Basil has landed, and the San Francisco Bakfiets shuttle

This week we received a large shipment from Basil, a bicycle bag and basket maker in the Netherlands. It took us a long time to get, and to our knowledge we are now the only source of much of the collection in North America. We’ve barely gotten it tagged and onto the floor, but the reception has been great. We have already heard it pronounced “the first worthy upgrade to a bungeed milk crate,” and overheard an urgent cell phone call about “really cute bags, but at, like, this bicycle store!” Here is bicycle luggage that doesn’t look like sporting goods, but just like nice luggage, nice hand and shoulder bags, nice briefcases, nice baskets in mesh or wicker, including dog baskets. Come check it out.

A lot of people remark that our Dutch city bikes seem big. And heavy. And while a test ride quickly shows that said qualities contribute to a “Cadillac ride”, that’s not their main rationale. No, the bigness and heaviness find useful meaning in the physical clearances and structural integrity necessary to haul stuff comfortably, sometimes heavy and bulky stuff. The bikes are platforms for racks, bags, baskets, and child carriers. Ever try to put big panniers on your typical light, compact bike only to find that it hits your heels or the handling goes south? What about a kid seat and panniers? Your bike is too small and weak. What about a front basket? No, you won’t be putting one of these on even a top end touring bike or domesticated MTB, but it’s no problem for Oma:

This gets near the heart of what we’re about: biking can be more than weekend sport or recreation, and more than weekday personal mobility (commuting). It can be about everyday transport of passengers and things. The Basil collection helps fill in this big picture, beautifully, proclaiming that utility bicycling isn’t just for eccentric or tightwad recycling enthusiasts and professional messengers (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Without this transport part provided for as a practical, attractive choice, cars remain an apparent necessity even to many city households, and bicycles a discretionary expense. We’re here to help flip this idea around. Yes, of course it’s the Next Big Thing.

San Francisco

A couple posts back we talked about ways to get bakfietsen down to the San Francisco bay area more economically. Well, we updated that post a few days ago with details of our plan, so have a look if this might be you. We’re collecting orders for what we hope can be a pre-holiday delivery run.

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19 thoughts on “Basil has landed, and the San Francisco Bakfiets shuttle”

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey November 11, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    The Basil Bags are really nice if your a kid or a woman but I really didn't find much that appealed to me as a man with classic tastes. I really liked the Kavan II Bag in a natural finish but it is not offered in a single side bag, only the double rear pannier option. Just some feedback thats all. I know there are one or two manufacturers in France and England that make some really hansom bags that are decidedly masculine in a classic, timeless fashion.

    Also I must say that Rachel looks simply divine gliding by on her Zwan; the obvious envy of fashionable women everywhere. I hope to recreate the Bakfiets scene at the bottom sometime soon, minus the happy child unfortunately.

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  • AllanF

    Todd, some nice and interesting points regarding the Euro city bike design and utility.
    I've taken to telling people that the US-designed city bikes: Breezer (perhaps the first), it's follow-ons from Bianchi and Trek, the Electra's, and now Shimano's Coasting inspired abominations suffer from much the same as warned against in the adage, "Those that fail to learn Unix will re-implement it. Badly."
    I say one can buy an American bike that is desprately trying to re-invent the wheel of bike-as-utility-transportation, or you can buy a Euro bike that never forgot how to build in that style. Indeed, the Euro bike has been refining and optimizing on it for over 30 years.
    To many, the American bikes seem great at first. Like big, foam-padded saddles, these bikes have great appeal on first impression. However, it doesn't take much serious use before their many short-comings become obvious. At that point a crisis is precipitated: the customer chooses either to curtail their cycling or take their new knowledge and go out and find a more suitable bicycle.
    Of course they are going to be as poorly served on their second visit as on their first. So this is likely to repeat a couple times really testing the resolve of the person's will to bike. I suspect most folks only go through one buy decision. Of the remainder most again stop after two buy decisions. Only a few hardy souls keep at it until they end up at a "retro" boutique like Clever, Velo-Orange, Riv, etc.

