Ride Report: Bakfiets

This is my last ride report from my trip to Practical Cycles, where I was able to try out several cargo bikes I had never ridden before. I decided to save the best for last, the Bakfiets.nl Bakfiets. This particular Bakfiets’ frame and box is also used as the basis for the Workcycles Bakfiets as seen on iamnotacyclist.

CIMG2514

The model I tested had the rain-cover add-on attached. Designed to keep your cargo (be that animal, vegetable or mineral) dry, the rain cover does not impair the rider’s view or negatively impact the ride.

CIMG2515

The seat-tube angle is very low, even by the standards of Dutch geometry. This allows the rider to fully put a foot or two down whilst stationary, which helps to balance larger loads, or loads which move themselves around. The slack seat-tube angle means that despite being able to put your feet down when stopped, it is possible to get a good amount of leg extension whilst cycling, allowing the rider to put a good amount of power down. It is nice to see this level of though devoted to frame geometry after seeing so many bikes where geometry seems to be an after-thought (I’m looking at you “hybrids.”)

CIMG2512

Looking through the plastic rain-cover which forms a tent over the cargo box. 5 year old me would have loved riding in there, and I would probably still be partial to doing so. Seat platforms with seatbelts are available for seating up to four children, in up to two rows of two. Alternatively, the box can be emptied of these to fit in an adult, dogs or non-live cargo.

CIMG2516

The Selle Royal saddle is likely aimed at novice or non-cyclists. I found it acceptable for my short test ride, but I expect experienced cyclists would replace this with a Brooks B67 or similar.

The choice of componentry is ideal for this kind of bike, it is low maintenance, durable and weather-proof:

CIMG2511

The Bakfiets is fitted with durable Schwalbe Marathon tyres front (406 mm, 20 inch) and rear (559 mm, 26 inch)

CIMG2501

Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub gears, and a Shimano roller brake. An upgrade to the much more powerful IM70s is available

CIMG2507

A full chain-case is provided to protect the rider from the chain, and the chain from road filth

CIMG2508

The front hub is a Shimano dynamo hub, and the brake is a Shimano roller, again upgradeable to the IM70

CIMG2510

Dynamo-powered  Basta Pilot front lamp with automatic light-sensor switch

CIMG2503

Battery-operated rear light attached to the rear rack, further expanding the load capacity

CIMG2502

Frame fitted rear-wheel O-lock and dressguard

CIMG2506

The steering linkages which run under the box allowing the rider to turn the front wheel with the handlebars as normal

CIMG2515

The bakfiets also has a very wide and sturdy kickstand which clips to the underside of the box when not in use

It took me less than a minute to get used to the altered handling caused by the  front wheel offset, mainly because the offset of fairly minimal when compared to a normal bike such as a roadster. The handlebar is attached to a very steep tube, and the front wheel is only 20 inches in diameter to accommodate the box. This results in a stet up where the front wheel is only slightly more further forward than that of a 28 inch wheeled roadster with a slack headtube angle, such as the DL-1 or a Pashley Roadster/Princess.

The bike feels a lot lighter to ride than I expected, and easier to manoeuvre through doorways and such when not being ridden. The gearing offered a suitable range of low gears for accelerating & hill climbing with loads, with a good enough range to allow you to reach a good speed. The extended wheelbase produces a very stable and enjoyable ride, which despite the notable differences in design, feels instantly familiar to me as a Yuba Mundo owner. The ability to put your feet down whilst still having adequate leg extension makes the bike ideal for carrying children, where the desire to keep the bike upright when stationary needs to be balanced with being able to effectively propel the extra mass along.

The bakfiets is an extremely versatile bike, capable of hauling loads of cargo like the longtail Yuba Mundo or Surly Big Dummy, but with the re-assurance of having that cargo visible to you whilst riding. This is especially important for carrying passengers as it means parents can keep a watchful eye on their children, or adult passengers can more easily socialise with their chauffeur than on a longtail bike. The bakfiets also opens up possibilities for animal carrying which is less feasible on other cargo bikes, such as a larger family dog. When I have the space and money, I will definitely be getting one of these.

The Chorlton Green Festival is on Saturday, and the bakfiets along with the Surly Big Dummy, Yuba Mundo, BSP Seine, Circe Helios, Nihola Cigar Trike will be there at the Practical Cycles stall for test rides, along with the Zigo Child Stroller/Trike and the Civia Loring Town Bike. See you there.

