My City Bike: A stylish European ride, with kid (and two wheels) up front

Posted by on August 6th, 2009 at 9:41 am

christiania trike

Patrick Barber on his every day bike.
“It’s a lot like driving a car.”
(Photo © Elly Blue)

[This is the second in a series of “My City Bike” interviews with Portlanders who ride bikes intended for urban transportation. This interview is with local graphic designer and bike fashion blogger Patrick Barber. This spring we posted a guest article by Patrick on how to identify a city bike.


BikePortland: What type of rider are you?

Patrick Barber: I’m a transportational cyclist. Well, I should say, I’m not a cyclist — I just ride my bike.

BP: Describe the bike you ride most often.

christiania trike

The Christiania and all its parts.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

PB: It’s a Danish cargo trike, the Christiania. This particular model is designed for carrying kids. It’s not sold in the United States.

When we were living in Oakland there was a guy in the Bay Area who was a cargo bike specialist who bought it from some Danish business students and then sold it to us in 2004. After we had our kid we had it upgraded with an 8 speed hub and [local bike mechanic, inventor, and track stand world champion] Mike Cobb welded on some Dutch bike handlebars, which really made it more viable for everyday transport. In its original configuration it was hard to ride.

It’s got a little bench and a seatbelt, and Mike put in a five-point harness. There’s a winter canopy that came with, and Holly made a summer one to go on the same frame, which has worked magnificently.

BP: What do you use your bike for every day?

christiania trike

Inside the “trunk” of the Christiania.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

PB: Going where I need to go and carrying stuff that I need to take there and bring back. And carrying my kid. Anastasia just turned one! I ride in about a 5 mile radius every day — average probably 3 or 4 miles a day. Sometimes longer. I live in Irvington, and sometimes we’ll go as far as Woodstock.

BP: What is your dream city bike?

PB: I think it’s this bike. I’m totally hooked on this big box. I don’t have to arrange my cargo, I can just put it in the box. It’s a lot like driving a car, as far as convenience and utility go. It’s always full of stuff. You know, like you always have some bags, a picnic blanket, an extra coat you forgot to take out. It’s got a trunk, essentially, you can just throw stuff in it and forget about it. If you were really worried about how much a bike weighed it wouldn’t be very much fun, but I’m not worried about that, I’m not shaving grams.

Patrick B. on his Nihola Trike-1

Rolling down NE Tillamook with
precious cargo.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The ability to carry a bunch of stuff is really important. And all bikes should have fenders. This has good fenders. It’s got a really comfortable riding posture, I can wear a suit jacket and sit up and it’s comfortable. That’s one reason I end up riding it over other bikes, because I can wear my own clothes.

One of the coolest things about it is the cargo compartment is entirely waterproof when the rain cover is on. So in the winter every thing you want to keep dry is inside this tent, which is a big difference from other bikes I’ve used.

A bakfiets would have made a lot of sense too — but we hadn’t heard about them at the time. When we had Anastasia we tried out a bakfiets — we thought maybe we’d sell the Christiania and buy one. But I like the Christiania better. I stop at stop signs a lot and go on a lot of short trips with a lot of stops. Starting and stopping is a lot easier with a trike.

Another thing is you don’t need a bike rack. Same with the bakfiets — you can just lock it where it stands. Nobody’s going to pick it up and carry it away. And that’s more convenient than I could ever have imagined.

BP: Tricycles are known for being a bit tippy on turns. Do you have any trouble with this?

christiania trike

Leaning into a curve keeps the
trike from tipping the opposite way.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

PB:I love the way it handles. But it’s totally different from riding a bike, because it doesn’t lean into curves. You have to lean inward to keep the bike from flipping over to the outside. It’s really counterintuitive, and you have to learn how to do it, but it’s a total blast once you figure it out.

It feels stable, now that I’m used to it. With the two front wheels, as the road surface varies the bike responds. Again, it’s something you develop a skill for. It helps to be carrying something so there’s weight in the box.

BP: How does it work for carrying a kid?

PB: My daughter likes it a lot. On our other bikes we have a trailer and a front bike seat. She likes the box best because she can sit up and look around and wave to people. She gets really excited when we go down big hills, she likes to scream the whole way. On flat stretches, she kicks her legs up and leans back and regards her public.

She’s going to ride on this thing as long as she can, but I’m building an Xtracycle for when she’s older. But we’ll miss the trike. One of the biggest deals is you can leave her on the bike while you’re stopped and it won’t tip.

BP: What’s essential on an urban transportation bike?

PB: Generator electric is a huge deal, because if you have a generator, especially a hub generator you can leave your lights on the whole time. People always talk about reflective clothing, but if you have a nice bright generator light you don’t need that. That’s the one thing this trike needs. If I had lots of money I would get new front wheels with drum brakes and generator hubs.

Also essential are fenders, and a chain guard. A bell’s good. I like a good rear view mirror. A basket — that’s what I like about my Christiania — it’s got the biggest basket of all. I like big, fat tires because they are more comfortable and absorb more road shock and handle rough roads better. A wheel lock would be nice — right now I use a Kryptonite like a wheel lock.