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  • Bruce A. Wilson

    "Only a few hardy souls keep at it until they end up at a “retro” boutique like Clever, Velo-Orange, Riv, etc."

    Assuming that there is one like that in their community. There isn't here; our only bike shop is a Trek road-and-mountain dealership. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and they are very good for what they do, and I certainly love their repair/mechanical department. And if you want something off their beaten track they'll certainly order it for you. But they don't stock the sort of transportational cycles we are talking about here.

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  • AllanF

    Thus the power and beauty of the internet. Yes, takes a hardy, determined soul.

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  • Bruce A. Wilson

    The InterNet is a wonderful thing, but it does not allow you to "try before you buy."

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  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey November 14, 2007 at 6:10 am

    I've been tryin' to get my local Trek shop to carry more practical bikes too but they continue to resist. A real shame too when you consider that they are on an old fashioned bustling Main St in an affluent town that has a Green Party mayor that was elected on a sustainability platform. Nice guys and not the typical elitist types either but I think they are missing out on a very big market. What was even funnier was that they carry Electra's hot-rod bikes but refused to carry Amsterdam models (??!!) but that isn't too much of a loss since while the Amsterdams look nice, they're still rather cheap.

    They were however, very interested in my Brompton when I rolled over on that and I think they are looking into carrying them. A no brainer in my opinion since the town is a 5 minute bike ride to a train station that will take you to NYC and there are dozens of executive types who either ride already or would like to.

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  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson November 14, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    They were more than willing to order and install the Xtracycle, and to order my Montegue folder. When I asked about a recumbent, they said that if I researched it and told them what to order, they'd order it.

    I found someone in town who had a SWB 'bent and got him to give me a test ride. I nearly broke my neck.

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  • Todd

    What is a "tightwad recycling enthusiast," and why do you explicitly call out and distance yourself from said? Just curious ;-)

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  • Ian Hopper

    So Todd, I thought I'd throw this out there for your readership: I bought an Azor Oma from Todd last month when I was driving down from Seattle. Needless to say, it's become my favorite bike for everything but Mountain Biking on singletrack and I think I've put more miles on the Azor than the new/old truck I just bought. If anyone wants to try it out (and get on the bandwagon for the pre-holiday delivery), you are welcome to contact me at i h t s x e@gmail.com (take out the spaces between the letters at the beginning to resolve the email address). I live in Novato, but I'll gladly meet you within 15 miles of my home (by bicycle of course!)

    By the by, I still want to own a Bakfiets, I just can't justify it when I already own an Stokemonkeyed xtracycle and an Azor Oma. Maybe if I ever start a bicycle co-op... now there's an idea!

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  • Erik Sandblom

    Todd, (other Todd) I read that each kilogram of recycled paper and glass saves about two kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. A typical car emits about one kilogram of carbon dioxide per five kilometres (source www.volvo.co.uk ). So a typical car driver might emit 20 kilos of CO2 per week from driving 100km, while saving four kilograms by recycling.

    So between recycling and biking, biking is the more meaningful way to save the planet. Best is both.

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  • Matt

    Gosh, I have fallen behind on my reading! You've got Basil? I contacted the company a couple of years ago but they were unwilling to sell to me directly. I thought about setting up shop and buying a load, but I don't have any other retail presence. I slogged my way through several Dutch bike shop sites but never ordered. And now, you've got 'em! I'll be out for the NAHBS (coming on what has turned into the Framebuilder's Express Amtrak train, though I booked last summer when space was still plentiful) and will be stopping by your shop! I don't suppose you have the Basil Bicycle Umbrellas (biekfiets paraplu, I think they call them), do you? The colorful one?

