San Francisco Bay area bakfietsen?

We get a steady drip of inquiries from near San Francisco for bakfietsen. We’ve sold a few, but often, the ~$500 cost of shipping these rather large and heavy bikes one at a time kills the interest, what with no opportunity even to touch and take a test ride first. Well, what if we were to fill up a big rental truck with them to get the per-unit shipping cost down, and make arrangements to show them and provide some support? We’re pretty confident that several truckloads would sell pretty quickly this way (as they have in much smaller Portland), with the probable result that an (unaffiliated) full-service Bay Area dealership would open sooner rather than later.

We’re talking with people about making this happen. So, if you live near the Bay Area and would like to get on board for close to the Portland cost, speak up! Leave a comment. Will you, for one, welcome your new bakfietsen overlords?

UPDATE, 6 November:

We�ve thought this through. It doesn�t make a lot of sense for us to bring bikes down to San Francisco without them being pre-sold. There�s too much uncertainty in terms of storage requirements, and in time required to arrange test rides. Also, as Mark points out, if the sale occurs in California, the tax is significant. What we can offer, however, is free shipping and a chance to test ride and still get most of your money back if you just don�t like it.

Here�s what we propose:

  1. Tell us what you want in terms of color and size options, where applicable. When we make a match, we�ll hold the bike for a 1/3 deposit. The deposit is fully refundable if you change your mind.
  2. When we get enough bikes on hold to fill a truck and generally make it worth our while to drive them down (say 8-12), we�ll set a small delivery date range (such as the weekend after next), and we will request full payment, no tax. Then we�ll deliver your bike, no charge.
  3. Test your bike. We�ll adjust it and walk you through the modest maintenance we�d normally do after 30 days. If you don�t want the bike, we will still refund all but $300 of the purchase price to mitigate our costs in trucking it down and back (20 hours in an ornery rental rig). Consider taking up owner Dennis� gracious offer of an advance test ride in his comment below. We�d love not to have to drive bikes and the truck back up.

If not enough people order bikes in a reasonable timeframe (say 6 weeks), we�ll offer to ship the bikes for half of the actual shipping cost.

We�ll deliver to one or more places central to the majority of people ordering. This means you should be prepared to ride the bikes home, or else have the means to haul them. For bakfietsen, forget car racks: think pickup with 8� bed. Larger wagons can usually handle city bikes. We�ll try to be accommodating of door-to-door delivery requests but need to avoid what could turn into several days of motoring around from Santa Rosa to Gilroy to Stockton and so on.

We have very limited supplies of certain city bike models and sizes, so reserve the right not to offer all of them for free or discounted delivery. This is mainly a bakfiets promotion, to help defray their normally very high freight cost.

The success of this plan depends on us getting enough orders in short enough a time, so tell your friends; spread the word.

We lived in San Francisco for 9 years before moving to Portland in 2004. We know there are many vanguard families in many communities down there for whom a bakfiets can replace a car, just as many dozens of Portland families have discovered to our proudest satisfaction.

One of ours made an appearance at the 15th Anniversary Critical Mass ride:
critical bak

40 thoughts on “San Francisco Bay area bakfietsen?”

  • Bruce Wilson

    I think this sounds like a wonderful idea. If it works, perhaps you could expand it to other cities that don't have a dealership.

    Reply
  • Craig Winner

    Hello, I'm sitting in Hamburg right now on vacation. My wife and I have fallen in love with the Dutch style bikes everyone rides here. If you can get one or two of the classic Oma type bikes down to SF soon, I'd be interested. Keep me informed.

    Reply
  • wolfy

    There's interest in Reno too.

    -M

    Reply
  • scottmorrison99
    scottmorrison99 October 3, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I could go car free instead of carlite if I had one. I would travel to SF to test ride one. I'm even considering traveling to Portland next year for a test ride if I have too.

    Reply
  • Kim

    I would totally love to test ride one of these! We've known about these for a few years , but have been disappointed that there's no place in the bay area to find them.

    Reply
  • Mark

    Count me in for kicking the tires (or as everyone does with bikes- squeezing the brake levers). I'm not so completely sold that I'd put down a deposit (unless it's refundable), but I've certainly been fixating on them for a while. Heck, I'd even invest in a shipment, I'm that certain they'd sell around here.