Ride Report: BSP Seine “Motherbike”

During my recent visit to Practical Cycles I was able to test ride a number of bikes including the BSP Seine bike. I will be posting ride report for the Bakfiets later this week. Previous ride reports can be found here.

CIMG2536

The BSP Seine is a modern-styled Dutch bike; it has the geometry and practical componentry of a classic Dutch bike but it is made of oversized aluminium tubing rather than lugged steel. It is aimed at a family audience, having two child seats in addition to a pair of small panniers.

CIMG2538

The smaller of the two child seats is placed up-front, with the handlebar wrapping around the seat.

CIMG2543

The larger child seat is placed above the rear rack, without preventing the use of smaller panniers

CIMG2542

The bike has a very appropriate specification; hub gears (7 speed Nexus) and roller brake in the rear

CIMG2540

Roller brake and dynamo hub in the front

CIMG2539

Smart-brand light-sensing front lamp

CIMG2544

Battery-operated light & motion sensing automatic rear light

CIMG2541

And of course a frame-fitted O-lock and skirt-guard

The bike is also equipped with a full chain-case, mudguards, a steering stabiliser and a twin-leg kickstand. When I came to ride the bike, if felt instantly familiar. The geometry and swept back handlebar gives the bike a similar ride quality to the DL-1. The low step-through meant that the front child seat did not negatively affect getting on or off the bike, and it did not diminish the ride. The handlebar was tilted a bit low for me, but this can be easily adjusted to accommodate a range of rider heights.

The roadster-like handling characteristics make the bike extremely stable, which is ideal for a bike designed to carry children. It is definitely a much better option than carrying your kids the one mile to school in a Land Rover.

Zaynan from Practical Cycles will be at the Chorlton Green Festival on Saturday the 16th of April. Amongst the cycles he will have with him will be the BSP Seine, so head down there if you fancy a closer look or a test ride.

Ride Report: Nihola Cigar Tricycle

During my recent visit to Practical Cycles I was able to test ride a number of bikes including the Nihola Cigar Trike. I will be posting ride reports for the other bikes I test rode throughout the course of this week and the next.

CIMG2555

The Nihola Cigar has two front wheels, much like a Bakfiets tricycle.
The specification of the bike was generally sensible, dual drum brakes up front, controlled by a single lever (bicycle polo enthusiasts take note), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, a seven speed Shimano Nexus internal hub gear, mudguards, a partial chain guard and even a rear rack to add even more capacity. The trike also includes a parking brake, to prevent it rolling away on uneven ground
CIMG2556
The front wheels have unbranded drum brakes in them, although judging by the hub shells I’d guess they were Sturmey Archers.
CIMG2557
Shinamo Nexus 8-speed internal hub gear. 
CIMG2559
The frame is re-assuringly well built, with the cargo box being well-attached to the frame in numerous places.
CIMG2558
A frame-fitted rear wheel lock is also included to prevent the bike being ridden off whilst the rider nips into a shop.
 
The rear wheel has a V-brake which I find to be a bizarre component choice on a bike such as this, where there is less pressure to keep costs to a bare minimum. A rear roller brake would have made more sense in my opinion, although with dual drum brakes at the front, this is only a small negative.
CIMG2554
Inside the cargo box is a child seat, suitable for two children, complete with seatbelts. The front portion of the box is clear, allowing the passengers to see where it is they are going. The box is capacious enough to allow a decent amount of stuff to be carried in addition to children, and the rear rack adds further capacity.
This was my first “two-front-wheels” tricycle experience, and it has been a very long time since I have ridden any other tricycle, so I was expecting it to feel a bit odd for me. As a non-driving cyclist, I am unaccustomed to having to slow down to take corners. However, after a few minutes I started to get used to the differences between this and a bicycle and I enjoyed  the fact that the tricycle required no balancing on my part whatsoever, meaning that very heavy loads would be more manageable. Overall it was very fun to ride after I’d gotten over the first few hair-raising corners
There were a few downsides to the tricycle, its size means it would require a garage or similar for storage, being wider than the average doorway. A reverse gear would also be a welcome addition for low-speed manoeuvring. Bicycle tyres are parabolic in profile because of the way a bicycle turns. Because trikes are less common, they tend to use bicycle tyres which will wear out more quickly due to the inability to lean in on corners. Square-profile tyres (as seen on cars) would be a good innovation for most tricycles, but in the meantime the super hard-wearing Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres are a good choice in the specification of this trike. I imagine that not trying to take the corners at full speed as I did will also improve tyre life.
I personally found the urge to lean into the corners to be difficult to overcome, but for someone who also drives and cycles or someone who doesn’t/cannot ride a bike, I can imagine the handling will feel quite normal, and this tricycle could be the right choice for them. The fact that the trike doesn’t need to be balanced or propped up when stationary will be a big bonus for those carrying children.
Zaynan from Practical Cycles will be at the Chorlton Green Festival on Saturday the 16th of April. Amongst the cycles he will have with him will be the Nihola Cigar, so head down there if you fancy a closer look or a test ride.

