New bikes, old bikes

Last week was SFUSD Spring Break, so I used the opportunity to take my children up to Portland to visit family and, of course, look at cargo bikes. That’s my idea of fun 🙂

 

We had a great time visiting two iconic Portland cargo bike+ shops: Splendid Cycles and Clever Cycles. Both have a healthy supply of toys and books that kept my kids busy, quiet bees.

Splendid is the west coast importer and distributor for Bullitt Bikes and the Butchers & Bicycles MK1E in the US. Clever imports and now distributes a few different cargo bike brands, including one I specifically wanted to get to know better: the Douze. I also rode the Riese & Muller Packster. I love that there are so many great cargo bikes on the market now. But it also means that it might be a bit confusing to understand the differences among them. So I thought I’d share a few thoughts on six front carrier cargo bikes, in no particular order.

Larry v Harry Bullitt

There are so many great front carriers available now, but having tried almost all of them at some point, there’s still nothing that rides like the Bullitt. It’s a distinctively bike-y ride that brings out your inner bike star. If you love to ride, and particularly to ride faster or more aggressively than most, the Bullitt will always be the cargo bike for you. You still have an option between the regular frame with BionX or e-Rad e-assists or the Shimano STePS. Shimano is in the process of approving an even higher powered version of the STePS system for the US. While the current version is serving San Francisco customers well, we’re looking forward to the new version for people with even more dramatic hills in their life. Date is still TBD on that release. Summary: There’s nothing that rides like a Bullitt, except a Bullitt.

Butchers & Bicycles MK1E

This is such a well-made bike. Butchers & Bicycles has truly thought of every little detail to maximize the quality of the experience for both the rider and the child passengers. The bike rides smoothly thanks to the Nuvinci and Bosch combo on top of a super well built undercarriage, letting you be anywhere from fully chillaxed to fairly sporty. We see both first time riders and everyday riders fall in love with the way this bike handles. The tilting wheels are a must for the Bay Area’s hills! We find that the customers who really love this bike tend to appreciate the fact that it’s a full package of awesome. It’s a wide bike, so you must have room in your life for it. But if you do, you’ll enjoy riding in smooth style. Summary: The full, smooth package for people who have room for a wide bike.

 

Douze Family

The Douze is a proudly French bike that I’ve had my eye on for a while. The company has been producing iterations of its cargo bike for a while now, and I’m excited about the product that’s come out of so much testing. The Douze is a modular system. Without going into a ton of detail here, I love that this bike has a variety of box sizes that grow out and in over time, but that don’t require you to buy a whole new bike when you need to change. I also like that the bike can be separated in the middle so that you could theoretically take it on trips up to Lake Tahoe or wherever you like to go. The Traveller frame has a low stepover. And the bike rides beautifully! Sporty but not super aggressive. More of an urban commuter feel. It’s a sturdy but lighter feeling compared to other front carriers. The Douze uses cable steering instead of a rod, which gives you especially agile turns and handling. Loved it. I appreciate that it can take a few different e-assist systems, including a 1,000W e-Rad for people looking for big big power in a front carrier. There is no more powerful setup out there for a front carrier. You also have an option for either a 1×9 derailleur or a Nuvinci system for shifting. Finally, I appreciate that the kid carrying accessories are very well thought out. The rain canopy even inflates instead of using a series of sticks or poles. Which, hallelujah! We’ll be bringing this bike into our test ride fleet in the early summer. Stay tuned or contact us if you want to pre-order a bike! Summary: A versatile, agile and overall very Bay Area-friendly package.

Urban Arrow

We’ve been selling the Urban Arrow over the last year and I always look forward to test riding newly built bikes. This is a heavier, modern Dutch-style cargo bike that, like the MK1E, gives you that easy cruising feeling. It’s combo Nuvinci and Bosch systems keep the ride super smooth. And like the MK1, it has really well thought out kid-carrying options. This isn’t the super hill climber bike for a variety of reasons, but if you live on moderate hills and want to ride in style and ease with your kids, this is the bike for you. Summary: Modern Dutch easy riding, full package cargo bike.

Riese & Muller Packster

This is a relatively new bike from Riese & Muller with a lot to love about it. That said, the company is clearly still working out some of the kinks of the bike, which is normal for early generation cargo bikes. So look for this model to keep evolving over the years. The Riese & Muller is a low step through cargo bike with the Nuvinci and Bosch combo, keeping it smooth and easy to ride despite the heavy frame. It’s fun to feel the German-ness of this bike compared to the Dutch-ness of the Urban Arrow. I guess what I mean by that is that it rides in a way that feels, above all else, very _competent_. Not the flair of the Bullitt, joie de vivre of the Douze or the ease of the Dutch bikes. Instead, it just rides very comfortably and competently. The Bosch in combo with the heavier frame makes it suitable for moderate hills. I loved that the large box option was indeed very very large. My increasingly enormous kids fit in the box with room to spare. Summary: A hard-working early generation bike model that performs.

Workcycles Bakfiets

This bike is truly OG. The cargo bike that started it all in many ways! This is a heavy, wooden two wheel cargo bike that lets you ride totally upright. I’ve owned one for about seven years, so the bike comes with a lot of memories for me. Generally we don’t recommend this bike for San Francisco unless you only have one child or two very small ones. The roller brakes on the bike are just not up to San Francisco hills unless you’re very cautious or only hauling lighter kids. My kids are, sadly, outgrowing our bike. All that said, this is a minimalist full package bike. I adore the enormous built in back rack for its stuff-carrying capacity. And the built-in wheel lock and lights. If you like to ride fully upright, this bike can work for flatter commutes. If you’re looking for a higher-powered, similar feel bike, the Urban Arrow is your natural fit. Still, we’ll really miss this bike when it’s time to move on to a new family. 🙁 Summary: The OG, full package upright workhorse for flatter living.

 

You can book an appointment to try the Bullitt or MK1E with us here.

We’ll have the Douze in the early summer. Stay tuned!