Bakfietsen

It's Dutch for "box bike." Most have a wooden box placed in front of the driver, for cargo and/or passengers.

  • WorkCycles at Clever, year eight

    workcycles kr8 cargo bike

    We unpacked another shipping container from WorkCycles one sleety morning recently. Most US bike shops order all their stuff from US distributors, who themselves import shipping containers full of stuff, mainly from Asian factories. But for nearly 8 years now we've been importing containers directly from WorkCycles in Amsterdam.

    WorkCycles are very tolerant of the vagaries and punctiliousness of our ordering process, but it's still a pain in the butt, frankly. Beginning to end, it can take 6 months or more for a container load to be specced for Portland conditions, any special orders developed and quoted with deposits taken, manufactured in a few different facilities, consolidated, packed, paid in full (no terms), shipped to the east coast (longer if through the Panama Canal), to pass customs, be transferred to rail, and finally to arrive in Portland on a flotilla of paperwork and obscure charges from customs brokers, shippers and their agents.

    And then we have a large volume of expensive merchandise that can take quite a while to sell through. Because 90% of Americans who see them immediately try to pick them up, look at the price tags, cluck and scratch their heads, and say something polite, or not.

    We do it because our specialist focus in family transportation by bike is way ahead of the national curve, so no national distributor could sustain the volume necessary to make it worthwhile, yet. We're not the only US WorkCycles importer, but we're the longest standing after the recession and "Dutch bike invasion" (fad) blew over. Meanwhile, we're proud to see how design features typical of WorkCycles have begun to be less unusual on the few utility bikes designed expressly for the US market: things like steering stabilizers and dynamo lights and center stands and balloon tires and frame-fixed front carriers and internally geared hubs.

    We do it simply because they make the best things of their kind. This has never been clearer than with WorkCycles house-designed lines Fr8, Gr8, and new Kr8, now in stock. (The names are bilingual puns, pronounced freight, great, and crate in English, and fracht, gracht (canal), and kracht (power or fervor) in Dutch.)

    Fr8

    The Fr8 will carry 2 child passengers plus groceries as well or better than the best longtails (Xtracycle EdgeRunner and Yuba Mundo), and up to 4 in a pinch. But it's only as long as a midtail (Kinn Cascade Flyer or Yuba Boda Boda). Unlike these others, it's a true step-through frame, and like all WorkCycles house designs to date, has an ingenious one-size-fits-most scheme, invaluable on utility bikes commonly shared within households.

    Gr8

    workcycles gr8 cargo bike
    Fr8 lite? Pretty much. Lighter than a similarly specced WorkCycles Oma, with arguably sweeter handling, striking industrial design. About 4" shorter overall, still plenty stout and roomy for one passenger on the back with space left over for stuff on the large front carrier.

    Kr8

    12708850505_1e966afeb3_b

    Let's have a moment of silence for the beloved Bakfiets.nl Cargobike that has been probably Clever Cycles' most iconic offering, inspired dozens of competitors good and bad, and is now finally entering "Craigslist classic" status, at least in Portland, where numerous specimens are now serving their 2nd or even 4th owner families, rock solid. Indeed, about 15 years ago this bike pretty much invented the concept of using the old long-john cargo bike format specifically as an urban car replacement for families with young children. Superseding it at Clever is the new WorkCycles Kr8.

    The Kr8 is essentially an evolutionary improvement on the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike, an homage. It's a little bit better in dozens of ways. It's a bit lighter. It fits one more child. It handles even better. It fits people of widely divergent heights better. Better stand. Better seatbelts. You can change a rear tire without removing the wheel... We think it's prettier. Read more on the WorkCycles blog, Bakfiets-en-meer.

  • Enter Urban Arrow

    Three years ago, at the European bicycle industry trade show Eurobike, a stunning new family cargo bike appeared: Urban Arrow. Six are on their way to us right now. We are taking pre-orders.

    Urban Arrow Photoshoot (en) from epe on Vimeo.

    While we and many others love the supremely relaxed ergonomics and practical feature completeness typical of the Dutch family bikes we introduced to Portland, the fact that Portland isn't even nearly flat like Amsterdam means that their local appeal is skewed toward the very strong. Simply put, upright comfort and hill-climbing cargo capabilities are hard qualities to combine especially when the bikes themselves tend to be very heavy.

    Urban Arrow changes all this. It joins a lightweight frame, a giant passenger compartment, typically Dutch friendly ergonomics, a superior Bosch electric mid-drive with disc brakes, dynamo lighting, and NuVinci N360 continuously variable gearing in an iconic design by Wytze van Mansum.

    We've been trying to get these bikes since 2010. The company has understandably been keen to keep the product close to home in Europe to identify and resolve the first-generation problems typical of any ambitious new product before going big internationally, so we've left many business conversations empty handed. But now, finally, after some substantial specification changes and major awards later, Urban Arrow is coming to Portland!

