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A Clever cargo bike gallery

Posted by on January 7th, 2007 at 11:51 pm

[A truck full of Dutch cargo
bikes bound for Portland!]

Todd “Cleverchimp” Fahrner and Dean “Bakfiets” Mullin have just returned from a top secret European foray where they did some business networking and researched the inside dope on city and cargo bikes.

They’re gaining steam for their Clever Cycles business and they’re anxiously awaiting their first big shipment of Dutch bikes (see photo).

So far they don’t have a physical retail location, but I suspect we’ll be hearing about one soon enough. According to their website, they plan to offer,

“a complete line of resoundingly practical bicycles and related gear, promoting bikes as the most joyous and responsible way to move your stuff, your kids, or just yourself around town and beyond, all year round.”

I can’t wait.

Todd snapped a ton of photos on their trip and has published them on his website. Here are a few of my favorites:

[Plenty of room for my girls and my groceries.]
[Looks heavy. Sacrifice for fun and fashion I guess.]
[Todd says it’s a Dutch street sweeper!]

See the rest of Todd’s photos and then wait patiently (like the rest of us) for their store to open.

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  • Ethan January 8, 2007 at 12:25 am

    Well if there are still people out there who don’t believe we’re the most Euopean city in America . . . this’ll set ’em straight.

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  • Jeremy January 8, 2007 at 6:43 am
  • Scott Mizée January 8, 2007 at 6:54 am

    I’m drooling over here….

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  • Scott Mizée January 8, 2007 at 7:04 am

    and Ethan…. I think we’d have to clarify that statement a bit if we want to make such a claim…. our architecture and street grid would definitely not put us at the top of the list, so it’d probably have to be narrowed to ‘most European biky city in America’ :-)

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  • Ethan January 8, 2007 at 10:58 am

    I will stick by my assertion. Sure, there are many older European (non-bikey) cities in Europe whose layout/history etc is wildly divergent from all but the oldest urban sections of the eastern seaboard, BUT, as far as newer development goes, I would argue that Portland does “new” better than many historic European cities like Rome, Paris etc. Go to the suburbs of these cities and you’re struck by how poorly everything is put together. There are only a few home run cities like Vienna and Amsterdam where I come away wishing we had that, and that, and that (and perhaps we will).

    Additionally, many hallmarks of the much older cities, ample public/open spaces, multi-modal public transportation, lack of expansive and never-ending auto infrastructure, walkability etc etc, ARE present here in a way that they are not in Dallas, Sacramento and an endless list of US cities who have taken a very different path.

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  • troll bait January 8, 2007 at 11:14 am

    “Go to the suburbs of these cities and you’re struck by how poorly everything is put together.”

    um, we don’t do things so hot in our suburbs, either.

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  • Eric January 8, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Those are all great….but I really want to see one of these!


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  • Dabby January 8, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Why not support American made Cargo Bikes and sell those?
    I agree that, while, huge and semi-ungainly, the Bakefits have a nice charm about them.
    But, we should be all about American Cargo’s, and support the manufacturers of such products, instead of adding the huge shipping costs from Europe to already over priced cargos.
    I challenge this future shop to have stack’s of American cargo’s right next to the Bakefit’s…
    We are not the American Amsterdam. we do not need to be.
    We are Portland.
    And don’t you forget it!
    At least I won’t….

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  • Scott Mizee January 8, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Is it getting hot in here? :-)

    Sounds like a noble challenge to me? The Oregonians ought to be able to design and craft a cargo bike as well as the Dutch. When and where will the challenge take place?

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  • Jonathan Maus January 8, 2007 at 7:42 pm


    There is a local guy making a Portland Bakfiets bike. He has studied the Dutch design very closely. I am working on meeting up with him to get the low down. Stay tuned…

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  • Dabby January 8, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    This is what I like to hear…
    Good work!

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  • barbara kilts January 8, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Doesn’t the Center for Appropriate Transport down in Eugene make cargo bikes? Perhaps they’re more cargo and less people carrier oriented. I have a disabled son that would benefit from a Bakfiets, can’t wait to see them in the metal!


