Go read about the awesome Finch family at BikePortland.org:
It's Dutch for "box bike." Most have a wooden box placed in front of the driver, for cargo and/or passengers.
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.
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 Christiania 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.
Last weekend we loaded up a 22″ truck full of bikes and delivered them free of charge to their owners in the San Francisco area. It went well, mostly.
We made this trip because, frankly, our inventory of bakfietsen had become rather large just as the initial very hot sales rate in Portland cooled off with the weather. We figure that most any major metropolitan area has at least several dozen households who will leap for these things, at least once a few get rolling, and the “how can I get one of those?” referrals kick in. We wanted to jump-start that process.
We don’t think we’ll do this again, primarily because we’ve accomplished our goals of inventory adjustment and seeding future sales to the area. We delivered several bakfietsen to Jim in Chico, which he will sell [he sold out -- ed].
Another reason we’ll not likely do this again is simply that it was a lot of work, and stressful. I had naively believed that I could leave early one morning in Portland and sleep that night in Berkeley, making a significant delivery and acquaintance in Chico on the way. (That’s like Amsterdam to Milan with a stop in, what, Strasbourg?) It turns out I spent two nights in motels on I-5, with associated distress from fast food, poor sleep amid dreams of snowy mountain passes and stolen trucks, and general exposure to the monocultural vacuity of the interstate highway system. I’ve driven maybe a dozen hours a year average in recent decades. Driving 4 days with a giant truck full of costly bikes on a tight itinerary has left me pretty done. I have a new appreciation, or should I say sympathy, for those who truck for a living. It’s hard.
Handing over the keys to the bikes was rewarding, as usual. The award for most enthusiastic bakfiets reception goes to C.B. in Palo Alto, who took a “pro forma” practice loop with one of her children before coming back and loading up four more people, including her husband off the back, making six in all. Much whooping and similar signs of glee ensued. I love to watch this stuff, and submit it as exemplary of the incredibly easy handling the van Andel bakfiets design offers even with the biggest loads. (We’ve ridden superficially similar designs and, really, this one’s in a class by itself.)
After C.B.’s delivery, with great relief I dropped off the empty truck after dark in a deserted industrial area. What then? Deploy the trusty personal jetpack: a Brompton folding bike! A Brompton is the hero of so many of my travels. With iPhone providing navigational support, I rode to the nearest Caltrain stop and headed north to San Francisco. On the train I assessed some bad news from a customer in the preceding day’s drop: an egregious mechanical problem, our fault. Customer lived near the Oakland airport I would be biking to in the morning, so I planned to stop to make things right on the way.
iPhone said I would need to wait at the Caltrain stop for a bus to connect further to BART that would take me back to Berkeley where I was staying. See, the Bay Area has many overlapping layers of independent, ill-coordinated transit systems, which means sometimes you have to buy 3 tickets, wait 3 times to go just a few miles. Nuts to that: I had Brompton! The bike creaked softly under my heavy load of smugness as I flew past the bus stops of SoMa to BART, feeling a little like Spiderman in street clothes flicking skeins of web between truck and train, train and tube, tube and dinner under the full moon.
The gods punish such feelings, of course. The next day, riding that clever British contraption in the cold rain to the Oakland airport while imagining myself in the role of Bond, James Bond, I got a flat in a cheery glass-strewn warehouse district. Who knew it rained in California? Q really must sort this puncture business. Could I patch it? Absolutely, and then I’d miss my flight. Soggy but unbowed, 5 strokes of the iPhone later a cab was on the way, and in 45 minutes I carried the bike onto the plane as usual, like Bond, James Bond.
Jim in Chico sent this in. I love the way the kids pop out like peas from a ripe pod:
Yes, it’s happening even in Los Angeles, a car-head dystopia I reserve the right to disdain since I grew up at the confluence of the 57 and 60 freeways. Check out Bakfietsen to the Future!, about an expectant father whose acquisition of a bakfiets instead of a second car just as oil is passing the $100/barrel mark is “a way to live my life on my own terms” and avoid reverting to the “chubby, hateful, angry” driver he once was. Your daughter will love it, Josef.
Josef got his bak from our friends at Rain City Bikes north of the border (it’s all good, but… but did we screw up somehow?). Our own north-south aid package, the San Francisco Bakfiets shuttle is finally coming together with free delivery scheduled 19-20 January. The truck is pretty full already with bikes ready to ride, but we can disassemble a bit and pack in a few more if you act fast. We are packing only pre-sold bikes, but perhaps if you show up at the to-be-determined pickup locations you can kick the tires gently to decide if you want one.
We will be closed Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Carl sings in the bakfiets. Lately it’s been “Jingle Bells”–the “…Batman smells” variant. This is, after all, as close to a one-horse open sleigh as it gets this side of horses and snow. We need bells to complete the effect. I could use a carrot, apple, or maybe just some sugar.
From Friday November 23rd through December 23rd, buy any one item and receive 25% off any 2nd item of equal or lesser value. We’re also temporarily knocking $250 off the cost of a bakfiets. The bakfiets discount doesn’t apply for people participating in the San Francisco free delivery program — that much of a deal might precipitate a singularity in the bike-time-oil-money matrix with unpredictable cosmic repercussions.
On Friday the 23rd, at noon, come join us for an easy ride around the neighborhood. Very family friendly.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. We are thankful for your patronage and warm support of our new enterprise.
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.
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.
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:
WeÃ¢â?¬â?¢ve thought this through. It doesnÃ¢â?¬â?¢t make a lot of sense for us to bring bikes down to San Francisco without them being pre-sold. ThereÃ¢â?¬â?¢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 donÃ¢â?¬â?¢t like it.
HereÃ¢â?¬â?¢s what we propose:
- Tell us what you want in terms of color and size options, where applicable. When we make a match, weÃ¢â?¬â?¢ll hold the bike for a 1/3 deposit. The deposit is fully refundable if you change your mind.
- 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), weÃ¢â?¬â?¢ll set a small delivery date range (such as the weekend after next), and we will request full payment, no tax. Then weÃ¢â?¬â?¢ll deliver your bike, no charge.
- Test your bike. WeÃ¢â?¬â?¢ll adjust it and walk you through the modest maintenance weÃ¢â?¬â?¢d normally do after 30 days. If you donÃ¢â?¬â?¢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 DennisÃ¢â?¬â?¢ gracious offer of an advance test ride in his comment below. WeÃ¢â?¬â?¢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), weÃ¢â?¬â?¢ll offer to ship the bikes for half of the actual shipping cost.
WeÃ¢â?¬â?¢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 8Ã¢â?¬â?¢ bed. Larger wagons can usually handle city bikes. WeÃ¢â?¬â?¢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.