Archive for the ‘Product reviews and rants’ Category

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…

Unclear on the concept 2

Thursday, July 30th, 2009


From the creative minds of famed eco-designer Ross Lovegrove and Biomega bicycles. Aside from being vaguely unique can somebody please explain what the benefit of this exercise is? I mean, I’m sure a complete aluminium frame was cut up to enable laboriously hand-fitting the carefully selected and finished bamboo tubes. I’ll eat my hat if such “hybrid” frames won’t require ten times as much energy to make as the Chinese made all-metal ones they replace. They’ll be heavier, weaker and more maintenance intensive too.


And then all this trouble to make a uncomfortable bike with neither practical amenities (OK, it at least has an enclosed drivetrain) nor sporting potential.

Interesting and structurally sound bamboo bikes have already been made, for example by Craig Calfee. I stick to my opinion that “designer bikes” are almost always pointless at best and bad bicycles at worst… and that’s coming from somebody who left the industrial design field to start a bike company.

Photos from “Design Boom”.

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!

Guest post: Experiences with Faya4you bakfiets

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Today I received the following message from a woman in Haarlem (a very lovely and old city near Amsterdam for which the Harlem of New York is named for). Her story is about her terrible experiences with an inexpensive family tricycle from the firm Faya4You in the Netherlands. Its a “bakfiets” though not to be confused with the rather generically named “” brand bikes we sell at WorkCycles.

I was browsing your blog, and found it most interesting indeed. I thought based on what I have read there that I should share my recent experiences with you.

I purchased a brand new bakfiets 1 1/2 years ago and have been through so much hell with it and the company who sold it to me that the Rijdende Rechter even wanted to cover it on the show, but the vendors wouldn’t participate so that came to nothing. I am not looking for help or advice; I just thought this story might interest you.

I am a 39-year-old ex-American student with a 4-year-old. 1 1/2 years ago I realized that a bakfiets would be the solution to many of my transport problems, not having a car. I was able to use some of the money my family set aside after my great-aunt’s death for my education. That meant, however, that I needed to get an inexpensive bakfiets. Naively I thought that I should get a cheaper new one so that it would come with a guarantee. I bought a Faya4you.

The Faya4you bakfiets is ostensibly delivered “rijklaar”. When it arrived, the delivery folks left without waiting for me to test ride it. I took it for a spin, and one of the first things I discovered was that the brakes did not work– at all. Luckily this came to light outside the home of my then neighbor, who is a bicycle repairman and sells used cycles. He put the brakes in order for me, saying they had not been installed correctly.


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…)

    Henry’s own daily ride

    Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

    You’ve probably never even thought about what bike the owner of WorkCycles rides every day. Fortunately that won’t stop me from showing you anyway. So here it is, in all its unwashed glory, plucked right from the street for its own, unglamourous photo shoot. I left the lock on the handlebars because I never ride without it. No gleaming, lustrous paint, polished anything, fancy parts, hydraulic anything or obsession about saddle care to be found here. Just to note: this Brooks B66 saddle was found on an abandoned bike and had probably sagged to death before I was even born. All the better – nobody will steal it.

    My bike is an outdoor dog and that’s just a fact of life around the center of Amsterdam. Its about three years old and always sleeps chained to a lamppost right in front of our house. I ride it a couple times almost every day, for everything from commuting to riding to the station with a suitcase for traveling. There’s also a hitch that tows a nifty Carry Freedom trailer when the load gets too big. My wife Kyoko sometimes sits on the top tube, since I’ve no rear carrier… or at least she did until we had a baby a couple months ago. We have no car and I’m not much of a tram fan so the bike gets ridden in sun, rain, hail and snow. I enjoy almost all of it.

    This bike gets cleaned only during repairs, which are extremely seldom. Nonetheless, it is smooth and silent and has never let me down: the lights have worked without a single failure, there are no gears to go out of adjustment, the brakes brake just fine, nothing has ever broken and probably never will. I can’t even recall ever having a puncture in this bike. Yes, I’m knocking wood right now. I pump the tires up either when I remember to, or the rims begin bottoming on the ground.

    My bike has, however, been damaged for me, as described in this earlier post. Occasionally my bike falls or gets knocked over while parked. It has also inadvertently (and maybe not so accidentally) inflicted damage on some cars, as seen in the red streak of paint on the front carrier. That resulted in a car mirror flying though the air. Oops.

    By no means is this my only bicycle but it is my only city bike and the one I ride 99% of the time. I love it but don’t obsess about it.

