There are two types of bikes that look so odd, I had a hard time imagining how they worked: folding bikes and bakfiets. I experienced the magic of the folding bike while riding the Dahon, and now I have experienced the feat of engineering that is the bakfiets.
Since Mr. Dottie and I sold our only car in January, I’ve never missed it or needed a car for any purpose. Recently, I encountered a challenging situation: hauling a folding table and folding chairs for a fundraiser I helped organize. The bakfiets came to my rescue. I borrowed the folding table from Dutch Bike Chicago and, knowing that I am car-free, one of the owners offered me the use of his personal bakfiets. Yesss!
The bakfiets carried the folding table and the eight folding chairs perfectly – as two different loads, although if I really wanted to push it, I could have piled it all on together. Each load also included several bags of supplies.
Surprisingly, riding the bakfiets felt very similar to riding my Oma. They have the same swept back handlebars and similar slack seat tubes, which require the posture and pedaling that I’m used to. There was some slight reverse fish-tailing going on in the front when I first started riding, but I perfected the handling after a couple of minutes. Although the bakfiets is a hulking beast, it retains the basic manueverability of a bicycle, going pretty fast for the circumstances and sliding past stopped traffic on the right.
The bakfiets has 8 speeds in the internal hub, and the gearing is very forgiving of heavy loads. At stoplights I started out in 4th and then kicked it up to 6th or 7th when I got momentum. I never felt like I was hauling a heavy load and never had to strain.
Warning: Do not ride a bakfiets if you can’t handle attention. I am used to the occasional stares I get for riding Oma, but this new attention was way over the top. My dress and heels probably exacerbated the situation. The best example is when a guy took my picture while I was at a stoplight and yelled, “Awesome! You’re so going on facebook!” I should have asked him to tag the photo “Dottie,” because I’d love to see it.
One downside of this bakfiets is difficultly balancing the load when not in the saddle. When I walked or maneuvered the bike on foot with the box loaded, I felt like the bike would tip over if I did not keep a firm and strong grip. I rode the bike for less than a day, so this is probably an issue that I could overcome with more familiarity, but for this reason, I am interested in how a trike would feel. The increased stability of three wheels would be a major benefit, but likely would require sacrificing speed and maneuverability.
I could not let the bakfiets go without making a little video. Of course, I don’t have the same familiarity as I have with Oma, but hopefully the video will be helpful for people considering a cargo bike. Note that the kickstand latch is a little messed up on this old bike, but that could be fixed easily.
Other bakfietsen that I know of are:
- De Fietsfabriek in Chicago,
- Nihola at Curbside in Toronto,
- Madsen at several locations (see also, Girls and Bicycles),
- Metrofiets in Portland,
- Sorte at The Dutch Bicycle Company outside Boston (see also, Suburban Bike Mama),
- Haley Trikes in Philadelphia,
- Larry vs. Harry at Copenhagen Cyclery in Chicago and Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis (see also, Copenhagen Cycle Chic),
- Christiania Trikes at Velorution in London.
I have no reason to own a bakfiets at this time, because I live walking distance to the grocery and pet supply stores. You can bet I’ll buy one when I have a kid, though! I’d love to hear from anyone who owns a bakfiets or any other type of cargo bike.