- by Alistair Perkins
- Published: 26 August 2011
There is no doubt that Australia is amidst a cycling boom. Thousands have start cycling to avoid traffic, to escape rising petrol costs and to lower their carbon footprint. A conventional bicycle can replace a car in many situations, but what happens when you need more storage?
History has shown that in this case most people revert to the car, relegating the bicycle as a secondary form of transport.
Cargo bikes are not a new concept, but broaden the opportunities for cycling through their large storage space. They havn’t had a strong tradition in Australia due to their size, weight and our car-centric culture, but practicality has made them common throughout bicycle-dominated cities in Europe.
The Copenhagen brand Larry Vs Harry released the Bullitt, declaring it to be "The worlds lightest, fastest cargo bike" and this popular cargo bike is now available in Australia. At 245cm long and 47cm wide the Bullitt is a far more manageable shape for urban environments than the traditional three wheeled christiania cargo bike, and at 24kg it is significantly lighter than its competitors.
The design is a modern interpretation of the traditional Danish "long john" cargo bike, placing its cargo area low down between the rider and front wheel. Larry Vs Harry have brought the Bullitt into the 21st Century by employing a lightweight and stiff alloy frame, quality modern parts and an ultra chic design.
The test bike was the ‘Clockwork’ model and there are no points for guessing the colour. This model came fitted with a floorboard and side/rear panels, which provides a generous storage space for the optional child seat. The spacious area will cater for a growing child over many years, the safety belt, low seating position and high sides protect the valuable cargo.
The Bullitt’s capacity for transporting inanimate items is also impressive, with the front storage section able to carry 100kg without concern. This provides infinite possibilities, the company co-founder Harry used a long john as his primary transport while working in construction for example. While few Australian tradesmen are likely to trade their ute in for a bicycle, the Bullitt has potential as a functional or ultility vehicle for business. Environmentally focussed businesses in particular have been quick to take notice, but Australian distributor Dutch Cargo Bikes are hoping that individuals will follow suit.
The Bullitt is available with a variety of build kits, with a choice of a seven or eight speed internally geared hub or a nine speed derailleur system. The test bike came fitted with the Shimano Alfine groupset, which included the internal gear hub, hydraulic disk brakes and cranks.
First impressions were that the Bullitt was nicely put together with quality parts, though it was slightly daunting given its length and dramatic geometry contrasts from a conventional bike.
The first ride saw some initial wobbles, but the length and steering soon began to feel natural. Within 5kms the gentrified shopping strips of Melbourne’s inner south were proving no challenge, and it was clear that the Bullitt was drawing more favourable looks than a Sunday morning, lycra-clad road racer can muster.
Although it took only a few minutes to adjust to the handling, the weight and size demanded ongoing care. Uphill starts from traffic lights were the greatest challenge with patience required to get away from standstill cleanly. When unloaded the steering initially felt twitchy, but this feeling passed after the first decent ride and the discovery that keeping some load on the driveline aided stability. The internal gear hub was particularly valuable as it allowed smooth, fast shifts – even if stationary or freewheeling while trying to squeeze into gaps in traffic.
The ride itself was impressive in many ways. Most surprising was that a long, relatively heavy and upright bike could require so little effort to pedal. The Continental puncture-resistant tyres roll fast, while the long wheelbase gave stability and engaging cornering. While not a contender for the commuter cup, it cruises along steadily and the lively handling and effective brakes ensure that even fast downhills never feel out of control. A bunch of team-kitted roadies returning from their morning Beach Road ride were given a surprise as they were overtaken by the Bullitt. Not only did was this immensly satisfying it also confirmed the bike’s performance credentials. It also explains why the Bullit is a favorite amoung European bike messengers who specialise in bulky deliveries.
While the popularity with couriers is not surprising, there is clearly a wider market. As congestion worsens, petrol prices rise and people begin to question their dependence on cars the Bullitt can be a fantastic lifestyle investment.
Pricing varies according to the many options and specification levels, the Sram 7 speed internal gear hub model retails for $3400. The orange ‘Clockwork’ model which I tested starts at $3750, and includes the side panels, floor and child seat optional accessories.