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Bike curious - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Bike curious
I will do a proper update soon, honest (& might even get round to reading other people's journals & commenting on them!) but right now I have a question which is a bit more time-critical and I'd be really grateful for answers from people who know about bikes...

So, now that Imogen is nearly 6 months old (!) it will hopefully not be too long before I can put her in some kind of bike seat & actually start cycling regularly again, hurrah hurrah. A colleague has offered me a standard sit-up-on-the-back child bike seat for free (so I will probably say yes to that anyway) but I still feel that what I'd really like is a Bakfiets-style cargo bike. The problem is that a) they are frightfully expensive, and b) nowhere in Oxford stocks them, so all the bike shops I've talked to have basically said "you don't want to buy one of those" & have instead tried to try to talk me into buying a bike seat that will fit on my normal bike (ie the sort of seat they actually sell).

HOWEVER, a cycling-mad colleague sent me a link to this cargo bike on eBay, in Oxford, for what looks like a very reasonable price (compared to the new cargo bikes I have seen online), and I am tempted. I am going to go and have a look at it tomorrow (Tuesday) and what I really want to know is: what should I be looking for to determine whether it's actually a sensible thing to buy? The description mentions "patches of rust on the frame" (they look quite trivial from the photos) -- what's the best way to check if these are a serious problem, & what work would need to be done to fix them or stop them deteriorating any further? (NB I'm not really concerned about cosmetic stuff, I just need to be able to reassure myself that it's safe.) Is it likely to be a problem getting parts for it if it's an odd make of bike?

To be honest the key question may turn out to be "is the bike actually short enough for a tiny person like me to ride it?", but I can figure that out when I see it.

Any other advice re babies-on-bikes is also welcome (unless it's "argh don't do it", but I know you're all more sensible than that. :-) Thank you in advance, kind people!

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juggzy From: juggzy Date: September 19th, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know that Rachel loves her put-the-kid-in-front bike, and Charles seems perfectly happy in it - I expect she'll be along in a minute to extoll its virtues!
(Deleted comment)
fanf From: fanf Date: September 19th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am not the person to ask about how to evaluate second hand bikes, sorry! But it looks like there's a helpful answer below. One thing I would add is that it's extra helpful to have extra gears on a heavy bike. Our pointer (standard Dutch bike) has a three speed hub which is barely sufficient. Our bakfiets has a seven speed hub and I use all the gears.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 09:36 am (UTC) (Link)
That's useful to know, thanks. OTOH I don't tend to use the gears much on my normal mountain-bike-ish bike (even when it's heavily loaded with stuff). I think I'd really need to try it to know how it feels!
sebastienne From: sebastienne Date: September 19th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

not very helpful, sorry

Someone quite often parks one of those outside the SBS. I always think that it looks awesome!
jinty From: jinty Date: September 19th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Electric Bike shop on Magdalen St has previously offered to send stuff along from its Cambridge shop if one wanted a trial of stuff they don't have in stock normally, and they do stock cargo bikes, so I'm sure that getting parts for it will not be massively difficult. Good luck!
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 09:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I did talk to the Electric Bike Shop man but he was a bit cagey about what would happen if he got a bike over from Cambridge & I then decided not to buy it -- it wasn't quite "you'd be obliged to buy it" but I got the impression he'd be pretty pissed off if I didn't. Also, he definitely seemed to be trying to talk me out of being interested in a cargo bike, & I really don't know how much of that was a belief that it wasn't the best bike for me (or at all) & how much was the knowledge that it's an enormous thing that he'd have to keep somewhere in a tiny shop. :-} Fair point about the parts, though, he might be more willing to get them as they'd be smaller!
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: September 19th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would be very very concerned about lack of neck and back support; she's very young for all the jouncing about and absolutely too young for a back of the bike seat. A 3 point system may no longer be street legal for such a small baby and I would check around widely as to whether just-sitting-up is sufficiently strong for a bike seat. She needs a helmet: do they make them that small? presumably it has a raincover?

