Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 22nd, 2013 at 8:48 am
The folks at Clever Cycles, those blessed souls that never fear a bold step into a new market, announced their Dutchtub rental program today. Remember Dutchtubs? Nine months ago when we broke the news that Clever Cycles was bringing these portable, wood-fired hot tubs to Portland, the story caused quite a buzz.
Now, after using the product for several months themselves and ironing out all the details with an insurance company, Clever Cycles is finally ready to launch a rental program. Starting today, you can order a Dutchtub and sit back and wait for a Clever Cycles "tubbist" to pedal one to your front door.
When I got word that Clever Cycles was close to launching this, I managed to get myself first in line to be a guinea pig. I knew that technically, Dutchtubs could be pedaled by bicycle; but I was eager to see how Clever Cycles co-owner Todd Fahrner would pull it off. As he pedaled his way north on Michigan Avenue, his calm smile said it all. It was a breeze to pull, and he was doing it with a Brompton!
While the Dutchtub is indeed portable, it doesn't come with any available means to tow it behind a bike. So Todd worked with local expert cargo bike fabricator Mike Cobb to develop a custom trailer and hitch system to pull the 160 pound tub. Cobb's trailer also doubles as a hand-cart. It worked beautifully as Todd and I were able to (relatively) easily maneuver the tub from the street in front of my house and into my backyard (keep in mind the tub needs a 5' 6" wide opening).
Once set on firm ground (a few pieces of scrap plywood under the tub's four legs helped), we were soon filling the tub from our garden house while stoking the fire with wood. The Dutchtub works via a very simple principle: A wood fire is wrapped by steel coils that are filled with water that constantly circulates through the tub and around the fire. As the coil draws in cooler water from deeper in the tub, the water is heated in the coils and shot into the top of the tub.
The fire was a bit finicky at first, but eventually we had it going strong and hot and the water soon followed suit. It takes a while to get the hang of how to balance the tasks of keeping the fire hot and filling up the tub. If you're not careful (like me on the second night after Todd left) and you let the fire die down, it will take much longer to heat the water. Even once I had the water pumping hot, I had to get out of the tub every twenty minutes or so to tend the fire and stir the tub to mix the hot water on top with the cooler water below.
If you're worried about getting the fire and heating process just right, Clever offers the services of their certified tubbist to stay as long as necessary on the first night.
Once I got the thing heated, and the fire was dialed-in, the Dutchtub warmed its way into my family's heart. The design is simple and welcoming. My daughters, 7 and 10, could easily step into the tub and they had a blast floating around in it. Unlike other hot tubs I've been in that have all sorts of knobs, dials, jets, curvy seats, and so on, the Dutchtub's minimalist design was quite pleasing. Inside there's just a convex circle in the middle of the tub where your feet can naturally rest. I never found myself searching for the right position. I just relaxed and enjoyed the peaceful soak and the novelty that it was happening in my own backyard.
A bonus with the Dutchtub is the open fire. Not only can you throw a wok on top of it (included in the rental) and cook up some food, but having a fire always seems to lead to good times. One night as we waited for the water to heat up (it takes several hours, so be forewarned and plan ahead!), we found ourselves chatting and having drinks around the fire with our neighbors.
When it was time for our Dutchtub to move on, Todd rolled back over (on a Surly Troll this time), hitched the tub to his seatpost and was on his way. As I watched him pull away I thought: This is pretty cool, a human-powered, wood-fired hot tub that you can use as your own for a few nights with no big commitment. I have a feeling those Clever Cycles tubbists are going to be pretty busy.
The rental rate for the Dutchtub is $400 for three nights plus a nominal refundable deposit (upon a clean return). For that fee you get the tub, all the accessories (of course), delivery and pickup, set-up, and wood fuel for one heating. The delivery area is pretty expansive as well, stretching on the east side from St. Johns up north to the Springwater down south and between the Willamette River and 82nd Ave. Clever Cycles will begin accepting reservations March 1st.
For more details on how to rent the Dutchtub for yourself, check out the full announcement on the Clever Cycles blog.