Archive for the ‘Cargo trikes / Bakfietsen’ Category

The Croquette Bakfiets of Tilmann Meyer-Faje

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010


I saw this nearly perfect kroket on three wheels a couple years ago while visiting an art exhibition at Museum de Paviloens in Almere with Kyoko. I didn’t realize then it was actually a fully functional croquette (“kroket” in Dutch) frying and vending vehicle. I just figured it was just a humorous art piece. I suppose that’s also the case judging from some of Tilmann’s other projects which include a fake Segway tour of a mental institution, a mall kiosk that made and sold concrete clogs, and a one man university. But we talked with Tilmann at another exhibition last week and he filled me in on the whole scoop. He’s German though and explains it all with a straight face so I’m still not 100% sure about the humor part. I might just be inadvertently insulting an artist here, something I’ve already demonstrated an aptitude for amongst righteous cyclists.

Finally: A Real Winter in Amsterdam

Friday, January 8th, 2010


The last few winters have been pretty wimpy; hardly any snow and not even particularly cold. Actually that’s not entirely true since there’s nothing more bone chilling than a rainy, windy day just above the freezing point. The Dutch call it “waterkoud” meaning “water cold”, though it doesn’t prevent them from cycling like their water soluble cycling neighbors.

This winter began in November. It rained for weeks and weeks and weeks, right through much of December. It was apparently the rainiest November since the Golden Age… or something like that. Fortunately we were in Japan enjoying perfect weather. Then in late December it got colder and the rain turned to snow. Of course we’re talking about Amsterdam here so it’s never very much snow, but at least it’s been snowing regularly and the snow’s been sticking around for long enough to have some winter wonderland. Cycling in the snow is fun, especially in a city where the distances are short and you can largely avoid cars. I’ve always loved the quietness and lightness of a snowy city, I assume the result of the snow absorbing sound and reflecting light far better than most of what’s under the snow.

This afternoon poked my camera out the door to snap the above picture. Good thing those bikes aren’t spring flowers but no takers for a bakfiets rental this evening?

Bakfiets on the bakfiets ambulance

Monday, October 19th, 2009

bakfiets op een bakfiets

A while back I wrote about how some goon stole the rear wheel of Doede’s antique bakfiets. After some measurements we determined that this bike was quite strange in that the rear hub axle and crank axle were narrower than usual. Consequently the chain line is much closer to the center of the bike meaning that even if we widened the frame (40mm!) to fit one of our wheels the rear cog wouldn’t line up with the chainring in front anyway. It was decided to bring the bakfiets to the WorkCycles shop for further investigation and repair.

So how does one transport a non-functional bakfiets? On another bakfiets of course! Here Mette van der Linden (brother of web genius and maker of these photos Doede) rides the bakfiets ambulance across Amsterdam. Mind you, an old bakfiets is not exactly something you can just toss in your car, even if you happen to have one; This particular example is over 300cm long, 130cm wide and weighs probably 130kg… OK somewhat less since it’s missing it’s almost 10kg rear wheel thanks to some knuckle-dragging cretin.

bakfiets op een bakfiets 4

bakfiets op een bakfiets 3

bakfiets op een bakfiets 2

bakfiets op een bakfiets 1

The Dump Tramp

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

A man travels with his home-built home on a bicycle. That’s all I know about this one. Thanks to artist friend Abner Preis for the tip but don’t go searching for his website – it seems to have been hacked into a porno site, I assume NOT Abner’s doing.

Speaking of houses on bikes I’d forgotten about this fantastic camper bike from Kevin Cyr:


UPDATE: Jason Moore in the first comment below reminds me of another bicycle camper/motorhome, this one traveled with and lived in full-time by Brian Campbell. His bike, which has gone through several iterations is ingenious. Brian’s situation though isn’t one to be envied; I’m under the impression he doesn’t live in his bicycle entirely by choice. You can read about Brian on Bike Portland, and also the sites of many others who’ve met Brian during his travels. Photos by Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland.

Brian and his motorhome bike-1

Brian and his motorhome bike-2

But then I begin to google camper bikes further and find that a whole new world has opened to me: bicyclists not content to merely travel by bicycle but who also insist upon sleeping in or on their bicycle. Take these Midget Bicycle Campers from Australia for example:

midget camper

And then there’s this one by Paul Welkins, as seen on the Design Boom site:

burning man trailer

Check out Welkin’s site for an amazing array of self-built, efficient vehicles and other random stuff.

