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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
The long and the short of it
Some of you will remember that I was talking about the possibility of getting a bakfiets-style bike, and looked at ONE WEIRD OLD BIKE FOR A MOM, and having determined that that was a rubbish bike, resolved to look at some non-rubbish bikes instead.

Before Christmas addedentry and I went to Velorution to look at their Christiania bikes. Sadly it turned out that I am too short to ride the standard models of Christiania bike/trike. :-( A follow-up email from Velorution revealed that there is a smaller-frame model available (7cm shorter, which we reckoned might be just small enough for me) but that they wouldn't be able to get it in for us to test (they could order it, but no way am I buying anything like that sight unseen). The Christianias look absolutely gorgeous, but if I can't physically ride them, there's no point considering them.

Velorution also let us try the TrioBike, another trike, which was just about small enough for me to ride it. The combination of tricycleness and handlebar-gearshift and Dutch brakes (ie backpedal to brake) made it feel Very Weird Indeed, and while I could imagine getting the hang of it eventually, I wasn't that thrilled at the idea: this wasn't meant to be a cycling challenge, it was meant to be a cycling solution. Also, the 'box' bit was really not a useful multi-purpose box like the Christiania's, it was a small plastic pod for a small person. This is all well and good, but part of the reason I wanted a cargo bike was as a general-purpose car substitute, for carrying Things as well as Child.

Plans to go to Cambridge still haven't quite turned into Actually Getting There, though we exchanged a few helpful emails with The School Run Centre, who confirmed that they have various bikes in stock which might be short enough for me to ride. However, while we were staying with addedentry's parents after Christmas, we managed to make a trip to Really Useful Bikes, who were incredibly friendly and helpful, and let us try a Bakfiets bike and a Gazelle Cabby. Both of these were a) small enough for my tiny legs, and b) surprisingly easy and pleasant to ride. addedentry strongly preferred the Cabby; I could have happily ridden either. By the end of a couple of short test rides I was confident enough to make a tight-ish turn at the end of the cul-de-sac without dismounting, and even went for a quick turn in the Cabby with baby in the 'box' -- she was much more cheerful at the prospect than she usually is in a buggy, and grinned cheerfully throughout our very short ride! The Cabby's box seemed a good compromise between designed-for-children and useful-for-other-things-too: it's made by the people who make Quinny buggies, and the seats/straps are like those in a buggy (and there's attachments for fitting a MaxiCosy car seat), but it's really spacious -- you could easily get three kids in there and some shopping.

So, the pros and cons of the Bakfiets and the Cabby:


* bigger box
* probably slightly more multi-purpose box
* more sturdy stand, possibly slightly easier to put up and down
* better-known make (though this probably wouldn't make much difference, except possibly for accessories?)
* nicer design

* Owen didn't like it as much!
* more expensive
* raincover doesn't collapse down, ie may be harder to carry around


* cheaper
* easy to fit a MaxiCosy car seat (though this is only really useful for tiny baby & we probably won't have another one of those!)
* 'box' folds up for easier storage and/or getting through side gate etc
* raincover is easier to fold (it's a bit like a tent, with collapsible poles)

* stand looks a bit more flimsy
* not as nice design IMHO
* less well-known make so possibly harder to get parts etc
* 'box' is canvas so may be harder to fix if it gets damaged (though admittedly this is probably not very likely!)

Basically there's not much in it, they're both really nice, and most of the 'cons' are a bit weak on both sides: I suspect the significant points are a) Owen's preference, and b) the price. We are still dithering, and would like to a) test-ride some more bikes if possible, b) test-ride the ones we liked again, and c) make a decision (which may yet include deciding not to buy any of them), ideally before March when Img will have to start at nursery and we'll have to come up with some reliable way of getting her from A to B (NB bus and foot are both plausible for the nursery we're currently most likely to go with).

Input welcome, particularly from people who have experience of riding cargo bikes and/or taking children on bikes.

