Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dutch Cargo Bike Review

Note: A follow-up (3yr) review is here. I am now a local ambassador for Dutch Cargo Bikes. If you would like to test rise this bike in Brisbane (or a three wheeler) email me at  
I almost convinced myself not long ago that a bicycle for carrying children was a completely unjustified expense.  Luckily I didn't. Because my sparkling new cargo bike, supplied through Dutch Cargo Bike, arrived several weeks ago. And I'm excited. I've also convinced myself that in reality it isn't expensive, and in fact represents great value for money.

In the past three weeks I've used the bike daily for the commute to work, to the shops, to day care, to pick up my wife from yoga – you name it. It is now time for an early review. But first, I need to explain how this value conscious economist ended up with a $3000+ bike.

For the non-cyclist the prices of these bikes can be a shock. Bikes are meant to cost hundred, and second hand cars are meant to costs thousands. We have trouble seeing where all the money goes on a bicycle! But as avid cyclists would know, high quality equipment still costs money in the world of bikes, and this bike is extremely high quality.

You need to understand that the ongoing costs for cycling are extremely low, and lower with higher quality components.  I can imagine in 5 years when our youngest child is happily riding themselves we might have less use for the bike, but it would be reasonable, given the high quality of all the parts on this bike, to expect the bike to be very good condition.  If the bike sold for $2000 in five years time, you are looking at a total 5 year total cost of around $1300 (including servicing, tyres etc) or less than $300 per year, or $5.70 per week –a little more than one bus fare – which is a bargain for a young family given the great health and social benefits from family cycling [1].

I believe this bike represents good value for our family, so what are my first impressions?

The Dutch Cargo Bike team arranged delivery and assembly at my local bike shop.  What first struck me about the bike was the attention to detail – rubber antislip coating on the floor of the box, with a ledge for kids to use to help them climb in, a magnetic latch for the very stable four-prong kick stand (apparently a patented design by Maarten van Andel), and built in elastic straps for securing loads to the heavy duty rear rack. Not to mention the very bright generator light as standard equipment (which I now just leave on at all times).

The bike rides incredibly smoothly.  In fact I can cross manoeuvrability from my cons list and shift it to the pros list. After a bit of practice you can steer this puppy easily through tight gaps, even loaded with four children. And slow, well, it’s actually not as sluggish as I expected either.  After a week of riding this fairly weighty beast my legs seem to have built up the strength to ride at breakneck pace and tackle those hills that seemed so intimidating at first.

The box is extremely strong.  It looks like flimsy plywood in photos, but is almost one centimetre think, does not scratch easily, and does not flex under heavy loads. I've taken all my mates for a spin, and even loaded with my wife, child and dog (80kg) on board it feels solid and safe.

The most unexpected benefit of the bike is that after a laid back ride and lots of smiles and waves from passersby, you always arrive happy.

fn.[1] The alert reader will note there is an opportunity cost to the forgone $3000 that could have been alternatively invested, say at 5%, which adds another $150 per year.


  1. Good to read you had such a good experience with the bakfiets. PS: that 'crazy looking contraption' is not really that crazy, the Onderwater bike is just a very practical family bike and thus very popular here. So, yeah, maybe it's just us Dutch...:)

  2. When the kids are older I might just consider one of those Onderwater bikes (named after the inventor it appears, rather than a bike to be ridden underwater). And yes, I've been extremely impressed with the bakfiets. My only improvement would be an open-sided shade cover for the hot Brisbane summers.

  3. Yup, his first name is Ronald, also a great guy to have beers with ;).

    A canopy is indeed a must-have, rain or shine ;)

  4. A useful question is whether the reduced cost of a trailer option would make much more sense?
    eg $US120 plus postage

  5. Good point thefarmer42, a trailer is another option. I personally do not like them for a few reasons - manoeuvrability, being able to talk to passengers and sort out children’s disagreements, braking (you need quite a good bike to brake well with a heavy trailer), visibility of children, easier to park/reverse/load.

    If you only carry children occasionally and already have a decent bike than the trailer definitely makes sense.

    But if you do it daily, in addition to the shopping trips and weekend rides, you will appreciate this bike. You also get a total carrying capacity of 150kg + rider. Last weekend we had me riding plus two adults (one in the front and one sitting on the rack) and two children for a trip to the markets.

    I guess it’s the same decision as buying a ute vs a trailer. For daily use and heavy loads a ute is much more practical, but for occasional trips with light loads a trailer is a far better choice. Remember though, you get a bike and extra carrying capacity for the price, whereas you already need a good bike to have a trailer.

