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An update on ‘Metrofiets’, the Portland-made bakfiets

Posted by on February 21st, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Jamie Nichols is a metal fabricator and a partner in “Metrofiets”, a new company that is building a bakfiets-style cargo bike in Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Since I first announced that a Portland-made bakfiets (Dutch for “box bike”) was in the works last May, the two men behind the project — 26 year-old Jamie Nichols and 38 year-old Phillip Ross — have made considerable progress.

The two partners will call their venture Metrofiets and they plan to soon offer a Portland-built, bakfiets-type cargo bike based on the proven design that has been in use in similar forms for nearly a century in Europe.

A bakfiets made in Portland - Metrofiets-3.jpg

A few days ago I paid a visit to the shop in Northeast Portland where metal fabricator Jamie Nichols gave me an update and a sneak peek at the bike.

So far, Nichols and Ross have completed the design and fabrication of the main frame portion of the bike as well as the cargo box, which is also being built locally. At first glance, the Metrofiets looks like a carbon copy of the bakfiets design made popular by Dutch builder Maarten van Andel — and that’s no accident.

Nichols and Ross studied the existing bakfiets design extensively and used it as a jumping-off point for their creation.

“They’ve been doing this basic design for 100 years, so it’s pretty well figured out already,” says Nichols, “so we’ve taken that and added a bit of flair.”

Part of that flair, evident in the wishbone seat-stays, is inspired by Nichols’ love of vintage American bicycles like the Monark Silver King that were popular in cities like Chicago in the 1930s and ’40s.

A bakfiets made in Portland - Metrofiets-4.jpg

A view of the chassis without the cargo box.

According to Ross and Nichols, the other differences between their Metrofiets and the traditional bakfiets are that their bike will have a larger front wheel (24-inch instead of 20-inch) and a higher headset, which they say will “change the geometry so that it tracks differently.” Nichols also says the larger front wheel will help prevent speed-wobbles and will make the bike easier to control. Another difference is that the Metrofiets is made from 4130 chromoly, while the traditional bakfiets is made from a heavier grade of steel.

Ross, who works on the business end of the company, says they will also offer many customization options. “We’ll have a basic version available,” he says, “but we will also be able to tailor the size to the needs of any individual.” According to Ross, customers will be able to choose dropout types, component mix, and even frame angles depending on the kind of ride characteristics they prefer.

Both Ross and Nichols, who met 12 years ago in a Portland coffee house and have been friends ever since, say they want to keep their venture “hyper-local” and sustainable. They’re working with local craftsmen to build the cargo box (the current one was made out of a single piece of plywood and future models might be constructed from a ballistic nylon material instead of wood), and a local mobile bike mechanic will do all their builds and maintenance.

Current plans are to build two units a month for the first full year of production. Both Ross and Nichols shied away from a specific ETA for the bikes and they aren’t currently taking orders, but a final production model will almost certainly be ready to go by this September, when Nichols plans to ride a Metrofiets in Cycle Oregon.

View a few more photos of my visit to the Metrofiets shop in the photo gallery.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

95 Comments
  • Scott February 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    4130 is steel…

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  • tonyt February 21, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    That\’s essentially what he said Scott. Chromoly is steel.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 21, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    \”4130 is steel…\”

    Thanks Scott. I edited that sentence a bit to make my point more clearly.

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  • Henry February 21, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I\’ll preface my comments by noting my biases: My firm WorkCycles sells the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike. I have contributed to its development and its designer, Maarten van Andel is a friend as well.

    I\’m all for local production when it truly delivers environmental and social benefits, and of course I want to see bicycles replacing automobiles as quickly as possible. However, this particular story doesn\’t resonate well with me.

    Long John format transport bikes with a carrier held low behind the front wheel do indeed date back to at least the 1930\’s. They have been built, always for cargo (not child) transport, in at least Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and England.

    However the design of Maarten van Andel\’s Bakfiets.nl Cargobike for family transport is very unique, dates from 2001 and certainly not in the public domain yet.

    Claiming that this bike is nothing more than one of many generic versions of an old \”proven design\” is deliberately misleading. It also ignores the numerous model protections, patents and copyrights that protect van Andel\’s design.

    Metrofiets has carbon-copied van Andel\’s bent, single-tube frame with the continuous reinforcement rib underneath and bottom-bracket shell mitered halfway into the main tube. Further their box appears to be utterly identical right down to the curvature of the back and little triangular steps on the side.

    It is not only extraordinarily unoriginal of Nichols and Ross, but their denial of van Andel\’s intellectual property suggests dishonesty too. At the risk of taking my criticism too far I\’ll add that Ross has contacted me on numerous occasions to collect design information without disclosing his identity, plans or intentions.

    Working toward one\’s own chosen ideals simply doesn\’t entitle violating the rights and ideals of others. That\’s what these guys are doing.

    Met vriendelijke groeten,
    Henry

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    • DrBeyk September 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Dear Henry,

      My English is not as good as yours but i can be very short about this. Your Workcycles cargobike is almost an idential copy of the Bakfiets.nl so who are you to talk about copying and intellectual property etc? The differences between Metrofiets and Bakfiets.nl are plenty, much more so than with your bike…

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  • Qwendolyn February 21, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I have no idea what any of that means (not even counting the part in Dutch,) but it sounds like somebody just got called out.

    Oh!

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  • a.O February 21, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Um, I\’m not sure either, but I think Henry is accusing our local boys of copyright and patent infringement. Is a cease-and-desist letter soon to arrive in their mailbox? Or does van Andel hold any such rights in the US? Is it even possible to patent such a design?

    Maybe I\’ll take up the practice of bike IP law. We certainly have enough creative local builders. And I bet lots of these guys haven\’t considered the need to legally protect their novel frame designs…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 21, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Henry,

    When I asked Phillip about this (after reading your comment on my Flickr photo) he assured me that he searched all U.S. and foreign patent libraries for any mention of the bakfiets design… and he found none.

    ..I\’ll let Phillip respond himself if he\’d like…

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  • tonyt February 21, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    \”Ross has contacted me on numerous occasions to collect design information without disclosing his identity, plans or intentions.\”

    uncool.

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  • stumptown February 21, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Hey all,

    If there are indeed there are valid US patents in existence then of course we honer it/them and build a different kind of cargo bike. However, to date, I have not found such a patent nor have I been informed by folks who would be in the know if they do or do not exist.

    Henry, if you have it or know of it please, email it to me.

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  • Jessica Roberts February 21, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    That was the first thing I wondered — how can you just flat out copy such a unique machine while still respecting both the letter and the spirit of copyright protection? I thought that the builders must have figured that out, but I am very concerned about Henry\’s response.

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  • Spencer February 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I guess they should be going after the Center for Appropriate Transport down in Eugene who has been building these since 1986.

    Why send money abroad. Buy Local!!

    http://www.catoregon.org/hpm/longhaul4kids.htm

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  • JayS. February 21, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I don\’t know about any of the intellectual property stuff but as I understand it you can only see a Bakfiets.nl Cargobike in like three shops in all of North America. These guys are starting on a project that this country needs, US built family bikes. If there prices are close I would probably choose a local producer regardless of the intellectual issues. I would also hope that as they produce more and get some ideas from custom orders a more individual style will emerge.

    More Family bikes!!! HOORAY

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  • West Cougar February 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Copyright applies to written and performance work. Patents apply to manufacturable designs.

    A *novel* bicycle design could be patented, but no part of it could be subject to copyright infringement.

    As for patentable aspects, there is a lot of possibility (things like the aforementioned reinforcing rib, bottom bracket miter, and box running board qualify), but that 1) doesn\’t mean they are patented and 2) doesn\’t mean the patents could not be easily designed around.

    All in all, intellectual property is incredibly specific and arcane. Trying to discuss and debate it in blog comments is fool-hardy.

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  • West Cougar February 21, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Though I should have added I respect Henry\’s desire to state his peace in the matter.

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  • Ayleen February 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    This is just part of Jamie\’s collection. You should see his other masterpieces.

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  • Matt February 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    #11 Spencer,
    The van Andel version is far better designed and more finished than the rough version that the Center for Appropriate Transport in Eugene makes. I talked with CAT folks at the Oregon Bike Builders show a few months ago and the CAT guy admitted that they had only made 3 of the kid carrying versions of their long hauler and they were showing the 3rd one at the show. He gave me a very hard time for buying the dutch bike, but I told him that the dutch version was better for these reasons:
    1. fully enclosed chain (no grease on the pants)
    2. very low step over height to mount the bike (the CAT version is like a standard road or mountain bike so a woman can\’t wear a skirt riding)
    3. a very well designed rain cover (CAT doesn\’t offer)
    4. availiblity- There is a market (proven by Clever Cycles) yet they have not started producing more bikes to meet the demand.

    His only response was that the \”top tube\” provides an excellent place to hang a u-lock from\”. Too bad he didn\’t realize that you don\’t even need a u-lock with the bakfiets because ithat is semi-built into the bike.

