Tag Archives: cargobike

Sabbatical preparation Comfort Camping

As I have demonstrated before I like comfort when camping. So my Sabbatical preparation includes comfort camping issues. I’m going to be camping for about 5 weeks in total so comfort is important. On the other hand for 4 of those weeks I am going to be cycling up to 65 miles each day, so lightweight and small volume are also important.

I have one new toy since I went cargobike camping. A fantastic lightweight chair. The Helinox Chair One which we bought in Cotswold Outdoor. At 960 grams it is tiny and yet also very comfortable. Ideal for the comfort loving cycle tourer seeking a refreshing sabbatical 🙂

helinox-chair-one-bag helinox-chair-one

Hebie Chain glider on a Bullitt Clockwork Cargobike

An update following: Out of my technical depth: chain ring.

First the existing stuff.

Turns out that after about 1200 to 1400 miles the supplied Alfine chain ring was quite worn. Sadly the way it is made stops it being reversed.

The same is true of the 20 tooth sprocket. Worn and can’t be reversed.

Neither is very impressive in terms of wear, sadly it does not seem possible to fit a better quality sprocket from anyone else due to the rubber sides, one of which is fitted to the sprocket. These really catch lots of crud (I suppose on the bright side they have kept it away from the hub gear itself, but they are keeping the chain dirty.

Second, fitting the Hebie chain glider.

Sadly this has not yet gone well. I fitted the nice, tough feeling Surly 38 tooth chain ring. However, it is very close to the crank arms (which are a 130 BCD). It turns out the crank arms don’t fit within the chainglider.

So a big re-think.

In the end I have found a replacement chainset, it is also Hollotech II like the Alfine so the chainline should be correct. However, it uses a 104 BCD and can support chain rings down to 34 teeth. Hopefully this will provide a lot more clearance and allow the Hebie Chain glider to fit.

Meanwhile, I am currently running the Surly 38 tooth chain ring, almost no riding today and hopefully tomorrow I’ll fit a new sprocket to go with the new chain ring and chain. Then when the new cranks arrive I can get the Hebie fitted. All the gunk in the drivetrain does act as confirmation that this is a good thing to do.

Other fixes

I have now fitted the pitlock security to the front wheel and seat post. Pitlock don’t offer secure 15mm nuts for the rear wheel (although my frame lock helps there) nor do they provide replacement allen bolts to hold the seat on.  Looking for other solutions for them.

Conclusion

Hopefully in a few days I’ll be able to provide an exact solution to fiting a Hebie chain glider to a Bullitt clockwork. Til then don’t hold your breath 🙂

A Bullitt owner responds

An excellent, interesting and challenging article has been posted by WorkCycles as Guest Post: Cargo Bikes and the Information Revolution. The comments are also very helpful.

The post is written by Josh Boisclair as US based bike mechanic with 15 years of experience with a wide variety of cargobikes.

Josh clearly has huge respect for the WorkCycles cargobike and I too think their bikes set the very highest standards for quality, robustness, low maintenance and practicality.

However, in the post Josh is also quite negative about the Bullitt. As a Bullitt owner for 5 months and over 1,000 miles I wanted to respond.as I felt some of the comments were somewhat unfair. I want to start by agreeing that the Bullitt is not perfect, in fact a month ago I wrote Is the Bullitt Clockwork perfect? which detailed all the things I don’t like about the Bullitt 🙂

Anyway on to Josh’s comments:

Larry vs. Harry Bullitt:
This Danish bike is interesting. I like are the look, the colours, and the general idea of building a faster, lighter, sportier cargo hauler. There are a few messengers here in SF riding these around in very flashy custom colours. The bike IS very light, although the cargo platform is too narrow. Also, I am curious why they didn’t make it with a lower step-through. Perhaps because the market for these bikes is amongst experienced riders. Here is great video highlighting the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt in Copenhagen. Also visible are Sorte Jerhest rear steer trikes.

What I don’t like about the Bullitt are the ergonomics, the steering geometry, aluminum frame, exposed drivetrain, inability to mount a rear rack, lack of wheel lock eyelets, and the smallish cargo area. The steering column should be taller and threaded for use with a 1 1/8” quill stem. The frame should be chro-moly steel, like the Cetma Cargo bike and others, and the top tube should be lower. Aluminum is not nearly as strong as steel and is soft. To make a frame that won’t break, the tubes have to be thick and large, resulting in a very stiff ride. If the frame flexes enough, over a long period of time, stress fractures are inevitable. Even a small dent in a tube starts to crack after a little while. Aluminum is just not a material for a long-lasting cargo bike. I am very interested to see how and when these bikes start breaking.

