That’s a bakfiets, (pronounced “bach feets”), a Dutch-made bike which recently started to be imported to the US.
For those who need haul kids or “stuff”, the bakfiets comes loaded with features that make it an attractive car replacement.
For kid hauling
This model comes standard with a bench seat for two children, including safety harnesses for both. Although difficult to see in the photo, the bottom edge of the bucket contains a step to make it easier to get in and out of the bucket. A super-sturdy four-point kickstand makes the bike totally stable as passengers enter and exit. And unlike a trailer, the kids have a commanding view of what’s going, and the parent can constantly keep an eye on them. It’s no surprise the Dutch royal family is known for carrying their own children around in a bakfiets. For rain and colder weather, a see-through cover is made as an accessory for the bucket.
For busy people. Real people.
A bike should work with your lifestyle, not the other way around. The bakfiets comes from a country with more bicycles than people, and practical bikes are understood there. So, it’s built to just get on and go. There’s no external gears to maintain. Eight gears are provided inside the wheel. The are no external brake pads to be serviced. Discrete drum breaks work reliably. A built-in lighting systems provides bright front and rear lights, powered by your pedaling, and still shining for a while after your stop. Greasy clothes are no worry. Fenders, an enclosed chain and even a skirt guard are all standard. Locking the bike now works like a car, with a reliable key-based system that disables wheel and is difficult to defeat.
To top it off, it includes puncture-resistant tires, a comfortable riding position and a pleasant sounding bell!
Someone commented about my new bakfiets cargo bike this morning that “now I could I haul groceries on the bicycle”.
I had been getting groceries fine on my “normal” bike fine for some years. But you couldn’t tell that from casually looking the bike.
I never once made a trip where I couldn’t bring home everything I wanted. Usually just some saddle bags were used for the hauling, but occasionally a trailer was used to fetch a large bag of dog food.
But on most trips the saddle bags and trailer are left at home, so the carrying capacity isn’t visible.
The importance of the bakfiets in the US now is that it is obvious that the bakfiets is built to haul. And it does in fact haul a lot. I believe it’s rated to haul about 250 lbs of cargo or kids, plus the weight of the driver. (That’s 175 lbs in the bucket, and 75 more on the rear rack).
Continue reading bakfiets: “It can haul groceries”
Today was our first Saturday with the bakfiets, and we kept the bike busy haulin’ and transportin’ from 8 am to 5 pm.
My wife took it first, riding it to Jazzercize and then to the farmer’s market. She had trouble leaving with her cargo of sunflowers due to all the people asking about the cargo bike. Questions from strangers are common with the bakfiets.
Around 11am, I used the quick release to raise the seat from her riding position and started on the next trip. I loaded the bike up with over a 100 lbs of yard waste and headed to the local landfill to drop it off. Wrapping the garbage bags in a tarp kept the bucket extra clean.
Continue reading First Saturday with the bakfiets cargo bike
While “quick trips to the store” can feel they are sucking my life away, completing the task this morning by bike was fun.
The breeze from pedaling on a hot August day felt nice. I got little exercise– more like a relaxing walk than a strenuous run– and the formally fussy baby fell asleep like she always does on the bike.
Arriving back home I ran inside, dropped the bag of groceries, and returned back to the bike to voluntarily extend the trip.
Today a narrow, unmarked footpath off the bike path caught me eye. I decided to push the bike down it for a bit. This risked having to push the bike backwards to return, if I found no opening to turn the eight foot bike around in. After a few minutes of pushing aside branches and ducking brambles, I found just the clearing I was hoping for, and a new set of trails that looked like a shortcut to a waterfall. I can explore that further another time. Now the baby was fast asleep and it was time to wrap up my “chore” and return home for breakfast.
This week I lowered the gear on my bakfiets to prepare it for use on longer trips with steeper hills and bigger loads. It was shipped to me with a 17 tooth (17t) rear cog. Lowering the gear range involved purchasing and installing a 20t rear cog.