    The only thing that I see as a possible advantage to the CAT bike is the ability to have more gears and disc brakes, but I have not had too much of a problem with 8 speeds and drum/roller brakes. Disc brakes might be a problem with such a heavy bike (locking up the wheels on wet pavement?).

    My wife and I had long conversations about which one to buy and seriously considered buying from CAT but since they don\’t seem to respond to inquiries and their bike doesn\’t seem as user friendly for everyday family transport we bought dutch last June and have really enjoyed it.

    The nice folks at Clever Cycles are really doing a good job promoting and supporting this kind of product.
    Just my 2 cents.

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  • joel February 21, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    im totally stoked on everything about this except for two things:

    1. the 24\” front wheel. as someone who rides a long john style cargo bike for half the week, for work and play, carrying serious loads, the 20\” front wheel is one of the best things about this design – it means as low a center of gravity for the cargo bed as possible, with a minimum of long tubes – and it means the strongest possible front wheel – a big issue with front wheels on cargo bikes of this style is side loads on the front wheels while turning. theres a reason theyve always been 20\” wheels, and its not just tradition. while i would be stoked to find a reliable source for a locally made long john style cargo bike, and would likely even consider getting one if possible, a front wheel bigger than 20\” nixes the deal for me – but again, im thinking in terms of cargo (like 200-400 lbs of cargo) rather than groceries or children.

    2. the \”copyright\” \”issues\” – while i wont take up a position on either metrofiets or workcycles side of this argument – it does look like a lot of the bike metrofiets is building is straight-up copied from the bakfiets.nl design, which, while derived from traditional long john style cargo bike design, was a definite depature from that design as well, and frankly, thats a bit different than the copying CAT did from the traditional danish/dutch/english designs. (though hey, i will say the cat kid box design is nicked from *somewhere* familiar… 🙂 ) but i often have a tenuous relationship with the concepts of intellectual property, so ill say that my biggest issue in this department is the accusation of disingenous queries – that, if indeed the cause, is not cool, and bothers me more than the actual design copying.

    and for what its worth, child seats for the traditional long john style bikes (that hooked into their tubular cargo beds) were available for some time – so child-carrying was an option as well, though not a primary purpose.

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  • joel February 21, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    oh, and that being said, if they start work on a possible production cargo trike, a la dutch and danish examples from as far back as the 1890s, with a cargo bed as big as that of small pickup, color me VERY interested. the us could use a serious cargo trike (ie beyond the capabilities of a christiana or worksman)

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  • poser February 21, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    funny – I just wrote a review of the Bakfiets today:

    http://bike2work2live2bike.blogspot.com/2008/02/is-that-wheelbarrow.html

    as exiting as it may sound to have something so cool and functional built here locally, I have a hard time imagining that someone can produce as complete a package as the Dutch have with their Bakfiets cargobike. At least in just a year of production. It was a hard decision for my wife and I to buy a bike that had to be transported thousands of miles to get into our hands – but the goal of being car-free trumped that concern. Now that we have it, we couldn\’t be more pleased with the product. The Bakfiets has very obviously had Many Many years of design iterations, and every detail is well thought out and well executed. I took a good hard look at a CAT cargobike parked in front of People\’s Coop last year and I was shocked with how poorly it compared, feature for feature, with the Bakfiets. It costs and weighs about the same, so the only upsides are what? That it\’s more customizable and produced in Oregon? (Frankly I was surprised that the Bakfiets could compete with a local product since it had to be shipped so far.) For something I spend so much time riding, I\’d be hesitant to settle for an inferior product just because it\’s local. Inferior = my opinion; I\’m sure there would be plenty of folks who disagree with that statement. Jamie and Phillip have their work cut out for them. The bar has been set high by Bakfiets.

    I must admit though – I love those wishbone seat-stays. Very nice touch!

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  • joel February 21, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    in defense of the cat long haul, and as a cat long haul owner myself, i think that the long haul and the bakfiets.nl bike are designed for different purposes – very similar different purposes, but…

    the long haul is closer to being a pure cargo bike – that is the history of that particular design (which jan tweaked only slightly from its danish/dutch/english ancestors). the bakfiets.nl design, to me, seems to have a more family-oriented design, more built around hauling groceries, children etc. the box, to me, is a limiting factor in load-carrying capability – thats the same issue i have with the optional lockable box on the cat long haul. for large or odd size cargo, a plain platform is better, hands-down, and this is the strength of the long haul and its precursors.

    i have my quibbles with the long haul, but its not an inferior product – just designed for a slightly different purpose. for what i use my long haul for, i would not choose a bakfiets.nl bike – not unless it had a platform instead of the box, and had disc brakes and more gears – but thats me.

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  • Cecil February 21, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    \”If there are indeed there are valid US patents in existence then of course we honer it/them and build a different kind of cargo bike. However, to date, I have not found such a patent nor have I been informed by folks who would be in the know if they do or do not exist.\”

    So, are you saying you would not feel obligated to honor a Dutch patent? You might want to contact an IP lawyer, and you might want to do it quickly.

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  • joel February 21, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    even if there is a dutch patent, wouldnt all the ip hoo-ha in the world be a moot point until it hits production with a patent-infringing design? i mean, arent they still in the prototyping stage? of course, theres probably some \”with-intent-to-produce\” mumbo-jumbo out there in ip law land…

    really, theres a limited number of basic designs possible within the constraints of this particular cargo bike design. the only basic difference between the bakfiets.nl frame (exclusive of differences in the cargo box/platform) and that of the traditional long john, from what ive seen, is the absence of a top tube. theres some other little tweaks going on there, but thats the only major one from where i sit – most all the other differences are nitpicking, in my book. but hey, im not an ip lawyer – im just a guy who rides bikes, and realizes that virtually every bike on the road is a design ripoff of something else.

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  • Dabby February 21, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    While I have for a while been calling for more American made cargo\’s to be made available, instead of supporting and importing over priced, lower quality European tanks, I must say:

    This is a self proclaimed copy, with design changes that, as pointed out by Joel (who very much knows what he is talking about on this and many other matters) are less than effective to the overall performance of this style of bike.

    And I strongly agree with Joel that the smaller, stronger front wheel is, and has been used, for very good reason, and should continue to be the standard.

    And then to justify it by stating that it is OK, simply because there is no American patent on it?

    I mean, they are in Europe. Who is to know? Well, it appears everyone, if not now, then soon enough. Maybe there are no lawyer\’s in Europe?

    It sounds more reasonable to put more work into it, take the time, and come up with your own functional, and possibly better version?

    One that you can call your own. And actually feel proud to put your name on, and offer to people in your own home town.

    What is the word I am looking for?

    Plagiarism?

    Yeah I think that is the one.

    Though the admission of doing so means it does not exactly fit the definition of the word, a rose of the same color might smell as \”sour\”?

    I am sure with a little more work, you could come up with some fine, Portland \”designed\” cargo\’s, as well as Portland made.

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  • sh February 21, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I am sure with a little more work, you could come up with some fine, Portland \”designed\” cargo\’s, as well as Portland made.

    I think Dabby\’s thought is the perfect, most succinct response possible to this post.

    While Metrofiets may have indeed done their best version of a patent search on the bakfiets, they are borrowing from a now iconic design – a design that another designer worked diligently to perfect. That this designer happens to live in Holland is immaterial.

    US patent or not, they are employing the tactics of companies like Pottery Barn who \”borrow\” ideas from other designers, tweak them just a bit, then sell under their own banner for profit.

    Legalities aside, the nature of this feels really wrong, no matter the spirit or intention behind it.

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  • a.O February 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I think the reason no one has found a patent for this design is that it is unpatentable. Specifically, my lay understanding of patent law is that a design has to be sufficiently innovative to be deemed \”non-obvious,\” or a similar adjective. A bike with a big square bucket would probably fail this test, as I understand its application. That\’s not a judgment of the design, just a (barely) educated opinion on patentability.

    An example of a patentable bike-related invention would be a deraileur, which is useful and not obvious.

    Is it immoral to copy this design?

    Is it immoral for any bike builder to fuse two triangles of metal together, put in a fork, two wheels, and handlebars? Somebody invented that design.

    Imagine how much bikes would cost if one person could patent the design. That company would be called Microsoft, and…

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  • Henry February 21, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    I\’m pleasantly surprised to not have been flamed out of Cascadia yet. Thank you Portland. I essentially agree with the spirit of many of the comments above.

    If Metrofiets were busy building a unique bicycle, and preferably doing so without underhanded tactics I would support their project wholeheartedly.

    However this is not the case. They\’re not just building another bicycle of a basic archetype, they are building a knock-off that mimics another\’s original work from its broad appearance and unique construction to many tiny details… and that they attempt to justify this with various vague excuses ranging from local production to disclaiming IP rights. Legally defensible or not, that\’s not cool.

