Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bakfietsen Paparazzi - A Louisville Dispatch from Sushi K!

My apologies to my Louisville, KY correspondent Sushi K for being so late in posting her newsy piece on Bakfietsen!  In this post Sushi K relates her experience as utility cyclist upon the purchase a year ago of a bakfiets.

Do you ever stand in the checkout line at the grocery store and stare in amazement at the celebrity magazines? Do you ever sigh and think with a tinge of sadness that your face will never be amongst those of the famous folks featured on the covers of the glossies?

If not, stop reading now. This article is not for you.

For the rest of you, I am going to share a secret. Like many of you, I do not have any particular talents in sports, music, acting, magic, or anything else which would be likely to turn me into an overnight sensation. I have become accustomed over the years to my status as a plebian, a common person living out my days in relative anonymity.

However, that changed about a year ago. That's when I bought a bakfiets and my status as an ordinary person changed forever!

Tricked out for the holidays!
Let me start this story from the beginning: last August I was visiting Portland for the Safe Routes to School national conference. While in town, I stayed with some friends, who like many Portlanders, rely on their bicycles almost exclusively for getting around. In the smidgen of free time I had during my stay, my friend R suggested I visit Joe Bike. Their tiny shop held a thoroughly exotic assortment of bikes, including Flying Pigeons, Yuba Mundos, and the eponymous Joe Bike.

Just for fun, I decided to take a couple bikes out for test rides. The Yuba Mundo I found to be an impressively sturdy machine. Their website features photos of Mundos with all sorts of crazy cargo and humans stacked on the back end. While I had no doubt it could carry almost anything I might need, I found the Mundo to be heavy, slow, and clunky and I thought it was difficult to turn.


Joe Bike'a bakfiets - it's Dutch for box bike!
Next, I hopped on the Joe Bike. It felt as sturdy as the Mundo, but was surprisingly nimble, responsive, and easy to maneuver. It had the standard wooden box on the front (bakfiets is Dutch for box bike). I asked about buying one, and was told that the one I was riding was the last one left. It was their first year of production, and that bike was the floor model. After a bit of frantic decision-making, I surprised both myself and Joe by deciding to buy it right then.
It was shipped to Louisville via freight, and arrived a few weeks later. I assembled it that night, and was riding it the next day. Immediately, I saw my status as a regular, anonymous woman on the street had changed. I found I was late getting almost everywhere because so many people wanted to talk to me! I increasingly found that when I was introduced at social gatherings, people would say that they had seen me around town riding my crazy orange bike. Sometimes they would call it my "bike dump truck" or "that zany contraption" or some such.

Bakfiets is not just for hauling kids.  And look at that cute Nutcase helmet.
I soon found that I was "enjoying" all the "benefits" of being a celebrity: people wanted to talk to me, ask me lots of questions, take my picture, and many wanted to try out the bike themselves. Everyone commented how surprised they were that it was so easy to ride. I have used it to carry people, dogs, dog food, groceries, other bicycles, and even helped out with a bike move. I quickly discovered that I couldn't remember how I had managed without it. It is just so durn handy.

Now that is one big haul!

What can't Sushi K carry from here to there in her Joe Bike bakfiets?

Some of the features I appreciate: the flexibility to have either a wooden box on the front or double-decker flatbeds, the nimbleness ever with a significant load, the sturdy four-point kickstand, and the responsive drum brakes (which are inside the hubs of the wheels).

The downside: it is a little heavy and slow.

I am feeling very famous, but still haven't seen my face on the cover of People magazine, but I am sure that will be happening soon. Keep and eye out and let me know if you spot me, okay? Thanks.

There are many other brands of bakfietsen (that's the plural of bakfiets) as well as other types of cargo bikes. Google "cargo bikes" or "bakfiet" or check out the links below:

Bakfietsen Flickr Photo Pool

Bullitt Cargo Bikes

Madsen Cycles

Xtracycle

Well, Sushi K might not make the cover of People magazine but the cover of Momentum could be in her future.  Many thanks to Sushi Kin Louisville, Kentucky for her latest contribution to SRAB.

5 comments:

m e l i g r o s a said...

This article is fantastic. Yes you should contact momentum or urban velo and do it!! It is well written and thanks so much for sharing =)))
Go sushie k!!!

Those cargo bikes are so cool! Im about to head out to a local foodbank fundraiser event, which will certainly have tons of cargo bikes in it.

Oldfool said...

Around here I am just another weird old guy that rides a bike except when I ride my cargo bike (long tail) then people who normally avoid me want to talk. I wouldn't get anything done if I had a bakfiets.

bikeolounger said...

As a sort-of colleague/associate of Sushi K, I got to ride her box bike in a parking lot some months back. It is, indeed, an easy-to-maneuver machine!

My wife was helping with the "bike move" mentioned in the article (she was pulling a kid trailer we use for cargo), and was quite impressed at the abilities for hauling the bakfiets has.

Will we get one? Eventually, perhaps. Our home is a bit more suburban than Sushi K's place, and our errands tend to be more suburban yet, so the kid-trailer-used-for-cargo works well enough for us right now. We still have and use a motor vehicle for larger-than-we-can-haul-by-existing-bike cargo, so our perceived need for a bakfiets is not quite on par with Sushi K's.

D Morse said...

Carrying humans with dignity is the big win of this machine over a trailer. It's mighty fun, and even more fun when it's an unplanned improvisation.

For fuddy-duddy cargo-only hauling, I think a top-of-the-line flatbed trailer with a rubbermaid tub is 1/3rd the cost. The problem is ... you take the trailer off, and then you don't have it when you discover you need it!

Philip said...

Dear 'She Rides a Bike',

I love your work and have been reading your blog for a while. When I read this bakfiets item though, I decided to leave a comment. I share your views on cycling; especially your views on commuting. Your work gives us valuable insights on how cycling can (or: should) be approached, so thanks for that. A bit of background on myself: I am a Dutchman, I lived in Amsterdam, and I moved to Dublin, Ireland in January this year. My girlfiriend is setting up a small bike business, I write a blog on bikes.

I am now writing to ask if you would like to put a link to our blog Dutch in Dublin (www.dutchindublin.com) on your website. The blog is a personal account of our cycling lives in Dublin. Our goal is to show readers how romantic a simple thing as an everyday bike ride can be. For instance, we have a recurring item called 'A Classy Commute', in which I interview (colourful) Dubliners on their cycle to work (this item especially conforms with your views on cycling and commuting). The Classy Commute stories are meant to show cycling is not something sporty, and that every day normal people enjoy the smell, hearing, and colour of their route by bike. Recent interviews I did were with:

* Minister Eamon Ryan: http://dutchindublin.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/a-classy-commute-the-minster-for-communications-energy-and-natural-resources/
* Actress Kerrie O Sullivan: http://dutchindublin.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/a-classy-commute-the-actress/
* the Dutch Ambassador: http://dutchindublin.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/a-classy-commute-%E2%80%93-his-excellency-mr-robert-engels/
* Minister Ciaran Cuffe: http://dutchindublin.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/a-classy-commute-the-minster-of-transport/


Apart from the Classy Commute item, our posts focus on (for example) stylish cycling (see our post on sytlish traffic signs), new bike products (read about our test ride on the urban arrow), or the people of Dublin (see the portraits at the Bernard Shaw pub). I think our stories on Dublin might also be of interest to your readers.

Yours truly,

Philip