PLEASE NOTE: if you comment to tell me that you think cycling is evil and dangerous and I shouldn't even consider taking an infant on a bike, I will delete your comment, and may block you from further comments. I'm not interested in rehashing that particular argument; I have considered the risks and come to the conclusion that they're acceptable in return for the benefits. There is no such thing as a risk-free activity. Please respect my right as an adult to make my own risk assessments within the limits of the law. Your statutory rights are not affected.
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jinty From: jinty Date: January 15th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think we're probably not massively dissimilar in height, so apart from any differences in leg length / torso length that there may be, I guess that bikes that are too tall for you are quite likely to be at least a bit too tall for me. So your research is useful to me too, thanks! The Cabby sounds great and the MaxiCosi adaptors are a real selling point for me at least. I can foresee a trip to Really Useful Bikes in our future (probably not before we move house, but one of the things we've been looking for in a new house is precisely a place to be able to keep something like a cargo bike, so once we move it should be all systems go).

I'm pretty sure that I've seen other Gazelle bikes in Oxford, but not cargo ones - the ordinary step-thru ones styled rather like my Pashley.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 18th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought you were considerably taller than me! (I'm 5'1".) We're only talking about a couple of inches at most -- I could just reach the pedals on the trike, but couldn't really have ridden it safely or comfortably.

I haven't noticed other Gazelle bikes but I suspect I will see more of them now I'm looking for them, IYSWIM. I have noticed a lot more cargo bikes generally since I started looking at them though!

NB ghoti points out below that you can fit a car seat in a Bakfiets too - probably true of other cargo bikes too!
jinty From: jinty Date: January 18th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, no - not sure where that came from, unless from the sort of assumption I also find myself making that everyone's taller than me? I'm 5' 1.5" or thereabouts and don't wear disguisingly tall shoes or anything.

I saw a Gazelle Cubby on Monday, on New Inn Hall St, so yeah to spotting them now you're looking for them! Cor.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: January 15th, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting: keep us informed. ewtikins is looking into bike trailers, with a possible side glance at cargo bikes.

Not, I hasten to add, with any consideration, of any possibility whatsoever, of transporting a larval hairyears. Nor an adult one. But there are ominous rumblings about purchasing a tandem.
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ghoti From: ghoti Date: January 15th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
You can fit a MaxiCosi car seat to a Bakfiets too. (That is not our plan, we're going to go for a screwed-down baby seat as we unaccountably failed to buy a MaxiCose car seat, and anyway, I worry about what happens if the car seat gets nicked while I'm out.)

I don't know about the raincover on the Bakfiets bike, but mine I leave the frame on and just remove the fabric bit on my trike, and don't find it problematic at all.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 18th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, didn't realise that was an option with the raincover frame - that's useful to know, thanks.

Fair point about the car seat being nickable. :-/ (I wonder if it's possible to fold/lock the Cabby's box closed while a car seat is in it? Guessing not.) This is less of an issue for us, mind you, because Img is big enough to sit up without a car seat, & we're probably not having more babies!
julietk From: julietk Date: January 16th, 2012 09:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Bikes! Cargo bikes! Hurrah!

In terms of easier storage/side-gate, my experience with the Christiania so far (which *looks* to be a bit wider than either of those? and obviously does not fold up) is that it goes through much narrower & tighter spaces than I would initially have expected by eye. (There was a smallish gate on the way out behind the shop that it trundled through no problems, and I've got it round those irritating anti-motorbike railings where you have to go THAT way then the OTHER way, also without issue.) So that may not be an issue; in your position I would ask myself how likely it is that I'll *actually* put the box up/down often.

(The Christiania rain-cover is removable with about 5 min work, and in theory I guess we might remove it if it's reliably sunny weather, but I suspect that this won't be as often as I think, b/c a) I am lazy & b) UK CLIMATE.)

One of the things d & I liked about the Christiania was the solidity of the box, in terms of safety, although I am not for a moment suggesting that the collapsible one isn't safe. More that (for d in particular) the perception of solidity is reassuring; might that also apply for you? Also, I know you say you don't think you're likely to damage the canvas box, but if you might ever wind up carrying things like wood, or random bits of rubbish to the tip, or any of the other miscellaneous & occasionally pointy crap I've carried on a bike trailer, there may be an accidental ripping risk.