Bring a tack hammer and tap all the welds and joints. Look for signs of bending and dodgy repair. Check the wheels and axles as you would for any bike. It looks bloody heavy, as well - but you are very strong!
fanf From: fanf Date: September 19th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Some friends of ours put a child's car seat in their bakfiets.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: September 20th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)
If it was strongpointed in, great. Oxford is not the Netherlands. There are safer front-loaders in the UK than this one, by a mile.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 09:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I know she's still too young now, but she's getting bigger all the time (cue chorus: "they do that" :-) and given that it may take me months to find the right bike, I want to start looking/investigating/buying before she's old enough. The smallest helmet that the local bike shop sells is 46cm -- haven't measured her head yet but obviously if she's too small for a helmet she's too small for a bike!

I've not been able to find anything clear on the laws relating to carrying children on bikes -- do you know of any good resources? I hoped Cyclox would have something useful but if they do I can't see it on their website (I may try emailing them).

I don't think the bike has a raincover with it, but the hoops at each end of the box are obviously designed for one to fit over, so I'm assuming I'd be able to buy one.

It does look heavy but I'm used to riding a chunky mountain-bike, not using the gears much, & transporting ridiculous amounts of stuff in the bike basket (about twice Imogen's weight in shopping on the last trip to Tesco!). Impossible to tell how bad the weight/handling on this bike would be without trying it though!
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: September 20th, 2011 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Burley trailers and Cougar Chariot or Croozer front-loaders seem to be significantly safer than a garden box on a BSO. :-)
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Trailers always look very unsafe to me, wobbling around behind where you can't see them (& cars can't see them easily either). Unfortunately in the absence of much real data everybody assumes that the thing they used to transport their own children is Very Very Safe and everything else is Bad (because nobody would make a Bad decision for their own child, but Other Parents can do silly things).

What's the Croozer front-loader? I can't see it on their website...
From: scat0324 Date: September 20th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you're right - the main advantage of the trailer over cargo-bikes is that one of us can leave it at nursery and the other one can hitch it up on collection. I think the trailer is safe enough but then we've had M in it (well, in the Babyshell http://weber-products.de/zubeh/baby_main.htm ) since about 6 weeks with no helmet, so I'm clearly evil and bad and wrong :-), but I think the cargo-bike has got to be a bit safer overall.
bjh21 From: bjh21 Date: January 16th, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I use a bike trailer for transporting stuff, and my experience is that looking back to check on the load is difficult because it's in a difficult place to see and riding with a trailer needs extra concentration anyway.

So I suspect that whatever the actual relative safety of the various options, a trailer is one whose safety is particularly difficult to reassure yourself of while riding along. I deal with this by wrapping things up and tying them down quite firmly, but I've never transported live cargo.
bjh21 From: bjh21 Date: January 16th, 2012 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
(oops -- just realised I posted this months late on an ancient thread. Sorry)
htfb From: htfb Date: September 19th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
New, that's for sale (at, eg, kidstraffic.nl) for 779 euros. Linking to a bakfiets.nl model at 1800 is a bit disingenuous.

As far as I can tell this is the same as the Halford's model that comes last in the test at http://www.babboe.nl/bakfiets/pers/test-kassa. There's what may be more of the same review at http://www.dekinderfietsspecialist.nl/bakfiets/boxbike.htm

The suggestion that the handling is pretty rubbish might strongly limit what you could do with the machine.

It looks as though the front of the bike is garden-furniture-quality, d-i-y-able equipment, and the back is generic cycling parts. You certainly wouldn't have difficulty replacing bits: the front tyres might be a nonstandard size but even so the bike shops can order them in without trouble.

The parts I'd be most concerned about are the brakes. I can see what looks like a rim-brake on the rear wheel but can't make out what's on the front. If they are flimsy pressed metal brake arms I'd be pretty unhappy, given the weight of the loaded bike. The rear brake is more important for this geometry than for a regular bicycle. For an ordinary BSO, replacing or upgrading parts is a bit like throwing good money after bad, but of course this is a machine for a specific job. So maybe you could upgrade the brakes if necessary. If the wheels are steel (shiny and prone to rust-spots), rather than aluminium, and if the brakes are shoes on the rim rather than hub brakes, I'd be very unhappy indeed---braking against steel loses all traction in the wet.

