Who Needs an SUV?!

One of the most striking things we saw in the Netherlands was whole families traveling together by bike. Perhaps the most touching scene, which we saw several times, was a parent riding side-by-side with a younger child, with a hand outstretched on the child’s shoulder to guide him or her.

While unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of that scene, I did get a number with mothers transporting younger children by bike, plus bikes outfitted for that purpose.
One of the most striking things we saw in the Netherlands was whole families traveling together by bike. Perhaps the most touching scene, which we saw several times, was a parent riding side-by-side with a younger child, with a hand outstretched on the child’s shoulder to guide him or her.

While unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of that scene, I did get a number with mothers transporting younger children by bike, plus bikes outfitted for that purpose.

Baby on Board

Shopping with Mom

In Traffic

The Dutch answer to the SUV

Double Seater

Lots of Room

Rear Seat

Trailer AND Rear Seat

Note the trailer AND the rear seat!

18 Comments

18 Responses to Who Needs an SUV?!

  1. Todd Boulanger
    December 4, 2005 at 9:22 pm Link

    Hi Chris,

    Your comments about the ‘Dutch SUV’ are spot on. (This is what I have been calling the BUV – Bike Utility Vehicle, is a ‘bakfiets’ or bakery bike.) http://www.bakfiets.nl/eng/ )

    NL TRIPS
    One of the key memories I have taken from our group trip (my 5th over 10 years) to Holland is that these vehicles are now very ‘common’. That instead on seeing perhaps 1 a week on the streets you could see 3 a day…or more if you were in a child prone neighborhood or destination (zoo, etc.). When I was at the Amsterdan zoo I saw 3 in use over 15 minutes while waiting for my tram. They hold from 1 to 6 kids (1-6 yrs) depending on the number of bench seats (short or long bed) and use of the additional BoBike seats. http://www.bobike.nl/

    CHANGES
    And that you can now walk into one of several bike shops and find models on display and ready to be purchased ( http://www.hetzwartefietsenplan.nl/winkel/index.html or http://www.boborangebicycles.nl ) . A few years ago you had to goto a very specialized shop ( http://www.tmannetje.nl ) to buy one and likley you would have to wait. One of things that may have helped with this change is the level of manufacturing has moved from craft shop to larger factroies…I think that Bakfiets are now made by Azor bikes ( http://www.azor.nl ).

    US vs. NL FREIGHT BIKES
    The ride for the tots (and the adult) is better in these bikes vs. a rear trailer, as the children are up front and visible and protected in the bed of the bike. In the US there is really nothing similar to these BUVs for kid transport yet. The US freight bikes are made for cargo and not kids, though they could be modified by the builders. The Dutch bikes are very complete and ride better underload than empty. Though you need strength and stamina to pedal it around Portland with the Dutch gearing. Where as the CAT type long john cargo bike is geared very well for the modest hills here (3×8 hub vs. a 5 or 7 speed hub) and for their core market – messenger delivery.

    LOCAL EXPERIENCE
    I broke down and bought a bakfiets this summer – they had a shipping container coming to the US with bikes and room for 1 more and so threw it on board – 2 months later it arrived. (I got tired of waiting and hoping for a locally made cargo bike – though that one arrived later on). Bakfiets for export are handled by http://www.workcycles.nl though there is rumoured to be a US agent in Florida.

    FUTURE
    I have been thinking that the next phase of Portland’s platinum/bikevana quest should focus on retaining the current bicyclists who have happened to gotten married and had a kid or two and are now debating buying a car. (Since it is almost ‘impossible’ to comfortably cart more than 1 kid around on the local bikes with a kidseat or trailer.) Why lose these experienced bicyclists just due to a lifestyle/demographic interuption? And then wait for them to possibly return to bicycling when their kids hit college. ‘We’ need to retain the bicyclists we have while adding more in order to get the mode split up over 10 percent.

    INVESTMENT IN BICYCLING MANUFACTURE/ RETAILING
    Additionally, it would be great if a local government or angel investors were to front some funding (a revolving fund of sorts) to these local freight bike makers so they they could stock up on production so that purchasers did not have to search out one to test ride (or drive a few hours away to another city)and then wait months to get one. Why make bicycling so tough…vs. walking into a car show room and driving out with a car on instant credit (‘your job as credit’). There should be at least 1 shop in Portland where you could actually walk in, see one, test ride it, and purchase a freight bike that day.

    Or perhaps Flexcar will add one or two to their vehicle fleet? For members to rent and use.

    Todd Boulanger
    Vancouver WA

    PS. Your second photo shows a mom using a rented bakfiets bike that she picked up from a local shop – Mac Bikes. http://www.macbike.nl/

    If you look on the side and front it has their logos and sign.

