Archive for the ‘Cargo trikes / Bakfietsen’ Category

Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) 2009

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Today was the most important day of the year for the Dutch: Queen’s Day. Everybody should experience this monumental block party slash mass garage sale at least once in their life. Nowhere else have I ever experienced so much humanity in such close quarters for so long over such a large part of a city. Three quarters of the city wears orange. Boats fill some canals bumper to bumper. People pack the most popular streets making even walking impossible, never mind bicycling or driving a car.

A few years ago Queen’s Day meant heavy-duty partying from the evening before (Queen’s Night) until at least late afternoon for us. Beer flows through the streets as water through the canals. We wandered the Jordaan (drunkenly) feeling half insider and half outsider.

But after eight or ten Queen’s Days the spectacle of the crowds and the partying becomes too familiar. More recently it’s become a quest to buy as much needed baby stuff as possible, as cheaply as possible. Kyoko researches the best neighborhoods to shop, and maps out our schedule… beginning at an ungodly early hour. Of course she knows what she’s doing and this year we scored a high-chair, lots of old wooden toys, modern toys, three buckets of baby-lego, cute clothes, two Bobike Mini child seats and more, all for maybe €100. The lightheated salesmanship and negotiations over how many cents will be paid for a toy make it all fun. Our partying was limited to sitting on our friends’ roof terrace afterward.

So why tell you about “Koninginnedag”? Well, because the bakfietsen are instrumental. All of the WorkCycles and MacBike rental bakfietsen get reserved months in advance by people and organizations planning to sell their goods or put on a show.

workcycles bakfiets vendor queens day

We and many others carry our new possessions home by bike too. It’s pretty much the only practical way to do so considering you can’t get a car within kilometers of the busy areas. Cycling might sometimes be slow or frustrating but you can usually find a quieter street to ride along or at least walk the bike through the crowd for a couple blocks. This year we took Kyoko’s Bakfiets Cargobike and a WorkCycles shop errand bike with two 60cm x 40cm plastic bins.

pascal and 2 bakfietsen full of new stuff

On a more somber note there was an attempted attack on the Royal Family, who was in Apeldoorn for the event. Some guy sped his Suzuki Swift (a small car) through the barriers in an attempt to hit the open bus the Royal Family rode in during the procession. He missed the bus but hit a number of bystanders. Some five people were killed and about a dozen wounded. The Dutch Royal Family has always travelled with minimal security and has never previously had a seriously threatening situation. Similarly the Dutch ministers are known for riding bikes around like normal people The press is speculating that this era of innocence has just ended.

The fake Bakfiets Cargobikes keep on coming

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Some stories have to be told, even when you know in advance you’re going to piss some people off. I’m writing this post much more out of sense of justice and to spare a few people some frustration than to further WorkCycles’ interests.

bakfietsweb steering system

The topic of the horrible, Chinese made family bakfiets copies has come up here intermittently but I’ve never written anything in depth about them. For those unfamiliar I’m talking about bakfietsen sold under various and constantly changing names, some of which are listed in this post on Regular readers already know my conviction that these crude constructions of randomly “designed”, stamped and welded pot metal in the shapes of “bikes” and “trikes” are actually of negative value to their unfortunate purchasers and the world in general. The various fly-by-night firms selling them without warranty promote them as less expensive though somewhat simplified alternatives to similar looking, quality bicycles made by, Christiania, Gazelle, Fietsfabriek and WorkCycles. If this were really the case I’d respect their activities, helpful or detrimental to those of my own.

However they’re just pandering to wishful thinking; Sure, it’d be great to have some inexpensive bakfiets options for families but the laws of physics and economics even apply to bicycles. The quality models simply cost what they have to, given the heavy duty demands, the need for safety and relatively small quantity production. Depending on the format and how deluxe it’s equipped they cost (in the Netherlands) between €1300 and about €2300. Anybody who can come up with a better price-quality-feature ratio will succeed in this competitive market.

The “bak-fakes”, on the other hand, are sold solely to earn a quick profit. They’re designed and made to such low standards that they’re really not useful machines. The customer is not getting a less pretty version of a €1500 bicycle for €600, she’s getting stuck with a flatpack full of ill-fitting, fast rusting steel pieces, paperboard panels and inappropriately chosen bicycle parts sourced from the very lowest level of department store bikes. Even if one pays a professional mechanic to do the assembly and replace the completely unusable pieces a decent riding, safe, semi-acceptably durable family transporter will never emerge. Even if no physical harm results from riding the thing, it’ll deteriorate with amazing rapidity. Oh, and there’s NO warranty. When your bike breaks in half (yes, they do that) you’re just outta luck.