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  • todd January 8, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Dabby, the hungry, imaginative US cargo bike manufacturing sector you imagine doesn’t really exist. We hope to invigorate it with exposure to this foreign genetic material and show that it can sell, in Portland at least. We’re actively courting potential collaborators and independent builders (including Mr. Portland Bakfiets) to create even more functional bikes than what we’re bringing in. We don’t think the design of the very few existing, made-to-order American cargo bikes is nearly as compelling as that of the better Dutch examples. Otherwise, indeed, why would we put up with huge shipping costs? Why do you think they’re an unknown category here while even in bike-glutted Holland they’ve exploded in numbers over just the past few years?

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  • Dabby January 9, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Well Todd,
    I never said that there is a “hungry, imaginative US cargo bike manufacturing sector”.
    But I do know that there are some perfectly fine American made cargo bikes readily available in.
    I also believe that the designs of the ones I have ridden are more user friendly, lighter, and less “tank” esque, and road sharing, space efficent than the Bakefits.
    I personally could not imagine wanting to ride around Portland on one of those Bakefits.
    But I would love to have a regular cargo bike.
    And, by the way, they are not a unknown category in th US.
    Bike messengers use and rely on cargos daily.
    Only a few here, but also in great numbers in larger cities.
    There have for many many years now even been a Cargo Bike Messenger World Championships.
    The above link is a small example of such an event.
    I do understand that with the new surge (overwhelming as it may be) of cyclists in Portland, the “initial” interest in Bakefits is proving to be very great.
    Here , in Portland, people love jumping on the band wagon, buying what they hear about.
    I am sure you will sell a some.
    But did you really get the point of my comment?
    I don’t think you did.
    We are in Portland.
    Thought of as one of the, (I hate this word actually) “bikey-est” cities in the nation.
    You would be doing us, you , and the hard working cycling industry of Portland and America a injustice to not have great American Cargos lined up next to the Dutch ones.
    My point was to properly represent what we here, along with what they are there.
    Not to only have some built to your specs, but to support and sell the ones already available.
    I don’t think the Dutch Cargo Co’s need the exposure quite as much as the American ones.

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  • Dabby January 9, 2007 at 12:08 am

    It is late, please excuse my typo’s…

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  • vicstar January 9, 2007 at 12:33 am

    to barbara kilts,

    check out nihola.nl look at the nihola flex. it is made specifically for disabled people. let me know what you think. their bikes are heavy duty and well designed. good luck.

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  • todd January 9, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Dabby, the bikes I think you’re referring to (Bilenky, ANT, HPM, etc) are made to order with several months lead time (at best), at usually higher costs before shipping than what we’re bringing in, without amenities like integrated lighting, full chaincases and mudguards, weather covers and child seats that suit them for daily family use instead of pro messengering. Non-production bikes don’t show up in retail shop “stacks” for a reason.

    Our main family vehicle a US-artisan-built custom cargo bike. By all means, commission one yourself anytime, wave the flag, stop the injustice! I think it’s a little bit patronizing of you to characterize the strong interest in Maarten van Andel’s particular bakfiets design as band-wagonism, newbie-trend etc. At the same time, it’s true that we want to expand the market for such bikes beyond the niche that “great American cargos” already serve.

    Minneapolis-based Surly’s coming out with something similar to my custom this year at a price only volume manufacture permits: http://www.worldchanging.com/local/portland/archives/005347.html . I’ll have a prototype soon and we’ll carry them!

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  • Carl January 9, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I’ll back Todd on this one. A Long John like the blue one that Magpie folks use is in a different class. It’s a $2000+ bike custom made by a non-profit in Eugene!

    “Fine American-made cargo bikes?” C’mon, Dabby. The only work bikes made in the US are either low-production, custom-built masterpieces with price tags and lead times that befit the production methods (http://www.antbikemike.com/flom.html)…or basket-laden cruisers and trikes made out of lead pipe by companies that still think it’s 1965 (http://www.worksmancycles.com).

    With any luck, these Bakfiets will inspire American companies to step up to the plate and mass-produce our own cargo bikes better and cheaper (probably, sadly, with Chinese frames). Dabby, I agree with you: I don’t think the Bakfiets is a perfect design and I wish we could have something mass-produced here. I truly believe that Clever Cycles is actually working towards that end and I’m very excited about it.

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  • Richard Wilson January 9, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Great pics Todd! I was up until way too late pouring through them.