  2. Jonathan Maus
    December 6, 2005 at 12:34 am Link

    Todd, your comments about using these bikes for families really hits home for me! This is the situation my family is in right now. We have a 3 month old and a 3 year old and my wife drives them whenever it’s too far to walk. I have been dreaming about one of these European cargo trikes for months now.

    I like your idea of Flexcar testing the waters.

  3. todd
    December 10, 2005 at 1:31 pm Link

    it makes me really happy to live in portland to see discussions like this, city delegations to the netherlands, etc., when Washington state is mulling a ban on babies on bikes, except on sidewalks: http://todd.cleverchimp.com/blog/?p=70

  4. Scott Mizée
    December 11, 2005 at 6:11 am Link

    Great Comments Todd! Has anyone spoken with Flexcar about your suggestion yet? If not, I am a member and have a relationship with the folks at their office. I’ll ask them about it. It is not in their “core market” but it certainly targets their customer, so they may be willing to oblidge!

  5. Boz Van Houten
    December 18, 2005 at 9:25 am Link

    I too imported a workbike through Henry Workcycles (workcycles.nl). I got the Azor Transport HD NX7D. Fantastic! Totally reliable and trouble-free for everyday commuting. Our local vendors simply do not address this need, sad to say. After decades of cycling with various improvized commuting bikes, I now embark on winter rides feeling perfectly equipped. Working with Henry was a pleasure, and I recommend this approach to anyone seriously looking for a comfortable, reliable, durable and trouble-free bike. Be prepared to wait though, the process can take a while.

  6. Scott Mizée
    December 19, 2005 at 6:19 am Link

    FYI. I did speak with Flexcar and as I suspected, they want to focus on the cars at this point, although they are not adverse to eventually adding some work bikes to the fleet if the conditions are right. Perhaps someone needs to start Flexbike for that purpose in the mean time.

  7. Henry Cutler
    January 2, 2006 at 11:13 am Link

    Hello from Amsterdam,
    I stumbled upon your discussion this evening. Firstly thanks for the links and kind words.

    Also some good news for you (and a shameless plug for our colleagues). The “rumoured” florida importer/dealer of Dutch city bicycles and the Cargobike is reality. They’re not a competitor for WorkCycles but actually our customer and US representative. They now have bicycles in stock and here’s their contact info:

    Dutch Bicycle Company
    1-904-824-3416
    dutchbikes@bellsouth.net
    http://www.dutchbikes.us/

    Happy practical cycling!

    Met vriendelijke groeten,
    Henry

  8. JimK
    March 21, 2006 at 10:52 pm Link

    I just took the plunge and ordered one of these SUV devices from the Florida distributor. It’ll take til the end of April for it to arrive. Lots of time for my brain to spin circles.

    A question especially for Todd, since I think I am getting almost exactly the same bike – but for anybody that knows: I need to figure out some panniers that will work with this bike. The basic mode of use I plan is to ride to work in the morning, then after work ride to the grocery store for some fresh veggies or whatever, then ride home.

    What I carry to work is a big laptop and maybe some cans of beans for lunches and maybe a few books or files.

    The back rack on the Transport bike looks strange enough that probably most panniers in my local bike shop won’t work. I see that Ortlieb makes some nice back for lugging laptops – but I’m pessimistic about compatibility.

    So I would love to hear about any bike bags or baskets that anyone has found to work well with especially the Azor – Workcycle- DutchBikes HD Transport – expecialy stuff that I can find in the Portland area, but just in the US would be better that importing from overseas!

    Thanks!

  9. Ron Bennett
    April 16, 2006 at 8:50 pm Link

    For dutch stadfietsen (city bicycles) accessories – go to :
    (stores.ebay.nl/bikers-store)
    This guy and his brother have been in the bike business for over 30 years. They sell supports for bicycle baskets among other things
    such as brief case carriers, Axa real wheel locks and various carrying devices. Prices are very reasonable.
    For willow bicycle baskets – go to the basket maker:
    David Hembrow / english willow basket maker
    (homepage.ntlworld.com/hembrow/index.html)
    This man is in Cambridge, he has a great website, his
    prices are reasonable- and he makes them in all sizes and styles.
    I’ve been told by other sources that leather straps are not the best way to hold the basket to the handle bars. You really
    need a bracket . Mr. Hembrow has a solution and the Biker-Store
    has an even better solution (or solutions) -but you will need to
    do some dutch translation at the site. You can also ask the seller
    a question.
    Sincerely,
    Ron Bennett
    Berkeley, California