The Dutch seem to have lost patience with the bak-fakes so we’re seeing fewer and fewer of them. Dutch people might be famous for loving a good deal but they do actually ride their bikes, so really crappy bikes tend not to stay on the market very long. Look how Kronan’s success here was so short lived. I guess that explains why the Chinese bak-fake manufacturers are seeking out new markets. Now they’ve just shown up on American shores through a firm called DoubleDutchBikes.

Ian at has been following my discussion with Daniel Kok, who’s written a few comments on this blog about the bicycles he’s importing from China to the USA. Judging one’s character just by the comments they leave on blogs and by their website isn’t exactly a reliable science but the picture Ian’s post paints is indeed pretty sketchy looking. Blog comments pretending to be a customer of your own business and roundabout non-answers to questions aren’t good signs.

Daniel initially commented as “dkok” here in this post, though referred to Doubledutchbikes as “they”. Clicking the link he left behind I found on his site that the proprieter seemed to be a certain Daniel Kok. Given the Dutch name and similarity to “dkok” it didn’t seem too great a leap to guess that Daniel was our poster. Returning to the site today I cannot find his name there anymore. Whatever. I understand that the small business owner just needs to get the word out there and who expects the etiquette police to be following like hawks.

So anyhow Daniel and I discussed whether his bikes are or are not the cheapo bikes in question. Ian of picked up on our discussion and apparently did some further research. If such things concern you go ahead and read about more of Daniel’s blog commenting activities on Ian’s site.

On Ian shows a bunch of pictures of these bikes with commentary about certain features. Some of the images actually originate from my own Flickr photo set you can see in the slideshow below.

Daniel claims to have made extensive changes to the bike so I suppose the crux of the matter is whether DoubleDutchBikes has really made so many improvements to justify:
A. Selling them at all.
B. A price increase from about $650 (€500 in NL) to $1900.

That would seem a tall order but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen more. Until then CAVEAT EMPTOR, folks… and happy cycling, whatever you choose to ride!

De Bakfietsband

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Perhaps only in Amsterdam: A jazz band that plays while riding in a bakfiets.

And I just noticed that the video was made in the Palmgracht, right around the corner from WorkCycles Lijnbaansgracht shop.

Azor’s bakfiets factory video from de Volkskrant

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Here’s a nice little video interview of Jan Rijkeboer, founder of Azor Bike where they make, Onderwater and some WorkCycles bicycles. Jan proudly gives a tour of their factory in Hoogeveen… far from Amsterdam where their bikes are most popular. He describes how most of the parts come from the various factories in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, and how people with various disabilities (or do I need to say challenges this year?) perform some of the functions in the assembly process. It’s in Dutch but you’ll still find it fun to watch even if you can’t understand this strange noise we call a language.

Just chatting away on the mobile phone…

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


…while hauling about a million styrofoam boxes on a cargo trike. All in a day’s work in China. Photo by Elyse Sewell, a fashion model living in China (I think). Her copious posts are sarcastic and insightful, filled with photos of the absurdities of her daily life as a “ladyposer” and all the weird things she comes across. Such as a guy talking on the phone while cycling with about 40 cubic meters of styrofoam. We don’t even see that in Amsterdam.

Thanks to Sally Applin for the tip.

Chinese Family Trike

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Chinese Family Trike, originally uploaded by henry in a’dam.

WorkCycles mechanic Tom Resink has been traveling through China and Tibet and snapped this photo of a family on their cargo trike in Chengdu.

Sinterklaas Arrival Parade with WorkCycles Bakfietsen

Monday, November 24th, 2008

The Sinterklaas “Intocht” (arrival parade) needs no introduction for the locals who began chasing Sinterklaas and his many “Zwarte Pieten”along the Amstel river and through the streets of Amsterdam as toddlers. It goes as follows (please forgive me for the semi-accurate description – I’m only after the basics idea here):

Sinterklaas is the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, and probably a much older, more original, less commercialized story. Sinterklaas comes from Turkey, though I cannot say whether that’s related to the fact that Americans often eat turkey for Christmas dinner. As a helper (or slaves, depending on who’s telling the story in what era) Sint has Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”), or rather a whole army of Zwarte Pieten. Piet is black because he’s a Moor from Spain (like Othello).