    There\’s some confusion about the intellectual property laws involved so here\’s some added info:

    I\’m also no IP expert and I do not know (nor would it be appropriate to share here) precisely what protections van Andel holds on the Bakfiets Cargobike and its various special components. Its worth noting, though, that the Cargobike has already been successfully defended against Chinese made knock-offs less identical than the Metrobike prototype.

    I do, however, develop products and have a basic understanding of the protection possibilities. Its not as simple as a.O states: There are utility patents that cover the function of processes and mechanisms, design patents that cover ornamental or non-essential designs, and copyrights can indeed be used to protect original work beyond literature, art and so forth. How these can be constructed, combined and defended in various regions is very complicated business.

    -Henry

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  • Garlynn -- undergroundscience.blogspot.com February 22, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Golly, lawyers aside, I can\’t help but imagine that this situation is sort of like when the \”safety bicycle,\” for instance, was first released. Probably there was one firm that developed it, and had a corner on the market for a little while. But, pretty soon, they were being made by all kinds of firms, all over the world. Why? Because the design just made sense. And a few tweaks to the geometry here, and the materials there, and pretty soon you\’ve got the modern bicycle.

    Sam with the bakfiets. There is absolutely no logical reason why this type of machine should only be manufactured by one firm, halfway around the world. If it\’s a viable idea, it should be produced widely, with many variations. The fact that our local firm is using a different grade of steel, a different-size front wheel and different geometry for the seat stay indicates that this already is not a true copy, but rather a variation on the design.

    So, Metrofiets, go forth, be fruitful and multiply lots of locally-made bike-trucks. The citizenry needs them, and if the market supports it, competition will flourish.

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  • racer x February 22, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Well to jump into the fire on this…I love my bakfiets.

    I just hate to see the 2nd rate copies now on the street in Amsterdam. So having said that … there is room for design evolution that the Portland designers could make…perhaps buy the beer and brats at the Amnesia pub for a brainstorming session among local bakfiets users…so that we avoid only lawyers making a profit off of this issue. I would hope that the market deepens (vs. flattens out) so that all may make a living off of this type of bike while the design improves/ localizes.

    In Amsterdam there is a wide variety of box materials and shapes in use. Perhaps this is one area to start on.

    My wooden box here in Portland tends to mold over in the winter on the edges…when I store it outside or in garages with dirt floors.

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  • racer x February 22, 2008 at 12:27 am

    And to Metrofiets…avoid the short box…the long box is the way to go …and simplify the design.

    Perhaps just make a flat bed?

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  • Henry February 22, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Garlynn,
    I would agree wholeheartedly if your statements were true but they\’re not and they miss the spirit of my argument.

    This is not a question of \”this type of machine\”, as it is universally recognized that cargo-carrying bicycles of this basic format date back many decades. CAT\’s Long Haul, for example, is a modern update of one of these classic designs and its made in Oregon. I admire CAT\’s activities.

    The Metrofiets, however, is an extremely literal copy of a unique design by another individual, not a variation on a generic archetype. Changing a grade of steel or the size of a wheel do not negate this.

    As another commented above Metrofiets need to develop their own unique bicycle and to do so with integrity. Then Portland will have a valuable product to be proud of, as Amsterdam does now.

    -Henry

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  • racer x February 22, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Or use a historical \’cross\’ step thru frame style to avoid the bakfiets step thru frame style.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson February 22, 2008 at 1:23 am

    I hate all of this intelectual property crap. I am planning on building an extremely unique bike that will require multiple patentable innovations. I will indeed patent them, BUT I will license the patents for free to anyone who will also let people use their patents for free. Those who won\’t release their patents won\’t get to use my innovations. Intelectual property is an old fashioned concept from monopolists of the past, and it needs to die.

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  • joel February 22, 2008 at 6:16 am

    \”The Metrofiets, however, is an extremely literal copy of a unique design by another individual, not a variation on a generic archetype. Changing a grade of steel or the size of a wheel do not negate this.\”

    ok, ill bite. *what* exactly, outside of the specific construction of the cargo bed, is unique about the bakfiets? i havent lined one up next to my long haul and reviewed differences, point by point, so id really like to know. as i mentioned earlier, the only significant difference i see at cursory glance, is the lack of a \”top tube\” in the cockpit area. beyond that, the van andel bakfiets, to me, in terms of its basic frame structure, is a simple variation of a generic archetype itself.

    im not saying it should be outright copied because of this, im just really wondering what it is that makes the frame, specifically, so unique as compared to the long haul, or traditional long john style cargo bike frame – cause im just not seeing that much difference when i look at it.

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  • Moo February 22, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Oh brother- just go out and build your freakin\’ bikes!

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  • the other steph February 22, 2008 at 8:23 am

    racer x, that is one excellent idea you have going there with the \”Portlander Bakfietsen Familie\” beer and brats brainstormfest at Amnesia (or other). the demand is here, the question is out, and Portland has specific cargo needs that local shops could fill and then some. maybe ask some of the local siblingren from NAHBS fame to put in their 2 on the matter, and the result would be something that would put IP and other bandied-about two-letter acronyms to rest for good and sure. at the very least, what a fun gathering that would be! i have but a small trailer, but perhaps there is room for the odd wallflower?

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  • cliffordu February 22, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Has anyone from the local company called up the Bakfiets company and said \”Hey, is this an infringement of any of your patents or copyrights??? DO you mind if we cop your design?….Do you think we are weasels?\”

    I bet they have telephones in Sweden, or Denmark, or wherever, AND, I bet they can find a kid somewhere who actually speaks English, to translate.

    Or, we could all just keep guessing.

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  • Jeff Ong February 22, 2008 at 10:48 am

    a.O. — I\’m sure you know what you\’re talking about wrt intellectual property rights. I do know that some \”designs\” (e.g., typefaces), while not patentable, are protected under trademark or copyright laws, in that very derivative designs can be mistaken for the original by the marketplace. Would that be relevant here? Like how Microsoft finally had to settle with Apple for ripping off OS interface elements?

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  • Henry February 22, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Joel,
    With all due respect this is not the forum for the detailed technical discussion that would ensure if I tried to answer your question above. I noted some of the key similarities between Metrofiets and Bakfiets in my first comment #4.

    There is always a subjective element in the concept of imitation but given the many ways to design and construct a bicycle of any given format one can state with reasonable certainty that van Andel went to extraordinary lengths to create a bicycle unique from its predecessors, while Ross and Nichols have made little to do so. Instead they justify their plagiarism (yes, a good word!) by denying the originality of the bike they\’ve faithfully copied.

    It was this dishonest approach that motivated me to write my first comment.

    -Henry

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  • Spencer February 22, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Henry,

    Yeah you are getting flammed. It\’s OK, it just shows everone\’s love.

    If we extrapolated your logic, the automobile would have never extended beyond the Model T. Instead, competitors came out with similar designs. Some were better, some were worse. The market shifted to the better, and then everyone incorporated the better inovations.

    Same thing with cargo bikes. They have been around forever. Bakfeit, just happens to be at the forefront of integrating the best concepts of design into one product and are currently setting the standard. Because of this they have better market presense, high quality and are the standard that everyon compares against.

    Accordingly, as the market grows there will be a greater number of companies, new technologies and new materials and the afore mentioned standard will shift. That is the beuty of the open market.

    With respect,

    Spencer

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  • Donovan February 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    If anyone knows of someone who has a used one of these bikes, and wants to sell, email me at donovan at gmail dot com. I would love to buy a new one, but they are out of my price range.

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  • Duncan February 22, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    There is a simple answer to this issue- let metrofeldts produce the bike, and bakefeldt can sue them… And a patent court can decide.

    Personaly I think that a bike is a bike, and beyond a major engineering innovation, a patent might be hard to hold… perhaps a trademark, but I would think the larger front wheel would change the look enough to make that moot.

    Secondly, there is another aspect to this- I think the OP is pissing in his own cornflakes. The more cargo bikes there are out there being used, the more people will see them and think \”that could be me\” and start looking at bikes, then bakefeldt could compete on design, construction, finish. All the eurobikes I have seen have a level of finish that is hard to beat. Instead the OP would rather be the only seller of the design, and own a smaller market.

    This is not the forum to debate patents- there is a forum and it is called court.

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  • Dabby February 22, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    This discussion here is should not be so much about patent law, as about respect for another\’s many years of hard work.
    Which is a moral issue.

    I am responding to above comments that this is not the place for such discussion.

    The patent side of it is the legal issue, which would not be solved for many years. I have read that the actual patent process (applying for) at this time is expected to be 7 years, and the legal battle to protect a patent is at least half that, as our family business is right now dealing with.

    While the moral battle can very well be quickly fought in a public forum.

    We have all learned that as a group, our growing number of cycling voices can sway public opinion, if not even just in small ways.

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  • Duncan February 22, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I still say that the more cargo bikes there are out there, the more interest there will be in them and the more will be sold, and that all the manufacturers will benefit in the long run. I would never have considered such a thing until I saw one in person, so the more there are out there the better. In the long run Bakfeldt could be create a win win situation out of this.

