Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bakfiets: The station wagon of bicycles

Bakfiets (plural: "bakfietsen") came out of the Netherlands -- thus the funny name, which means "wagon bike" (and can be shortened to simply "BAK"). But bakfietsen are now available in the United States, through Clever Cycles, a distributor and retailer in Portland, OR. There are also plans to manufacture a lower-cost, American-made version of the bakfiets in NE Portland. And, apparently there has been a version called the "Long Haul", made in Eugene, Oregon (already American-made!) for some time now.

A bicycle that can haul a kid, a keg of beer *and* a bag of groceries -- at the same time? I'm in love. Here are some features of the original Dutch version:

* Super-strong wheels.
* Hub generator lighting, front and rear. Light sensor turns on automatically; rear light stays on at stops.
* Drum brakes: low-maintenance and unaffected by weather.
* Stainless steel mudguards with flaps (just like on a semi truck, baby -- but you'll have to make your own design). ;-)
* Tie-rod linkage steering geometry: to handle large loads with remarkable lightness.
* Can be stored outdoors, in the rain and sun, for decades, due to an anti-rust primer under a tough powder-coat.
* Front cargo area ("bak") made of marine plywood: puts the load low and centered for easiest handling.
* 180-lb load rating. That's a lot of weight!!! More than a keg of beer, a small child and a bag of groceries.
* To keep the cargo dry in all elements: Weather canopy option makes this a true year-round urban (family?) vehicle.
* 4-point (kick-)stand for easy loading and unloading. Passengers climb in and out without tipping!
* Step-through, one-size-fits-most frame supports upright posture for a commanding view and supreme comfort; easy to put a foot down at stops.
* 8-speed Shimano Nexus gearhub. Shift to any gear while stationary or moving. Sealed mechanism is essentially maintenance-free.
* 305% gear range, comparable to 11-34 derailleur gearing.
* Wheel lock with auxiliary chain option for secure parking (no need for a separate U-lock, though you'd have plenty of room to carry one if you wanted to!)
* Full chaincase (guard) to keep your clothing and your kids’ fingers safe and clean; reduces chain maintenance to near zero.
* Coat/skirt guard and rubber block pedals: wear whatever you want without worry
* Overbuilt rear rack with bungees. 70-lb. load rating (that's separate from the 180 pounds you can carry in the front)

Now that's a bak that I'd love to ride!!!


Anonymous said...

Guess I should give one a test drive sometime. Then I'll blog back the results, comments, concerns, et cetera, from such an adventure. Hey, anybody else out there with first hand experience in driving a "Bak" or some such similar contraption up hill and down, all around town?

Ian Osgood said...

That is the cutest picture!

Clever Cycles also sells heavy-duty dutch bikes with heavy racks and front basket mounts (Azor 8 speeds), and some lower cost 3 speeds (Old Dutch). I got an Azor, but have had bad luck with the hub brakes sticking. They are a *heavy* bike, you'll be grateful for the lower gears going up some of Portland's inclines. Great for exercise, but don't expect to go as fast as on your ten-speed!

A distributor in Seattle is selling Batavus bikes (the largest bike seller in the world!) I'm drooling over the one that they sent Jonathan Maus to test-drive.

David Bruce said...

Yes - rode a WorkCycle (http://www.workcycles.nl/) one when visiting my (Dutch) wife's family in The Netherlands. (In fact, that's her cousin and his family in the photo on the home page right now - they use one as their family car. I put our two girls in the front and it was great. The girls loved it too - able to talk easily to me while we rode. Took a little getting used to (I took it for a spin around the block before putting the girls in it) but once you get the hang of leading the turn through a corner much further in front than on a normal bike, it's a piece of cake - even over the (brief) steep hills presented by the canal bridges.

Fully recommend a bakfiet as a family cycling option!