Bakfietsen

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

  • 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.

  • My relaxing weekend down south or a truck, bikes, trains, a plane, and iPhone

    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:

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