    It sounds to me as if the local boys have come up with a new take on an old idea, and they should be allowed to compete in the open marketplace on the basis of their product, not on the accusations of someone who has an admitted bias.

    There is nothing wrong with improving on an existing design, taking the improvements of the past and adding your own, unless such incorperations are ilegal under aplicable (ie patent) law. I am not one to know the nuances of patent law, and barring a legal finding to the contrary, see nothing wrong with the design mentioned.

    I consider myself a moral nd ethical person, and would have no issue with purchasing the bike in question- so clearly this is a place where reasonable, moral and ethical people can disagree, which is why we have courts in which these arguments can be made. I will withold judgement against the local builders until such time as they are found guilty of patent/trademrk infringment, because I believe that unless they can be found guilty, they are innocent of ilegal acts.

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  • Dabby February 22, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I am not as morally correct as I would like to be, by the way.

    I mean, who really is?

    I was mainly pointing out that the court of public opinion tends to be more moral than practical, quicker to act, and certainly does not wait to learn all the facts to reserve judgment.

    That is why, in my opinion, an early article about a product such as this, seeming to be based much too closely on another, is generating more negative opinions than positive.

    Yet I will still not sit around and wait for the overtly long patent law and appeals process, to tell me what I should think.

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  • joeb February 22, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I think Henry may have gotten more heat if the last half of the name had been in English and the there was something distinguishing about the box. I want to see Portland made cargo bikes all over the city. But my gut reaction was a little bit of discomfort that the name Metrofiet and the box are so close to Bakfiet.

    I believe my discomfort is unfounded, that 18 custom bike makers in Oregon, some with 2+ year waiting lists, aren’t encroaching on each other’s market and have enough uniqueness in their offerings to avoid infringement and that, all said, Metrofiet is also ok. If there are issues, they should be able to be worked out before it goes to market. When I am ready for a cargo bike, I’ll want to buy local and hope to see many original designs from this company. Perhaps an interchangeable box with a flatbed conversion, watertight ‘picnic’ box, shopping cart with ambulance gurney wheel extenders… ok… enough.

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  • joel February 22, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    henry –

    \”With all due respect this is not the forum for the detailed technical discussion that would ensure if I tried to answer your question above.\”

    and why not? what is the forum? obviously, something needs to be said to clarify exactly where the line is drawn as far as concerns whether or not a similar style of cargo bike is an ip infringement… stating that there are unique developments in the van andel design, but then being unwilling to state what they are in the same forum doesnt do it for me.

    you stated earlier that there are patents out there regarding this frame design – metrofiets states theyve looked for them in the us patent system with no luck. perhaps now would be the time to lay them out, and nip this whole thing in the bud?

    joeb –

    ive said it already – \”bakfiets\” is a dutch generic, applying to ANY cargo-hauling bike. that van andel chose it as the name for his non-generic design was, well, inviting trouble in that department. complaining about the name is like being bummed about someone elses bike being called \”city bike\” when yours is called \”cargo bike\”. its probably defensible under ip law, im sure, but its damn silly, even if it is.

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  • roadrager February 22, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I love what the \”bakfiets\” represent. I hate the smug they create in slick overpriced bike boutiques.

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  • SkidMark February 22, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Henry,

    Just imagine how Tom Ritchey felt the first time he saw a Specialized Stumpjumper.

    How many beach cruisers look just like Schwinn\’s \”patented\” cantilever frame?

    How many American , British, and Italian designs have been \’ripped off\” by China, Taiwan, and Japan? They don\’t even wait until copyrights and patents run out. If the Bakfiet design is so old, maybe the design is public domain anyways.

    There are only so many ways to do a monotube frame, a reinforcing rib, and a wishbone rear end. These are utility bikes, so the flourishes of fancy lugwork and unique tube junctures would just drive the price through the roof and be unnecessary. I like the idea of an American made utility bike, hell I like the idea of ANY American made bike, I don\’t know how you can poo-poo that.

    4130 is a Chromuim Molybdenum alloyed steel. It is a far cry from the 1020 carbon steel that most mass-produced bikes are made of. I may be alone on this but I always refer to it as Chromoly
    because I don\’t think the word steel does it justice, steel is what Huffy\’s are made of. Same with Reynolds, Columbus, Deaedacchi(sp), etc.

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  • SkidMark February 22, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I have doubts about a 20\” wheel being weaker than a 24\” wheel, if both are using the same technology. Most freeride and downhill bike are 26\” and some are 24\” and the wheels hold up to abuse that a Bakfiet will never experience. As far as center of gravity goes that is determined by the height of the backbone and not the wheel size. A larger wheel is going to have less bump-steer. A motorcycle steering damper/dampener would be a nice touch, most are adjustable.

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  • joel February 22, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    skidmark – shorter spokes (number of spokes being equal) = stronger wheel under wind-up and side loads. cargo bike wheels experience an *entirely* different set of loads than freeride/downhill wheels. on a long john type design, torque on the rear wheel pulls spokes out of hub flanges and rims, not to mention tearing tire sidewalls apart. front wheels get crazy side loads from turning with heavy loads. both wheels can have issues with the weight of the load literally splaying the rim down its center. the rim i just took off my rear wheel was splitting in half down its center and cracking along the space between the spoke holes and brake surface. i put that same wheel completely out of true and round carrying a 400lb load of firewood rounds a while back – in 15 short portland blocks – simply from the forces exerted in riding that distance. cargo bike wheels need to hold up to abuse that freeride and downhill bike wheels will never experience. each has something to gain from the experience of the other, mostly in the form of all-around stronger parts, but the stresses are most assuredly different, though equally damaging.

    my center-of-gravity comment was more a comment on the fact that a large front wheel required a *longer* boom tube (suporting the cargo bed/box) to achieve the same center of gravity, and a longer boom tube is either heavier or weaker than it needs to be with a 20\” wheel. i am completely convinced that for cargo bikes of the cycletruck/filibus/long john vernacular, a 20\” wheel is absolutely the way to go. theres a reason its been the historical wheel size of choice for these bikes.

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  • Opus the Poet February 22, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    A 20\” wheel is not weaker than the 24\”, it\’s stronger under axial loads. That\’s why tadpole trikes use 20\” and even 16\” wheels. The smaller wheel allows (requires, actually) a larger angle from the hub to the rim, which places a lower stress from loads in the axial direction.

    Of course I\’m just a guy that took one year of mechanical engineering and dropped out to become a computer programmer.. and who now builds recumbents in his garage…

    Opus

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  • Henry February 23, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Dear Portlanders,
    One more hopeless attempt to clear up some of the confusion and then I\’ll return to designing bicycles in Amsterdam:

    Spencer 39: At least its very polite flaming 😉 You\’re essentially using the claim that the \”greater good\” overrides personal rights. If I remember my social studies classes well this is contrary to the founding principles of most western societies and also the source of some of history\’s greatest tragedies. Its also not fair to reduce \”my logic\” (which it isn\’t) concerning a single design-to-design case to an industrywide generalization.

    Duncan 41: Am I \”the OP\”? \”Original Poster\” I guess? I\’ve already stated my desire to see as many practical bicycles replacing cars as possible. After all that\’s what I do for a living. I also noted that I support CAT\’s activities here. They (and more recently Gazelle too) build bikes of this general format that are absolutely not copies of any specific individual\’s work.

    Though I sell Bakfiets Cargobikes (amongst other brands) I don\’t own the firm nor have much exclusivity: there are 23 other dealers in Amsterdam alone and perhaps 200 in the Netherlands.

    Thanks for supporting my comment that this is not the forum to debate patents.

    Duncan 43, Joel 46: \”It sounds to me as if the local boys have come up with a new take on an old idea\”

    This is precisely where those local boys wish to confuse the issue. The \”old idea\” is a double-tube frame \”Long John\” type bike for cargo hauling. Dozens of firms and individuals have made these for at least 70 years. This design is certainly now legally and spritually in the public domain.

    Beginning around 2000 Maarten van Andel began to design a special bike to so that he, his wife and other families could more conveniently and safely carry their kids, groceries and stuff around Amsterdam. The result was a number of bicycles of which the Cargobike Long is the best known and the subject of this discussion. Maarten named his company Bakfiets.nl which some of you have rightly noted is rather generic.

    Though is is possibly too broad a category to defend legally, the Cargobike is unequivocally the first application of the Long John format (cargo low behind small front wheel) specifically for child/family/household transport.

    Van Andel\’s went to great lengths to make the Cargobike not only ideally suited for its purpose, but also to differentiate it from its predecessors. As is necessary for various types of product protection this included both unique functional and ornamental elements. A handful of examples: monotube frame with continuous reinforcing rib, a particular shape of box with incorporated little steps and backrest in specific, non-obvious forms, four point \”Stabilo\” parking stand. These elements, all new and unique, were also applied in van Andel\’s other bikes, creating a clear familial identity.