For rust, I'd be most concerned to look at the tube along the bottom from the pivot behind the box to the bottom-bracket where the pedal-cranks attach. That's close to the road so exposed to spray, and a critical single point of failure. Anything else breaking would be safety-tolerable. It ought to be fairly obvious whether the tube is actually producing flaking rust or whether it's just marked where the paint has got chipped.

htfb From: htfb Date: September 20th, 2011 06:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops. In an earlier draft of this, I explained that "BSO" was cycling-forum slang for Bicycle-Shaped-Object, meaning a cheap bicycle which is just insufficiently well built to be a useful vehicle. They get bought, ridden a couple of times, and die rusting in sheds. Cycle King used to sell a lot of them when I was in Oxford.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 10:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, thanks, this is really comprehensive! I ran the review through Google Translate and while it's a bit garbled ("the mop construction and finds a heavy box"?) the overall message is fairly clear. :-( On the other hand, I'd like to have a go at it & see how the handling feels to me...

How expensive/difficult is it likely to be to upgrade brakes?

And I have heard 'Bicycle Shaped Object' before but didn't pick up the acronym so thanks for explaining. :-) To be honest I suspect a Serious Cyclist would tell me that my bike is only a BSO, but it's served me well for nearly a decade now!
htfb From: htfb Date: September 20th, 2011 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you can continue riding it for years it's a bicycle. No room for snobbery on my bike. You might try on the (really very friendly) forum yacf.co.uk for advice, too. There's a subsection called Kidstuff where people may be more clued-up about your options.

Here's a translation of the previous page: http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2008/10/26/workcycles-and-bakfietsnl-win-in-kassa-bakfiets-comparison-test/

Upgrading all the brakes is most likely to be 30 quid for parts, and a job you can do yourself without exhausting your vocabulary of swearwords; or might be an engineering impossibility, depending on what is actually stopping the wheels now. My guess is that those are modern hub-brakes on the front wheel and that you wouldn't need to do anything anyway.

I've seen bakfietsen around Oxford though the only people I know who use one for their 4-year-old are in Cambridge. Even here in London there are some trailerbikes about, in these recessionary days.

(I like owning a tandem but it cost a lot to get from ebay condition back to rideability, and it gets much less use than I expected. Nonstandard bikes tend to do one thing well but take up a lot of space when they're not doing it. So, for myself, I'd be going for a baby seat now and a detachable trailer later.)
rmc28 From: rmc28 Date: September 20th, 2011 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Some useful recent discussion here if you didn't see it: http://plan-survive.livejournal.com/305601.html
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 11:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, I hadn't seen it!

BTW congrats on your speech at #ldconf, sounds like it went stormingly! :)
ghoti From: ghoti Date: September 20th, 2011 07:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm about to acquire (as in, it's on order and should be here this week), this trike.
The Ebay trike is not the same as this one, so my test-riding experiences and knowledge may not be relevant.

I test rode the 8 speed version extensively, and found that 7 gears was enough for me. I don't think 3 gears would have been, even in Cambridge.

There are options to either fit fixings for a car seat (Maxi-Cosi) or a baby seat that fixes to the floor of the box for a Bakfiets. That may not apply, and in any case, whether you can get either the fittings or someone to fix them in Oxford is another matter.

The handling on a Bakfiets takes a little getting used to, but is fine after half an hour or so. I would be less certain about another trike, especially if you're not used to riding a trike. I tried one like this and it wasn't much better than an ordinary trike for handling, which means you should expect to overturn it a lot when you first start riding.

j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting, thank you! The one you're ordering looks like exactly the sort of thing I really want. :-) I'm not used to riding a trike, but obviously I'd practice a lot without a baby (& with less precious loads eg bags of spuds) first. The Kangaroo bike looks very precarious!

Oxford is sadly short on places that deal with cargo bikes. Did you get yours from the bike shop in Hope St Yard? I am wondering if I might be better off just coming to Cambridge to buy a bike. :-}
ghoti From: ghoti Date: September 20th, 2011 11:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, from Hope St. He's very helpful in person but not as communicative over phones/electronically.

You might be just as well coming to Cambridge to buy it, but they are very expensive. Jon, for example, has spent ages trying to convince me that a cheaper option would be better. edit: which was a little unnecessary to add as you already knew how expensive. Sorry.

