Friday, September 9, 2011

Fewer Cargobike Options in Chicago

EDIT 9/30/11:
Dutch Bike Chicago is out of business.

I recently noticed that the website for Dutch Bike Co has eliminated new cargo bikes, the only ones they carried, from the online catalog, both in Seattle and Chicago. They have a 2009 left online. When I dropped by the store, they had their orange and red advertising Bakfiets but that was it. Had they sold out of all their stock? Were they going to get more? What about all the people who ask me about the Bakfiets - do I have to send them on a trip to Amsterdam or recommend a Madsen? Even after chatting with them, much remains a mystery.

Long story short, I guess the Bakfiets cargobike didn't have a big margin and didn't sell well enough to get reimported by Dutch Bike so they don't really sell it anymore. Maybe there will be one there to try out and special order in the future. You could possibly get a trike the same way. But for now, if you want it cheaper and sooner, you will have to go through another dealer who still imports them.  (possibly several in US -- Try google.) Same with the Onderwater tandem like the one that we bought from Dutch Bike just a couple of years ago and completely recommend to anyone with kids. Or the Onderwater with two kids pedaling and one just sitting that we really should have bought but they didn't make it yet. It's sad that something as terrific as a Bakfiets is losing its brick and mortar dealer in Chicago while other brands that I don't like as much are gaining ground, especially online.

Try JC Lind and Copenhagen in Chicago for the non-Bakfiets/Workcycles brand options - maybe they can get something similar to what you want. Have a look at American manufacturers of two wheeled cargo bikes like CETMA and Organic Engines (among others), too, linked along with other dealers on our About Cargobikes page. Look at the trike options. There are lots of cargo cycles out there these days.

Dutch Bike continues to sell some very nice Linus, Workcycles and Gazelle city bicycles, from medium low to high priced and at various levels of quality. They can give you good advice, and they repair all kinds of bikes. They have a nifty new location near the El and the expensive taco place in Wicker Park. They continue to sell lots of neat accessories. It's a nicer store every time I return. Less and less a boutique, more and more a bike shop. The Workcycles are getting more expensive, but word has it they're being made increasingly in Holland and not in China as was the case a few years ago. With the others it varies by model, too, so ask Vince or Chris and they'll steer you the right way.

But what eliminated the Cargobikes for this main Chicago and Seattle importer? Did customers not understand the usefulness of the product? Not enough sales staff experience carrying children? Carrying dogs? Carrying stuff at all? Maybe it's hard to sell an expensive bike that's also useful in daily life for dull things like errands and lugging kids, unlike an expensive racing bike which comes with a bigger aspirational lifestyle component. Maybe Chicago doesn't have enough sensible bicycling infrastructure yet to attract the families and grocery-carriers who make up the major market for these practical bikes. Perhaps the US market for 'Dutchness' is too oriented to singles-and-DINKs-who-want-simple-his'n'hers-FR8's or something to keep a cargobike dealer going. Could it be they are thinking too hard about coffee out in Washington? Maybe the main store's location in Seattle is on too steep a hill to lug things around by bike and they gave up -- I'm not sure, but eliminating the coolest and most useful product you carry can't improve business.

Incidentally, I notice that the kid-carrying families who run Clever Cycles in Oregon just got a shipment of Bakfiets in with improved NuVinci hubs on them, so they must still have a market.

I'm glad Dutch Bike is still here in Chicago and I hope they sell a lot of durable, sensible city bicycles for many years to come. But, let's face it -- what good are they if they don't sell cargobikes? Isn't it the cargobike that gets you to go there in the first place instead of off to just some other bike store with the same old regular bikes?

Maybe you should drop by or call them up and grumble like I did.  Buy a city bike if that's all you need in a bicycle. And come to the cargo bike event we mentioned in the previous post to see the various competitors' options first hand. Cargo bikes make bicycles practical for everyday living. Maybe if enough people show interest they'll reconsider and continue to carry these bikes in Chicago.


  1. As you know if you read us we do write the blog together. I think it's important to note that Portland has a far more intensive infrastructure for cycling- better then that of Seattle or Chicago. Is it possible that given better infrastructure here more parents would consider a cargo bike for transportation? Better infrastructure for families is key to the wider success of cargo bike sales I think!
    I'm thankful that Jon Lind, the guys at Copenhagen, and Blue City are carrying bikes that let families use bikes as transportation. And that Dutch bike got so many parents out on the road.

  2. I'm glad you posted this. I'm currently in a predicament about whether to rebuild the Madsen with a Nuvinci CVT hub which could lead to a plethora of issues and zero increased resale value or sell the Madsen and buy a Joe Bike boxbike with the Nuvinci already in it. They also make a glorious rain cover that my poor sad tent one probably can't match.

  3. HI Ash- Sorry to miss you guys on the kmass today! I wonder if you might want to consider the Cetma as well. It flat pack ships frame and box only and you build it up yourself- you could choose your own hubs etc. It costs about the same or a little less than the Joe BIke. I don't know if they have a rain cover yet though! The flat pack ship is a major savings on the total cost of the bike.
    There's a CETMA riding in Skokie these days. We have often eyed them with envy.

  4. There are two main reasons I haven't bought a cargo bike. One is that it is expensive compared to just having a child seat on the back of the bike. Two is that I don't have anywhere to store it. I'm in a two-bedroom condo and the ground floor has multiple bike hooks on the wall, but I'm pretty sure this bike would be too long to fit on the hook. How do you and others deal with the storage issue?

  5. Hi. It gets less expensive and more practical to use a cargo bike the more kids you're carrying, and the bigger they and their school backpacks get. We have a few posts about child seats and we use them, but the cargo bike is a lot more convenient and less tippy at intersections. The great big advantage of the box bikes is that you can carry everyone with all the stuff and still go shopping, just like taking a car but without the parking hassle.
    It took us 2 years to save up for the box bike we bought but it's been (almost) maintenance free and we haven't regretted it at all.
    As for storage, we are lucky enough to have a free space in our garage for bikes. The cargo bikes do hang on a hook OK but they're about 8 feet long so it has to be up high.
    In Holland people don't have any room in their walk up apartments either, so they just lock their cargo bike on the street - that's why the Dutch bikes have so many stainless steel components. If you want to see what happens, Dutch Bike Chicago had a Bakfiets outside and rode it around through all weather for about 2 or 3 years and it's still in their store - go look at how it held up. It and ours both look fine.
    If you live in Chicago or another big city you need to lock any bike up very well, but Amsterdam is probably worse They use heavy chains and wheel locks, we use U locks - if you are going to leave it out you should use one of each and lock it well to a stable pole or anchor.
    You could also look at the Gazelle Cabby - foldable box makes it easier to carry up stairs- or the Onderwater or other tandem. Tandems don't take much room, there are some that even fit in very short spaces like the Hase Pino type, and it's the cargo capacity that's the limiting factor. Bike Friday has a tandem you can take apart and some others can disconnect too.
    Longtails like Xtracycles will fit on most hooks, though I don't see much advantage over a bike with a seat and panniers, frankly.
    I'm not sure what other people do - we know some people who store a Babboe box bike outside. Maybe I should ask around.

    Come to the cargo bike thing tonight at West Town Bikes (see our latest post) and talk to some people. It's 6-9 pm.

  6. Thanks for the info. It isn't something I absolutely need right now, but maybe someday when I have second kid and if I buy a house with a garage it will become a good option for me.


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