    Certainly the best way to push someone over the edge and buy one is to let them manhandle erm... fondle... erm...ride it. And put on the hard sell- "See? I have only two more left in stock, after that there's no more left unless you want to pay $500 more." Might work for me.

    I'm here in Silicon Valley, but can easily pop into San Francisco at a moment's notice.

    Might I suggest you look into partnering with one of the many great shops in San Francisco to help erm, peddle your wares? Dealing out of a shop would be much better than trying to sell out the back of a truck. And you can unload the bikes and return the truck that much quicker (if not just renting a storage space somewhere).

    I've been out of the San Francisco bike scene/industry for years now, so there's only a couple of places I could recommend, but without their knowledge, I'm not going to post them here- email me if you want.

    There's also the basic marketing things you can do too: show up in prominent places with a bike and see what kind of response you get. On Sundays parts of Golden Gate Park are closed off to automobile traffic for pedesterians, bicyclists, skaters, etc. Likewise, weekends at the marina has lots of bicycle traffic. And of course there's always Critical Mass. That 15th Aniversary photo threw me- I was saying to myself, "It's been going on a lot longer than that... Oh, that's Portland's 15th."

    Anyway, you'd better get to it quickly before the weather starts to turn, though I guess you might be able to sell the rain covers then...

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    Weather, schmeather, Mark! They're hands-down the sweetest way to haul kids in foul weather.

    Reply
  • Jessica Roberts
    Jessica Roberts October 4, 2007 at 3:31 am

    Hm, might be worth partnering with a local bike shop to have a test ride model locally so people can try it out before they buy...or maybe the SF Bicycle Coalition would like to house the test-ride so they can use it for hauling stuff and looking cool and stylish?

    Reply
  • Cath

    I've been planning a spring or summer trip to Oregon pretty much just to take one for a spin. I will plan on taking one home if you can get them to SF.

    Reply
  • Mark

    re: try before you buy

    I was thinking that if I did break down and buy one before they were locally available, I'd post on some of the boards that it'd be available for test rides- heck, even rental :)

    I might still do that if you guys do a shipment to the area and there's no dealer set up. That would also be a good way to gauge interest.

    Perhaps you could offer the city of Brisbane some sort of incentive if they would provide theirs for test rides on certain days. Me, I dont want to call the number in their blog just for a test ride since that's not necessarily the guy's expectation for posting his number.

    Reply
  • Sandy Crockett

    I live in SF and I'm trying to convince my wife we need one of these. Having a sample in SF to try out would help me do that, I'm sure.

    Reply
  • Dennis

    The photo above is of my kiddies (and dog) and I think we have the first bakfiets in SF. Although, I do have a friend with an old Danish long-john in his garage in Pacifica...but he owns a bike shop in SF and has one of everything. Anyway, I flew to Portland less than 2.5 weeks ago, met the 'Clever' guys and drove two bakfiets home in a U-Haul (the second bike for a lucky family in Marin). It was a 20-hr mid-week excursion that added $300 to the price of the bike but the experience of picking it up was valuable to me. Of course local availability would be great. After reading and seeing photos I knew it was the right solution for our family's daily transportation needs and it has served well, very well, every day since we've owned it. Today's wind was brutal and the weather cover made a nice toasty cocoon for the kids as we cruised to the Marina green to watch the Blue Angeles earlier today. Anyway, all this talk about needing to ride one before buying one...please feel free to email me (dennis.budd@gmail.com) if you would like to take a weekend morning spin around the block from our home in the outer sunset. I really don't want to have the only bakfiets in town; how sweet it would be to see other ones and ring that Dutch bell in familial style on passing. Also, I'm happy to speak frankly with anyone about owning an 80-lbs bike, rather, pedaling six grocery bags (with glass) from Trader Joe's, in a city with some serious hills.

    Reply
  • Margaret Jones Kilmartin
    Margaret Jones Kilmartin October 7, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    I am definitely in! There was a woman w/ one at the neighborhood Fall parade last week (she shipped from nl). She was bombarded w/ attention and ?s about how to get one. San Jose is a pretty big bike area. I think they would do well here and thruout the bay area. If you want a partner let me know. I've a friend w/ a bike shop who is interested.