  6. We have a trailer, and two children. They last about 30 minutes and then WW3 breaks out. As you are close to a couple of metres out front of them, there is no way to adjudicate. Also, you don't know that toys, water bottles, and clothing has been jettisoned unless you have someone following up the rear.

    It was nice to meet you the other day, Cameron.

  7. Baby in a bakfiets

  8. Hi there, I just bought a bakfiets from the Aussie importers ( and they told me they are getting a prototype sunshade for the box soon - so you might contact them down the track for a solution to your Brisbane heat!! Loving the bike, what a buzz.

  9. Good to here from you eilidh.

    I have provided some input to the design of prototypes, having since made a sun shade myself (

    No doubt their new design will be far superior to my bamboo sticks and old curtain!

    Glad to here you are loving the bike. I still get a buzz cruising around on this thing.

  10. Hi there, just wondering how you found the bike on hills around Brisbane?

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  12. Heavy. As a general rule with one child it can get up hills (not the very long and steep ones like Doorknock Tce, which is actually quite difficult empty). With two kids and the shopping and sometimes by wife as well, almost any hill is a problem.

    That said, I do use the bike as a commuter even when it's empty simply because it is a comfortable ride. So the weight of the bike itself is not the main issue.

    If you live in an area with hills an electric version is best. Some friends of mine actually live in HIghgate Hill and have two electrified cargo bikes which do the job very well.

  13. Great for long distances at maximum speeds; positions body aerodynamically; performance-oriented; lightweight. Bikes Brisbane

  14. Is it illegal for your child to ride in the box without a helmet?

    Do the police pull you over when you have more than two passengers on the bike? (And then lecture you on being a bad parent?)

    Looks great. I have a trailer which isn't much good - the kids prefer the open air and fight over who gets to ride in the child seat.

  15. Yes it is illegal for the kids or the rider to go without a helmet. Usually we all wear one. I don't travel far with more than two kids in it - it's pretty heavy.

    The kids love it, but I find it really handy just as a commuter bike. I can stop for groceries etc and never worry about not being able to take something on the bike. For example I bought a new tv and brought it home on the bike.

    1. What about the extra cost associated with compulsive shopping? Having a normal bike could save you some $!

      Just kidding, looks great :-)

  16. I stumbled on your blog from the Dutch cargo bike site.

    Thanks again for taking the time to chat to me about it yesterday!

  17. Hi, Had you considered something like a yuba mundo and if you did, what swayed you towards the cargo bike ?

  18. TC, I had seen the long bikes like yuba mundo, but there are a few benefits of the cargo bike over these bikes.

    1. Kids can get in and out themselves once they are about 2.
    2. When the dog runs out of energy (ours is getting old), he can sit in the box.
    3. I could build a shade cover over the box for the kids (it's pretty hot in Brisbane most of the time)
    4. If you have two child seats on the yuba mundo, you don't really have space for groceries.
    5. You can strap on pretty big objects to the top of the box (eg. today a brought home one of these tables form day care, with two kids and a dog

    6. The bike frame is step-through style, so you don't have to throw your leg over your cargo on the back to get on and off.

    Also, the bike is very manoeuvrable for its size, apart from the large turning circle, so I'm not sure that the Yuba would be much better in that respect.

    The only possible advantage might be weight. The long cargo bike is heavy up hills. But with a load the weight differential doesn't seem so significant.

    Hope this helps.


  19. Thanks for taking the time out to write this blog, and respond to all the questions. I am inspired! I have been trying to work out for a while now how I can ride with my 3 children (2 almost 4 and 1 just 2) and now it is crunch time as the bigger kids start kindy next year so I have to make a decision so I can get them to school. Your points on justifying the price are very helpful. I note from your comments above that it is difficult to ride hills, I'm in Gympie Qld and we live in a very hilly area. I'm looking at riding 16 kilometres twice a day at least 2 or 3 days a week then hopefully more if we enjoy it, do you think this bike would handle that? Do you ride in the rain and if so, how wet do the passengers get? Thanks in advance. Kind regards Jaime

  20. Hi mate where can i get an old one in Brisbane for no more than $500?
    It's for my dog and me:-)

  21. I'm looking for a Nihola as I live in Bramble Bay nice and flat!! I can't open the Good Concepts link you linked to, has that shop shut down?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Sorry, to be clear, the Bakfiets brand bike I have is only available through Dutch Cargo Bikes.

      They deliver to a local bike shop to have the bike assembled near you. Good Concepts was my local shop, which happened to sell Chinese-made versions at the time, which are now being sold here