    Eurobike 2008: Things you won’t find elsewhere

    Thursday, September 11th, 2008

    Last week we took the night train down to Friedrichshafen, near the Swiss border and famous for just one thing: Zeppelins. Though zeppelins are cool WorkCycles doesn’t have much to do with them. No, we went for the Eurobike 2008 expo, some 17 or so zeppelin hangers full of bike industry geeks and bike porn… or at least its bike porn if you get excited by millions of molded carbon fiber racing bikes, full suspension mountain bikes in more shades of use categories that I can shake a stick at (freeslide, 49’er, XTC, downhell, northwhore, mud…), and dozens of bike brands with cookie cutter bikes at every €50 “price point”. I guess after 30 years in and out of the bike industry it has ceased to knock my socks off.

    Now we go to the bike expos looking for very specific, mundane things such as:

  • a quality leather saddle without pretentiousness and a price to match
  • hub brakes that can stop a bakfiets, live outdoors and fit a good gear hub
  • an electric assist system suitable for heavy-duty utility bikes
  • to see whether anybody else cares about city/utility bikes
  • And to shake some familiar hands, meet a few new people, and see what the ridiculous new products of of the year are. More about that later.

    Every other cycling site and magazine will show you the same competition bred, carbon fiber, disk-brake, metal matrix unobtanium, chinese made but european labelled bling-bling so I’ll focus here on some off the beaten path gems and non-gems. Enjoy and flame away if I’ve trashed your baby and gotten your panties in a bunch!

    The most memorable thing I saw at Eurobike 2008 was the flatland freestyle BMX show – or whatever they call it. This was an informal affair with a DJ and a handful of riders in the outdoor area between the expo halls. I don’t think these guys were “pros” or anything or at least there wasn’t much obvious sponsorship going on. But they were awesome. What a demonstration of balance and creativity! Thanks, you made my day in an otherwise boring event!

    We arrived a little bit too early so we had to mill about before being allowed to view all the bike goodness inside. Near the entrance was a display of award winning “designs” or something like that. I confess to not reading the signs.

    At least three of the bikes displayed here featured a new toothed belt drive system by Gates called “Carbon Drive”. See? Even the belts have carbon in them, though its probably just carbon black in the rubber… which was incidentally a big selling point over at the Continental Tires stand last year, even though its as ordinary as dirt in the woods. Its like advertising “iron enhanced steel” or “new, water with Hydrogen atoms!”. I guess when there’s nothing new under the sun you just have to make something up.

    In any case the toothed belt drive is back for another try on bikes as it ought to be. In contrast to previous belt drive systems for bikes this one looks very robust and is adaptable to various types of bikes. The main challenges are:

  • price – retail for a belt and front and rear sprockets is around €200
  • special frame required
  • availability in only limited combinations and lengths
  • questions about bearing life with tightly tensioned belt installed
  • In larger scale production the price and availability should be improved so we’ll keep our eyes open for these.

    Nick Lobnitz of Carry Freedom trailer fame was showing off prototypes of his new “Paper Bike”. No its not actually made of paper, or even bamboo though Nick has done that before. There is however carbon black in the tires.

    The Paper Bike is a clean looking and practical utility bike aimed primarily at bike rental and share systems. The frame loops around the drivetrain effectively protecting it from damage and weather. Simultaneously the resulting surface(s) offer copious space for branding and/or personalization.

    Pathetically enough the images above show every new load carrying bike I could find amongst the 17 halls at Eurobike. At least there’s one cool piece among them. Clockwise beginning in the upper left:

    Upper left and middle:
    Larry vs. Harry (a.k.a. Hans and Lars) of Copenhagen showed off their new Bullitt transport bicycle. Its sort of a Long John on high tech steriods, half aluminium urban racing bike and half I don’t know what. The Bullitt is kitted out with high-zoot parts such as a Shimano Alfine drivetrain and hydraulic disk brakes. The rider’s position is aggressively sporty, there’s no chain guard or lights and the concessions to daily use are minimal. It’s dangerously, uncompromisingly cool. I’ve no idea who’ll buy them but I do want one for myself! We’re curious enough to put a couple in the showrooms at WorkCycles.

    Richard and I each rode the Bullitt a couple times with and without loads. It’s as stiff as a log and the seating position wasn’t as extreme as it looked ( at least not for this ape-armed ex-racer who already has his city bike handlebars lower than the saddle). What wasn’t so convincing was the steering geometry. We both ride long-wheelbase transport bikes regularly and we each noted that the Bullitt is notably less stable and secure handling than the Bakfiets Cargobike or Fietsfabriek 995. The bike still needs some front end geometry tweaking and we hope that Harry and Larry are listening.

    Upper right:
    Bernds in Germany showed a couple prototypes of this Bakfiets Cargobike like child transporter. We weren’t sure whether to take it seriously as the box was just hastily made from plywood and the steering linkage wasn’t even functional; the front wheel could only be turned a few degrees in one direction.