Even the sober “doe maar normaal” Dutch are at it. Check out “Met een bakfiets op vakantie“.

camper bakfietsen

And a family from Zeeland (as in the original Zeeland that New Zealand is the new version of in the same way that New York is the new version of Amsterdam… or something like that) who used to ride their old bakfiets as a camper, kids riding alongside on their own little bikes.


A few years ago there was an Italian firm called “Tasso Italia” that offered (though probably didn’t ever sell) a copy of the Main Street Pedicabs trike with a pop-out camper tent on the bed but they seem to have disappeared into the ether.

Of course that’s all good fun but we shouldn’t ignore the countless rickshaw drivers in Indonesia, India and elsewhere who sleep in their bikes out of necessity and not for kicks. It’s about as easy to forget as the fact that a great number (a majority even?) of transportation cyclists in the US are neither “cycle chic” nor “cycling enthusiast”. In fact they’re people who cannot drive; they’ve either lost their licenses or are too poor to own a car, and their accident statistics are so appalling that they skew US bicycling safety stats markedly toward the danger direction.

Big, classic bakfietsen on the brain again

Friday, August 21st, 2009


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…

Who steals an old bakfiets wheel?

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Our web developer Doede sent me a despairing note the other day telling me that the rear wheel of his new, old bakfiets got ripped off. The poor beast looks so sad, like a horse with a broken leg.

In case you’re confused thinking that a bakfiets is a modern, two-wheeler that mom carries her kids in, you’re half correct. That’s a Bakfiets Cargobike, with Bakfiets being the very generic trade name for Maarten van Andel’s brilliant bike. But to Dutch folks “bakfiets” still generally means a giant, heavy duty three-wheeler with a wooden box on the front, a brake lever between your legs and a fixed gear to keep those legs busy. Just to be sure: “bakfiets” is singular and “bakfietsen” is plural. Please remember that as it’s quite painful to read “bakfiet”. Check here for a more detailed description of the etymology of bakfietsen, bakkersfietsen, bakkers, bakken, gebak…

Anyhow the theft raised the question of who would bother stealing an old bakfiets wheel. They’re nearly impossible to find but then again such a wheel has no significant market value. Thus Doede’s wheel was probably stolen by another bakfiets owner whose hub, drum brake or rim finally died after 40 or 50 years of faithful service. And who rides old bakfietsen like these? Well, Doede reasoned, not the sorts of people you’d expect to be stealing their fellow bakfiets riders wheels: hippies, squatters, socialists and others well to the “left” of the socio-political spectrum. Just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover… or that such demographic stereotypes don’t actually work for crap.

[UPDATE 26-08-09: On Sunday while cycling out of the city with Kyoko and Pascal for a day trip we came across a scene I’d never witnessed before: A building getting broken into and squatted. A raucous mob of perhaps 50 men and women with creative hair and almost entirely black clothing was smashing their way through the door of a pretty, 17th century building in the Weteringschans. Upon breaking the door open the crowd cheered and stormed inside with the contents of a delivery van and no less than two big, old bakfietsen. I also recognized a couple of Amsterdam bakfiets/transportfiets “colleagues” of the old skool variety. Just goes to show you that some stereotypes have a basis in reality.

I pulled my camera out to get a couple pics of the bakfietsen playing a key role in the squatter’s life, but I was immediately apprehended by somebody apparently appointed the “no fucking pictures” man of the event.]

In case you’re wondering what sort of rear wheel would be supporting the rear frame of that bakfiets had some scumbag not stolen it, here’s a quick description:

  • Transporter tire 26 x 2.25″ or 26 2.5″, roughly equivalent to an old motorcycle tire
  • Thick-walled steel rim about 50mm wide
  • 36 or 40 spokes in 8 or 10 gauge (3.0 to 3.6mm thick)
  • Steel hub with large, hand operated drum brake
  • 1/2 x 3/16″ cog bolted to the hub (fixed gear)
  • It would look like this one on a brand new WorkCycles Bakfiets, meaning thus that such wheels are actually still available… just not at a price many old-fashioned bakfiets riders are prepared to pay for:

    And here’s a picture of a whole, brand-new classic bakfiets, just because I’m so thrilled that such gorgeous, durable, early 20th century vehicles can still be in production. In the background is the Nijland factory where these bikes are made for WorkCycles:

    The ash-tray bike!

    Friday, July 17th, 2009

    The ash-tray bike!, originally uploaded by Iam sterdam.