    Normally we would hesitate to accept pre-orders on not-inexpensive items before we'd received any, but we're making an exception for these elusive, hotly desired bikes. Perhaps you too have been on the hunt for years. It's unclear how quickly we'll be able to receive more after these six are sold.

  • Emily

    Go read about the awesome Finch family at BikePortland.org:

    Photo by Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org

  • Not that you would, but that you could...

    From yesterday’s Fiets of Parenthood, 6 kids and one mom on a Bakfiets Cargobike plus Follow-Me Tandem Coupling. Read more about the event at urbanMamas and Bike Noun Verb:

  • Another year, another expansion; the return of WorkCycles, and some tight Swedish bike

    It feels like the calm before a storm, or the eye of a storm: a moment of stillness before a few big happenings we expect will keep us too busy to tell you about as they happen. Spoiler alert!

    We’re growing again

    For the third time in four mostly recessionary years, we’re tearing down walls in the historic Red Men Hall in our hasty ambition to Slow Portland Down with more bikes. D is for Demolition: D-Day is 6 June. We expect to stay open through remodeling, with the loud dusty work occurring off hours.

    We are acquiring the adjacent 2200′sq corner unit at 900 SE Hawthorne, currently Kush Carpets. Our street-facing windows will increase four-fold. No longer will we feel compelled to greet visitors to our narrow front showroom with “there’s more in back up the steps to the right!” No longer will we have to ponder the opportunity cost of the frequent observation “wow, you guys are much bigger on the inside than the outside!” We hope that you will appreciate a far less cluttered, more complete and coherent, bright and airy presentation of our stuff, with far fewer trips to the basement required to try other models, sizes, and colors.

    WorkCycles: coming back with a bang

    Our Amsterdam supplier WorkCycles never went anywhere, but our selection of their bikes has been rather thin for nearly a year, and that’s been a shame. When we opened four years ago, WorkCycles bikes were our most distinctive and exclusive offerings, our flagships, kicking off in Portland a trend (dare we say) still in infancy: family and cargo bikes, and heavy-duty, upright, full-function city bikes unlike any previously sold in North America. To this day, Portlanders look to us as ground zero of Dutchness, and shortly we’ll be able again to oblige, better than ever.

    Zuzana & Her Oma On their way to us now are over 100 of arguably the best-speced urban transport bikes ever. They’re coming back not because they are fashionable, or retro, or even because they are Dutch, but because they are the most evolved examples of the most timeless utilitarian forms in the 120 or so years of modern bicycle time. Don’t hate on the pretty: these “euro-lifestyle accoutrements” are the hardest working dogs on the street, any weather, any hour, with every amenity built in, and all the greasy grimy parts sealed away. My WorkCycles Omafiets has been parked in the rain for nearly 4 years, used near daily hauling people and goods all over and beyond Portland, and there’s still original factory grease on the chain.

    Since October we’ve been setting the pieces in place, adding to WorkCycles’ already best-in-class city and bakfiets cargo bikes the new NuVinci continuously variable hub, geared extra low and 360% wide, Busch & Müller LED lighting, and higher-spec brakes. The buttery NuVinci hub is something we’ve been testing quietly on our own bikes over 2 product generations for years, and selling for months on custom builds and the popular Breezer Infinity model now in stock. We think it’s a game changer, or nearly so, particularly for utility bikes where reliability, ease of use, and wide range are paramount.

    Together these improvements quash the very few beefs we’ve heard or held ourselves about these bikes in years of hard use. While the selection is broad, quantities of each particular size and model are limited. These builds are exclusive to us, at least for now. If you want one, get in touch to pre-order. We ship! Meanwhile, we still have a small selection of WorkCycles bikes with still-nice specifications, at lower prices than the new, super-premium ones coming.

    Pilen Lyx Portlandia: soon

    A customer recommended Swedish Pilen bikes to our attention nearly a year ago. Reminiscent of charming Kronan bikes aesthetically, but of higher quality and specification, they remained near the back of our minds until the US distributor of Pilen Lyx Portlandia, loaded for bearChristiania family trikes solicited our interest in his firm importing them. One obstacle was that they came standard, like many if not most European utility bikes, with backpedal or coaster brakes. Maybe it’s an American thing, or perhaps just West coast, but we’ve found it difficult to sell bikes without front and rear hand brakes above a certain very cheap and basic overall quality level. To our pleasant surprise, Pilen very quickly prepared special sample bikes addressing our short list of concerns, and sent them to us for evaluation.

    They were awesome! Lighter and lighter duty than WorkCycles, but still very respectable as transport bikes, with cleanly finished chromoly frames and unexpectedly fast, fun, supple ride qualities, we were sold. Rolling up all our special specifications into the “Portlandia” designation, we ordered 16. Red bird reflective safety art stickers sold separately. They’re on the way. 2 frames styles, 4 colors. One’s now in our rental fleet; come check it out!

    There are more surprises in the pipe, just back a little further.

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