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  • Val

    Matt: Not only does Todd have Basil, Seattle Bike Supply does, too. Most shops in the US deal with SBS, so if you pester your LBS enough, they might even order some for you. Of course, I also highly recommend stopping in at Clever Cycles when you're in Portland, as they have all sorts of unique necessities that your LBS probably can't get. See you there!

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  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey January 8, 2008 at 3:07 am

    Plus you can take all your goodies home on the train particularly the bike! Just leave it the box and check it as baggage!

    My friend was moving back home to Kansas City and only had a small amount of stuff. Too much to take on a plane but Amtrak will take as much as you can give them for only $10 a bag after the first two check-in bags.

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  • Matt

    Actually, I'm bringing my bicycle. It's my winter bike (salt-encrusted with studded snow tires, this being Minnesota) but it'll be my mobility while in Portland. Not sure how happy my wife would be if I showed up with a spare bike when I got home. Maybe if it was for her...

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  • Dave

    I just got the Basil Kavan II bags, and I *love* them so far, they've been fantastic and are even more waterproof than I expected, which is great. It's nice having them on both sides, and having the sides connected, because it balances the weight out, so you don't feel lopsided.

    Also, while the Azor, Pashley and Velorbis bikes are undoubtedly higher quality and probably better designed than say, the Electra Amsterdam - I think the Amsterdam and other European-inspired bikes make really good options for people who can't spring for an $1800 bike, especially if they are just thinking about buying a commuter-style bike for the first time - they probably won't feel $1800 is worth it for a "practical" bike until they start using a bike that way more.

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  • brett

    I love my new Basil city bag, bought at CC! Keeps the wet out. I agree with Dave: I was all ready to get an Amsterdam because I couldn't afford a real Dutch bike. Then I found one on Craig's list for less than an Amsterdam, and of course now realize it's actually worth the full price if you're using it as much as I do. (And much better than the apparently shoddily constructed Amsterdams, pretty as they are.) But I'm sure I'd never have paid that high full price -- it just seemed too steep. Now I would, of course, but how do you get more Americans to realize that value? Maybe the Amsterdam makes a good gateway drug.

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  • Dave

    Yeah, I have an Amsterdam actually, and some parts of it are definitely cheap (mostly accessory items like the headlight or the skirt guards), and I'm sure it's a made in china frame and all that, but it's a pretty decent bike for the price, and I think it is a pretty good gateway drug into the European city bike style, and I think it would also be a great bike for people who currently aren't bike riders at all, but would like to be for short trip commutes and groceries and such. I've been doing a couple hundred miles per month on the Amsterdam and it's been comfortable and reliable so far. I'm sure that an Azor would have a totally different feel to it (I can't speak from experience, unfortunately), but the Amsterdam does make for a reliable, convenient ride.

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  • brett

    I agree -- I test rode the Amsterdam at CC and thought it was a tremendous improvement over the typical American road bike or hybrid. And it's beautiful (in my subjective judgment, of course.) The ride isn't nearly as smooth as the Azor, and the seating position isn't quite as upright, though still more comfortable than an American bike, but it's not totally different by any means. The Shimano Nexus hub shifting was smooth, the Brooks saddle comfy (comfier than the saddle that came with my Azor, actually) and the ride was sweet. Except for the nagging reliability issues, I think it's a great bike for Americans looking for something practical yet stylish and who don't think they can afford the real thing. If you're not having those problems, then I'm sure it's excellent. I bet I would have been very happy with one as long as I didn't encounter problems with it, because reliability was and is a big factor in my choice of bikes. BTW there was a recall on Amsterdams so you might want to bring yours in to get the chain problem (I think it was) fixed even if it hasn't bitten you yet. I bet the Amsterdam, like the Townie, will attract whole new categories of riders, and that's a good thing.

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  • Dave

    Oh yeah, I got the chain guard fixed already (regarding the recall), no worries.

    Also, just for kicks, I subscribed to craigslist searches for Azor, Pashley and Velorbis - just in case something comes up :D

    Reply
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