    WorkCycles didn’t make this one and I haven’t seen it yet myself. The Amsterdam city District “de Baarsjes” is using this brilliant “Asbakfiets” to promote smoke free and butt free surroundings. They’re giving out little cigarette and gum wallet/baggies to hold the nasties until a suitable trash container can be found.

    A little background:
    Ashtray = asbak
    Cargo trike = bakfiets

    The “bak” part of the words is the same: means “tray”, “box”, or “bin”. I suppose “bucket” probably also comes from the same origin.

    Here’s more (humorous) bakfiets etymology

    Thanks Iam sterdam for the great photo!

    The Pfanntoom 1

    Sunday, June 7th, 2009

    Pfanntoom 1

    The above photo by supertsaar on Flickr reminded me of a conversation I had with Jos Louwman, founder of the well-known Mac Bike bicycle rental company in Amsterdam. Jos rode the same “Pfanntoom 1” bakfiets to our Oktoberfietsfeest party this past fall and I commented that it reminded me of the casket bakfiets I’d seen recently.

    Workcycles Anniversary / Shop Opening Party

    As it turns out there’s quite an interesting story behind the Pfanntoom and the reference to the casket trike was eerily close to the truth. Here’s a rough translation of Jos’ response:

    “Funny that you the Phanntoom 1 compare to the casket bakfiets. My friend Henk Pfann (the godfather of the Amsterdam Bakfiets Club) is buried in the box that was originally mounted on the bakfiets. As a memorial we mounted a pontoon from a aquaplane on the chassis.”

    It’s also worth noting that the box that was originally on this bakfiets (the one Henk Pfann is now buried in) was in the shape of a book, specifically a bible; Henk and his family were in the book business.

    The name Pfanntoom is a word play on the Dutch “fantoom”, the English “phantom” (meaning the same thing) and the name Pfann.

    A little more about Henk Pfann on Wikipedia.

    The bakfiets chassis under the pontoon appears to be an old Maxwell, a long extinct firm that made some of the best bakfietsen ever. Maxwells often had unusual features including triple main tubes, lovely double chainstays, and a handle built into a rear fender reinforcement. Maxwell was founded in 1914 and continued until 1961 though I’ve never seen a Maxwell bakfiets or transportfiets that looked as if it was built after WWII. The Maxwell name is still in use for a generic line of Dutch city bikes but these don’t have anything to do with the old Maxwell.

    A Couple Early WorkCycles Pics

    Saturday, May 16th, 2009

    veemarkt construction

    Just browsing through the old photos here, and I came across some nice oldies: January 2004, WorkCycles‘ first shop in the Veemarkt in Amsterdam under construction. We’d cleaned it up from it’s former (extremely dirty) life as a truck garage and installed the platform that’s still in place.

    The large beams were purchased new but the rest of the wood was second hand. I bought an entire truckload of used “betonplex” which is an extremely tough and water resistant coated plywood. It’s a very expensive material and I scored it cheaply but… it was covered in concrete molding residue and had thousands of (bend and broken) screws to be removed. It took a friend and I a couple weeks to clean these boards but to this day almost all of the flooring and shelving in the shop is from this purchase.

    A few bikes are visible: Gustav Transport trike on the right and on the left a handful of Monarks including a Long John. Except for those big beams, the Gustav transported practically everything needed to build this shop. Sometimes it was loaded with 250+ kg of materials. That bike remained in rental service until 2008 when Melissa Halley purchased it. I’ll tell that story in a following post.

    veemarkt early filming

    June 2004, WorkCycles Veemarkt shop is open for business. It wasn’t busy yet and here artist friends Sietske Tjallingii and Eric Staller are using it as HQ for a film shoot nearby. I was happy to participate, especially considering the attractive women involved. Kyoko and I didn’t meet until a couple years later.

    gustav and conference bike

    June 2004, Gustav Transport cargo trike in service as a rolling film platform… for the Conference Bike. That’s me pedaling. They filmed this movie about the CoBi.

    A Slice Of Friday

    Meeting Henry of Workcycles

    Above a couple more recent pics of the WorkCycles Veemarkt shop from Marc of Amsterdamize fame.

    Konijnen Fruit

    Thursday, May 7th, 2009

    Tripping Angels presents “Konijnen Fruit’; a rabbit bakfiets cycling trip through Amsterdam. Unnecessary inside joke: It helps to have seen the classic Paul Verhoeven film Turkish Delight (“Turks Fruit”), which you should see anyway because it’s a great film and has some quintessentially Dutch cycling scenes.

    In case you were wondering what people do with a rental bakfiets, here’s an example.

    Wobine: Thanks. The next rental is on the house!