    Here’s a small cargobike news flash: just got a call from the Oregonian a moment ago that they’ve just posted a little piece on my Bakfiets blog online:


    My Cargobike has been on loan to the local PDX builder as of late, so relax everyone – they’re making progress and working very hard on building the better (American) mousetrap…

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  • Dabby January 9, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Yes Carl, that was my point, thanks for helping me make it.
    I do not think the Bakefits design is any better at all than what is already made here.

    The whole point of my post is simply:

    Support products made here first, or at least as much as from over the pond.
    That is really all I was saying…..
    It was not negative in any manner.
    The band wagon comment was referring to the fact that people here see or hear about something, and that is all they know.
    Most do not know much or at all about American cargos,
    But they have read here many time about the Dutch ones, so that is what they will buy.
    If they heard more about, and saw more, American Cargos, that is what they would want to buy.
    We are not perpetuating the right things…

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  • todd January 9, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    I don’t think the Bakfiets we’re bringing in is perfect, either, Dabby. I think you’re pretty bold in advancing your opinion that they’re no better than current US-made alternatives, though, particularly for the kid carriage application we have foremost in mind. Or have you ever ridden one? We’ve ridden the closest competitors. Do you really prefer the steep seat-tube mountain-bikey ergonomics and high-trail steering of, say, the HPM rig? Have you ever attempted to contact HPM? Talked with an owner like Joel about them? http://www.blackbirdsf.org/bikes/

    I really like Mike Flanigan’s ~$3.5K Frontaloadontome, but how do you suppose it stacks up to a much cheaper Bakfiets as a car replacement in Portland for a family with several kids? http://www.antbikemike.com/images/joefrontal.jpg vs. http://www.bakfiets.nl/album/ (sorry flash). Which, indeed, can do more to perpetuate “the right things”?

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  • Richard Wilson January 9, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Dabby –

    I beg to differ. For my purposes – year-round safe hauling of small children, groceries/household/garden supplies, running errands or leisurely poking around town – I find the Bakfiets to be far superior in build quality, comfort, ridability, reliability and design than any of the other American made alternatives that are available (readily or not) on the market, and I know the market well. I saw the Dutch Bakfiets and that’s what I wanted to buy. In fact, I don’t see anything in the American market with remotely the amount of versatility, comparable load capacity or maneuverability as the Bakfiets no matter what the cost. That is, for my purposes

    Besides, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a truly 100% American born, bread and manufactured bicycle of any style. Does such a beast exist? For example, the all American ANT Light Roadster I have hanging in my garage as put together by American Mike Flanigan: British saddle, Japanese seat post, pedals, cables, & BB, fenders, gear hub, handlebars German tires, Swiss spokes, French rims, Italian brakes, etc. The only truly American thing about it is the frame, fork, headset and chain guard, so we are an impossibly long way from an “American Cargo”. I’m not even sure the ANT’s tubing or the steel in the chainguard is 100% American ;-) Same goes for my “American” built touring bike and “American” built road bike. A custom bike is a marvelously intertwined synthesis of international know-how, creativity and craftsmanship and for me that’s a large part of their appeal.

    Let’s face it, the Dutch are way ahead of us on this one! I’m going to shamelessly champion it and, in the meantime, loan it out to micrometer and torch bearing Portland bike spies and let the market decide ;-)

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  • Jessica Roberts January 9, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    I love the family focus of Todd’s efforts. I’ve seen so many die-hard cyclists give in and buy a car — and then start to use it for 90 – 100% of trips — the moment their first child is born. It’s the hardest nut to crack, especially in our society obsessed with both working crazy hours and with overprogramming our children’s free time.

    It gives me hope to read about Todd’s efforts, and Richard’s bakfiets blog, and Alan Durning’s “Year of Living Car-Free” adventure (http://www.sightline.org/research/sprawl/res_pubs/durning-carless).

    Good luck!

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  • Dabby January 9, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Once again, you missed the point.
    I was simply challenging you to sell American cargos right next to Dutch ones.
    I simply used a long winded way of putting it.

    And, I do like the steep seat tube ergonomics of such cargo’s.
    And I am very much friends with Joel, as his is one of the bikes I have been referring to.
    And yes, they do break, as stress cracks happen in the long run to most long wheel base bikes, especially when truly used for cargo..