    Reply
  • Mark

    Dennis,

    Do you think this is the wrong venue for lots of questions about the bike? Yeah, maybe it is- a forum (and not just blog comments) would be good. Maybe something on bikeforums.net in the Utility Cycling board would be good? Here, I'll start.

    Reply
  • Ian Hopper

    Driving down from Seattle this past weekend, I visited CleverCycles and ended up buying an Azor Oma, though I still pine for the bakfiets. Todd took me for a test ride as a passenger, and then I rode him back to the shop… an exhilarating experience for certain! I'm totally in love with the bakfiets, but I realize that for my personal application, the brakes on the Bak aren't great for doing a lot of steep descending, though it's the contact patch that remains the ultimate issue. I've considered opening a Bakfiets store here in Marin, but retail isn't my favorite thing. I'm still not sure whether Marin is really ready for widespread bakfiets usage. There's a lot of people here who are so in love with their cars that they drive through heavy traffic to go to spin class at the gym… um… no further comment necessary. Maybe maybe maybe… anyway, I'll be smiling and waving from my Oma to any Bakfiets I see around Marin. I might buy a Bakfiets eventually, especially if they were available locally… they are a complete blast to ride and they haul a TON very very comfortably.

    Reply
  • heather buck

    i have been looking for an analogue to the christiania dutch trike in the u.s. and this bakfiets bike in portland is the closest thing i've found to it and me -- (i'm in salt lake c.) but i really want a trike -- for several reasons -- and the only upright trike like that which i've found is the querida on the florida dutch bicycle website -- hmmmm.... i found what i wanted on hollandbikes.com but they have you go all thru registration just to tell you they don't deliver to the u.s. .... : (

    Reply
  • Erik Sandblom

    Heather, that trike is Danish, not Dutch. It's known as the "Christiania Bike". You can google for it. Just to confuse things further, there's a Dutch bakfiets model with three wheels. Maybe Clever will import those.

    Boy, I wish we had a nice store like Clever Cycles here in Sweden. Utility cycling can be really fun. Over here all the useful bikes seem to be in the boring section.

    Reply
  • Val

    Heather: For trikes (if that's what you want), check: www.haleytrikes.com It's nice to see things like this being built, even if what you really need is a bike. Don't forget to check out the Green Hummer and the Oxegen fuelled car while you're looking at the site!

    Reply
  • B. Anna

    I live in Walnut Creek, California and the cargo bike would definitely be a huge hit in this area. I'm a new fan of Dutch Bicycles and it didn't take me long to decide on getting the Azor Swan for myself. I would in a heartbeat buy the bakfietsen if they carried it in the bay area, btw... making the Transporter readily available too is a plus.

    Reply
  • Mark D.

    The shipping cost may seem like a burden, but consider that there's no sales tax in Oregon, but it's 8.5% here in the SF Bay Area, so a BakFiet sold by a local store would actually be only $200 less than shipped. In addition, a local bike shop might well jack up the price a bit, so I would not be surprised if they ended up more expensive sold locally.

    Reply
  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey October 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    FYI - Philly's got Bak! Trophy Bikes in University City section of Philadelphia just got one in with the hopes of selling six a year or something like that. I didn't get a chance to ride it unfortunately since I got to the shop right before they were about to close.

    Reply
  • heather buck

    Val and Erik: thanks for the replies; I'm much obliged. (silly me, confusing yonder countries that start with D and make cool bikes....)

    I'm definitely going to check out that website, Val. Also, if Clever C. imports the trike version, I'll be renting a truck and driving up I think....when I have the cash that is...

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    We've thought this through. It doesn't make a lot of sense for us to bring bikes down to San Francisco without them being pre-sold. There's too much uncertainty in terms of storage requirements, and in time required to arrange test rides. Also, as Mark points out, if the sale occurs in California, the tax is significant. What we can offer, however, is free shipping and a chance to test ride and still get most of your money back if you just don't like it.

    Here's what we propose:

    1. Tell us what you want in terms of color and size options, where applicable. When we make a match, we'll hold the bike for a 1/3 deposit. The deposit is fully refundable if you change your mind.

    2. When we get enough bikes on hold to fill a truck and generally make it worth our while to drive them down (say 8-12), we'll set a small delivery date range (such as the weekend after next), and we will request full payment, no tax. Then we'll deliver your bike, no charge.

