Following the stupendous impact of my first post in this series, it is time I addressed my gentleman readers’ hankering to know the second most important bike they must have in their quiver. It is, a cargo bike, of some sort. Each of us needs a cargo bike because (in case you haven’t noticed) we have entered the age of bike infrastructure, when a man can’t expect to always look manly by virtue of his prowess cycling in traffic. There will be times when any of us could find ourselves corralled onto bike paths that look and feel as though they were made for 6 year olds to play broom brooms and learn to hand signal.
Yet, if we shun the safe routes, depriving them of our paternal patronage, choosing instead to claim that darned lane as a matter of principle, it is we who come off looking like kids. You can bleat all you like, that you are shunning the bike lane, and riding on the road, because your higher aim is to reclaim it “for make benefit women and children”. But we know experienced cyclists often shun bike lanes to differentiate themselves from less able cyclists. But gentlemen, wait, there is another way to cycle with pride! Dutch and Danish men have employed it for decades, to deal with the very same indignity that we are now facing. They ride at the same slow pace as the ladies, but on bikes that weigh a few hundred kilo.
This dude in Newcastle saw me on my shop-bought bakfiets, so went to his shed and welded up something bigger. Now that, my friends, is the cargo bike spirit. Put Cadel Evans in the photo above, and who would look like the girl’s blouse?
For commuting about town while maintaining your pride, in this age after vehicular cycling, you need a bakfiets, long-john, cabby, Bullitt, Christiania Bike… you choose your own medicine ball. What I want to help you with, is advice on looking cool while you ride it.
Contrary to your intuitive hunch, it is perfectly fine to ride cargo bike without any cargo. While it is obviously preferable to have a few kids in school uniform, or a taxidermist’s collection of stuffed giraffes, an empty bike cargo bay is no more remarkable than a ute without any hay or tool boxes. When once I was asked, “shouldn’t that have a kid in it?” I simply replied, “F#&* off you f*&@#in’…” etc etc.. God it felt good.
Otherwise the normal rules of bike transport apply: dress for the destination not for the ride; wear expensive clothes to parade your superior station in life; eat, text or fix your tie with you left hand while you ride; and, if you overtake anyone, ride as though you’re in a time trial until they are so demoralised they go back to driving.
My other advice, is that you don’t skimp. By all means, go DIY, if like Michael (the homey above), you have access to some fantastic toolshed. But if you are buying one shop-bought, the three or four thousand dollars you will pay for a known brand like Bullitt, Bakfiets.nl, Achielle, Gazelle, or Christiania will be forgotten long before the prestige and delight has worn off. My $3200 authentic Dutch bakfiets has brought me 10 times the joy and prestige of any Jerry built car, for a mere smidgeon of what such a car would have cost me.
Finally here are some images of a box bike I designed for “Australian conditions” (as though anyone would really go pig shootin’ with a such vehicle). It would have a none-too-subtle phallus of a top tube extending right the way over the box, a canvass cover with vents for my little hunting companions to wave to their mum, and be rated to carry 500 kilos of ammo. Michael, if I ever make this, I’m riding to Newcastle to empty some lead on your homemade creation, yo hear me there mofo!