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.

12 thoughts on “Another year, another expansion; the return of WorkCycles, and some tight Swedish bike”

  • Josh Berezin

    Congrats, guys! Exciting stuff.

  • Ana Pereira

    That's great, guys! Congratulations! :-) I can't wait for the day I can finally pay you a visit!

  • Will

    Pilens just landed today. Hoping to get them headed west early next week...

  • Mark Stosberg

    Congratulations on the expansion!

    The NuVinci update for bakfiets sounds interesting. What sprocket & chain ring sizes are you choosing for the extra low gearing?

  • Todd (admin)

    38 x 21t. that's not as big a change as with the classic city bikes, that formerly had a 44t ring.

  • Mark Stosberg

    Thanks for the numbers, Todd.

    So, if you were still spec'ing 38/19 and the Shimano Nexus-8, then the previous gear range would have been 27.4 - 84 gear inches, according to Sheldon Brown's gear calculator [1].

    The new range with 38/21 and the NuVinci N360 would be 23.5 - 84.7. So, it does appear the NuVinci is providing a lower gear range, while the highest gear is nearly the same.

    I have an N360 on our Yuba, and used the "Meters Development" method to test my actual achieved lowest gear ratio. [2] It translated to about 26 "gear inches" instead of the advertised "23.5". Perhaps this is due to an imperfect adjustment on my part (or other factors like my wheel diameter not matching the 'nominal 26" wheel of the gear calculator), but I would interested to know from others if their gear range is matching what's advertised.

    In any case, after a couple of weeks of trying the N360 on our Yuba, I think I prefer the continuous gearing the fixed gearing the Shimano Nexus 8 on our Yuba. I would frankly like an even lower gear than the N360 supports for cargo hauling-- something like 20 gear inches. NuVinci says that the minimum gear ratio between the chain ring and sprocket they support is 1.8, and your selected gearing is already at that limit. On the other, the benefits of an internal hub are great enough that I plan to put an N360 on my next bike as well.


    2. My gearing test method: Place one crank in the "up" position and mark the back wheel location. Turn the crank exactly one rotation while the bike is in lowest gear. Apply the brakes some to give some resistance during the process, so that the bike doesn't coast forward any. At the end of the rotation, measure the distance that the back wheel has progressed. This is your gearing expressed in "Meters Development". Sheldon Brown's calculator supports showing gearing in this unit as well
    as Gear Inches, for comparison.

  • heather andrews

    So excited for yet another expansion! Can't wait to see it when I get back home.

  • Kirsten P.

    Happy to hear you're expanding again!

    Mark, I'm running an N360 on my Torker Cargo-T with 32x20 gearing and 26x1.75 tires. Gear inches = 20.6-74.2 and made winter riding with studs, tire dynamo, heavy groceries and 3 steep hills totally doable. Very happy!

    Yeah, I know it's out of the recommended gear range but one does what one must, and so far, the hub's working great.

  • Mark Stosberg

    Thanks for sharing that, Kirsten. I haven't found many reports of people gearing their NuVinci N360's below the minimum gearing, but I found has been positive. Here Val from Seattle talks about his NuVinci-enabled bike geared with 34/22-- a ratio of 1.55 that's even lower than yours. He also report using the hub with a combination of cargo and hills without a problem.

    With your high-end being 74.2, do you have times where you feel the gear range doesn't go high enough for you?

  • Kirsten P.

    Mark, sorry to get back to you so late. Been traveling...

    Since the Torker weighs about 57 lbs. unloaded with current mods, a top speed of 20 mph is probably plenty considering braking ability (I upgraded the rear brake as well). Sometimes I do wish for a taller gear when sprinting on flat ground or attempting to keep up with friends on lighter bikes. But those times are few and far between, as I have a lighter bike for social rides.

    For me, compromising some top speed for a low climbing gear was perfect, and I wouldn't change a thing.

  • Josef Bray-Ali

    Ah, coaster brakes. I myself am a fan of them and have figured out what to say to let people know that they are actually a pretty bad ass thing to have on your bike.

    First, raise your hand if you've ever ridden a bike with a cell phone, umbrella, frosty beverage, bag, surfboard, musical instrument, or child in one hand. If you have, get thee on a coaster brake bike to feel the difference!

    Have you ever tried using a hand brake with only one hand on the handlebars? It is a disaster! The instant you apply force to the hand brake, the bars begin pulling in the direction of your hand - and you have to quickly shift your weight to keep from twisting the bars in front of you. So, first and foremost, coaster brakes allow you to ride irresponsibly - carrying stuff, drinking stuff, talking on the phone, etc. and still have the ability to slow down smoothly. A coaster brake can be the difference between your surfboard or your groceries dumped on the ground on top of your bike or simply swinging a bit at the motion of you bringing your bike to a controlled stop.

    Second, brodies dude, brodies. That is, you can bust some awesome skids with a coaster brake.

    Case closed.

    • Todd (admin)

      i think it must be a regional thing, or a hill thing, or a bit of both, josef. i would certainly never try to talk anybody out of liking coaster brakes. i've even met a few of these people, scarce as they are around here. it's fine, unless perhaps they are mounting a front child seat, have no front brake, and live on a hill. brodies aren't all that cool into intersections with baby aboard, you know? for the record, i ride one-hand-irresponsibly very often, checking email etc., and simply don't have any trouble bringing the bike to a stop with one hand brake: front, smooth and straight.

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