    3. Test your bike. We'll adjust it and walk you through the modest maintenance we'd normally do after 30 days. If you don't want the bike, we will still refund all but $300 of the purchase price to mitigate our costs in trucking it down and back (20 hours in an ornery rental rig). Consider taking up owner Dennis' gracious offer of an advance test ride in his comment above. We'd love not to have to drive bikes and the truck back up.

    If not enough people order bikes in a reasonable timeframe (say 6 weeks), we'll offer to ship the bikes for half of the actual shipping cost.

    We'll deliver to one or more places central to the majority of people ordering. This means you should be prepared to ride the bikes home, or else have the means to haul them. For bakfietsen, forget car racks: think pickup with 8' bed. Larger wagons can usually handle city bikes. We'll try to be accommodating of door-to-door delivery requests but need to avoid what could turn into several days of motoring around from Santa Rosa to Gilroy to Stockton and so on.

    We have very limited supplies of certain city bike models and sizes, so reserve the right not to offer all of them for free or discounted delivery. This is mainly a bakfiets promotion, to help defray their normally very high freight cost.

    The success of this plan depends on us getting enough orders in short enough a time, so tell your friends; spread the word.

    We lived in San Francisco for 9 years before moving to Portland in 2004. We know there are many families in many communities down there for whom a bakfiets can replace a car, just as many dozens of Portland families have discovered to our proudest satisfaction.

    Reply
  • Mark H

    Count me in. I was going to call today anyway, so I'll just have my credit card in hand before I do so.

    It might be useful to list the sizes and colors on your website or if they already are, at least provide a link from the bakfiets section of your site.

    I don't need true door-to-door- anywhere within 20 miles of Sunnyvale and I can just ride it back (talk about a test ride- you get a call on the cell phone, "yeah, it's great, I'll take it... erm, we can finish the paperwork by phone, can't we?")

    Reply
  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey November 6, 2007 at 5:14 am

    Hmmm.... I see satellite shop or even a franchise in the making.

    Reply
  • Sandy Crockett

    Do you have any information anywhere on the dimensions? I need to think about where we'd store the thing if we got one. Length is my main concern, but also width and height. We don't have a garage, just a shed.

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    Sandy, a bakfiets is 8' long with the wheel straight and 25" wide. Allow 100" length to be able to push it off its stand. They are designed to live outside. Ours does. We have only one more of the short model left; it's a foot shorter.

    Reply
  • ccb

    Todd,
    You and I talked mid October just after Dennis hauled those two baks back here. I am planning to test his this Saturday...assuming all goes well, count me in. [Need link? to colors/sizes - did you sell your last short bak?] Last, depending on how you want to structure the deal, I would be happy to assist w/ storing,showing/seling etc. close to my home [Palo Alto] any bikes you do not sell that you don't want to haul back.

    Cheers,
    ccb

    Reply
  • Matt M

    For anyone considering the short version I would highly suggest that you get the longer version. Once you load up the short bak with a kid(s) and grocieries you'll be wishing you had the long version. It is not that much longer, and you don't save that much $ going with the short. We've been using ours up here in portland since June and we love it:)

    Reply
  • Perry Joiner

    I'm very interested. I wish I would have found out about this idea sooner. I have been exploring the idea of selling dutch bikes and bakfiets in the S.F. bay area for a couple of months now. To be honest, I haven't gotten very far with it to date. These bikes are awesome. I have a truck and a workshop and that is about as far as I've gotten. I anticipated getting a mass order together and having them sent from the East Coast. Shipping from Portland, if you will pardon me, is a very clever plan. I want a bakfiets for myself and to show around and for test rides and demos. I intend on partnering with a number of bike shops in the area, instead of having a central location. I'm not really close to selling these yet, and I understand there are other people in the area with similar ideas. Hopefully more on that soon.

    Feel free to contact me at pejoiner@gmail.com or check out my fledgling blog at the commuterhub.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Perry Joiner

    Oops I made a mistake. My blog is at www.thecommuterhub.com.

