Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on October 24th, 2008 at 3:32 pm
Before I took it around the block a few times (including once with 250 pound Phillip in the cargo box) I asked Phillip how things were going with the business. He said they were very busy at the Manifest show and that they’ve already got a few orders on the books. Right now, his partner (and builder of the bikes) Jamie Nichols, is working through an eight-bike run.
Needing more breathing room to work, Phillip says they’ve moved into a new shop space, doubling their square footage.
I also asked Phillip if they’d run into any legal issues in creating the bike. When I wrote about Metrofiets back in February, a few commenters — including WorkCycles owner Henry Cutler from Amsterdam — accused Metrofiets of patent infringement.
Phillip maintains, like he did back then, that he took special care to make sure the Metrofiets design did not infringe on any existing U.S. patents or copyrights and said there are no legal issues whatsoever.
When I finally got on the road, I immediately noticed the larger front wheel of the Metrofiets (it’s 4 inches larger in diameter than the Dutch version). It’s been a while since I rode an original bakfiets, but it seemed like steering the Metrofiets wasn’t quite as precise and crisp.
Out on the road, I could command the bike easily (after a few wobbles to get used to it). The frame has some liveliness/flex to it that I don’t recall on the the Dutch version. It’s nice to have some give in the frame material, and, combined with the larger front wheel, it adds a bit of shock-absorption.
After snapping a few pictures and attracting a lot of interest from employees of a nearby business (something that comes with the territory when riding such a beautiful bike), I swung back and had Phillip hop in the cargo bin.
At 250 pounds, he’s 50 over the stated weight limit of the box. I road around the block and even managed to snap a few pictures as I pedaled. I wouldn’t say it was easy to manage all the weight, but I wasn’t concerned at all that the bike couldn’t handle it.
Because it’s made locally and in small batches, the Metrofiets — which is already a very capable and well-designed bike — will only get better with age. Phillip said they’ve already added some gussets to the frame chassis. He also mentioned that they can customize the box design. One customer is getting a lock-box integrated into his, and Phillip says they’re making another with a fully closable lid over the top.
It’s great to see Phillip and Jamie’s business off and running. With Clever Cycles selling the original Dutch bakfiets and with a Chinese-made version just hitting the ground (more on that soon) Portland is fast-becoming an epicenter of cargo bikes in the U.S.
See a few more photos of my brief test ride in the gallery.