(Ed: Josh, I disagree on this one. I suspect the Bullitt is so overbuilt that it’ll take a lot of use and abuse before even fatigue and crack propagation kills any. And besides it just wouldn’t be the same bike in skinny steel tubes. The fatness is very much part of the bike’s charm.)

So taking the criticisms one by one:

the cargo platform is too narrow.

I am bemused by this comment. The Bullitt is quite different to the traditional Dutch Bakfiets as the frame is the cargo platform. A Bullitt has two very deep rails which are the frame and which provide a flexible load platform to which various things can be fitted. The only other cargo bike with anything similar to this style that I have seen is the CETMA. I think this style has huge advantages in flexibility and ease of fitting a wide variety of cargo carrying boxes and platforms.

I agree the standard cargo offerings from LarryVsHarry (which are designed to match the frame width) are narrower than a WorkCycles cargo bike. I have no idea why Josh thinks this means the platform is too narrow. First, you can very easily fit much wider cargo carriers on the frame. Like this:

Second, why should all cargobikes have to be the same size as a WorkCycles. We all have different needs. Yes the WorkCycles is fantastic at carrying a crowd of small children, but our boys are much older than that (2 are taller than me). So my need is for carrying stuff and the capacity of a Bullitt is just right for me (at about one Asda shopping trolley load). The narrow cargo platform is in fact a huge advantage for me as the Bullitt fits so easily through standard doorways. Much wider would be very inconvenient for parking indoors (I do this at home, at Churches and at the Leicester Bike Park a WorkCycle cargobike would not fit in any of these).

I am curious why they didn’t make it with a lower step-through

I agree that a step through frame is a great design feature. It would make the Bullitt more friendly for people who wear skirts (I don’t) as well as slightly easier to get on and off with a full load.

However, I suspect that the design contributes to the high performance of the Bullitt through increasing the rigidity. I used to think that my Bullitt flexed a bit with a full load of shopping, however, I have come to realise that the flex is all in the tyres (otherwise the very light cargo sides would be bending – they don’t). You really notice this if you pump up the tyres too hard as the Bullitt then transmits every bump in the road to you.

Given that Josh complains that aluminium fails if it flexes it is odd to complain about a design feature that stops it flexing.

The reality is that the cross bar is low compared to most bike frames with a cross bar. It is easy to climb over although I mostly swing my leg over the back as on a typical men’s bike. Having no rear rack makes this easier than many bikes.

My feeling is that this is a somewhat unfair criticism given that the Bullitt created and defines the performance cargobike market. Clealy this market segment is for enthusiastic riders many of whom would never consider a step-through design.

What I don’t like about the Bullitt are the ergonomics, the steering geometry, aluminum frame, exposed drivetrain, inability to mount a rear rack, lack of wheel lock eyelets, and the smallish cargo area. The steering column should be taller and threaded for use with a 1 1/8” quill stem.

Ergonomics: I have upgraded my saddle, pedals and grips. That is a very common thing for enthusiasts to do with their bikes. For me it reflects the performance side of the market where many riders have strong preferences regarding the contact points. As far as other ergonomics are concerned I don’t know what Josh is getting at, I find the Bullitt very comfortable and a good fit.

the steering geometry: I am not sure I understand Josh’s criticism on this one and I can get out of my technical depth very easily here. I find the Bullitt steering easy to learn, very stable at speed and also very manoeuvrable.

After much thought and discussion with Hans at LarryVsHarry I have decided to add the steering damper – I felt a recent off road trip around Rutland Water showed that at high speed on bumpy surfaces you can get a front wheel wobble (only been an issue above 25mph on bumpy surfaces and a light load).

As a design feature I like the engineering of the steering linkage, it is quite beautiful (and totally maintenance free). I think the lower connection to the front fork very sensible for keeping the steering linkage out of the way of cargo.

aluminum frame: I think Henry’s editors note responds to this as well as some of the comments where people note there has not been a single Bullitt frame failure yet. I would have thought that the deep frame sections would have been difficult to build in steel and so it would have been hard to get similar rigidity in steel. I do have a preference for steel (mostly on environmental and sustainability grounds) so if Josh can build a steel Bullitt I’ll come to him if my frame ever fails.

exposed drivetrain: Agreed, I am thinking about fitting a Hebie Chainglider which will address this. I suspect that this also relates to the preferences of the performance orientated market.

inability to mount a rear rack: Sort of agreed and I did put this in my criticisms. I don’t think it is a very big deal though and I don’t think I would bother fitting a rack myself. The main uses might be for a child seat (I don’t like rear mounted child seats very much) or for the shopping if you are carrying children in the front (I don’t have children to carry in the front).

lack of wheel lock eyelets: No big deal. LarryVsHarry provide a frame lock that fits using straps.

the smallish cargo area: As above you can go as wide as you like. Yes it is shorter than the WorkCycles long cargobike but why should it have to be the same. I don’t need a bigger cargo area as cargo generally takes less space than children.