    If you compare photos you see that the Metrofiets is thus not an evolution of the public domain Long John, but a copy of a very specific and unique bicycle. Metrofiets also does not, for example, concede that the Cargobike\’s frame construction or box steps are an unavoidably good feature and then creatively attempt to incorporate them into their own design. No, instead they\’ve taken the opposite tack: copying the entire package, changing a couple details to call it their own and then seeking to justify it by denying van Andel\’s creative input. Along the way Ross has been deceptive in his \”research\”, contacting me and others without disclosure of identity or intentions. Sure, we all want to see many of these bikes on the street but Ross/Nichols behavior here is simply disgusting.

    Van Andel struggled for a number of years to get these bikes accepted by parents, dealers and into moderate production. By about 2005 it was running smoothly and Cargobikes were becoming a regular sight in Amsterdam. In 2006 the imitations and \”Cargobike inspired bikes\” began to appear. These have varied from cheap, Chinese knock-offs to creative takes on the theme. The Cargobike has already been successfully defended against the Chinese knock-offs in the Dutch courts and its worth noting that these were approximately as close in design to the Cargobike as the Metrofiets appears to be becoming. No attempt has been made to stop bikes creatively inspired by the Cargobike but with unique identities.

    roadrager 47: Bikes don\’t create smugness, people do. In Holland Cargobikes are sold in all sorts of bike shops, few of which I\’d call boutiques. My own shop, WorkCycles is as far from a boutique as one can imagine: lots of special bikes packed into a small space, prominent and highly organized workshop, concrete floor where kids draw with street chalk.

    Its unfortunate that what cannot avoid being a somewhat expensive bike in NL (big, quality materials, special parts, labor intensive, small production compared to major makes…) ends up being very expensive in the US. Its primarily a function of the dollar-euro exchange rate but import duties and transport don\’t help either.

    I think I\’ll have to end my input here, so flame away Portland!

    Met vriendelijke groeten,
    Henry

    ps: If you want to learn more about me and/or WorkCycles you can look around the following sites and also check out the opinions of others out there:

    http://www.workcycles.com
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl

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  • Scott Mizée February 23, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Thanks for contributing, Henry. This has been a long and interesting read for us cargo bike riders.

    If y\’all want to see more bakfeitsen photos, click here:
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/bakfiets/pool/

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  • joel February 23, 2008 at 7:22 am

    henry –

    im not necessarily arguing from the point of view that the metrofiets guys have come up with a new twist on an old idea. i am well aware that their design is blatantly inspired by/drawn from/plagiarized from van andels design.

    what ive been trying to get at is what exactly makes van andels design so different?

    to which i begin, now, to get an answer:

    \”Though is is possibly too broad a category to defend legally, the Cargobike is unequivocally the first application of the Long John format (cargo low behind small front wheel) specifically for child/family/household transport.\”

    bingo. and you are right (at least i hope!) – this is likely too broad a category to defend legally. i dont think that this is the aspect of the design you are trying to defend as uniquely van andel – again, i certainly hope not, for then you would lost all possibly sympathy from me, a large amount of which you currently have.

    but more importantly!

    \”Van Andel\’s went to great lengths to make the Cargobike not only ideally suited for its purpose, but also to differentiate it from its predecessors. […] If you compare photos you see that the Metrofiets is thus not an evolution of the public domain Long John, but a copy of a very specific and unique bicycle.\”

    here we go – i think what i am getting at this entire time is not the fact that substantial copying has gone on, but exactly how unique the van andel design is. so lets see:

    \”As is necessary for various types of product protection this included both unique functional and ornamental elements. A handful of examples: monotube frame with continuous reinforcing rib…\”

    ok, unique feature #1. youve got them there, as long as youre primarily focussing on the rib, not the monotube – and even then, the reinforcing rib is likely a logical progression from twin-tube designs, as it serves the same purpose.

    \”a particular shape of box…\”

    unique feature #2 – got em there too, though there are a somewhat limited number of possibilities there.

    \”…with incorporated little steps and backrest in specific, non-obvious forms\”

    unique feature #3 (or 2.5, depending on how you count it 🙂 ) – this, i cant seem to determine from the photos or discussion – but if either is there… although the baskrests/seats might be a bit tricky, cause from what ive seen, the seats are a pretty obvious form, just little benches…

    \”four point \”Stabilo\” parking stand.\”

    unique feature #4 – no way to tell if theyve got this, and really, this isnt that different from a normal long john stand – its just 2 legs sticking backward from the 2 legs the traditional stand already has – its a logical progression of design if you want to carry kids more comfortably, and attract wary cyclists 🙂 this is very similar to the design we came up with when building a prototype long john in around 2000.

    as i suspected, the biggest difference (in my eyes) comes in the area of the box itself.

    so, from my point of view, the metrofiets guys should progress from the following:

    1. realize that with a large enough diameter boom tube, the reinforcing rib is not necessary (i helped design a prototype long john around 2000 which had a nearly 2\” diameter 4130 boom tube and no reinforcement save at the point where it contacted the headtube. in both theory and practice, it would support a greater load than was possible for me to handle on the bike – ie 500+ lbs)

    2. trim back on the box design similarities, and for the love of god, dont include those steps! 🙂

    youre dealing with a bike design that has had one basic iteration for three-quarters of a century or more, and now only has two basic design variations. inspiration will, by necessity, come from one or both of these designs.

    to me, your argument, most importantly, boils down to the nature of the copying – did metrofiets, as alleged, inquire about design details in an intentionally deceitful manner, and are they attempting to hide the obvious source of their inspiration? if they did, i would find that reprehensible. you claim the former, and i doubt the latter. while they may have brushed off similarities a bit too casually, i would be surprised if they would claim their absence, especially not after all this discussion.

    otherwise, youre almost getting into \”look and feel\” territory, which i will proclaim silly – and then wonder why you havent gone after cat for their obviously van andel-inspired kid box.

    dont get me wrong, i totally emphasize with your frustration at the copying of the idea, and do not deny the act of copying occurred – its just that outside of intended purpose and specifics of box design, im not seeing anything that wouldnt be considered a logical progression to someone redesigning the long john, whether theyd seen a van andel bakfiets or not… and in portland, seeing them is inevitable.

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  • mike February 23, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Do the builders even own a Bak? Have they ridden it unloaded, loaded with kids, groceries, lumber, potting soil? In all types of terrain? In the rain, sleet, snow? Traffic? Uphill, downhill? Have they locked it up? Changed a flat (rear?), adjusted it? Have they taken it to pieces, rebuilt it, thought long and hard about it?

    Or did they \’climb all over\’ another cyclist\’s Bak? Taking measurements (with clear intent to copy), noting the geometry, etc. etc.

    Its one thing to purchase a similar product and ride it, abuse, and improve upon it to meet local conditions or to create a new design. It is quite another to look at photos and measure up a local bike to make a copy (in spirit or form) just like it, for sale.

    It this were a DIY project it would be cool. But this has very clearly been about starting a business – and from what I\’ve read here and on another blog, there doesn\’t seem to be all that much creativity going on.

    Kudos for wanting to start a local human powered machine business.

    Bad form to rip the design right from an existing product.

    Take the Bak, (and why not buy a long john, trio bike, CAT thing, etc…) break it down. Ride it. Learn all there is to know about the type of vehicle – how to handle it, how the kids get in and out, how the groceries slide around, how it handles at speed, etc. etc. etc. – and then build a cargo bike for families that makes sense from your experience with it uniquely tuned to your local environment.

    If it turns out the Bak is perfect and cannot be improved – honor it and work with the designer / company on licensing… if you guys really are bringing something new to the table – show me, and I might bite – but from the looks of it, its a copy – do some work – draw your own picture, don\’t just color in between the lines.

    I think it is great that there is enough interest and \’culture\’ out there that we can even be having this discussion – but with a background in the design / art world I say very very bad form on ripping on someones work. Do a remix, or a new iteration – but don\’t copy and call it your own – 24\” wheel and \’wishbone\’ or not. And options? What options do you propose – how will you know what works and what doesn\’t unless you have extensive ride / testing experience with the machines. These aren\’t fashion accessories or furniture – they are dynamically loaded objects that handle a wide variety of forces from the cargo, the pilot, and the environment. Be sure that what you throw on a bike built for kids and families and mom and dads and cargo can do the work – either engineer it – or find some crash test dummies.

