Bullitt to the heart

Hi, my name is Dave, and I’m a cargo bikeaholic.  Seriously, I love cargo bikes.  Nothing turns my head faster than someone pedaling by me carrying a heavy load on two or three wheels. Perhaps it is because they remain so rare in the US or maybe it is because they are the ultimate statement of someone trying to get around under his or her own power.

Breakaway couriers make good use of their Bullitt. An experienced courier can deliver two, maybe three archive boxes (one in a bag, two on the handlebars) on a regular bike, but never six.

Whatever the reason, when Breakaway Bicycle Couriers added a Danish designed, Taiwanese-made, Larry vs. Harry Bullitt to their livery, I quickly asked if I could borrow it for a weekend. Wayne was happy to let me use it, as long as I could pick it up after their 6 PM mail run on Friday. As instructed, at 6:30 I stopped into the courier lounge at Breakaway to swap my bike for the long john.

Breakaway bicycle stable

Breakaway ‘s home base exits onto a raised loading dock, so I had to carry the Bullitt down the stairs to the alley.  Larry vs Harry built their bike to be lighter than traditional Dutch and Danish long john cargo bikes.  The Clockwork model weighs about 50lbs, not a carbon racer, but still easy enough for one person to carry down the stairs. The crew at Breakaway watched out the back door to see if I could ride the bike as it handles a bit different than a shorter two-wheeler.  Regular readers will remember I took a Bullitt for a test ride about a year ago when I visited Copenhagen Cyclery in Chicago, so I managed to look respectable as I pedaled down the alley.

Larry vs Harry designed the Bullitt to handle pretty quick for a long john style cargo bike, and it does.  The steering is fast and with Answer riser bars in the cockpit, I felt like I was riding a mountain bike as I rode around Gallery Night on the Clockwork. It felt like a mountain bike until I bumped into my friend Brooklyn and she was able to comfortably buck a ride, in the front that is! Brooklyn is petite, and I know better than to talk about a woman’s weight, but I can say that even with her sitting in the front, the bike still felt stable and quick.

Oma vs. the Honda Element

The next task on my list for the Bullitt was grocery shopping.  I typically do this on our Workcycles Omafiets. Oma is a true beast of burden, but even with sturdy front and rear racks, and big panniers, I have to be careful not to buy more than I can fit on her.  I typically skip really bulky items on the regular weekly shopping trip for our family of three (plus two dogs).

This means I bring the panniers into the store and fill them as I shop so as not to over buy. Things like huge bags of dog food are purchased on special trips to the store when we run out rather than kept in stock in the pantry. By putting my Bob Trailer bag on the Bullitt, I was able to shop without any worry of running out of room.

One of the holy grails of bicycle grocery shopping, the economy pack of TP. I typically skip bulky stuff like this when I shop with Oma.

Next test for the Bullitt was to bring my folding kayak to the office.  Since the Bike Fed moved to 3618 W. Pierce St, we are just off the Hank Aaron State Trail and the Menomonee River.  I decided to take my Pakboat kayak to the office so I could get out and paddle over lunch hours or after work when I don’t have to be home right away.  I typically haul the kayak on my BOB trailer.  It works, but as anyone with a BOB will tell you, they are a bit top-heavy when loaded down.

Our office is just over the river and through the Valley Passage.

Once again, the Bullitt proved up to the task.  It was super easy to load the kayak on the Bullitt, and it just barely fits in the BOB trailer.  I can imagine loading up the Bullitt with my kayak and some camping gear for a sub 24 hour overnight multi-modal camping trip to Waubedonia Park.  Anyone else out there have a folding kayak and a cargo bike who wants to join me, shoot me an email!

It was hard to give the Bullitt back to Breakaway Monday morning. I definitely see a long john style cargo bike in my future.  I like how they ride better than a long tail bike like the Surly Big Dummy or Xtracycle.  The only thing holding me back is the price.  The Bullitt goes for just shy of $3,000, as do most other similar cargo bikes. For a guy who doesn’t drive, I don’t have a hard time justifying the money, but I do have a tough time finding it. Maybe I can get a non-profit deal and try to talk my boss into buying one for the Bike Fed…

Hey Kevin, I think we would be a lot more effective as an organization if we had one of these 😉

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

21 thoughts on “Bullitt to the heart

    • Thanks d’Andre, soon I hope to borrow a Workcycles cargo bike that a guy in ‘Tosa has and compare the two. Stay tuned, same bakfiets channel, same bakfiets time…

  1. Dave,
    Tell Kevin and Amanda how useful a cargo bike will be in setting up a BFW tent with tables, chairs, literature, banners, coffee dispenser or smoothie maker. I’m sure after your successful test ride will have proven that either them can handle navigating the bike to exciting bicycle venues around our respective cities. And I’m sure they will have a hard time fending off volunteers from wanting to haul the popular BFW tent to the hip events. It’s a win/win for your cargo fever and BFW’s mission to promote cycling in daily life. In the mean time, I’ll lean back on my trike and take a nap until you get back to shore.
    Good luck!

