart or Bugaboo wheels here) that if the front fork is the other way around the wheel tends to want to go straight? As this is not prevalent in bike design, there is probably some sort of insane downside to this steeering setup as I suggest?

  37. henry Says:

    Rose, Changing the fork rake to reverse (so it bends backwards) would have disastrous consequences for the handling. The geometric trail would increase enormously, thus giving the bike considerable “wheel flop”. Wheel flop is the vertical component of the steering movement. With so much wheel flop the bike will be nearly unrideable at low speeds and when loaded.

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