A little while ago Antonia came to have a go on our Bakfiets and was so impressed that she bought one almost immediately. Here are her thoughts, the first section written a few months after her Bakfiets arrived and the second section some two years later, a timescale which illustrates the longevity of the cargobike experience and how time flies when you’re busy having fun.
Our new Bakfiets!
With a trailer bike and a front child seat, travelling by bike was OK if it wasn’t wet or cold or we didn’t need to carry anything too major. I share childcare with my partner: we have two children, a girl aged 5 and a boy aged 2. We have an unequal transport arrangement, as my work is a car journey away and his isn’t, which means he usually gets left with no wheels. After a winter of feeling I was making too much use of the car (a real pain in Oxford – either no parking available, or paying out for tickets, or feeling stressed to get back to the car by a certain time), I looked into other options. I was looking for a ‘second car’ which wasn’t actually a car: I came up with a large electric cargo bike. The Bakfiets came up and I knew this was the way to go. However, it was enormously expensive and making it electric adds £1,500 to the cost.
Having searched for ‘Bakfiets Oxford’ on the offchance, Jonathan’s blog came up – Headington, same as us. Top! I asked about hills and barriers, and he was kind enough to offer us a test drive. We went thinking: we’ll give it a try, but it’s just going to be too expensive.
But… it was amazing. Compared to my last bike, it felt like riding along on a sofa! It was soon obvious that there was no need to go electric and we got serious. One more test drive with Jonathan and we went for it. A new bike with lock (really nifty one that can be a simple wheel lock, or with an easy chain extension; fine with the insurance people), rain cover, and anti-puncture tyres all in (they really work! We’ve both been over patches of glass and nothing… yet) set us back nearly £2,000 exactly. Having ridden this bike for a few months now, it is well worth its weight in gold and I can’t imagine ever wanting to part with it, which is maybe why we couldn’t get hold of one secondhand.
My learning curve:
- The Bakfiets is not difficult to ride; you very soon get used to the length and handling of it.
- There are not many places we can’t go, but you do need a dropped kerb to get onto the pavement. You get adept at planning for these.
- It’s only the width of the handlebars, so you can get through lots of stuff a wider bike (eg trike) couldn’t.
- I have a MacClaren pushchair; you could fit this in with one child, but not comfortably with two. I guess I could try finding a smaller pushchair, or thinking up a way of carrying it on the outside of the box, but I’m nearly at the end of our pushchair days, so I’m not sure I want to put in the effort.
- You really need to decide whether the roof will be on or off before you leave your house. OK, so it’s not impossible: you can fold it a bit and stick it in the box, but it takes quite a bit of room and is a bit unwieldy.
- It’s easier to pedal this bike up hills rather than to push it if you’ve got a big load. The gears go down really low; it’s actually easier to get up hills than my old bike. I regularly go up the steep Barracks Lane hill: I tip out the big kid and keep the little one in, and although I can’t boast of not stopping for breaks (!) I have been known to ride all the way up, but usually push the steep hill. Living in Headington, with activities often ‘down the hill’, there’s always the sticky issue of one big hill for us. However, once you’re up or down, Oxford is fairly flattish, so this bike is totally relevant for this city.
- The bike stand is really stable. They can climb around on the bike no problem, just don’t trust it on a hill. Best way to put up the kickstand is with your foot from the side, I found.
- You can put the wheel lock on for quick stops: lock and go! This is fantastic. With children on traditional bicycle seats, it’s much harder to make quick stops: you have to balance, unbuckle, buckle, etc. With the Bakfiets, it’s a total joy! Although there are buckles for the seat, I don’t ever feel the need to put these on, and so it’s easy in, easy out.
- Basically, it does what we need and we don’t need to get in the car for local trips now. The rain cover does the cold, wind and rain; the large box does the shopping and generally hauling stuff around, including friends: we’ve had great hilarity with four children in the box several times (two on the floor, two on the seat).
- Last but not least: this is a fun ride!
We’re eternally grateful to Jonathan for letting us try his Bakfiets, as I’m not sure we would have taken the next steps otherwise! Thank you.
A recent update:
- After two years we’ve had just two punctures to date; autumn both times, probably spiky conkers hidden under leaves.
- We had to change a pedal. One got bent as the bike leaned round a corner with a raised area. They’re quite low bikes, so just occasionally you might need to lift the pedal, say over a speed bump or leaning as you speed round a corner (it wasn’t me!).
- A note about the height. I am a little under 5′ 5, and we have the saddle on the absolute lowest setting (which means it’s not as secure as it would be higher up). Stopping at a junction, I am on tiptoe, but this is the only time I notice the height of the bike. I prefer to rest my foot on a kerb if I can.
- We’re still taking our 8 and 4 year-old around in this. They can both ride bikes, but on functional journeys, it’s just so much easier to take them on the bike. You name it, we’ve carried it! It’s seen a lot of action and it lives outside in only a semi-sheltered area, but it doesn’t seem worse for wear. I’ve installed a ground anchor to chain it to.
- And harking back to my original question: the barriers on Barracks Lane have been widened so I don’t even need to put a foot down to get round them these days!
Hope this helps others considering a Bakfiets.
Antonia, Lye Valley