Here’s where it gets tricky for those sensitive about such topics, specifically because the Dutch are not particularly sensitive: The role of Piet is traditionally played by white people made up in “blackface” as was normal in the US back when gangsters wore hats and pointed tommy guns out of black sedans in battles over gambling and bootleg liquor. There’s occasionally debate about whether this practice (the blackface, not the gangsters) is racist… but not much. That can be witnessed by the 350,000 happy fans lining the streets of Amsterdam cheering the arrival of Sinterklaas and 670 Zwarte Pieten. Just to note I spotted what appeared to be a handful of black Zwarte Pieten, also in blackface of course.

In any case Sint and the Pieten load up a ship full of “pepernoten” (little cookies like ginger snaps) and stuff in Spain and sail for Holland. Their exact route is unclear but they do end up sailing up the Amstel, which is odd considering that this is inland from Amsterdam. Perhaps they’ve chosen another inland route to pick up carrots for the horses or something. Once they reach the Amstel thousands of families with kids on bikes and in bakfietsen ride along the banks cheering Sint and the Pieten onward. The ship lands by the Scheepvaartsmuseum (the shipping museum) in the center of Amsterdam and Zwarte Pieten and Sint parade through the streets in all manner of Dutch vehicles and conveyances. Sinterklaas rides his white horse while the various Pieten show their preferences for bakfietsen, Land Rovers, rollerblades, unicycles, BMX bikes, stilts, fire engines etc etc.

Why am I explaining all of this? Because of the bakfietsen of course! WorkCycles had the honor this year of loaning a dozen bakfietsen and transportfietsen to Sinterklaas and his team. The bakfietsen were used to carry pepernoten for the kids, hay and carrots for the horses, and yet more Pieten.

A few of the photos are my own. The others found on the following sites:
Sint in Amsterdam
Photos by Sandra Machielsen
MichaËl also has some nice photos, though I didn’t use them here

WorkCycles and win Kassa bakfiets comparison test

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Yesterday “Kassa” (cash register) the popular, prime-time, Dutch consumer program broadcast their test of family bakfietsen. Like some other consumer-rights organizations Kassa reports are widely regarded as quite reliable and honestly conducted. Despite my usual cynicism I felt the testing procedure they showed was quite rigorous utilizing two professional experts and a panel of experience experts, namely parents with children. A retailer specializing in child transport bikes and trikes provided lessons to get the parent testers proficient on the bikes as quickly as possible.

It was not a long-term test though, and it would be expected that some conclusions would change with further use of the bicycles. Our experience has been that the two wheelers gradually become more favored as parents get comfortable with them, while riding a trike tends to get “old” after the novelty wears off. This is apparently a particularly Dutch sentiment as our colleagues in Denmark, England and Germany swear by the trikes. Different strokes for different folks.

The testing appeared to have been conducted over a few days and many interesting moments and comments were captured on video. Amongst the most notable:

  • A woman overturning a Christiania trike, complete with two kids in the box
  • One expert noting that some bikes ride well empty but poorly with a loaded box, others ride well loaded but poorly empty and a couple ride well regardless of the load.
  • Moms trying to push loaded bakfietsen up a tall curb
  • (more…)

    New page: Bakfiets Cargobike Tips & Tricks

    Monday, August 18th, 2008

    At the request of numerous readers I’ve begun compiling a sort of FAQ list for Cargobike riders. I’ll add to it and flesh it out with photos as time allows. Your suggestions, especially with photos, are appreciated.

    Oldtimers bakfietsen

    Friday, July 18th, 2008


    We actually built these classic “bakfietsen” for “drop” (licorice) maker Oldtimers this past winter but didn’t have a chance to get pictures of them in action until recently. I saw one being loaded up near Dam Square in Amsterdam last week and it reminded me to put them on the blog.

    The concept is pretty straightforward: Old fashioned costume and bakfietsen to promote old fashioned candy. Each weekend they bring one or more of the trikes to a Dutch city, load it up full of free samples and wander around the city center and shopping streets.

    The bakfietsen themselves can be quickly set up in a number of ways to suit different purposes:

  • as an open container
  • with a closed box where the hinged lid also functions as a signboard
  • with a tall canopy
  • More info about these and other special purpose utility bikes and trikes can be found here on the WorkCycles site.

    After delivering the bikes we received a huge box of the various flavors of Oldtimers drop. Its really yummy stuff but I have to admit that we got a bit “dropped out” after consuming about half the contents. One can only eat so much licorice.

    Action photos from Face the Public, the field marketing firm behind the project.