Is the Bullitt Clockwork perfect?

Given my raving about my Bullitt Clockwork over the past few months I am a little concerned that you might end up think the Bullitt is perfect. It does seem to be a problem for Kim who is stuck, unable to fit a Bullitt in a flat.

So I thought it was time for a bit of balance. Here are the things that I would like to change about a Bullitt.

  • The front mudguard is too short. It needs to continue forward at the top quite a bit. At the moment water shoots out of the front of the mudguard at just the right height to get blown back onto the front light. It needs to be long enough for the mudguard to curl back down a bit and deflect water downwards.
  • The frame has excellent supports and fixing points for boxes and the like. But at the moment the accessories are too fiddly and slow to fit. The otherwise excellent honeycomb sides that go with the honeycomb base would be much improved if they could be taken off and on much more easily. Ideally I would like to be able to switch between lockable box, open (and very light box) and child transport in seconds.
  • A really good cover to be used for child transport is needed, It should be waterproof, have windows and be easy to get in and out of. I would use this when shopping for groceries as it would allow me to carry more without risking losing bits on the way. It would also shield the rider from more rain.
  • It would be good if the rear mudguard included a built in reflector, I use the seat post for lights and the seat stays are not round so at the moment I don’t have a rear reflector at all.
  • It would be good if the seat stays had mounting points for a rear rack. I can see it being particularly useful if you are carrying a child in the front as it would be helpful to have a rack for extra luggage as the child will not leave a lot of space for luggage.
  • I would really like a full chain guard to protect the chain from dirt and the rider from the dirty chain.
  • At them moment there are fixing points for only one water bottle holder (on the seat tube) but due to the compact frame only quite short bottles will fit. A extra set on the back of the steering tube would be very useful (I have fitted a bottle holder here using the Zefal Gizmo).
  • I have found I need the wheel nuts very tight indeed to stop the rear wheel sliding forward in the horizontal dropouts. It would be good to see a tugnut provided either like the Surly Tugnut or built into the frame.

Upgrades

In my experience a few upgrades are highly desirable for most people. They relate to the 3 contact points.

I have written lots about lighting although in a sense that is not an upgrade but an addition.

Beyond that I have planned to add Brooks mudflaps but have not yet done so.

One day I might like a transmission upgrade. In a year or more when the Shimano Alfine 11 speed hub has been proved in the real world it would be a nice improvement as it gives

  • Wider range of gears. Higher top gear would be handy as I tend to spin out at around 25mph. A lower bottom gear is always handy as I have had to walk up a couple of hills so far.
  • Closer ratios. There are a few times when the gap between gears on the Alfine 8 speed is a bit wide. Not a real problem but closer spaced gears are always good
  • It is lighter. Always good
  • It uses an oil bath which should mean longer life, lower friction easier maintenance. All good.
  • The gear shifter supports changing multiple gears in one action. Very handy for a hub gear that has more ratios that are closer together. Very handy when baulked at the bottom of a steep climb.

Along with the Alfine 11 speed hub I think a Gates Belt Drive would be a nice upgrade. Sadly that either means a new splitable  frame or fitting a S&S joint in the seat stay (probably not possible as they are not round). The gates belt drive would remove the need for a chainguard and would also reduce maintenance still further.

That is all I can think of. H’mm it is a pretty short list of relatively minor items. Obviously the Bullitt is getting quite close to perfection and I might need to follow that with a theological reflection on perfection on my other blog 🙂

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  1. Are you aware of the scotchlight adhesive vinyl stickers that you can get? A strip of this would fix onto your back mudguard no problem. Although most standard sheets available would not be the (legal requirement) red reflector for the rear as the sheets are all silver. But it is possible to by reflective vinyl cut off a roll on lots of different colours if you find a specialist dealer. We have somewhere here in Bristol that sells it by the metre! I have bought red and white from them (although the red doesn’t seem as bright). It means you can cover your bike with sheets the same colour as the paintwork. A friend has a whole bike covered in black scotchlight vinyl. So it looks like the same black bike in the day but shine a light on it and it is very bright white. He was stopped by the Police for not having a reflector and then they noticed his whole bike was flashing reflecting the flashing lights on the top of their car.

    I was going to suggest the Zefal Gizmos too but see you already have them. Perhaps the geometry means you need to look at bottle racks for the rear of your seat (fits to the rails) or for you handlebars?

    I read somewhere that you can use one of the Nexus twist grips on the Alfine 8 speeds if you want to be able to change more gears at once. Not sure of the actual technicalities on this though so don’t take my word for it. A local bike shop may be able to advise though.