  10. Ron Bennett
    April 16, 2006 at 8:51 pm Link

    For dutch stadfietsen (city bicycles) accessories – go to :
    (stores.ebay.nl/bikers-store)
    This guy and his brother have been in the bike business for over 30 years. They sell supports for bicycle baskets among other things
    such as brief case carriers, Axa real wheel locks and various carrying devices. Prices are very reasonable.
    For willow bicycle baskets – go to the basket maker:
    David Hembrow / english willow basket maker
    (homepage.ntlworld.com/hembrow/index.html)
    This man is in Cambridge, he has a great website, his
    prices are reasonable- and he makes them in all sizes and styles.
    I’ve been told by other sources that leather straps are not the best way to hold the basket to the handle bars. You really
    need a bracket . Mr. Hembrow has a solution and the Biker-Store
    has an even better solution (or solutions) -but you will need to
    do some dutch translation at the site. You can also ask the seller
    a question.
    Sincerely,
    Ron Bennett
    Berkeley, California

  11. Jerry
    November 4, 2006 at 7:38 am Link

    I’ve been wanting to buy one of these bikes for my wife since she rode one in Amsterdam about three years ago. It’s been a bit difficult to find one though… well, not entirely true. They’re available but not near the cost that they are in Amsterdam. Can someone explain the logistics of getting these into the US and why that costs so much? And is this mark up the same for all bikes? I remember looking into road bikes last time I was over that way and the prices were comparable to the US.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or stupid… I’m just a wee bit confused, that’s all.

    Thanks in advance!

  12. victor
    December 8, 2006 at 10:30 pm Link

    Hello,

    this is for ron from berkley. to bring the bikes from holland the importer must first buy the bikes in euros which are worth more than US or CAN dollars. Then you must pay for shipping, duties and taxes. All the fun stuff that gets tagged on by the man. Check out the Dutchbikes.us and workcycles.com site. Henry and Dan can answer any and all your questions. Also check out my site for pictures of the bakfiets and dutch city bikes that we will soon be carrying in Canada.

    yours,
    victor
    raincitybikes.com

  13. Scott Mizée
    March 8, 2007 at 2:22 am Link

    Wow… this is where it all began. I remember reading this article back in 2005 and this is what started my fixation on Bakfiets… Thanks Todd from Vancouver! :)

    By the way, I stopped by Dan Sorger’s Dutch Bicycle Company in Florida on Tuesday this week. Wish I had more time to spend there. I plan on posting some photos of his storefront somewhere soon.

    See you all at the Alice Awards this weekend!

  14. Zack
    August 23, 2007 at 12:08 pm Link

    My wife and I just received our his and hers Azor Kruisframe bikes from Dutchbikes.us, and they are incredible! These are truly solid daily-riders, built to take a beating. And needless to say very, very cool looking. The Deluxe version with Shimano 8-speed and generator for the head and taillights built into the front hub was well worth the extra money. Too many cool features to mention, really. I would highly recommend this site to anyone who is interested in a Dutch bike. I spoke with Dan Sorger on the phone before ordering and he was extremely knowledgeable and friendly!

  15. David Hembrow
    November 29, 2007 at 12:38 am Link

    I’m the basketmaker that Ron Bennett kindly referred to in a previous comment. I’m still making baskets and selling them online, but the link address has now changed to http://www.hembrow.eu

    As it happens, we’ve now moved from Cambridge to the Netherlands. There really is a wonderful cycling culture in this country.

  16. Mark Stosberg
    May 23, 2008 at 5:26 am Link

    The Dutch Bikes importer in Florida no longer sells the bakfiets. I recommend contacting Clever Cycles instead.

  17. Scott Mizée
    May 25, 2008 at 3:15 pm Link

    Mark,

    I’m glad you found this post. Although I was in the Netherlands on vacation with my wife in April of 2005, this post about 6 months later was what really got me inspired about bakfietsen After reading this, I contacted Todd B. from Vancouver, Washington for my first bakfiets ride. I also spoke to Dan S. from Florida and Henry C. from Amsterdam to find out more about bakfietsen. Todd imported his before Dan had his import business set up in Florida and before Clever Cycles and the other dealers got going here in The United States.

    Although they still warrant a “double-take” by most, I’m pleased to say that these are becoming more and more commonplace here on the streets of Portland.

    When I rode the bakfiets to fill up the small can of gasoline for the lawnmower yesterday, the station attendant was quite envious of my ride. He had never seen anything like it.

    Happy Cycling!

  18. Emitt D. Dixon
    May 31, 2008 at 10:47 pm Link

    Hi Chris,

    I love this artyicle and I hope the world begin to know of the joy of biking. Its even more fun when carry things.

    I have my own design thar has been doing pretty good in the freight market. I created a bike that carries up to 70 pounds without having to comprimise the look of the bike. I find that a lot of freight carry bikes are very ugly and have no style.

    If you forward me your email add. ,I’ll be happy to show you some pictures.

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