  2. After I built it up for the guys, we loaded up a chair and Matt in the front and did a couple of hot laps for a test ride. Likely tipped the scales at 160 lbs in cargo plus myself and the bike. The bike was ridiculously stable, more so with the weight in the bed, and still easy enough to get up to speed. There’s a reason that everyone there enjoys the heck out of that bike: It was designed well.

    • Ha! I did my shopping at the co-op last weekend and they don’t have the bigger packs or TP like the regular grocery stores. Next time I’ll fill it to the brim with squeezably soft rolls 😉

  3. I love what Cargo bikes are dong to change how we can transport goods around town with a car. Great article and pics and hope to see more around town!
    I would love to chat with you more on comparing the xtracycle with the bullit as I’m considering switching. I can’t wait to try out the flavor cycle bullit myself and as for my xtracycle haul event stuff for the coop to and from the farmers market and pounds of compost every week and a larger flat bed would be great.

    • Carolyn, I think the lower front position of the cargo on the long johns are what makes them a bit more stable under load. I also agree with you that the bigger bed for a large single item makes them more useful. That said, Pete hauled the Flaovrcycle Bullitt out to Jason Sanchez paintshop with Deva, all on his Xtracycle! I guess I should post that picture.

  4. Having just recently taken a little trip to Portland, OR and witnessed the insane amount of cargo bikes there, I’m so glad to see something on them here. They look like a total blast and if I had a reason to have one, you bet I would! Beyond practical for many situations.

    Dave, if you could get a cargo fatbike, I think you’d be in heaven and we’d never hear the end of it!

  5. Hey Dave – Thanks for the cargo bike coverage. More please.

    But it was your referenced to a Pakboat that most caught my attention. My current fantasy is to get their 16′ packable canoe and to tow it on my folding Brompton bike using my foldable Burley Travoy trailer.

    Bike to the put-in with the Pakboat in tow, assemble canoe, place folded bike and trailer into canoe and take a nice quietwater paddle. At the take-out, reverse all the folding/unfolding and ride home. No motor vehicles, no shuttle – the river just becomes part of the travel route.

    I suspect I’ll act on this fantasy in the next year or two – similar to the Bullitt you described, Pakboats aren’t cheap (even though they’re both worth every penny).

    And in response to your folding boat/cargo bike invitation, I like to say that (once my fantasy becomes reality) if you have a suitable folding bike, you are welcome to paddle tandem with me.

  6. Oh Bob, great (but single-minded) people do think alike. You should know that is exactly what I initially tried to do with my Pakboat, which I searched long and hard for and eventually bought used via a Craigslist from North Carlolina. I tried using my Dahon, which I can actually fit in my open top 16′ Kayak if I take the wheels off, but I could not figure out a good way to haul the folded up boat on the Dahon without a trailer, which defeated the purpose of the plan. You might be able to rig it on the front of a Brompton as they are sort of designed for that, but I’m not sure. I would be happy to let you try with my boat if you want to experiment. Why don’t you come down May 14th for our Open House during Bike to Work Week, and bring your Brompton to size it up?

    • The 16′ Pakboat canoe is about 45 lbs and fits into a pack about 2′ x 2′ x 4′ – too heavy and big for the Brompton front area but perfect for the Travoy.

      The kayak you have is undoubtedly smaller, especially without bringing the top deck along. But I’m guessing the narrower kayak means a little less room to maneuver inside the boat and more constraints on how to stow the Dahon or Brompton. With the 16′ Pakboat canoe, I suspect there would be plenty of room for 2 folding bikes, the trailer and two paddlers while still having the usual canoe space to move around and keeping the overall center of gravity low. (And if their 16-footer isn’t big enough, I bet their 17-footer is.)

      I would like to head down to some of the Bike to Work Week stuff in either MKE or Madtown – I’ve got some things going on here in Stevens Point around then, so I’ll just have to wait and see.

  7. Hi Dave,

    I loved your review. I, too, am a cargo bike maniac. In fact, I am currently working on a Cargo Bike article for Silent Sports Magazine. Look for it in the October issue! I was in Portland yesterday and had the chance to visit an amazing bike store called Splendid Cycles. Joel Grover (the owner) has a vast knowledge of bikes and a great supply of Bullitts. After an hour or so of delicious bike chatter, he released me onto the Portland streets with a very pretty Bullitt. What a fantastic bike! I am still smiling 24 hours later. If you are looking to buy a cargo bike, be sure to give Joel a call as he is an avid rider with a great shop who was willing to answer an endless stream of questions from me.

    • Susie,

      I was at the 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championships yesterday and there were a number of cargo bikes racing, both in the open class and the cargo class races. In fact, another Bullitt is now coming up to Milwaukee, as Hans (from Harry vs Larry) brought two over from Copenhagen and a Milwaukee courier down for the race bought one. We now have 4 Bullitts in Milwaukee, one DIY long john, and a Workcyles bakfiets. Be sure to add that info to your story. I look forward to reading it. There is definitely a cargo bike in my future.

    • Thanks Katea, Yuba cargo bikes are awesome. I particularly like well-designed the frame mounted front racks.

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