Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Riding on the beach. A Qualified Success.

The last blog post for my catchup night is a couple of shots from when we took the bakfiets down the beach to try riding along the wet sand with the kids on board.  I wouldn't take my mountain bike onto the sand, because the salt is too corrosive, but the bakfiets is full galv-dipped to tolerate 20 years in the salt grit and weather in The Netherlands, so I was willing to take the punt with the bakfiets.

It was a fun experiment, but the sand along Brighton beach was a bit soft due to sand carting.  Combined with a 35kg bike with another 35kg of small people and 60psi tyres, there were a few spots where it was quite impossible to pedal, and I had to push.

 But overall it was plenty of fun, and I will might give it a try again later in the year when the sand has had a chance to settle.

Using a Cargo Bike to, well, Haul Cargo

A few weeks ago we did some gardening and needed some compost.  We didn't need need a whole trailer load, so it seemed a bit silly to borrow a trailer, pick up the compost and drop the trailer back.  It was also unappealing to put a pile of buckets of pungent mushroom compost into the back of the car.

Then it dawned on me that the bakfiets was the perfect solution.  Marion Sand & Metal is just a few minutes ride from home.  It took longer chatting with the staff there than it did filling the bak up. I just folded the bench up, put a tarp in to keep the compost off the wood, and a bucket to pile it in with.

I discovered that my bakfiets and I together weigh about 130kg.  Given that I weigh just over 85kg, that makes the bakfiets weigh about 35kg.  Without filling the box right up I got about 60kg of compost in.

All loaded up ready to be weighed.

Me lining up to be weighed after filling up.

The bakfiets on the weigh bridge while I paid inside.

Of course one of the nice things about getting the compost by bike was that the bike could be pushed right next to the spot in the garden where we wanted the compost -- much more convenient than carting it from a trailer.

Adding a 2nd Bench to a Bakfiets.nl Cargo Long

Last week I was in Amsterdam for work, so I took the opportunity to get some accessories for my bakfiets.  In fact, if I am honest, I chose my accommodation partly on the basis of proximity to a workcycles.com store.

The main thing I wanted to get was a 2nd bench so that we could fit three in at once, since we have already had occasions when one of the cousins wanted a ride, and Caleb was rather unimpressed about being removed to make room.

Here is Caleb and Isabel ready to set out for the first time on separate benches.  You can also see the panniers I bought in a Dutch super-market for the equivalent of AUD$44!
The panniers were an absolute bargain at AUD$44 compared to local prices.  In fact, I could have got them for about AUD$23 if I didn't mind pink.  They fit fairly well, and have slots in the top for the built-in bungy cords that the bakfiets rack (and that of most European city bikes) feature.

The guys in the shop were really helpful, and in addition to fixing up the rental bike I was riding, showed me a safer way to install the extra bench with a retaining strap so that the extra bench can't fly out in an accident.
I took a couple of pictures while I was in the shop to see how it all fits together, including adding the retention strap.   You can also see the wedges that screw into the box to support the extra bench.  The bench itself slides down between the two almost-upright parts, and the seat rests on the near-horizontal part.

Here Caleb and Isabel try it out before setting out.
If you are planning on installing one of these yourself, there is a great series of images that I found really helpful.

The kids are quite happy riding on the back bench, or at least were until there were separate benches.  Now if there are just the two of them, they will sit on their separate benches.  This has the advantage that they can't really bother each other too much.

Isabel loves sitting up front, where she is prone to leaning forward into the wind Titanic-style.

I also took the opportunity to get some miscellaneous spare parts and a flat cover for the bike which can be tricky or expensive to source locally.  I was going to say that this is more aerodynamic than the full wet-weather cover, but honestly "aerodynamic" is not an adjective that really belongs with an eight-foot long cross between a wheel-barrow and a statfiets with a riding posture that puts your head above most most of the cars around you.  But it is certainly better to be able to cover your luggage in rainy weather without having to ride a bike with what amounts to a medium sized sail.

With the flat cover on.

And from the side.  You can also see how visible the reflective strip on the Marathon tyres are here with the flash.

A trip to Amsterdam, home of the Bakfiets

Last week I had the pleasure of a work trip to Amsterdam, which was exciting for many reasons, but here I want to show some of the cycling-related fun I had between meetings.   Here is a slightly random photo collection from the trip, showing some of what you can expect in the bike-friendly city of Amsterdam.

Here is a nice Dutch bike path -- separate from the road, and with plenty of bikes parked by people living in the near-by apartments, and also probably some riding to work.  Click on the photo to see in full resolution, where you can see some of the variety of statfiets ("city bikes") and bakfiets ("box bikes") and cargo trikes.
Here is a a nice little lake I rode past.  With the water table typically only a foot below ground level (and in some cases metres above ground level), there are plenty of little ponds and lakes.

Here is a nice canal I rode past.  Most of the canals have single carriage ways along the sides, which are great for riding.

This town had this nice old draw bridge over the river.

A boat even went through while I was there. This picture shows some of the very few lycra-wearing cyclists I saw while I was in Amsterdam.  Most cyclists are just in their regular clothes.  It is only on leisure routes like the Ronde Hoep that "sports cyclists" were to be seen.

Here is a fairly typical Dutch bike while I was waiting for the bridge to go back down, with  a practical sized basket on the front.

The boat finally went through.

and the bridge went back down.

I said earlier that in some cases the water table is metres above ground level.  This is what I meant.  Here the river is several metres above the ground level of the Polder (drained land) to the right.

Here is a beautiful sunrise in Amsterdam near where I was staying on KNSM Eiland.  Very easy to stop for a snap when you are on a sensible bike.
While the bikes are sensible to ride, it doesn't stop the locals from decorating them and otherwise stamping their individualism on them.  Here is the bike of a girlfriend of one of the people at the Amsterdam Hackerspace I visited.  Dectorating your bike makes it easier to find in the big bike parks (see photos below), and maybe less likely to get stolen.  The fake grass with flowers that fit on the cargo rack at the back is a standard item in many of the super-markets!  I didn't buy any, but I did buy some big panniers for 35 Euros (about AUD$44), way cheaper than anything here, and they actually fit and securely attach to my bakfiets, and even have the slots to let the built-in bungy straps through (see photos in a blog post coming soon).

I mentioned the need to find your bike easily in the big bike parts.  In this shot near Amsterdam Centraal Station, you can see some bike parks to the left of the tram, and in the distance to the right of the tram you can just make out part of a two-level bike park. I estimate there must be near 10,000 bike parks near the central railway station.
Here are some more of the bike parks near Amsterdam Centraal.  You can see why pimping your bike up a bit is a good idea if you want to find it again easily.

Here is the view towards KNSM Eiland, where you get an idea of how pretty Amsterdam "streets" can be.

Plenty of nice classic boats around to be seen.

This boat is flying a pirate flag.

This is a typical view next to some shops: plenty of bikes parked along the path.