It is easier to steer with more in the front. I was told this, but didn't believe it until I was coming home from Tesco with J and the shopping. She thinks a large packet of kitchen roll should be kept in the box, for using as a footrest :) (That was on test-afternoon, I haven't got mine yet.) She also said it was like flying, and that there was a seat for her cousin, don't forget her cousin. (I didn't cycle to Lancashire to pick up said cousin.)

The trike is bigger than the bike, and we had to widen our back gate for it to fit through, which isn't a big deal for us as we needed a new back gate anyway. (Old one mostly broken by racist attacks on previous occupants.)

Edited at 2011-09-20 11:50 am (UTC)
shermarama From: shermarama Date: September 20th, 2011 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Would a trailer be an option? Over here there are specific kinderkars and you do see a fair number of them, though not as many as bakfietseses (plural, whatever.) I've also seen a kinderkar being used separately as a pram, which depending on where you're going could be useful. Then again there's the whole safety problem with trailers in the UK because cars don't expect bikes to have them. But I can't say, having seen lots of people stomping on the pedals to lumber up to speed on a bakfiets, that I've ever thought they looked worth all the work to me.
venta From: venta Date: September 20th, 2011 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)
A colleague of mine regularly uses a trailer to tow his two children (now approx 18months and 4 years) to nursery. I think he's been doing it since child 2 was around a year old.

j4, if you're at all interested in the trailer as an option, I can enquire for details (when said colleague stops having a disgusting cold and brings himself back to the office).
julietk From: julietk Date: September 20th, 2011 10:31 am (UTC) (Link)
My highly anecdotal experience of towing a non-child-holding trailer in the UK is that *because* cars are surprised to see them you get tons of space. (This may of course be affected by my tendency to be towing random piles of pointy stuff causing Fear For Paintwork.) This reminds me of the argument that recumbent riders make about the safety of recumbents, which is contested by other folk, so, yeah, YMM&PDV etc etc.

I haven't ridden a Bakfiets, but I have tried out a couple of cargo bikes, and they ride a lot heavier & slower than even a robust-&-loaded regular bike (e.g. my tourer with 15+ kg of camping kit). So I'd second the thought about perhaps needing more/lower gears (best bet probably just to try riding it around a bit & see how you get on, if it looks otherwise tolerable).

htfb says sensible things about brakes. If there are biggish patches of rust you might want to prod at them a bit to see if they're superficial or otherwise, but I don't have much experience of that to advise further. If it does have regular gears (as opposed to hub gears), take a look to see whether they're heavily worn & will need replacing soon (worn gears look a bit like sharks' teeth, rather than being evenly pointy like new gears). Check that the steering is still smooth ([cough] & doesn't have a bump in it like, er, my fixie does right now, in which case it's New Headset Time), and shove the bars backwards and forwards a bit to see if they're loose (may indicate elderly/worn headset).

An ex-cycling-instructor colleague of mine had her daughter travelling by bike from when she was around 6mo (she's now about a year), so if you're looking for recent experience I can put you in touch with her.

Good luck with finding a happy cycling solution for you & Imogen!
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 11:01 am (UTC) (Link)
All helpful - thank you!

I might take you up on the offer of talking to your cycling colleague, if you're sure she wouldn't mind advising a stranger over email -- feel free to give her my email address (gmail better than chiark these days, same username) but please stress that she's under no obligation to be a baby-cycling consultant for free for someone she doesn't even know!
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 10:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Trailers always seem less safe to me -- they're low down & not-very-visible, they're not firmly attached to the bike, & it's hard to see the baby inside while riding along. This may be an irrational prejudice against them, but I don't think I'd be happy with it. The trailer-as-buggy thing does seem quite handy if you like buggies, but I prefer carrying her in the sling so I'd probably just keep the trailer as a trailer.

A friend in Oxford does have one (& seems happy with it) so I could try his, but, hm, not really convinced.

Not so worried about the hard work of pedalling as I'm used to a heavy-ish bike, I generally stay in a very high gear, & I've got strong legs. :) OTOH it may turn out to be even harder than I'm expecting!
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lnr From: lnr Date: September 20th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm afraid I have no advice Janet, but wish you lots of luck finding something suitable.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 20th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Haha! I had assumed I'd have to get it delivered or hire a car, but I will bear you in mind if any Mad Plans arise... :-)
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