Having a standard ahead style stem fitting makes it very easy to replace either the stem or handlebars to fit a specific riders preferences (for example several owners have switched to more swept back handlebars). Don’t be fooled by the pictures of people racing Bullitts, you can have the handlebars set to well above saddle height.

Conclusion

I think the bulk of Josh’s article is good, informative and helpful. I may respond on other points. Hopefully, this post is a useful response to some of what seemed like unfair criticisms of the Bullitt.

Oop’s trolley nearly too full for Bullitt

Just back from Asda. This trolley load:

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Just fitted in my Bullitt. Here we see it loaded at Asda (and nice not to have to push the trolley across miles of car park). At this point I was beginning to wonder if I need a cargo net to put over the top.

IMAG0267

But as you can see from this picture of the Bullitt ready to unload at home everything stayed in place with no problems. Yes, the handling was absolutely fine. Before long I am going to need a front light in front of the cargo as it is starting to block the front lights from lighting up the road just in front of the bike 🙂

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One of the nice things about riding in this weather is that the frozen stuff stays frozen on the way home 🙂

I confess that before going into Asda I did nip into Starbucks for a coffee. It is nice to be able to park pretty close – especially as there was not huge demand for the outside tables 🙂

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The problem with panniers

For years I have carried stuff around by bike in panniers. Now using my Bullitt cargobike I don’t have to.  What a huge difference this makes!!

I was using Ortleib back rollers and they are about as good as you can get. They fit well, are waterproof and last forever.

But the problem with all panniers is when you get off the bike at your destination, from then on all panniers are a right pain.

The shape is awkward to carry, slow to load and has sticky out bits to catch you and others. Plus of course it draws unnecessary attention to the fact you have cycled.

One of the joys of a cargobike is that you use your ordinary bags for your laptop and other stuff. So much quicker to load and faster + more convenient to carry around. Plus of course you don’t have to worry about adding extra stuff in any kind of bag or none while you are out.

Bullitt Clockwork upgrades

Today I spent some of the money that I have “earned” through my cycling expenses over the last couple of months 🙂

Having already upgraded the saddle it was time for the other contact points. I took advantage of visiting Freewheel in Nottingham to get a few bits.

First, grips. I have found that the standard grips were giving me white finger after about an hour of riding. So have fitted Ergon Grips model GR2-L I have used Ergon grips on a couple of bikes in the past and have always found them extremely comfortable so I have high hopes that these will solve the white finger problem. With the medium size bar ends they also give me more choice of  hand positions. Plus these are not bare metal bar ends but rubberised so they should have better grip and be warmer than the ones on my mountain bike.

Second, I have changed the pedals for larger platforms that should not feel like they are cutting through my feet when wearing trainers. I chose Sanderson Promag Sl‘s in black (not red as pictured because that would have looked horrible on an orange Bullitt Clockwork). There was not a huge choice but these are pretty much what I wanted anyway.

It was a  bit surreal to be in Freewheel, when I was a teenager in the days long before the internet, I used to drool over their catalogue which was  full of exciting bikes and bits. I even bought some foam handlebar grips from them for my Raleigh 10speed 🙂

Anyway all fitted and the Brooks Flyer Special waxed again with extra wax melted into the metal/leather interface to stop the squeaks coming back. I’ll go for a short test ride in a while.

Tomorrow I get to try the Bike Park at the Town Hall in Leicester as I am going for some training (for people authorised to do marriages). Sadly it does mean an early start 🙁

Convoy of mixed bikes

On our  ride to Oadby today we had one of the most mixed convoys of bikes possible.
Bullitt 01I was riding my Bullitt (someone had to carry the locks, coats, stuff to clear our of Mum’s room, …)

Jane was on our Trice XXL. One of the lowest recumbent trikes available. Wickedly fast and comfy. Plus excellent treatment for varicose veins 🙂 Picture later as on a different computer.

Andy was on my Pearson Touche fixed gear bike.

The XXL is least ideal for the city but is most comfy and Jane finds she is faster on that than anything else. Although as she is never out of breath at the top of a hill we suspect she enjoys the way a trike allows you to climb very slowly without balance issues.