I found the 20 tooth cog online through Niagara Cycles, referred to as the “Shimano Nexus 20 tooth cog”. The product doesn’t seem to be listed on the site now. Perhaps it is temporarily out of stock. The part was about $6 plus shipping. My local bike shop charged me about $25 to install it for me, which seems like a good deal.
I was quite concerned that I wouldn’t like the change, that it would be too drastic. I had read online that people made this modification for “hilly areas”, almost as if there would be no good gears to use on level ground. My experience has been the change is no compromise at all. In fact, I think it would be sensible to sell them like this in the first place. On flat ground, I am more likely to be able to use the most efficient direct-drive gear. Before, the direct drive gear was set to high for my common use. The lower gearing is welcome on hills, allowing me to spin at a higher cadence. I doubt I’ll miss the lack of gears at the top end of the range. I rarely used them. As a cargo and kid bike, getting up to 20 mph sometimes is plenty, and the adjusted gearing still allows me to do that.
While I’ve only had a few days to test the new gearing, it already seems like a clear upgrade from the 17 tooth cog the bike shipped with. Already this spring I’ve made a successful 20 mile trip with my 13 month old daughter, and she seems to love bike rides, even as long as that two hour trip. This summer I hope to try full day tours, with 50 or 60 mile distances. At this point, my primary concern is working out a shade solution for her.
So I had this crazy idea to take a heavy, hundred pound bike on a 5 day, 220 mile bike trip through the rolling hills of Southeastern Indiana. To make the trip more interesting, my 18-month old, 30-pound daughter would ride in the bike I peddled, with my wife and retired father riding their own bikes along side us. My friend Kurt would also join us on a homemade recumbent bike he finished welding the night before departure.
We rode from Richmond, Indiana to Clifty Falls State Park over two days, camped and rested for a day, and rode back. Rather than journaling a day-by-day account of the trip, I’ve gathered some reflections on different aspects of the trip.
Continue reading Reflections on box bike touring
The electric Yuba Mundo works well asa kid & cargo winter bike. Recently I’ve been trying out Bar Mitts which so far seem to very effective at keeping my hands warmer while allowing me to wear thinner gloves inside of them. Compared to the bakfiets, the child needs to be dressed notably warmer. Since this photo was taken, we’ve also gotten some child ski goggles for her as well. In sum, we’re able to make cross-town trips comfortable at 15F (-9.4C) which is about as cold as it gets here in Richmond, Indiana.
The bakfiets makes it easier to keep the child warm with the greenhouse-like canopy, and the fully enclosed chain guard is definitely a plus for the bakfiets– On the eMundo the drive train got clogged with frozen slush in just about 15 minutes on a cold day– it was easy to clean out a little later with a stick, but no fun– plus the eMundo chain will need to be cleaned more after getting wet.
However, what the eMundo has going for it is a motor which allows me to get places faster and spend less time outside on very cold days. For that reason I currently prefer the eMundo to the bakfiets for most winter uses. The Mundo’s electric motor smoothed over the problem with the slush– while pedaling became “chunky” due to that issue, the motor could pull me along just fine without pedaling anyway.
Here’s same scene in a bakfiets from the previous winter:
“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Ranulph Fiennes
We had a comfy ride to daycare and she reported that nothing was cold upon arrival, despite the sometimes 20 mph windchill generated from the moving bike at a temperature that was 15F to start with.
The ~3 year old is wearing a winter helmet with built-in ear covers, a “thick and thin” balaclava, ski googles, as well as some snow pants and snow boots. I’ve got a merino wool hat, face mask, OTG ski googles and a scarf. Neos overshoes help keep my feet warm on especially cold days, and bar mitts keep my hands warm while allowing me to wear modest gloves.
Sure it looks ridiculous to many. But I’d rather stay warm with a bit of extra clothing than to wear a 4,000 lb car for a short crosstown trip. I mean, when the primary reason you take a car on trip is a feature associated with clothing– like keeping you warm– then you are primarily wearing the car, right?