    Lower left:
    A Dutch-Israeli firm called Taga displayed this multifunctional child carrier that can be converted between tricycle and stroller. Unlike the similar sounding TrioBike (which I’ve previously maligned for various reasons – see here and here) and Zigo, the Taga approaches its tasks very differently: “Continuity” is the operative word for the Taga, meaning that no parts of the bike/stroller need to be left behind. The entire machine converts (rather ambitiously I’ll add) between the two basic modes. The stroller mode was particularly slick.

    Richard and I rode the Taga (in trike mode obviously) and at least at slow speeds around the exhibit halls it felt unfamiliar but handled well. It remains to be seen how it’ll feel at higher speeds and under the more varied conditions of the real world roads. The conversion mechanism appeared straightforward and solid. The people I talked to mentioned a number of other issues that are being worked on and all in all it appears a very professional outfit.

    Lower middle:
    Oh, gimme a break people!

    Lower right:
    The most serious recent entry into the transport bicycle market is the Accell Group with their Accell Pro division. Accell is the owner of such brands as Batavus, Sparta, Winora, Hercules, Koga Miyata, Redline and Lapierre. They sell approximately 950,000 bicycles per year with a turnover of just under €500 million. Accell will focus on Postal Delivery (taking over where the recently imploded Biria left off), Cargo, Rental and Corporate bicycles. I guess Accell must have been jealous of WorkCycles’ success in this area.

    body buddy streetstepper.jpg

    And the winner of the “I can’t believe anybody would be so stupid as to invest so much R&D and promotion into such a worthless concept as this” award goes to the Body Buddy. Not only did these people have huge stand with dozens of these things, they had also an entire team of pretty girls merrily stepping their way around the expo halls in impossibly short bodybuddytm yellow miniskirts.

    From the bodybuddy website the following prose:

    “The greatest ideas, the ideas that rewrite history, almost always come from people who originate from rural areas…”

    “nevertheless, the “bodybuddy” will change today’s streetscape quite a bit”

    “Why work out on the spot when it is possible to convert this energy into movement?”

    What a novel idea, converting human energy into movement! Yes, let’s invent a crazy machine that does this and then introduce it at the world’s biggest bicycle expo! Brilliant.

    Roundup: Reviews of various family transport bikes

    Friday, July 11th, 2008


    I’ve come across a number of thorough and well-written reviews (and some not so good) of various child-transport and family bikes & trikes: Cargobike
    Let’s Go Ride a Bike
    Velo Vision
    Bicycle Fixation
    Bike Utah Valley

    Bakfietsgigant, Bakfietsweb, Couleurs, DoubleDutchBikes (USA), Redy Kangaroo, Hollandia, PImmies, Trendonline, Tricycleweb (all seem to sell the same bikes)
    “Karin” (Dutch language)

    Christiania (Trike)
    “Marga & Huub” (Dutch language)

    Guest post from Haarlem in this blog

    Fietsfabriek 995
    Caliban’s experience with the FF 995 and notes on other bikes too

    Gazelle Cabby

    Winther Kangaroo
    Musings from a Stonehead

    TV consumer program Kassa tests 13 bakfietsen from Dutch and Danish producers Included are:, Christiania, Fietsfabriek, Nihola, Winther, ‘t Mannetje, Bakfietsgigant, Halfords, Johnny Loco, Babboe and WorkCycles
    My english language translation of the bakfiets test
    The original bakfiets test report in Dutch language
    My post with comments about the program and results. vs. Fietsfabriek 995 vs. Gazelle Cabby (again) Cargobike vs. Smart Car
    Part one: Measurements
    Part two: Features Cargobike & Cargotrike, Bakfietsweb, Christiania, Gazelle Cabby, New Viper, Triobike!… In French language.
    Vélo Brouette

    Now that I’ve been “collecting” these links for some time the reviews have become more balanced, covering a broader range of bikes than I first found.

    Here’s one more review in Dutch though its already three years old and wasn’t very objective to begin with: Fietsersbond bakfiets test. Its in Dutch and no direct link is available.

    Here on the “Groot Gezin” (big family) chat site there is a long thread with discussion about many of the child transport bikes and trikes. The focus is generally on the cheap bakfiets options and like any discussion the opinions are to be taken with a grain of salt. Dutch Language.

    Does anybody have any suggestions, particularly about other well-known bikes such as Nihola and Christiania? Please keep the discussion to family transport bikes and not transport bikes in general.