    -Mike

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  • joel February 23, 2008 at 9:30 am

    what does it matter if they have a van andel or cat bike, or even real time riding one? maybe the cost of buying one (several thousand, however you look at it) is deemed prohibitive as compared to simply \”starting from scratch\” in the construction sense (certainly they havent started from scratch in the design sense – but no one building a bike, any bike, truly does) – the experiences gained as concerns cargo bike design are just as valid.

    hell, ive got as much time on a long john as the next person (probably more), and i dont know that i could translate all of my experiences into concrete information that would actually help the design process.

    theres no shame in liberally taking design cues from an existing, effective design – van andel did the same thing – the only differences are that van andels design is a greater step away from the original long johns than metrofiets design is from van andels, and that van andels design has been in the public eye for a fraction of the time that the original has been. i would be surprised if the basic geometry of the van andel design is radically different from that of a traditional long john – its geometry thats worked for decades, and theres no real reason to change it.

    these are bikes. coming up with something vastly original that isnt an infeasible \”concept bike\” is *very* hard to do – virtually everything we see today has been tried before, possibly multiple times, over the last 100+ years.

    the issue for me isnt that the copying occurred – it quite certainly did – but *how* metrofiets went about said copying, how many of those copied ideas could be reasonably expected to occur to someone if the van andel bakfiets didnt exist, and how they choose to credit (or not) their inspirations.

    and besides, the point that still seems to be missed is that this is still a *prototype*. from where i sit, all the plagiarism complaints in the world matter little until its a *production* model, available for purchase, with the same design and issues.

    and the important thing here for me is that this is a discussion that wouldnt have been happening even 10 years ago – that this much has been posted about a cargo bike design is happy news to me – perhaps we are starting to reach critical mass on load-carrying bicycles after all – maybe soon ill be able to get the full-size cargo trike i still dream of! 🙂

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  • SkidMark February 23, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I don\’t know what kind of rims are being used that they are splitting down the middle, but they obviously aren\’t strong enough. If it is just a regular XC rim, then maybe a downhill, jumping, or tandem rim(40 or 48 spoke) would hold up better. That could be why Worksman still uses steel rims and the Dutch bikes use stainless rims. If you are hauling around 400 lbs. I don\’t think a 5 lb. heavier wheel is going to matter.

    Maybe you engineering types can figure out what kind of side loads are generated when the weight of the rider is placed 4 feet in the air, like on a tallbike. Ya think that generates a bit of a side load? 😀

    I\’ll give you two words to think about the next time you are designing a cargo bike: perimeter frame.

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  • Scott Mizée February 23, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Ok… gotta admit that this is my favorite post in a long time. If after all these comments, you still want to read more, look at Jonathan\’s original Flickr post here.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bikeportland/2278107798/in/photostream/

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  • joel February 23, 2008 at 11:34 am

    the rim in question was a standard mtb rim, and granted, it was almost 2 years old, but ive seen this failure mode in multiple rims of various designs. these days, the rims of choice for serious cargo applications will be dh rims, admittedly – though its simply because theyre the beefiest, most massive things out there. the point was that the set of stress demands on a cargo bike are different, not lesser, than those of a dh/freeride bike. 40 or 48 spoke would be great, if you could get disc hubs for them. with burly rims, 36 is just fine.

    and 400 lbs is about the most anyone can practically handle on a long john – im not the strongest (or weakest) person in the world, but at that point, the issues become more those of balancing the bike while stopping and starting, and getting it on and off the kickstand. building a bike that can handle 400 lbs? handling said bike with 400 lbs, while stopped and standing astride or beside it? things get interesting 🙂

    worksman still uses steel rims cause theyre inexpensive work bikes about 50 years behind the times, designed for slow-speed use on a factory floor. rotational mass *always* matters 🙂

    and perimeter frame is a great idea – the downside to making the cargo box/bed a primary structural element is that it can restrict versatility – ie not so much with the interchangeable box/container/flatbed/etc, which is one of the nice things about the boom-type design. when the bike i mentioned earlier was made some years back, we considered a perimeter frame, but decided in the end on the standard boom type purely for its versatility in interchangeable cargo areas, and for its ease of construction – noting that it was perfectly strong to do the job (on paper, it would have supported well over 500 lbs) – the frances cargo bike at the nahbs used a perimeter frame, and was one of the coolest things at that entire show, though it was definitely designed with lighter cargo in mind.

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  • mike February 23, 2008 at 11:54 am

    \”what does it matter if they have a van andel or cat bike, or even real time riding one? \”

    Because if I\’m going to buy a bike (or offer them for sale in a shop) that I move about on, I\’d like to know that the person who built it actually has experience with it… rather than staying at a Holiday Inn Express the night before or reading about it on the internet.

    Sort of like a highway engineer designing a bike lane, or a commercial architect designing a house, or a lawyer designing and building anything.

    First hand knowledge of how the thing works over the long haul would be a great asset to these folks. $3 grand seems like a pretty small investment to make if your going to start a business based on another product. They might learn it will be hard to beat… they might find ways to improve it and make it their own.

    And for those that complain about the \’box\’ being a limiting factor – it comes off. 4 bolts. You can put another platform on there, a couple of bike racks, or a steel frame – pretty versatile… and not exactly limiting. No – its not a big 3 wheeled cargo carrying pedal truck – but if needed you can make it work for lots of things.

    -Mike

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  • joel February 23, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    my point was that the experience and information can be gained just as effectively by building, riding, and rebuilding and riding until you get it right, and that going about it that way is no less valid than waiting until you have flight time on another design to start building your own.

    as for boxes and limitations, well *of course* its not limiting if you remove it and replace it with a platform! if you remove the box, its not there anymore, and cant be counted as a limiting factor, can it? 🙂 sheesh.

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  • Opus the Poet February 23, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    The comparison between tall and long bikes loadings on wheels is mistaken. Tall bikes and \”normal\” bikes have almost all their loads in the radial direction in normal operation. Long bikes and LWB recumbents have a significant amount of Axial load on the front wheel because of the physics of the LWB single track configuration, which because of the cargo weight of the long bike can get high enough to collapse a \”normal\” wheel.

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  • SkidMark February 23, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Opus has never folded the wheel on a tallbike, apparently. I wasn\’t making a direct comparison, just pointing out that various other types of bike generate side loads and the wheels hold up. A downhill mountain bike also gets quite a side load when laid over in a corner at upwards of 50mph while going over rocks, gaining and losing traction.

    The thing if cargo bikes are going to make the leap into the 21st century, the people who design and build them are going to have to get over their engine-o-phobia and start looking at how motorcycles are built and absorb and adapt their technology. That is how the mountain bike got to where it is today.

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  • a.O February 23, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    It sounds like henry has a decent argument that the design is sufficiently innovative and non-obvious for it to be patentable, and that the Metro design is sufficiently similar for there to be some infringement. But I would have to see them both finished to even form an opinion.

    There is one thing I do know about IP law, and that\’s if you don\’t defend a patent or copyright from infringement, you lose it.

    And to perhaps clear up (or add to) some confusion earlier re: copyrights, it is my understanding that non-functional, or aesthetic, designs are copyrightable. This means that a sculpture or other object d\’art would be protected – despite the fact that there are massive-scale rip-off operations worldwide. However, functional design is not copyrightable. Protection there is reserved for the patent system.

    The idea behind the patent system is that you will encourage people to design new things by ensuring the profitability of their sales. This is done by preventing people from ripping off peoples\’ designs. But it only covers \”inventions\” – or things that are sufficiently novel to deserve protection. For example, you can\’t patent sliced bread, because anyone could think of that. But you can patent a derailleur, because it requires sufficient ingenuity and is not something anyone could intuitively conjure up and slap on their bike.

    So is the Metro design more similar to sliced bread or the derailleur? I lean toward the bread side, but that doesn\’t mean that there aren\’t specific design aspects of the original design that aren\’t patentable.

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  • joel February 23, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    skidmark – of course, the average tallbike is typically using some beat up scrap wheel with god knows what history or quality parts 🙂 its a wonder more of them dont fold!

    the fact of the matter is that mountain biking has been very good for cargo bikes – while the parts may not have been designed specifically with cargo bikes or their specific stresses in mind, things like downhill rims and disc brakes have already impacted cargo bikes favorably. through-axles are another motorcycle-mtb tech that should be considered as well – and im already thinking about the surly large marge rims for cargo trikes…

    but most cargo bike design needs to be *rediscovered* first – there really havent been that many cargo bikes available, especially here in the us, until recently – even in the european countries we commonly look to for inspiration, cargo bikes have been the exception rather than the rule up until about 5 years ago (in my experience) – and thats not even getting into truly new designs, which are only now just beginning to show their heads. – so give it time, cargo bikes need to finishing leaping into the 20th century before they can continue on to the 21st!

    your perimeter frame note earlier is a good thing for people to be thinking about – at least one builder has already implemented it, and its been at least considered by others. it has its advantages as disadvantages, to be sure, but its worth more attention for certain cargo applications.

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  • Bill Stites February 24, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I\’m not going to go into all the mis-information that is in this thread, but there\’s a couple I saw that I should point out:

    SIDE loads on any bicycle wheel – no matter what the load – are not very high. Why? because the nature of a bicycle is that it is balanced, and must maintain balance in turns … now trikes are a different story.

    And on to patents:

    I\’m not a patent attorney, but I do have some experience, having 3 US patents.
    It is my understanding that the field of \’bicycles\’ is the most extensive in the world of patents. As such, small improvements are more patentable in this field than in any other. Having said that, it is also very difficult to come up with something patentable – as any invention has to be novel and \”unobvious\”, as mentioned earlier. The unobvious requirement is stated in US patent law to the effect of \”a new invention cannot be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art\”. This makes for tough arguing with your patent examiner – because it is so subjective.

