Missed Connection: The bike I wish I knew

Have you ever fallen for a bike at first sight? Ever seen a bike you instantly loved and wished was yours? Maybe you just got a glimpse as you passed and you’ve kicked yourself ever since for not stopping to make its acquaintance. Did you turn around and go back looking, only to be left with a fleeting memory that haunts your dreams?

I have such a bike stuck in my mind. I was searching for used kid-carrying box bikes, with an impossibly small budget. I recall an old Madsen with a four-seater bucket for $700 that I really wanted, but couldn’t quite afford or seem to justify. (I still wish I had tried that one out: I’m curious how the bike rides differently with the box in back, instead of in front.)  I passed on a lot of cargo bikes that could only carry two kids. I skipped over electric bikes that were way out of my price range. Then as I was scrolling through Offer Up, I found this incredible European beauty. At over $1,000 I didn’t think I could swing it, and I have regretted it ever since!

Look at that front box. Two benches. Room for four kids. Benches look easy to remove. Back rack is already installed. The seat and style are gorgeous. It looks like an effortlessly smooth ride. What a beauty! And the description says it folds.

I know. Maybe if we’d met, my dreams would have been dashed. Maybe this bike and I wouldn’t have been a good fit. Maybe it looks better in the photo than in real life. Maybe the image is nice, but the ride isn’t as great as it looks. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

Or, maybe I missed out on the best bike of my life because I didn’t pony up the money when I had the chance! 

I’m on the hunt for a new bike. I’ve never ridden another cargo bike besides my first one (a Tom LaBonty-made gem). I love my bike. But like some first loves, we may not be lifetime mates. I’m struggling to pull the weight of four kids and their stuff, so I want to shop around and see if another model will help me out. I’m thinking about the way bike racers buy expensive light-weight frames and components in order to go faster, or the way hikers on the Appalachian trail try to lighten their pack weight to help them on the long journey. I’m not going nearly that far or that fast, but I could use every bit of help that I can get.

Will a lighter cargo bike feel easier to pedal up a hill? (Is there such a thing as a “lighter cargo bike”?) Is a brand-name cargo bike somehow more efficient to pedal? Or am I going to need an e-assist to feel a difference?

I’m still pretty new to this bike scene. I know there’s a bike out there for me. (Or maybe my forever bike is the one I already own, and I should learn to be content with what I have.) But it’s hard for me to shake this bakfiets from my mind. I know it’s out there, somewhere…have you seen it? I’d sure like to meet it in-person, go for a spin, learn its name and make, and see if we’d be good for each other. If you recognize it or are the happy new owner, please leave me a note. I’d love to say hello.

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jayson
jayson
17 days ago

There is always the possibility that an online seller will accept less than the listed price. Hope you find your match!

Madi Carlson
17 days ago

I think you’ll find other similar used bikes! The Portland metro region has such a great used cargo bike scene–we’re really lucky here. Madsen bucket bikes are awesome in their relative affordability and carrying capacity, but so many people I’ve known with them have added e-assists or upgraded to different cargo bikes. I’d imagine since you’re already on your “starter” cargo bike (or forever cargo bike, I agree, it might just be!) the Madsen would feel like a downgrade. It’s awfully nice having the kids up in front.
It’s definitely worth keeping a lookout for different bikes and I think a lighter or “fancier” bike would make things easier. I swapped my derailleur for an internally-geared hub on my first mamabike (a city bike with two baby seats and a trailer) to increase my gear range and that kept me on it an additional handful of years! And while I feel a tad silly about this, I’m plotting little changes I can make to my cargo bike now to make it feel lighter and faster. Good luck!!

Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
16 days ago
Reply to  Madi Carlson

Thanks for chiming in. I love hearing from you, and I appreciate all of your advice, from old posts and current comments too. Thanks for leading the way!

John
John
14 days ago

As far as I know, trying to cut the weight down just isn’t worth it really. Even if you could cut 30 pounds, which would be a lot for a bike, thats only the weight of one (ish) of the kids. So you can’t really reduce the weight by that much, and as it turns out weight just isn’t that big of a factor on a bike. Not to say that weight doesn’t matter at all, and it matters most for hills and stop and go, so that might apply to you. But I think it’s more of a pro racer thing. Like where 15 pounds adds 1 minute to a 50 minute ride (one example I saw).

Hopefully that’s good news, because trying to get a lighter bike can get expensive fast. I think just keeping it clean and lubed helps the most.

I recently found a sweet bakfiets bike on Craigslist and I love it. Heavy as hell and steel with no assist. I could go for a lower gear if I had to climb anything steeper than on my ride to daycare but so far it’s doing the job. Good luck and keep an eye out!

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
14 days ago

I wouldn’t buy anything advertised on OfferUp. You don’t know where it was stolen from.

Adri
Adri
13 days ago

We have a Madsen (electric) inspired by our neighbors who are (or recently were) trying to sell theirs. It is NOT electric, and could use a little work (though entirely rideable). We borrowed it before buying ours used and I thought it was perfection, and I imagine the price reflects that it needs work (not sure of price). I even biked an adult around. Let me know if you want to check ours out or get their information. We would have bought theirs had we not found ours for cheap in Gig Harbor.

Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
11 days ago
Reply to  Adri

Thanks! Please email me (shannon4bikeportland@gmail.com) with contact info. I would love to try both the manual and electric. Not sure that I am ready to buy anything yet, but I am definitely interested in trying out other options. Thanks so much.