Becoming an avid cyclist is one of the many ways expats try to integrate in European society, but to fit even better — and perhaps make life a little easier — expats should look into buying a bakfiets.
Also called a box bicycle (the literal translation from the Dutch word), cargo bike, freight bicycle or carrier cycle, these larger, elongated bicycles have one distinguishing feature: a large box-like area designed to store and move cargo easily through busy, narrow city streets.
Leading bakfiets brand Babboe explains the popular bakfiets, and how you can find a cargo bike to call your own.
All about the bakfiets
Bicycles have been a staple of Dutch society since their invention in the 19th century, but the bakfiets has had its own place in history. Cargo bikes, which followed the invention of the standard bicycle fairly quickly, were originally used for industrial purposes, moving goods such as bread, milk and mail. They fell out of favour with the rise of motor vehicles, but have since seen a resurgence in popularity.
These days, the bakfiets is generally used to carry far more precious cargo: children. But the bakfiets’ popularity has also become one of the leading green methods of transportation, which has captured the attention of eco-conscious millennials trying to reduce their carbon footprints. Now, with so much more interest in buying a bakfiets, there has been an increase in innovation and design.
How to choose a cargo bike
Cargo bikes come in all shapes and sizes, which can make it confusing for a first-time bakfiets buyer to narrow down the very wide selection. However, there are a number of questions to keep in mind when choosing a cargo bike.
What are you carrying?
These days, the most common use for a bakfiets is for children, most often up to two for a standard size. A larger cargo area can, of course, accommodate four children, but there are also smaller models for parents who only have one child — or for those whose child is actually a dog.
Should you choose a two-wheel or three-wheel cargo bike?
This is one of the first decisions to make, and it’s often one of the trickiest. Three-wheel cargo bikes are known for their stability — perfect for those who don’t feel quite steady on a bicycle, but they can be a little extra bumpy on particularly uneven streets. The more agile two-wheel cargo bikes are capable of higher speeds, which is useful for long distances or handy in city centres, but you’ll need to take care when loading and unloading your cargo as it requires the use of kickstand.
Cargo bike testride
Do you want an electric bakfiets?
Larger cargo bikes can get a bit heavy, and they get even heavier when adding multiple kids or a particularly large shopping trip. Instead of relying on the power of your muscles alone, you can get a little extra support with some electricity. Electric cargo bikes make it easier to go longer distances or ride through hilly terrain, especially when carrying heavy cargo.
Where to find a cargo bike for sale
The internet is the first place to begin your research to find the right cargo bike, searching on the various criteria outlined above before making any plans to purchase. Used cargo bikes can be found on various websites, but even used models can cost nearly as much as a new one; it can also be difficult to determine the validity of all information provided in the listing even with a test drive.
Buying directly from the cargo bike manufacturer or reseller often means you will receive a warranty, which makes it much easier in case something goes wrong.
Buying a bakfiets: other considerations
Besides the bakfiets itself, there are other things to keep in mind before purchasing your first cargo bike.
Because a cargo bike is used commonly to carry children, safety is paramount. Make sure the cargo bike you choose has been tested by authorities such as TÜV and SGS. Additional safety features can help assure you of a safe ride, such as steering dampers to prevent wobbling. It’s also important to ensure the materials used in the cargo bike’s construction, especially its gears, brakes and wheels, are high quality — and even certified. Although helmets are not required in the Netherlands, you may feel a little safer if your little ones’ heads (and yours) are protected.
Get some accessories
Protect your cargo with accessories for a bakfiets such as covers to protect again rain or shields for the sun. Secure seats for babies and toddlers ensure that they stay safe on the ride, while personalised stickers can help you identify your cargo bike quickly — no small feat in a sea of bikes.
Test ride it before you buy
Just because a bakfiets has all the bells and whistles doesn’t mean that it will be the right one for you. When buying direct, you can either visit a brick-and-mortar shop or set up an appointment with the company for a personal test ride. Like a car, you need to test ride a bakfiets to ensure you feel comfortable steering, braking and moving through the streets — especially when you’re handling your most precious cargo.
Babboe / Expatica