Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How can you move your kids and cargo around on a bike? A cargo bike primer, part 1

This post and its twin have been moved to their own page here. Unfortunately, though, I can't figure out how to move the comments too, so they are below. Sorry for any inconvenience.


  1. Lots of good info there but I must clear up one inconsistency: The Bakfiets Cargobike frames are absolutely made in Holland (and painted across the border in Belgium). Fietsfabriek frames are made in Turkey but there is and never has been any relationship or cooperation whatsoever between these two companies. To be specific Fietsfabriek has never made any frames or other parts for Bakfiets.

    Further the Cargobike is hardly a story of "just enough euro content to call it Euro". Of course there are plenty of parts from the far east but most of it really is European: frames, parking stand, rims, fenders, stays, headlamp, chaincase-Holland, paint, spokes-Belgium, boxes-Lithuania, saddles-Italy, crank bearings-Slovakia, grips, reflectors-Finland etc etc.

    So in other words you're disappointed about something that simply isn't true.

  2. Thanks for the information. I'm glad that I can stop grumbling to myself about that particular issue with the cargobike. Can you say that the situation described in the post is generally not true, or does it accurately describe the content of some other European bikes? The industry source who told me this seemed quite well informed and convinced.

    I should also add another correction: I spoke with a representative from Shimano recently, and they do in fact rate the Nexus 8 hubs (and their other internal gear hubs) for the weight of a cargobike, though they recommend the Red Line premium model because its planetary gear bearings add some durability. They don't really support the roller brakes on these bikes in hilly areas, though, apparently, and neither do dealers recommend them (see Harris Cyclery's site for example). In addition to the brakes themselves, I think the length of the cable run is another issue there. So, long story short, the Shimano 8 speeds should work fine - on the other hand, mine apparently isn't the first one to fail on one of these bikes.

    I'm more concerned now about the way the cargobike stays and dropouts bent recently when the wheel was changed (see hubba hubba post). According to the dealers here in Chicago, though, this is no longer a problem with the new model Cargobike, and we had no trouble at all changing the tires on the Onderwater Child Transporter tandem.

  3. Your description is fairly accurate for many European bikes, though a lot of frames are made in Eastern Europe. Bikes sold by most American makes skip the local content part and let them be made entirely in Taiwan or China. I can assure you it's not the case for either of your bikes, both of which are assembled in the Dutch Azor factory from a worldwide sourced selection of components, many of which (including the frames) are made locally.

    A few years ago the Nexus 8 Premium was really a much better hub than the standard model, but now the difference between the two doesn't seem worth the considerable cost increase. We've sold quite a few thousands of these hubs and sure we've seen some wear out or fail... but surprisingly few and almost certainly a lower percentage than any other hub we use. And each generation is tougher and smoother than the last.

    Just to note we gave up on Sram years ago for their inability to make a decent shifter or brake. I tested a Sram i9 for two years, and destroyed two hubs and three shifters just riding with the kids around flat Amsterdam. The Sturmey hubs are slowly improving but they still don't offer any hub with a combination of ratios and brake suitable for these bikes.

    Speaking of brakes: Sure, rollerbrakes (even IM70's and IM80's) won't ripple the pavement but they are at least totally reliable and weatherproof, and can be removed for service or replacement. We've tried everything and there is unfortunately no better option. Properly set up you can still lock the front wheel of a Cargobike with an IM70 rollerbrake. I know this because I ride one three days a week.

    My guess about the dropouts is that the frame was actually misaligned from day one. The frame guy at the factory didn't adjust the rear spacing correctly and then the assembly guys didn't bother saying anything and just shoehorned that wheel in. When you pulled it out it just sprung back to its natural shape. Alternatively your bike was first built as a 4speed and then later converted to 8sp... without adjusting the frame spacing.

    Regardless, the best thing to do will be to align it properly at the next major service (if not already done): Pull the crank and bottom bracket out, clamp the bike from the BB shell in a big vise (with soft jaws please!) and use the standard frame alignment tools to get it right. Be sure to align the fork ends themselves before putting it all back together again.


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