    New Bakfiets Cargobike Extra Long

    Monday, March 31st, 2008

    Bakfiets Cargobike Extra Long version

    The much anticipated WorkCycles/Bakfiets Cargobike Extra Long is finally here! Ironically when Maarten van Andel introduced the original Cargobike dealers and customers told him it was too long, too strange, too un-Dutch. To pacify them he designed the Cargobike Short, even though he felt that the original (Cargobike Long) was the ideal length. Now its come full circle and the Dutch began complaining (they complain a lot actually) that the Cargobike wasn’t long enough to fit their kids, their kids’ friends, groceries, babies in Maxi Cosi’s, Bugoboo strollers, dogs and picnic baskets… at the same time.

    We figured it’d be best to quit messing around and just go straight for Super-Size this time. Even the Dutch are learning from America! The new WorkCycles/Bakfiets Cargobike Extra Long offers room for 12 kids in the box and one more in a child seat on the rear carrier if needed. Alternatively you can carry 8 babies in Maxi-Cosi car carriers. Even with all those little ones in the box there’s still plenty of room for groceries, lumber, plumbing supplies or other gear.

    The new size also solves the rising theft problem as well; At 6 meters long it simply doesn’t fit into any vehicles that can come into the crowded Dutch cities.

    The first Extra Longs should be available in the early Summer. Pricing has not yet been determined. Please contact WorkCycles, the Bakfiets specialist in Amsterdam for more information.

    Photo by Martin van Welzen with some slight retouching by Tom Resink.

    Een ideale bakfiets voor de familie!

    Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

    bijzondere bakfiets voor kindervervoer met achteruitstuur

    chinese bakfietsen met sturende achterwiel zoals een sorte jernherst uit denemarken

    Als BN’er (Bakfietsverkopende Nederlander, of ten minst legaal bewoner in Nederland) vind ik vele bijzondere dingen in mijn email inbox: o.a. aanbeidingen voor nieuwe software, aanbeiding voor interessante investeringen in de 3e wereld, aanbiedingen voor pillen om mijn mannelijkheid groter/krachtiger/langdurender te maken, en af en toe als ik gelukkig ben ook aanbeidingen voor bijzondere nieuwe bakfietsen.

    Die laatste vond ik vandaag en wat een mooie bakfiets het is! Deze nieuwe bakfiets is niet zomaar nog een Chinese kopie van een Cargobike of een Fietsfabriek Filibak/Christiania. Nee hoor, daar zijn re al tientallen van te kiezen! Als een leuk verassing is het een Chinese kopie van een Sorte Jernhest, de Deense bakfiets die met het achterwiel stuurt! Wow, een namaak van een fiets die al onmogelijk is te verkopen. Dit vond ik zo’n gewaagde actie dat het een BEM (nieuwe afkorting voor Bakfiets En Meer) blog post moest verdienen.

    In de bovenstaande afbeeldingen zien we deze stijvolle bakfiets, uitgevoerd met een onwaarschijnlijk combinatie van een soort doorzichtige zuurstoftent en BMX banden. Denk aan de mogelijkheden voor nieuwe types wedstrijden! Ik zie ook nog enkele interessante punten in de foto’s:

  • Een slappe knijprem aan het sturende achterwiel… en geen andere remmen aan de fiets maakt voor spannende momenten met uw kinderen.
  • Bodemvrijheid voor het serieuze bergwerk zorgt voor en mooie, hoge zwaartepunt. Deze gecombineerd met de bizarre en onbekent rijgedrag van een achteruitsturende driewielige voertuig zorgt voor vele grappige momenten met uw familie.
  • Enkele mooie ATB’s in de achtergrond maken het duidelijk dat deze mensen houden zich bezig met alleen maar top-kwaliteit spullen.
  • Over achterwielsturende voertuigen: Er zijn redenen waarom alleen maar speciale voertuigen zoals heftrucks sturende achterwielen hebben. Een fiets met meer dan twee wielen is al vreemd genoeg te fietsen, daarom hebben je ouders die zijwieltjes zo snel mogelijk erafgehaald. Een voertuig die met de achterwiel(en) stuurt is heeft even zo bizarre een stuurgedrag. Wat verwacht je als je deze twee dingen combineert? De perfecte fiets om je kinderen mee te nemen, natuurlijk!

    Jij bent nu zeker benieuwd waar je zo’n bakfiets kunt kopen en wat het gaat kosten. De eerste ga ik je niet vertellen maar de prijs is (voor nu) €899, inclusief BTW. In het geval dat je een fietsenmaker bent is het ook handig te weten dat jouw inkoopprijs €575 is, zonder BTW. Jouw marge is dus 24% op een fiets die jij zelf moet monteren uit twee dozen van de allerkleinste stukjes en een chineestalige handleiding zonder afbeeldingen. Als je heel erg handig bent kan het in mischien één lange dag! Maar over marge hoeft de fietswinkel geen zorgen maken – deze fiets wordt toch nooit verkocht.