    For US patents, there is no legal jurisdiction in countries other than the US. The same tends to be true for other countries.
    However, there are international patents. The Dutch designer would have to have such an international patent to have say in the countries that participate in the international forum – of which the US is one.

    #64
    \”There is one thing I do know about IP law, and that\’s if you don\’t defend a patent or copyright from infringement, you lose it.\”

    Ownership and validity are not a function of subsequent infringement. For a US patent, there are maintenance fees that have to paid every 4 years or so to keep it alive.

    It\’s my opinion that the Bakfiets would not warrant a patent in the US – I don\’t know about Dutch law. The long haul concept has been around a long time, and the frame variations presented do not change it into another beast. If a US patent was to be issued on a bakfiets, I suspect it would have a very limited scope, and thus be rather weak.
    There is also a class of \’design patents\’, but they are intrinsically weak.

    My general feel on patents anymore is that they\’re not worth the cost and trouble … unless you\’re super confident you can resell it.

    Don\’t believe everything you read here, including my comments! Get the info direct from the patent office uspto.gov

    Bill

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  • joel February 24, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    \”SIDE loads on any bicycle wheel – no matter what the load – are not very high. Why? because the nature of a bicycle is that it is balanced, and must maintain balance in turns … now trikes are a different story.\”

    ill be the first to admit that my grasp of physics isnt what it used to be – and i know that side loads on a standard bicycle are minimal – but my perception has always been that, on the specific type of cargo bike were talking about here, due to the placement of the load largely *behind* the front wheel (rather than more above and behind it), the significantly greater load involved, and the different manner in which these bikes turn (ie flatter turns, with less leaning), one basically ends up turning the front wheel (sometimes significantly) away from the path of travel, with a weight immediately behind it.

    now, when i do this while riding, i can *see* the deflection in the tire as i turn, and assume that while this deformation of the tire absorbs some of the force from behind it, surely some is carried through into the structure of the wheel itself.

    again, my grasp of physics is anecdotal at best, these days – and while im not outright contesting your statement of minimal side loads on bicycle wheels (hell, its what jobst brandt says, and i know well enough not to argue with him 🙂 – but his book generally concerns more typical bicycles than were speaking of here) – i would like to know why it doesnt happen the way my brain sees it in this particular situation, if in fact this is the case…

    and i sure as hell dont want to start one of the usual bike-list physics arguments! 🙂

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  • a.O February 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Bill Stites, I should have been more clear in my statement about the need to defend patents. I didn\’t mean to imply that you lose ownership if you don\’t defend it, although it certainly sounded that way. I meant that permitting infringement on a large scale over time could be perceived by a court as a waiver of those rights. Of course, probably not if there is subsequent renewal.

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  • Bill Stites February 24, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Joel #67 says, \”i would like to know why it doesnt happen the way my brain sees it in this particular situation, if in fact this is the case…and i sure as hell dont want to start one of the usual bike-list physics arguments! :)\”

    I agree, and right now the sun is shining, so let\’s keep it brief. I like your sense of visualization – that is how most of us analyze these things – I\’m no exception [there\’s my \”I\’m not an expert\” disclaimer].
    If you think about how much you typically turn a front wheel on a bike, it is less than most people think, probably 5 – 10 degrees in most turns.
    The one situation that I visualize can have heavy side loads is braking hard during a sharp turn. Decelerating into a turn is pretty common, but I submit that most of the forces end up near-straight if you\’re riding reasonably. And if folks are riding these super hard – like hopping curbs with multi-100 lb. payloads – then all bets are off.

    Even with the load behind the wheel, time frame is important. I think it is a very short time period that the front tire traction is fighting with the forward propulsion of the rear tire. Indeed, it seems near-instant that the front wheel is majestically leading the rest of the vehicle where you want it to go.

    Another thought – bear in mind the actual physical connections within the bike. That is, ALL the forces of the bike get to the front wheel via its axle [except for brakes].

    And thanks to a.O. for clarification on #68. I find I spend a lot of time trying to be read correctly.

    Going outside now 😉

    Bill

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  • joel February 24, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    bill – thanks for the explanation – the mometary nature of the side loads were talking about isnt something i had taken under consideration.

    i do find that i turn the front wheel more on the cargo bike, partially because of the small front wheel, and also in order to swing the whole thing around – the turning radius is substantially more than a normal bike. hard braking (i use discs) into turns is fairly common, though despite my tendency to hop up and down curbs, and occasionally powerslide or bunnyhop my long haul, im more given to finesse than some might assume 🙂

    part of my concept of higher stresses probably comes from the fact that i ride these bikes harder than most – for work, all day, in traffic, at a good clip, and heavily loaded. but when designing cargo bikes, regardless of the gentler use most of them will get, its best to assume the worst and overbuild (within reason! i still believe these bikes can be overbuilt and still weigh substantially less than they do currently, without resorting to anything less than plain gauge crmo)

    and thanks to everyone for putting up with my longwinded opinions on these things – i get pretty wound up about cargo bikes 🙂

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  • joel February 24, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    oh yeah, and i just put 2 and 2 together about who you are 🙂 i think we talked very briefly at the oregon handbuilt show about your freaking awesome bikes.

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  • SkidMark February 24, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Your assumption that all tallbikes are built (completely) from junk is a little insulting. I ALWAYS lace up my own back wheels for them using stainless spokes and a rim I think is appropriately strong. Gabe used a Velocity wheelset on his latest tallbike. Maybe if someone rides their tallbike once in a while a few blocks for fun they can get away with using a crap wheel, but I can\’t because my bikes get (ab)used.

    I have only ridden a Bakfiet-style cargo bike once and I found the disc brakes and gears to be a godsend. I thought the steering was kind of vague. I don\’t think much of the one tie-rod arrangement or the bend to get it to line up with the fork crown, these issues need to be addressed. I plan to build one, the DOBC way, using a shopping cart basket and a donor mountain bike, but I am considering an alternative layout, similar to a pickup truck.

    I also think that if you are going to be carrying 400 lbs. regularly a conventional trike layout might be a better chassis to do it with.

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  • joel February 25, 2008 at 7:07 am

    skid – oh please.

    me: \”of course, the average tallbike is typically using some beat up scrap wheel with god knows what history or quality parts\”

    you: \”Your assumption that all tallbikes are built (completely) from junk is a little insulting.\”

    \”all\” = totally different than \”average\”. a reference to the wheel does equal the whole bike. are you gonna tell me you havent seen a hell of a lot of tallbikes built out of whatever was available? methinks you are insulted too easily.

    notice also my stupid little smiley face, designed to convey some fragment of good humor in the emotionless world of typing.

    the tie rod has worked out just dandy – it slops out over time, but can be readjusted, tightened up. id be interested in any ideas you would have to replace this system – i think it works just fine, but thats no reason not to look at alternatives.

    steering on a long john seems vague at first, but its just like hopping on any type of bike thats a bit non-standard. it feels almost like a steering delay at first, but then you get used to it, and it works pretty damn well. but then, i ride one all day 2 days a week, and regularly around town the rest of the time – im kinda acclimatized.

    as for 400 lb loads – yup. 200 is what cat says the long haul can handle. 300 is where things start to get interesting. 400 is the most i can handle, and it aint fun – but its doable. if i were consistently moving 400+ lbs (i consistently move 200-250), yeah, id want a trike, as long as it wasnt a puller! cargo is for pushing, in my book.

    oh, and i say go for it with the shopping cart mash-up. ive seen various different approaches to this combo over the years, and i think its got potential.

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  • Sam HIll February 25, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    \”\”\”Along the way Ross has been deceptive in his \”research\”, contacting me and others without disclosure of identity or intentions.\”\”\” — Henry

    Until I see proof I\’ll ignore any of these statements.

    In my opinion this is not the forum to present such allegations, further it is inappropriate to allege such things without any accompanying proof.

    Overall without knowing more facts I can\’t pass much of any judgement, but I can say generally I would much rather purchase locally.

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  • Henry February 27, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Sam,
    I stated that as a supporting fact, very much related to my concerns about Ross\’ tactics with respect to his denial of another\’s creative work (or IP if you prefer).

    However as mentioned in the responses of numerous posters this is not a court of law and gathering information via emails with incomplete disclosure is not illegal anyway. Its just a little slimy.

    Posting Ross\’ emails here would really be going too far and wouldn\’t be \”proof\” in any case: Somebody else would then rightly say that I could have written them myself.

    But that\’s a moot point. WorkCycles receives dozens of inquiries per day. We respond as necessary, save the mail related to ongoing business and then delete the rest. Ross\’ emails are certainly long gone.

    I also vastly prefer to purchase locally, but doing business with people I respect and trust, and getting good value for my money take precedence.

