Sunday, May 24, 2009

Visit to the Dutch Bicycle Co in Somerville

Yesterday, we finally visited the Dutch Bicycle Company in East Somerville. It's a bit out-of-the-way, so it took me a while to finally make it there.

It's housed in a big space that's shared with a used car dealer of some sort, which is ironic to be sure, but it does provide lots of great indoor space for test rides.

I was most looking forward to test riding the Sorte Jernhest Carrier Bike, a cargo/passenger trike that's roughly comparable to our Cristiania. The proprietor insisted that we all give it a try, all four of us got to check it out in detail...

Having three wheels and a box in the front is where the similarities between this trike and ours is where similarities end. Our box is made of plywood, this one seems to be aluminum. This one has smaller wheels. And most interestingly, this one steers with the rear wheel alone, while ours pivots the whole front box.

It appears to be much lighter than the Cristiania thanks to the materials used, but I don't know how the lighter materials would translate into durability. I'm absolutely confident that our trike will still be on the road when our girls have kids of their own, but it's impossible to know about this one.

It's very comfortable to ride, and the passenger compartment is also very accommodating - though there are some poky-outy bits on the inside of the box that could be scratchy. The roof is very nicely made, but lateral visibility is limited, and there seems to be less space inside overall than we have.

But any differences mean very little in practical terms, because it's the only human-powered vehicle of this sort that's really available in this area. Sorger imports them directly, and he's got full liability insurance for everything he sells. (Cristiania won't import to the US, and anyone who tries to do that independently is taking a big liability risk.)

So, based on my limited experience with this trike and the shop, I'd absolutely recommend it for anyone who wants carry kids and/or cargo around town in comfort and style.

The shop also carries lots of other exciting stuff, including super-stylish Sogreni bikes, a big selection of Gazelle products, and Conference Bikes. Not to mention a GIANT spaceship, which Sorger claims is a boat that he's storing for a friend.

We also test-rode the Gazelle Cabby, which is a more refined version of the Bakfiets cargo bike. The original Bakfiets has a plywood box in the middle and steers via a front wheel out front. The arrangement of this version is similar, but it's lighter, and the cargo/passenger compartment is heavy fabric around a sturdy frame, which folds when not in use. (A little web surfing reveals that the Gazelle doesn't have a rain cover, though, which is a big problem if you're going to rely on this for regular transport! There's a comprehensive review here.)

Great to see all this stuff being made available in the US! According to Sorger, his sales are going great - so I hope to see some of these beautiful bikes out on the Minuteman Bikeway soon.


Dottie said...

Cool bike! I'll definitely be buying some sort of box cargo bike (maybe trike) when I have a kid in the future.

Trisha said...

Good to have at least one option for something like that -- no one around here carries them. I'm interested to see they have Gazelles as well. When researching my Batavus, I came across a few comments that claimed Gazelle was a better Dutch manufacturer, but they didn't seem to be as widely distributed.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Andrew:
Thanks for your post. We just rode our new Cabby home from Somerville today, with our 20-month old plunked in the front--its inaugural ride. It's a great bicycle and we'll be ordering the rain covers soon (they are indeed available). I have long admired Christiania bikes since researching them years ago and hope we run into you and yours one day. We're in No. Cambridge so it seems likely. Best wishes and happy bicycling! Tracy and family