But tbh in your position I'd probably have another couple of test rides & go with whichever one made me smile the most, because they both look like they do the job, and I am a great believer in getting a bike that makes you actively happy.

Oh, one more note about car seat attachment: Velorution said that on the Christiania box, you can fit an extra belt to the floor & then strap in any old form of car seat (they're doing this for us when we take our freecycled car seat back over there at the 1 month service). That might also apply to the Bakfiets? May not be relevant in your circs anyway.

I am *loving* the Christiania even without having put anything more than shopping + library books in it yet, so I really hope if you do go ahead & get a cargo bike you & Owen & Img are just as enamoured of yours :)
j4 From: j4 Date: January 18th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
in your position I would ask myself how likely it is that I'll *actually* put the box up/down often

I forgot to mention that the fold-up-ability of the box also means that you can padlock it shut e.g. if you want to leave coats in it or something.

Definitely agree about the perception of solidity re the box, but I don't want to be lulled into a false sense of security!

And yes, it sounds from what ghoti says below as though you can fit any car seat in the Bakfiets. Probably not relevant here though as we'd only need that if we were going to have more babies (v unlikely).
ghoti From: ghoti Date: January 19th, 2012 12:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's just the Maxi-Cosi or the specifically designed seat for Bakfiets, but I could be wrong.

Oh, and I do take the raincover off sometimes. When I had Benedict in the front he was too tall for the raincover and I suspect Judith will still be riding in the front when she gets too tall for the raincover.

I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to ride with Benedict and Judith in front, but I know that's probably not something that's going to be an issue for you.
From: scat0324 Date: January 16th, 2012 09:39 am (UTC) (Link)
No comments on cargo bikes as we've just had trailers (two different borrowed ones, and now a very posh one we bought from a friend), but I am finding your research really interesting!
From: rmc28 Date: January 16th, 2012 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with julietk that you should get the one which makes you (both) happiest on a second test ride. I love our bakfiets, and it's some compensation for the Giant Price Tag that it makes me smile each time I get on it.

The Cabby looks fun. Now I want to test ride.
shermarama From: shermarama Date: January 16th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is the exact opposite of input, but now I know what they're called, ooh yeah, I see loads of those Christiania ones around here. I do also see things very like the Gazelle, but not as frequently as the Bakfiets. But then the Dutch do like their bikes traditional, no matter how many times I overtake people grinding and panting their single-geared way over bridges.

I would think the canvas wouldn't be too hard to repair; think in terms of awnings and covers and there are a lot of products and services out there for fixing or replacing heavy duty fabric. And this is just my opinion but I'd be a lot happier knowing I wasn't pedalling that sort of weight of marine ply around everywhere. There's a probably more metal frame to compensate, but still.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 18th, 2012 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
no matter how many times I overtake people grinding and panting their single-geared way over bridges

Dunno about the ones you see but the Bakfiets we tried wasn't single-geared -- it was 7 gears (which is surely enough for Holland, or indeed Oxford) though the guy at Really Useful Bikes had re-geared it to have the gears in more useful places (um, not sure how this works, gears confuse me). I have strong legs but even I would quail at the thought of a fixie cargo bike! There are some hills in Oxford after all... :-}

I was surprised how little difference the relative weight of the boxes made between the Bakfiets & the Cabby, actually -- I guess because the weight is slung so low & so central?
shermarama From: shermarama Date: January 18th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, no, not single-geared Bakfietsen, or maybe there are but I hope not. Lots of the normal bikes people ride are single-geared, though, and as often as not, rattly and poorly maintained too. I don't quite get why people put themselves through that much work all the time.

I had to ride Chris's bike with a trailer full of diving cylinders the other week and that only has three gears. The lowest gear really wasn't low enough to deal with the trailer-bridge combo, leaving me having to actually get off and push when I forgot to avoid a steep one. Putting the gears in more useful places will probably include making it easier to avoid situations like that, whilst also not leaving you egg-whisking away to get anywhere once you get up to speed.

Interesting about the weight, though. I've not tried a cargo bike yet. I suspect I might end up doing so at some point...
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