    -Henry

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  • joel February 27, 2008 at 7:51 am

    slimy tactic as it may be to collect information in a deceitful fashion – accusing someone of doing so in a public forum, and then later saying that you no longer have anything tangible to document them having done so, and that anyhow, you wouldnt post it if you did isnt exactly the moral high ground in my eyes.

    without supporting documentation, its not a supporting fact, but merely a bitter statement that easily looks like its designed to besmirch someones reputation.

    this isnt to say i believe this was your pure intention, but thats how it can come off. opinion stated firmly on the net is easily mistaken for fact, and treated as such (a lesson i havent fully learned myself, even after 20 years 🙂 )

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  • Mark Stosberg February 27, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Henry,

    Even if you didn\’t save the incoming messages, you likely have your replies in a \”Sent\” folder, if you happened to reply (and the original inquiry may be embedded in the reply).

    All:

    I am disappointed that MetroFiets didn\’t take the moral high ground and seek some kind of approval from van Andel before building a near clone. I see that the result of inquiry could have been van Andel responding one of the following ways (among others):

    1. Appreciating the honest inquiry, offering to help for free.

    2. Offering to license the design, and for fee, working with the Portland group on building official endorsed copies.

    3. Flatly refusing any relationship, but respecting MetroFiets for inquiring openly and honestly.

    Had MetroFiets at least inquired openly with van Andel, I could better respect their choice to pursue the legal limits of copying a competitors product.

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  • SkidMark February 27, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    joel: Better tie-ros ends (heim joints), maybe bigger ones, would be a step in the right direction. Maybe a tie rod on each side. A more direct route so ther isn\’t a flex inducing bend, would help, maybe connecting further down the fork leg instead of at the crown. Also the aforementioned steering dampner takes care of speed wobbles, and bump steer.

    Ideas: I has them.

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  • joel February 28, 2008 at 7:06 am

    skid:

    tie rod on each side, or lower down on the fork blade, will likely interfere with the front wheels range of motion. a more direct route would be great, but i dont really see how its possible without interfering with the front wheels range of motion, which is already limited (not so much that its an issue) by the tie-rod as it is. the attachment point at the rear end of the tie rod on the cat long haul already is a heim joint, or something very similar – one at the front end might or might not be of use.

    but then, i dont see any of the three things you mention (tie rod flex, speed wobble, bump steer) as a problem – i mean, theyd be a problem if they actually occurred, but *i* havent had them crop up.

    the only time ive *ever* had speed wobble is with midsize load, weighted too far forward. easily correctable with proper loading. and even then, the speed wobble was largely absorbed (as far as feedback to the handlebars goes) by the little bit of slop in the tie-rod. ive never noticed the tie-rod flexing, or any sort of bump steer.

    (for the record, this isnt designed to be a dismissive response, just me telling it like it is, from the viewpoint of someone with a good bit of mileage on one of these things)

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  • SkidMark February 28, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Oh yeah that\’s right the tire would hit it. I would have figured that out if I had sketched it.

    Every bike has a little bit of bump steer. Hit some railroad tracks one-handed. That\’s bump steer. I wouldn\’t dismiss a steering dampner if you\’ve never ridden a 2 wheeled vehicle that has one.

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  • joel February 28, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    no, hitting railroad tracks riding one-handed and having bump steer is called getting what you paid for 🙂

    whether or not theres enough bump steer going on to warrant a steering dampener, though… thats the question. maybe if you were riding around with an empty cargo bed all the time – but a load tends to act as a steering dampener of sorts.

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  • fauxblue February 28, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Will anyone else build one of these bikes affordably, and not have to import it? challenge… Build one for yourself!
    Builder to builder

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  • hitinliks February 28, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    how are people going to complain about my brother, or suggest that my brother is a thief of ideas. My brother has been creating custom metal works for years. He was taught at a young age and has alot of experience. In my opinion, he saw an opportunity to make available a concept that people were interested in, and added his own artistic touches. He is showing admiration for an existing product our society needs and adapting it. Ultimately he is trying to provide a product that people here want, and cannot neccesarily afford to purchase from another country. I believe his motives are genuine and heart felt. And I would know!

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  • Anonymous February 29, 2008 at 12:06 am

    C\’mon Joel, I\’ve talked to you at bike polo. I ain\’t pulling these ideas out of my @ss. Imagine it, you are on your nextel and next thing you know you are hitting railroad tracks or a pothole. Maybe you are just riding down 4th downtown! I used to fly around Pomona on my RD400 one hand on the throttle, all manner of pothole being sucked up by a cheapo steering dampener cranked up to 6. Yes it\’s a motorcyle, but at the end of the day it is a 400lb 2-wheeled machine, like a loaded cargo bike.

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  • SkidMark February 29, 2008 at 12:12 am

    C\’mon Joel, I\’ve talked to you at bike polo. I ain\’t pulling these ideas out of my @ss. Imagine it, you are on your nextel and next thing you know you are hitting railroad tracks or a pothole. Maybe you are just riding down 4th downtown! I used to fly around Pomona on my RD400 one hand on the throttle, all manner of pothole being sucked up by a cheapo steering dampener cranked up to 6. Yes it\’s a motorcyle, but at the end of the day it is a 400lb 2-wheeled machine, like a loaded cargo bike.

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  • SkidMark February 29, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Thing is, I think any cargo bike, from a track bike with a big basket, to an old skool Schwinn Cycle Truck, to an Xtra Cycle with a Stokemonkey, to a long john/bakfiet, even a 250 lb. pedicab from China with a wooden flatbed , is a good idea. Any time a bike replaces a car it is a good idea. I am not going to poo-poo someone\’s efforts over something like wheel-size chioice, or using existing ideas that work.

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  • joel February 29, 2008 at 6:18 am

    oh, i know, im just being flippant me to a degree. its the \”ehhhhhh…. it works fine for *me*!\” response. 🙂 might be fun to figure out a way to provisionally attach a dampener just to see how it would work out, cause they will allow you to get away with an awful lot.

    and yeah, i should also clarify that despite my continual naysaying of things like pulling cargo rather than pushing it, im also totally 100% down with *anything* that makes people able to haul more by bike – sure i think there are better and worse (er, less better? 🙂 ) way to do it, but in the end, its all hauling stuff most people would use the car for.

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  • joseph May 21, 2008 at 1:32 am

    so… what\’s the latest on this endeavor? Anybody know?

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  • Ian Kellar May 21, 2008 at 1:24 pm
  • Scott Mizée May 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Yes, interesting question Ian. Even though this is a private business deal, it seems it would be nice if the accused defended themselves in light of such serious allegations.

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  • […] Promote “lifestyle” cycling (like this bike-to-work poster does; bakfiets [aka work/cargo bikes]). This should extend into any business areas, too. We should ask our local […]

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  • Ethan July 7, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I hate to say it, but I welcome any and all comers into the Bakfiets arena. I understand that Dutch courts have sided with Bakfiets.nl . . . but I suspect that the courts in most other places will not see anything amazingly new in the design. It is a fresh combination of traits/components to be sure . . . but it is not new technology.

    I\’d like to see more of these bikes on the road, with options for people on many different budgets. The Chinese knock offs are obviously not the same caliber as the Dutch version, but at 1/3 the price they are still retain the essential qualities. The examples quoted above of how these advances in bike tech are replicated is also a good historical context.

    As an example . . . many Breezer bikes have the same kind of step-through frame as the Bakfiets, which I consider it\’s main advance over the old long-john (at least in terms of family use). Putting this feature on a longer bike is also not all that new . . . tandem BikeFridays have a big beam. And adding a rib to handle the flex of such a beam under load is likewise not unique, it is a normal engineering solution needed when making a single beam that long handle significant loads.

    If I were Metrofiets I\’d hew even closer to the original design, and not use a bigger front wheel . . . but that\’s me. BTW, I love my Dutch Bakfiets.

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  • Dan May 21, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Hi,

    Well I spent two years thinking about my design before I settled on one I wanted to produce.

    http://organicengines.com/mystery-machine/

    I think it is innovative enough not to be considered a copy of anyone’s design.

    I have designed and produced a half a dozen vehicles over the years and have wrestled with these complex issues before.

    Dan

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  • Jim September 18, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    On the subject of infringement, patent law, and prior art–Park Tools manufacturing recently won as plaintiff in the defense of the unique “blue” rubber that all their tools are dipped in. Companies entering the bike tool market tried to dip their tools in blue and Park Tools sued. They won. Really, the color blue! I could be wrong but its doubtful that Park Tools hold a patent on blue…

    Sometimes its not the novelty of a product(patent) that matters most (in court), but the amount of time a company has produced a certain product and it’s association with consumers, particularly if the product has been a success, or is a very small niche…

    A lot of refinement and trial and error was no doubt spent building the first Bakfiets, so a licensing agreement seems fair if the frames are really that similar…I doubt the local builder is making thousands of these things, so I imagine the fee wouldn’t be so bad

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