Archive for the ‘Workbike / Transportfiets’ Category

Another fine, home-brew child seat

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

home-brew-child-seat-amsterdam 1

home-brew-child-seat-amsterdam 2

Here’s another classic Amsterdam bicycle child seat, this time true to the Dutch minimalist spirit. Two chunks of wood and a small piece of an old backpacker’s sleeping pad… almost certainly all found in the trash.

The bike’s also worth a look: A well-worn "opafiets" (grandpa bike) at least 50 years old with the front carrier from a baker’s bike.

Note that the handlebar is long gone. In its place the owner has attached a piece of steel tubing to brackets bolted to the front rack. This was quite solidly, if not attractively, performed and judging from the patina it’s been this way for decades.

There are lots of other nice Amsterdam touches:

  • frame is slightly bent at the head tube
  • the seat tube of the frame has been repaired with a weld
  • there’s a ring lock but not fixed to the frame
  • antique “Koets” taillamp is hanging limply
  • the poster behind the bike
  • A few weeks ago I showed off another creative Amsterdam child seat.

    They just don’t make them like they used to.

    Sunday, February 1st, 2009

    There’s a common misperception that the millions of bikes around Amsterdam are cheap “junkers”. Sure, there are plenty of low-quality bikes around the city but they don’t last long. Their parts wear out and break, or they rust badly and then the bicycle quickly becomes unrepairable and gets thrown away… or more often left to rot until the city declares it a “wreck” (“fietswrak”) and carts it away. This actually doesn’t take long at all – usually just a couple months.

    Along with the unfortunate but unavoidable disposable, modern bikes are also an amazing number of remarkably old bikes. These bicycles, 30, 50 even 70 years old aren’t pampered and regarded as classics (though some could be considered so). No, they’re just somebody’s trusty transportation, often having been in continuous service for a couple generations.

    That’s amazing when you think about it: 20 or 30 kilos of steel, rubber, leather and maybe some plastic “overbuilt” to such a high quality standard that it can reliably carry several or many times its weight for a service life unthinkable for most products. It’s an incredible material efficiency and all the more fantastic considering that these bikes live outdoors in a cold, wet climate. All of the bikes in my photos have rust, but it’s mostly the dark brown (sometimes beautiful) patina of quality steel; It forms an oxide layer after the original paint or chrome has been worn off and then doesn’t corrode further. This is partially because the steel has few internal impurities so it doesn’t rust from within. That’s the nasty kind of orange rust that’s impossible to stop and will quickly kill your bike.

    This is also a lesson in the importance of simplicity. More complicated products simply have more things to go wrong, require more service and are more likely to someday be declared irreparable. Note in these photos how few of the bikes have gears or hand brakes. Vestigial frame mounts for rod brakes are common though I don’t see any in these photos. Nor is there much “design” to be found here. Many are lovely bikes but there’s no pretentiousness or design just for design’s sake. This also plays are role in durability: things that go out of fashion cease to be maintained.

    The accompanying photos are just of bikes I happened across over the last two weeks, mostly on Thursdays (that’s papa day) while walking around the city with my five month old son. The newest bikes in the photos were made in the 1960’s and the oldest probably date back to the 1930’s. Most Dutch bikes stayed approximately the same through this period and the differences are only of concern to the the enthusiast and mechanic. Unfortunately very few of the bikes made after this period and virtually none of the bikes from the 1980’s to the present will last nearly as long as these.

    It’s specifically this timelessness and durability that WorkCycles strives to achieve. It’s an uphill battle though, given the unavailability of certain parts (a good coaster brake hub…), customers expecting features such as multiple gears and hand brakes and a modern world economy of cheap products made with inexpensive materials and overseas labor. We’re working on it and continually making improvements.

    Transportfiets race in Bussum, 1933

    Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

    Bas of, (that’s trans-port-feets-poont-net for english speakers) turned me onto this super little video. It’s genuine film footage from a 1933 race in Bussum (near Amsterdam) on baker’s and butcher’s bikes. Back in those days most transport bikes had fixed wheels (“fixies” you young folk) and like all those modern-day urban hipsters on track bikes, these bikes had no brakes either. There’s a difference though: A transportfiets weighs an easy 50kg, and that’s before it was loaded down with 50kg of meat. The wheels alone weigh a good 10kg each. Can you say mo-men-tum?

    Amstel, work cycle

    I have a handful of old “transportfietsen” in various states of disrepair and disassembly. They’re glorious machines; Very simple but so solidly made that they put all other bicycles to shame. Riding them is a great sensation. It takes a while to get up to speed but once all that mass is rolling there’s no stopping it.

    These bikes were employed by practically every baker, butcher, milkman and other business in the Netherlands from perhaps the 1920’s until perhaps the 1960’s, when cars and delivery vans became affordable for small businesses. Keep in mind that the Netherlands was quite a poor country through modern history until the 1960’s. The bikes were ridden by delivery kids, much like pizzas are now delivered by annoying kids on mopeds with boxes on the back.