It also helps to have a nice hat. People give you a lot of room.


This October, framebuilders will compete in the Oregon Manifest Constructor Challenge to design, build, and ride functional city bikes. We hope these interviews can help inspire the builders, as well as all of you out there trying to figure out how to pick up your kids, or groceries, or a case of beer on your bike.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Our Christiania trike « vélocoutureAaronNickcraigElly Blue Recent comment authors
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E
Guest
E

What about leaving stuff in the box while you go in to the store or something? Do you carry everything in with you? or do you just not worry about theft?

I often see bikes parked on the waterfront with loaded panniers attached. I wouldn’t have the nerve to do that; even if they were empty, I’d still have to replace a stolen pannier!

Nick
Guest
Nick

FYI, Haley Trikes are available in the US for $900-something.

patrick barber
Guest

E, basically I leave stuff I could live without. Valuables (camera, wallet, etc) go in a bag that comes with me. Similar to how I’d treat stuff left in a car.

knock on wood but so far no one has stolen my repair kit, our picnic blanket, or whatever water bottles/stuffed animals/forgotten crusts of bread are in there. I don’t leave it for long periods of time in high theft areas with lots of stuff in it, though, that’s for sure.

It’s true that this is a persistent issue in city cycling. It’d be great to have a lockable trunk. The Christiania (not ours) has an option for a bench seat that functions as a locking box as well. That’d be nice. But mostly I figure that people will leave my patch kit and picnic blanket alone. it’s the same with my single bike– I always carry panniers with a few essentials, and the panniers get cabled to the U lock. You could cut them off if you wanted… no one has so far. For which I am grateful.

Patrick

Zaphod
Guest

I’ve built up a lightweight wooden box for my cargo bike that locks with a key, much like a filing cabinet. While I never leave expensive stuff in there for long, it’s nice to be able to nip into a place without having to bring along everything. The ease in which a motorist can exit and lock with a magic button on a keychain is pretty remarkable. I’m approaching that with my wheel lock and locking box.

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

My wife and I have a Larry vs Harry Bullitt and love it. With winter on the horizon, we are beginning to think about winterizing the box. The canopy design on your bike seems pretty straitforward. How hard do you think it would be for me to make a similar one? Do you have any close up pictures that you could post?

Nick
Guest
Nick

redhippie, where did you buy your Bullitt? Those things looks sweet. Can you get them in Portland?

The Other Nick
Guest
The Other Nick

Nick (#6): Bike Gallery sells them.

http://www.bikegallery.com/utility-bikes.php

patrick barber
Guest

redhippie, the best online reference would be the Christiania web site http://www.christianiabikes.com/english/uk_main.htm although you could also poke around our flickr set or just shoot me an email and come by to check it out.

The canopy frame — the hoops — come standard to the bike, and my wife Holly made the summer sunshade that is pictured here. The winter canopy is waterproof and provides full coverage.

patrick

craig
Guest
craig

“Well, I should say, I’m not a cyclist — I just ride my bike.”

You see? Another CYCLER who doesn’t want to be identified as a “cyclist”. “Cycler” is going to catch on, I’m telling you!

ref: http://bikeportland.org/2009/05/27/a-new-bike-corral-and-happy-hour-for-bikers/

craig
Guest
craig

This dude is a champion of the cause for the term “cycler”… http://cyclerslife.blogspot.com

craig
Guest
craig

Another interesting reference to how people perceive the word “cyclist”: http://bikeportland.org/2009/04/27/breaking-fatal-crash-in-northeast-portland/

craig
Guest
craig
craig
Guest
craig

And another:http://bikeportland.org/2008/08/10/how-was-your-bridge-pedal/

“This was our first BP, and we had a great time. My wife and I did the 8 bridge route. My wife was concerned about how she’d be able to handle it on her new Oma, but she did great. She was thrilled when she finished without having walk up any of the hills, remarking to the countless people that asked about the bike, ‘I’m a swimmer, not a cyclist.'”

craig
Guest
craig

And another (thank you, Jonathan!): http://bikeportland.org/2007/05/30/sheriffs-move-endangers-zoobombers/

“Labels to me are often shorthand to discrimination. I realize it can get tricky and there’s definitely a limit (as in, “I’m not a cyclist, I just happen to choose to use a bicycle as my transportation.”) but I still want to try and be very careful on how and when I use them.”

craig
Guest
craig

Elly, I like that. Maybe it will catch on?

Nick
Guest
Nick

Ditto. Really nice that you guys make a conscious effort to avoid those us-vs.-them labels.

Aaron
Guest

Great to see the Christiania in use all over the world! I have one also but live in Australia where we actually have a dealer who imports them. They are getting more and more popular!

Redhippie if you go to this post on my blog http://lifewithatrike.blogspot.com/2009/06/bugatti-hood-in-detail.html

I have some details and pictures of the hood that might help you out.