Uphill: the battle with gravity

There is no point denying it: a Bakfiets cargo bike is a heavy bike. But only if you are trying to carry it. Once you are moving it feels very light; in fact just like a proper bike, which, having two wheels, is exactly what it is. The low centre of gravity means that it feels almost dainty when rolling along and cornering but the main thing – one of the frequently answered questions and my key concern before I ever rode a Bakfiets – is whether it feels heavy when the road goes uphill.

The honest answer is that it does not. The first thing to remember is that there are plenty of gears to play with – seven or eight depending upon your preference and level of expenditure – in the elegant and invisible workings of the Sturmey Archer system. On the longer hills you may have to be patient as you spin the pedals and move your cargo towards the summit but it need not be an unpleasant task, unless you live in a place with the suffix ‘dale’ or the prefix ‘Alp de’. For the shorter, steeper inclines – the sharp little slopes out of the underpass or the little rises that are commonplace if you happen to live in an old quarry –a quick, exhilarating burst of energy to maintain momentum is probably the best approach, a sensation that will be familiar to anyone who rides a bike with any regularity, or can remember doing so before they were shackled by a perceived need for a car.

I was delighted to have this view confirmed recently by a visitor who dropped by to see whether a Bakfiets might be a good idea for her. Her main concern was, of course, that such a big bike would feel cumbersome and require more effort and energy to move than she was able or willing to supply. Her first experience was a pleasant one as she found that the Bakfiets was easy to ride, cornering and stopping without any of the assumed weightiness suggested by its appearance. Her second ride, with her own two items of precious cargo on board, was undertaken with only one concern: whether it would go uphill without requiring the legs and lungs of a Grand Tour winner. We had not travelled more than two hundred metres, only a few dozen of which were uphill, before a broad smile was on her face and she was wondering how quickly she could get home to place an order for a Bakfiets of her own.

There is no getting away from the fact that a 10-foot-long bike with a wooden box on it is going to weigh a fair bit more than your average mountain bike but the surprise is that it does not weigh as much as you might think; it certainly does not feel as heavy as you might think once you are actually moving. At first sight one cannot help but presume that this is a weighty and unwieldy machine but look a bit closer and you notice that its frame comprises a traditional rear triangle and only one large tube to join the wheel at the back with that at the front; and the box, while both strong and capacious, is actually constructed from quite a fine-gauge material.

Unless your regular ride is an piece of carbon-framed exotica I am quite confident that you would be pleasantly surprised by a spin on a Bakfiets. If your regular ride is a flat-barred hybrid with a trailer bike on the back and a front-mounted baby seat, as my visitor’s was, you will be very pleasantly surprised. If you happen to be an item of precious cargo who can now travel about protected from the snow, wind and rain by a very efficient cover you will be delighted.

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