    But Joel’s bike (which I think belongs to Robert actually) is exactly one of the cargo’s I would like to own……

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  • Carl January 10, 2007 at 9:45 am

    We’re comparing a 3/4 ton pickup truck to a minivan, here. Robert’s cargo bike, that I lust over as well, is based on Danish long johns which aren’t designed to haul people. They’re designed to haul cargo, and lots of it. In fact, the old Danish ones have load ratings painted on the side like commerical trucks. The Bakfiets, on the other hand, seems to take that old design, and targets northern European soccer moms by putting a big, easily-covered box in the cargo area, relaxing the geometry a bit and trying to keep it relatively light. They’re both great for what they do. I wouldn’t toss a toddler on the front of a long john and I wouldn’t haul bricks with a bakfiets.

    So, that raises the question: does Clever Cycles plan on bringing us a pickup truck as awesome as their minivan?

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  • Richard Wilson January 10, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Interesting point Carl, however I would argue that the Bakfiets is not as much a soccer mom vehicle as its product positioning would suggest. I use my Bakfiets like a pickup all the time, just fold up the kid seat and you’ve got a very capacious, sturdy cargo box that lends itself very well to a wide variety of loads. I’ve hauled firewood, giant pumpkins, potting soil, huge loads of Goodwill discards, lumber from the rebuilding center, and yes, even bricks, and find the cargo box to be very utilitarian – much more so than the welded tubing cargo frames found on many frontally loaded American cargo bikes which are unwieldy for items not packed in their own boxes or rubbermaid containers. It seems to me the cargo areas on those bikes primarily work best for the type of parcels/packages messengers carry, not loose loads of smaller or awkwardly shaped, heavy items. Henry WorkCycles sells a cargo version of the Bakfiets which simply has a different box on it, the base frame and components are exactly the same, so it’s conceivable that you could have a Bakfiets with 2 boxes (kid and cargo) and switch back and forth as necessary, or, as I plan to do, use the kid box for everything until kids outgrow it and then build a custom cargo box or two later – I’m thinking a flatbed and a lidded box would do nicely. So the Bakfiets is both pickup and minivan, it just depends how you dress it.

    Weight-wise, once I am hauling in the neighborhood of 175 lbs. I really don’t want to pedal around with much more than that as even modest inclines become fairly monumental to climb – at least without a StokeMonkey. Jonathan should be able to attest to this as we hauled each other across from NE to SE a few weeks ago in my unassisted bike. While it was certainly within the realm of possibility, it wasn’t easy to push 175-200lbs. up hills and still have enough wind to carry on a conversation. Downhill was fun, though, especially at night with the whirrrrr of the dynamo. It’s not so much that the bike’s handling degrades as it is just a bear to push more weight than that in all the the flattest of neighborhoods.

    The Monark Long-John, which is no longer made and appears to be the best of the Long-John breed according to what I’ve read, has a slightly higher frontal load capacity rating if you need to haul an extra 20lbs.

    And who would want anything _but_ a deliberate, relaxed geometry when hauling 200lbs around town in traffic??? There’s a reason Freightliner doesn’t build sporty 18 wheelers.

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  • todd January 10, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Carl, you’re right that the Bakfiets is more about kids than bricks, but I wouldn’t hesitate to haul bricks in it. It’s not light; in fact I think it’s heavier than the HPM rig, thanks mainly to the massively reinforced boom. The handling is surprisingly light though thanks to the uncommonly low-trail steering (steep, not “relaxed” head angle). The seat angle is relaxed and the bottom bracket low for ease of getting a stabilizing foot down at stops, for getting all the weight off your hands, and for ease of generating good power while seated and at relaxed cadences. It’s a serene ride. For a sportier feel I’d recommend a longtail over a longjohn.

    Merchandising will change over time. One likely direction will be locally-developed alternatives to the wood box, which can be much lighter and perhaps less sharply focused on family use.

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  • todd January 10, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    …richard’s and my posts crossed. what he said.

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  • Oregon Cycling January 11, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    To clarify some stuff about Oregon workbikes: The HPM (Human Powered Machines) bikes are indeed made here in Eugene, at the Center for Appropriate Transport, where Oregon Cycling is also published.

    We have been watching the ongoing discussion on using cargo bikes for family use with some interest. Human Powered Machines is known in the messenger world for its cargo bikes, but people have also been using the Long Haul as a private family vehicle for years.

    We have a page on our website describing how people use the Long Haul for child transportation, with pictures:


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  • todd January 12, 2007 at 9:28 am

    That’s good to hear! Would HPM like to display one at our store (also looking at Spring ’07)?

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