Yuba Mundo: Version 3

When I bought my V2 Yuba Mundo back in 2009 I was aware that there was a new and improved model in the pipeline. The V3 came out a few months after I got my V2, thankfully at a higher price point which helped to minimise any sense of buyer’s remorse caused by the shiny new model. Whilst at Practical Cycles, I decided to take a few pictures of the V3 Mundo and discuss the improvements made since the V2.

CIMG2532

The V3 Yuba Mundo (Basil Newspaper panniers, Yuba child seat and Bread Platform are not included as standard)

CIMG2534

The frame has been altered slightly, including several new threaded bosses in various positions to facilitate any home-made additions you may wish to use

CIMG2526

The side rails have been redesigned too, attaching to the frame in the manner of a threadless steerer’s stem, as shown the the picture above. In addition to this, they are now constructed from cromoloy steel for added strength/reduced weight. Having occasionally removed the side rails from my V2, I imagine (and hope) that this new system is easier to re-install than the previous design.

CIMG2524

In addition to the threaded bosses, there are strap loops on various parts of the rack to facilitate carrying items using cam straps. A welcome addition.

CIMG2523

The V3 Yuba Mundo fork, now with IS disk brake mounting tab. I came up with my own solution to the absence of this on the V2

The rear OLD has been increased from 130 mm to the more common 135 mm which will simplify upgrades for V3 owners by removing the need to cold-set the frame. In addition to the new front and rear disc brake mounts and the disc brake wheel option now available from Yuba, the wheels have been upgraded to cartridge bearings to decrease maintenance.

Yubatrans3

The transmission has also been upgraded, with Shimano front and rear derailleur gears for a 21 speed stock set-up, versus the 6 speed standard set-up on the V2. Sadly it is still unlikely that Yuba will be offering a hub gear option any time soon, if ever, due to the unusual 14 mm rear drop outs, and the additional costs of hub gearing.

There are numerous other small upgrades to the spec all over the bike; the seat post is now a micro-adjust affair, mudguards are now included in the spec, the stem has been upgraded to an adjustable version and the handlebar grips are higher quality too.

The V3 is a noticeable improvement in spec over the V2, and the frame has a number of improvements too. All this comes at a price however, with the V3 costing more than my V2 (even factoring in two VAT rises and inflation), and the loss of Schwalbe’s excellent Fat Frank tyres as part of the standard spec. Overall the improvements are welcome, making the Yuba Mundo an even more attractive proposition for prospective cargo-bike buyers.