    I was looking at a Bakfiets yesterday and the covers for those are beasts! Huge things that don’t pack down. I think the Bullett cover looks quite manageable by comparison. The Bakfiets was lovely though. Did you try out any others before buying yours, or did you get to test ride the Bullett before you bought it? I’m finding it difficult to track down anywhere to test ride one.

    I did see a bigger canopy style kids cover for the Bullett on the Larry Vs Harry site in the Gallery but not sure if it is in production or who made it. Looked good though and I’d be interested in finding out as I’m getting a cargo bike primarily to transport my kids.

    • Hi Adam,

      I agree that scotchlight may be the right way for me to go. However, in general I think a mudguard mounted reflector would be good.

      I am not too keen on bottles on the back of the seat, looks like it will make getting on more tricky. My extra bottle holder on the back of the steering tube (so just behind the box) works really well. Bottle holders on the handlebars might get in the way of luggage.

      I am not a great fan of twist grip shifters as I seem to have had lots of problems in the past. The new 11 speed shifters can change multiple gears at a time just like the MTB ones do.

      I have not looked much at the child covers other than a few photos. The Bullitt cover is great if you don’t fill above the honeycomb sides, but I do when food shopping.

      I have tried some bakfiets with the Company of Cyclists in the past but I don’t know the brand excpet that they were not Workcycles.com. They were only 3 speed and very bashed about. I did not test ride a Bullitt before I bought it.

      If you are looking to transport multiple kids then my feeling is that the standard Bullitt box is going to be too small. I would either look at building a custom, slightly wider box for a Bullitt. or get a workcycles or other Bakfiets that has a larger box. My feeling is that the Bullitt will still be better to ride (especially if you are want to ride up hills) but at the moment you will need to do some work yourself to sort out the box, seats and cover. On the otherhand the WorkCycles bakfiets are really really tough and very well sorted with the equipment for kids (I like their approach very much).

  2. Thanks Dave. The Bakfiets was great fun and really nicely made, but couldn’t help feeling it was just a bit on the bulky side. Loads of room for two kids and shopping, but the box is probably too big to get through my front door. The weight is an issue too. The model I tried was an 8 speed. Very nice gears and good brakes too.

    The Bullitt looks like it would be a bit more manageable in size. I’d likely end up using it with my son (the older of the two) standing behind the handlebars with a top tube seat (in a similar fashion to Mikael Copenhagenize) and my little girl with shopping in the front. Or squeeze them in when we have no shopping. As you say, I’d probably have to build my own box but would be tempted to get the sides and floor too as the site states they’re only shipped overseas with the purchase of a bike.

    • Ay yes, fitting through doors is a big issue.

      My Bullitt goes through doors all the time. I keep it in a covered side passageway which is through a normal doorway, when I go to Churches for meetings I often just wheel it inside. I agree this is a likely to be a problem with the Bakfiets (but then especially in Workcycles guise they can be left outside the whole time – security permitting). Of course it is also the size they take up once through the door and the Bullitt is nice and compact.

      One of the good things about the Bullitt is that it is really manoeuvrable when pushing. For tight corners I steer with one hand and lift the back wheel off the ground with the other so that I can move it sideways. Makes tight corners easy. Would not be able to do the same with either a Bakfiets (too heavy) or a longtail style cargobike (handlebars in wrong place).

      | agree about getting the base and sides with the order they are very useful. If you build your own box then I would be tempted to make it without a base as the honeycomb one is so light and with the tilt at the front gives maximum length. The sides come with brackets that might be useful for your own box..

      I wonder if you could make a box with a seat in it that would be wider than a doorway but which would lift off really quick to go through doors. Maybe it could sit on the cargo baseboard on it’s side (or end if it is made flared) to go through doors and then be tipped right way up and secured to ride. Then you would be able to fit both kids inside more easily

      This pink bullitt shows they can carry a much wider load than the normal box..

      Mind you I think Mikael’s way probably works well on a Bullitt especially on flat terrain. My only concerns are that I did use a cross bar seat (on a MTB) for one of our sons years ago and found it hard on my knees (spread further apart) and impossible to stand to go up hills.

  3. A Bullitt owner responds « 42 Bikes - pingback on February 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm
  4. The fenderbot is a doddle to fit, includes a reflector, lasts 200hrs, and is quite cheap. I’ve fitted a pair to my cargotrike

    http://measured-response.com/bakfiets/?p=573

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