    Reply
  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey November 16, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Rode the Bak at Trophy Bikes without a load for about 1/2 an hour in Philly this afternoon. Got lots of stares and stopped for one guy who just really wanted to check it out. Pretty easy to ride but I really didn't like that the steering gets a little aggressive towards max lock. It wanted to "jack-knife" near lock and the bars nearly got ripped out of my hands but was able to recover real quick. Now Trophy is one of the best shops in Philly and my Brompton I got from them was set up flawlessly and has required ZERO adjustments since. I'm just wondering if this somewhat aggressive steering characteristic is typical of the Bak's or perhaps since Trophy Bikes is totally new to the Baks and the one I test rode is there first ever, that maybe they got the steering linkage set up slightly wrong. Anyone got any answers or do Baks behave like this when unloaded??

    Otherwise it was really cool and easy. It felt like I was steering a 18 wheeler from the rear axles.

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    Andy, just to get clear, are we talking about the exactly the same bike, the Bakfiets.nl "CargoBike" with Van Andel headbadge? Because there are of course many superficially similar bikes, and of all the ones I've tried the Van Andel one's handling is far superior. Either way, the effect you describe isn't unheard of among people new to the bike, especially on the very first few low-speed U-turns. I've seen lots and lots of people try it out, and I'd say that about 2% find it seriously weird/hard, about 1/3 oversteer it and/or wobble a bit the first couple blocks as you describe, and the rest seem like they've been riding it daily for years. The 1/3 tend to graduate to the effortless class in a matter of minutes, literally. There seems no correlation between the amount of biking experience one has and how quickly one will adapt to a bakfiets. If anything, people who ride only one bike or one narrow genre of bike a lot have a harder time than people who throw a leg occasionally over lots of very different bikes. Ride only one sort of bike for a long time and the ruts in your biking brain can get really deep.

    The steering is set up deliberately with oversteer (the wheel turns faster than the bars) and with very low geometric trail. The oversteer may be in part to prevent the bars from needing to turn so far that the ends would whack your passengers' heads. The low trail part is easiest to appreciate when you have a big load and are trying to maneuver at very low speeds: you don't want the load amplifying any flop. But it does take some people a little while to get completely comfortable with. The Brompton by the way has also got super low trail which is why it handles front-mount luggage so nicely and why you can turn it on a pavement square. And why some describe it as "squirrelly" and it's hard to ride no hands.

    Reply
  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey November 16, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Yeah it was a Van Andel CargoBike Long two-wheeler just like what you guys carry and I was warned about the bikes steering characteristics before I tried it out. I was also told the reason for its "oversteer" (that term means something totally different to me but I know where you're coming from) was to aid in maneuvering the bike just like you said. The incident I described above came near the end of my ride but I had few problems adjusting till that point and no problems after. Must say that it was very easy to recover from and I never felt like I was gonna' lay the bike over. The wide handlebars must help.

    My only other concern was that the cockpit seemed really cramped between the saddle and the bars. I not particularly tall (5'7") especially when compared to the Dutch but the bars were in my gut. The owner at Trophy complained about the same thing and was looking to put another stem on the bike for that exact reason. The stock one is really short.

    I must say to everyone else however that the bike was really fun to ride and really wasn't hard at all. Trophy Bikes is in University City section of Philly with U Penn and there are some modest but long grades. However these were nothing that the 8-speed Shimano hub couldn't handle with ease and while maintaining a respectable amount of speed all in street cloths.

    Finally I do want to say Thanks to Todd and the rest of the Clever gang for introducing these bikes to America along with the guys at the Dutch Bicycle Company. I've heard of them before you guys started importing them but I don't think I would have had the chance to try one out and possibly purchase one if you didn't start the buzz about them.

    Peace,

    Andy B

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    Andy, that short cockpit is characteristic of pretty much all Dutch utility bikes. It's a big part of the comfort, I think, in most every context but hard climbing. I'd advise against lengthening the stem extension to avoid having the bars get fouled in the weather tent and again for the sake of passengers' head clearance. Instead, contrive to move the saddle rearward: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverchimp/1429704016/

    Reply
  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson November 18, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Heather, if you are looking for a trike, I've heard good things about Human Powered Machines' model. I've never ridden one myself, though, so don't take me as an authority. www.catoregon.org

    Reply
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  • Lisa

    Would love to purchase one soon.... Please keep me posted with Next Delivery Heading in to the SF/San Jose Area. I have seen this lovely lady in San Jose ride her children to school every morning (rain or shine) and I Love It... I am a Babysitter that needs this for the 4 kids I watch. (Under the age of 5.) Please keep me posted... Thank You.

    Reply
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