    Note also that the Dutch Transportfiets predates the similar format but rather esoteric and much lighter duty French “porteur” or “veloporteur” by decades. Transportfietsen were also made in quite large quantities which partially accounts for the remarkably large number still on the streets, considering that the last of them went out of production in the 1970’s. Of course the fact that they were quality built like tanks also helps.

    Transportfietsen were made by hundreds of firms, small and large and most of them look essentially the same: double top tube, huge front carrier fixed to the handlebar and (large) front axle, generally no rear carrier or parking stand. Pre-WW2 examples all had 28 x 1 3/4 wheels and usually fixed wheels. Later both 28″ and 26″ wheels were used and most were made with a single-speed Fichtel & Sachs Torpedo coaster brake hub. Parts such as chains and sprockets, forks handlebars, cranks, pedals etc were all bigger and stronger than on normal bicycles. I have never seen an old transportfiets originally equipped with gears or a front brake.

    Have a look around for tons of examples, including a number of bikes in restoration and also lots of old archive photos and catalogues. Bikes like this will never come back so it’s great that some enthusiasts are keeping them alive as examples of the values of another era.

    Snow Fr8

    Monday, December 15th, 2008


    Rick Wilson of Café Vélo in Portland, Oregon sent me this pic of his snowy WorkCycles Fr8. Its one of three Fr8’s in the USA, and was actually the very first Cross-frame made. The other two Fr8’s are at Clever Cycles (possibly available to purchase).

    Rick writes:

    “In accordance with proper snow driving guidelines i added some ballast to the frontal load area of the Fr8 to ensure the front wheel had plenty of traction.

    The Fr8 handles wonderfully in the snow with the Fat Franks and the bakfiets tracks well, but U turns are a bit tricky on slick snow covered pavement as would be expected. Would not want to be under the FR8 if it goes down, however ;-)”

    I’m assuming Rick is referring to the Cargobike in the photos above, and not his giant, three-wheeled Classic Dutch Bakfiets a.k.a. “Café Vélo” since that one would be a snap on snow and ice… unless the road surface turns downhill.

    Rick seems to be quite a fan of our bikes considering that his family has four of them, or rather his family and business have four of them.

    So, anyhow, a lot of people are asking why the Fr8 isn’t to be found on the WorkCycles site yet and that’s a perfectly reasonable question. There are a few reasons:

  • We’ve been selling them through our shops and a couple dealers faster than we can increase production so there’s been little reason to advertise what we can’t make more of.
  • A few customers have been promoting their own Fr8’s and getting the word out anyway.
  • We just haven’t had time to make the pages and related site changes.
  • But we’ve now got the design details sorted out and we’re ramping up production to vastly improve availability of Fr8’s in Spring 2009. In fact we’re even building a special, little factory to build the Fr8 and its future brothers and sisters. I’ll let you speculate just what those will be.

    Fr8 pages on the WorkCycles site are finally in the works, and as you’ll note on our dealer page our network is expanding.

    In the meantime a few teaser photos…


    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.

    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.

    Around the world on a Long John bike

    Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

    Robbo Johnson touring with Long Long cargo bike

    Robbo Johnson wrote to us recently about his extensive travels on an old Danish Long John transport bike. For 8 years Robbo has been riding this rig which is five meters long and weighs 300kg loaded. It includes not just the loaded LongJohn bicycle but also a huge bike trailer. He’s apparently traveled about 90,000km and has no intention of stopping soon.

    Robbo has a website, though there’s little information to be found there. Unfortunately a quick googling didn’t find much either.

    Simplex Bicycles in Indonesia

    Friday, February 8th, 2008

    Simplex kruisframe fiets in indonesië

    I can’t read Indonesian so I can only hypothesize about this site about pre-WWII Simplex bicycles in Indonesia. Simplex was an Amsterdam bike maker that made some of the best bikes of this period. That’s significant considering that the Dutch bikes of this era were probably the best city bicycles ever built. Seventy years later here are still quite a few of them on the streets of Amsterdam… and apparently also in Indonesia.

    So why would there be so many old Dutch bikes in Indonesia? Simple: Because it was a Dutch colony until the 1945 to 1950 Indonesian war of independence. It seems pretty unlikely that all those pre-war Dutch bikes were imported after the war so I’ll assume they were initially brought there by the pre-war Dutch colonists. Regardless of the history its still strange for an Amsterdammer to see all those lovely old Simplex bikes with palm trees in the background and the details described in a text I can’t understand. Well at least I can understand many of the technical terms because they seem to have adopted the Dutch words for many bicycle parts. A couple examples:

  • priesterrijwiel = priest’s bicycle or cross-frame, since the lower top tube allowed riding in a frock.
  • kruiseframe = same as above
  • rem tromol cycloïde = Simplex’s drum brake hub with special “Cycloïde” bearings
  • lampu = headlamp
  • Historical trivia:

  • The cross-frame (“kruisframe” in Dutch) WorkCycles uses is based on a Simplex design you can see on the Indonesian site.
  • Simplex began in 1887 in Utrecht but moved to Amsterdam in 1896. Their factory was situated on the Overtoom, in the Oud West neighborhood where I live. Our home was built the same year. This was then a new neighborhood in Amsterdam, just past the Jordaan. The Jordaan is now a highly desirable neighborhood of charming old houses, canals and stylish boutiques. Back then it was a mixture of industry, shipping and working class housing.
  • In 1952 Simplex merged with Locomotief, another of my favorite old bicycle makes. Locomotief also made lovely bikes such as their ladies cross-frame which the WorkCycles Kruisframe step-through is based on.
  • The 60’s were tough years for the Dutch bicycle industry. After a number of fusions and changes Simplex and Locomotief were taken over by Gazelle who from then on just used the names for cheaper “B-quality” bikes.
  • 500 Transportfietsen in 5 minutes

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

    The transportfiets (transport bicycle) fans over at have assembled this collection of 500 images of mostly Dutch transport bicycles spanning almost 100 years. Amongst them you’ll see tons of old baker’s bikes, but also butcher’s bikes, milk delivery bikes, industrial bikes, postal bikes, newspaper delivery bikes couriers bikes, modern child carrier bikes. Either thankfully or unavoidably there are quite a few of WorkCycles bikes amongst them… even a couple secret prototypes if you watch carefully.

    The accompanying music seems a strange choice but who’s complaining when you can see 500 transport bikes in 5 minutes.

    Intergalactic Patrol Bikes

    Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

    japanese robot star patrol bicycle headlamp

    WorkCycles is finally ready to open the kimono on these long-awaited, top secret Intergalactic Patrol Bikes. The Intergalactic Patrol is a cooperative project incorporating the WorkCycles (Holland) experience in practical workbikes with the latest technological innovations from Matsushita (aka National/Panasonic) in Japan.

    These bicycles will be used both during travel such as on the Enterprise and Death Star and also on many habitable planets and moons including Alfdebaran, Naboo, Tatooine and throughout the Twelve Colonies. The Interglactic Patrol has been designed to fulfill a wide range of common applications including internal spaceship transport, planetary exploration, imperial patrol, maintenance of enchambered giant atomic animals, and fitness conditioning in low-gravity environments. A broad variety of accessories are being developed to enhance safety, convenience and enemy vaporizing firepower.

    Catalog page intergalactic workbikes

    The Matsushita/WorkCycles Intergalactic Patrol is the first bicycle suitable for the unusual environments and tasks of intergalactic lifestyles. It was a task with many challenges and required navigating much uncharted territory in the field of industrial bicycles. Here are some examples:

  • Varying gravity conditions can make cycling very difficult. On the moon Endor with only one fifth the gravity of Earth even the smallest bump will send the cyclist flying. But on Alderaan with about twice earth’s gravity simply remaining upright is difficult on a standard bicycle. To make cycling possible in these situations the Intergalactic Patrol bike features computer controlled dual gyroscopic balancers that spin at 50,000rpm on a vertical axis with an adaptive learning, cantilevered yaw system to nonetheless enable rapid changes of direction… such as while in pursuit of imperial storm troopers. An added bonus is that the bicycle needs no kickstand because it remains vertical on its own.
  • Though the Intergalactic Patrol will primarily be ridden by humans, the uniforms and equipment of the various republics vary widely. Extensive ergonomic research was performed to enable safe cycling and operation of the gear, brake, navigation and indicator systems whether the rider is wearing flowing robes, plastic armor or jeans. There is also ample space on the baggage carriers for the requisite light sabers, lasers, phasers, tasers, masers, razors and perhaps a rain cape.
  • Not only is much of the Universe dark, light speed travel tends to diminish the effectiveness of headlamps. The Intergalactic Patrol solves these problems with advanced twin solid state hypermagnetically photon accelerated semicoherent ruby halide lamps. In fact this bicycle’s headlamps are so powerful that care must be taken in their use; In their highest setting (11) they will burn through almost any non-reflective surface not protected by a class B3 force field.
  • handlebar speedometer gearshift japanese transport bike speedometer frame pump and light saber

    The images above show the Intergalactic Patrol cockpit including:

  • Lighting/phaser control on right handlebar grip
  • Speedometer/odometer at center of handlebar
  • Five-speed gearshift on top tube
  • Convenient pump or light saber storage
  • taillamp array intergalactic patrol bike taillamp and rear rocket bicycle wheel lock and lateral rockets

    These images show some features from the rear end of the Intergalactic Patrol bicycle:

  • Taillamp array utilizing the same advanced lighting technology as the headlamps
  • Defensive high-power ruby phasers with self targeting
  • Rear wheel lock to keep troglodytes and other lowlifes at bay
  • WorkCycles, the workbike, cargo bicycle, industrial bike specialist is seeking Intergalactic Patrol bicycle dealers and interested republics throughout the Milky Way and other galaxies. Please contact us for more details.