Ride Report: Surly Big Dummy

CIMG2548
During my recent visit to Practical Cycles I was able to test ride a number of bikes including the Surly Big Dummy. I will be posting ride reports for the other bikes I test rode throughout the course of this week.
The concept behind the Big Dummy is essentially the same as that of the Yuba Mundo, the wheelbase is extended to allow an extra-long rear rack to be incorporated into the frame. The Big Dummy differs however in that the rear rack is not part of the frame, instead the frame is built to use the Xtracycle platform which can be used to convert most 26 inch/700C bikes into long-tail cargo bikes.
The Big Dummy is a significant step up in price from the Yuba Mundo, but this is reflected in the componentry included, and the cromoly steel used to construct the frame. By using the Xtracycle platform, all of the Xtracycle accessories are compatible with the Big Dummy. This was a big advantage over the Yuba Mundo a few years ago, but Yuba have since caught up and offer a much larger selection of add-ons and accessories.
CIMG2553
Zaynan, the owner of Practical Cycles poses with the 8-speed Alfine geared Big Dummy
The standard spec complete Big Dummy comes with derailleur gearing, but Zaynan offers customisation options, the model I test rode was equipped with a Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub gear, complete with high-end trigger shifters.
CIMG2552a
I was particularly taken with the lovely Sturmey Archer chainset (this picture sadly does not do it justice, someone else has done better). At first I thought it was the hugely expensive SA chainset recently reviewed on Road.cc, but I was please to learn that it is actually only around £36. Now all I need is a bike which it will be appropriate for.
CIMG2546
Sadly Yuba have stopped specifying Fat Franks for the V3 Mundo. Thankfully the Big Dummy still comes with this excellent tyre. The Xtracycle rack (unpainted tubing) fitting point can also be seen here, with the optional Wide-Loader stored away in the right Xtracycle bag, being installed in a similar manner to the main rack.
CIMG2545
The model I test rode was also equipped with a front B&M dynamo light powered by a Shimano Disk-brake dynamo-hub. This is effectively the same light as my DL-1’s Lumotec Retro but in a more modern-looking package.
CIMG2547
Using the Xtracycle platform enables Big Dummy owners to use the full range of Xtracycle accessories, including their heavy-duty kickstand
As for the ride, the bike felt instantly familiar to me. The steerer had thankfully been left at full-length and the bike had been equipped with moustache bars to give a more upright posture than the standard spec Big Dummy. The handling was almost exactly the same as the Yuba Mundo, but the rider position was more reminiscent on the Brompton M-type. For me this was perfectly pleasant, although the geometry and componentry of the Big Dummy are likely to appeal to someone who wants a cargo-bike which feels more like a cross-country mountain bike.
The Alfine hub was slightly smoother than the Nexus equivalent, the shifting was very precise and fast, even under load which is usually a problem for hub gears. The shifter was of the dual-trigger variety with one lever for shifting up and one for shifting down. This is the first time I have used this arrangement with a hub gear and I found it worked rather well. The Shimano disk brakes were as good as any of the cable-actuated discs I have used elsewhere and are an appropriate choice for a bike designed for load carrying and reasonable speed.
My impressions of the Big Dummy were favourable, but is it worth double the cost over the Yuba Mundo? If you are likely to spend a lot on upgrading the Yuba Mundo, the Dig Dummy may become more competitive price-wise. The frame is of a higher build-quality and higher-grade steel, but its load rating is lower. The standard rear dropouts (as opposed to the odd 14 mm dropouts on the Mundo) are more conducive to installing hub-gears, making any future hub-gear upgrades easier for Big Dummy owners than Yuba Mundo owners.
The upgraded specifications of the V3 Yuba Mundo do reduce the competitiveness of the Big Dummy in my opinion, although these have also increased the price. Personally, I enjoy the process of tinkering with, and upgrading my bikes. However, I understand that many people do not feel the same way. If you want the best componentry on your long-tail without the need to do a lot of upgrading, the Big Dummy could be for you.
Zaynan from Practical Cycles will be at the Chorlton Green Festival on Saturday the 16th of April. Amongst the cycles he will have with him will be the Surly Big Dummy, so if you want to have a closer look or a test ride, head down there.

Circe Helios Tandem & Cargo Bike

Today I visited Practical Cycles to test ride a variety of exciting cargo bikes, and the test ride impressions will be published over the next week or so.

One of the bikes which caught my eye, but which I didn’t  test ride myself was the Circe Helios Family Tandem. I had already seen this bike on several websites, the design is particularly clever; a tandem with 20 inch (406 mm) wheels, with a telescopic seat-post allowing either an adult or child stoker.

The Helios tandem with added mudguards and bottle cages

The clever part is that the stoker seat-post can be removed when it is not needed, and replaced by an extended cargo rack similar to that of the Yuba Mundo:

The tandem can also become a cargo bike for one (this one thankfully has hub gears instead of a derailleur)

However, when I saw the bike in real life, one very small feature (which I can understand the manufacturer not going out of their way to promote) really impressed me:

CIMG2517

The Helios in the Practical Cycles showroom

CIMG2518

A close-up of the headtube. Looks familiar, no?

The headtube has threaded bosses for a Brompton luggage block. This is a very clever little addition, increasing the luggage capacity, especially when the bike is used as a tandem. I doubt there are any patent issues with this, two screw-holes on a headtube are unlikely to be granted any IP protection. Circe have very cleverly managed to provide owners of their bikes with the option of wide range of existing Brompton luggage without the expense of making their own proprietary luggage system.

Sometimes it is the little extra touches which can impress the most.