The fixie is a great city bike, however, quite incompatible with the XXL as it is fast uphill but the speed is limited on the downhill by the speed you can spin your legs.

The Bullitt is comfy and with me riding is quite compatible with Jane on the XXL (neither of us will break records going uphill but we love going down). It has great road presence which coupled with the upright position gives great confidence in traffic.

My guess is that there are not that many groups of 3 riding through Leicester on quite such a variety of bikes 🙂

Wet Bullitts

Last night I went for a ride in the rain.  It was a good opportunity to check out how well the Bullitt copes.

I did just over 13 miles in the hour. It was mostly on unlit small country roads (Out to South Croxton, then Beeby, Barkby, Barkby Thorpe then looping towards Thurmaston before back to Barkby to return to Syston via Queniborough and Barkby Roads). It rained the whole time although not that hard.

I got home to find that my feet and in fact everything below the knees was bone dry. Never had that happen in the rain before, especially with plenty of water on the road. The mudguards are excellent but more than that the cargo box blocks all the spray from the front wheel plus shelters you from the rain. Certainly makes things a lot more pleasant. With the cover on the inside of the box stayed completely dry as well 🙂

On the front I was using my excellent Lumicycle lights which give me two front lights off a single “bottle” battery that goes in the water bottle holder. That gives me one long focused beam plus a wide spread LED. Eventually I plan to fit a Schmidt front dynamo so that the front light will always be available. On the back I use a Cateye Tl-ld1100, I have bought these for several bikes as I have found them very reliable with superb visibility.

I was again delighted by the comfort of the Bullitt (with the exception of the saddle which I am replacing with a Brooks Flyer and the grips which I find need me to wear gloves). The “easy up” handlebar height adjustment is superb, it is possible to adjust the andlebar height while riding – not that I would ever do something so stupid.

The handling is also great allowing me to swoop downhill on narrow unlit roads I don’t know at over 20mph. While I had seen the video of Hans pelting uphill standing on the pedals I did not have high expectations of being able to do that myself having only adequate skills. But in fact it was perfectly possible although I am much much slower than Hans is in this video

In conclusion the Bullitt is just a nice bike to ride even in the wet and dark 🙂

First sizeable load on my Bullitt Clockwork

What could be worse than needing to go to the recycling centre/rubbish tip on your day off.

Having to drive there and then wait in a long queue would be one answer.

So today I took a load of stuff that either can’t be recycled by the home collection or won’t fit in our bin. Of course I took it by bike, on my new Bullitt Clockwork.

Notice it is really easy to load as it is totally stable on the stand. In my Bullitt today there was Old & broken picture frames on the bottom plus some old broken keyboards and a box of miscellaneous junk, some old bathroom scales, 4 sacks of packaging material that can’t be put in the home recycling. Two broken clothes dryers and some other stuff.

It was about 4.5miles to the tip which is currently at Sileby. When I got there the queue was huge (maybe 30 cars) as they were manoeuvring lorries inside. So I just rode past them all to the front. I had got in, unloaded and was on my way before the people who had overtaken me on the way had even started to unload. I just pushed the Bullitt from bin to bin so had a minimal amount of carrying to do. Meanwhile there was a log jam of cars in trying to get past each other to get to the right containers.

I came home a different way to explore the area a bit more. Rather more hilly but quieter roads (towards Ratcliffe on the Wreake, then through East Goscote) also about a mile further than the more direct route through Cossington. Total distance 9.5 miles. Average speed 11.9mph. I was gone from home about an hour which I reckon is not very different to how long it would have taken me by car. Of course if I had gone by car I would have had to find some other time to get 48 minutes exercise.

On the rear and front views you can see the Reelights (look like reflectors attached to the axles), these are on all the time (flashing) but have no batteries, Instead they are powered by some magnets fastened to the spokes. When you stop they continue to flash for a few minutes. From a practical point of view they are excellent as you always have lights that are working even if you would not want to use them as your only lights. Only disadvantage is the number of people who kindly come up to tell you that you have left your lights on when you park.

Below is the view you get when riding (if you look down). Yes this was after I had got rid of the load at the tip, it hadn’t fallen off.

The black base and front of the box are a honeycomb material so are very light. On their top side they have a non slip surface. The sides are also honeycomb with neat sealed edges.  The back of the box is part honeycomb and part a stiff material that is fixed in place with two pockets in the bottom. There is a rain cover which covers the box (it clips onto the rounded bolts that stick out on the sides (see top photo) and is fastened with Velcro around the steering tube. The box is not entirely waterproof from below as there are gaps around the edge of the honeycomb. All the sides and base of the box can be removed separately as required,

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