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WARNING: The Big China Rip Off

We’ve seen some shops trying to make money off of growing interest in cargo tricycles and bakfiets. However, a lot of them are either price gouging customers or they’re getting ripped off by their suppliers. These shops are selling Chinese built cargo bicycles for five times the manufacturing and shipping costs. How does a cargo tricycle costing $275/unit plus $100 (shipping, customs, & storage), retail for $2100?

To make matters worse, some of these shops are implying that these tricycles and bakfiets are Dutch built. They’ve got names like Dutch this and Dutch that with websites that imply the same. For example one shop we talked with didn’t even mention that the bikes were built in China until we asked them directly. They gave us an explanation of how they retrofit these tricycles with high quality US and Euro parts, yata yata yata. A week later that same shop updated their website to say that the bikes were built in China.

We did a group buy of ten of these same tricycles and bakfiets a couple of years ago and learned a great deal about the pricing, shipping, customs, etc. The conclusion, Chinese made cargo tricycles and bakfiets should retail to the consumer for at most $1000. Even with a 100% markup over cost and $50 to have someone assemble the bike, it’s realistic that these “China” trikes and “China” bakfiets could retail at $750 with profit.

If you’re interested in reading more about what we learned from our group buy experience, please let us know by commenting on this post and we’ll try to answer your questions.

51 Comments For This Post

  1. Tom Van Damme Says:

    Makes me glad to live so close to Holland :-)
    Aren’t there any cargotrike shops in the States ?

  2. Erik Says:

    Bought one of these chinese bikes cheap (€ 499) about three years ago. And cheap it was. Died of terminal frame failure in the rear end and at the bottom bracket (latter fixed several times). Yes I did carry lots of stuff and yes it did get me hooked on the idea, but no, I wouldn’t buy one again.

  3. Jurgen Says:

    We see these chinese bikes in Australia as well. It’s a matter of time before the general public realises that the quality & price for these bicyclese is benefitting only the dealers and unlikely the user. I am convinced that in time people will come to understand and choose for quality that lasts.

  4. Peter Says:

    I am interested in how to do such a group buy. I don’t even know where to start.

  5. jess Says:

    i have had a horrible experience with the “double Dutch” brand of bikes. the cargo bike is called Birota i guess, but anyways, unsafe frame folding device, poor quality, weak and crooked frames.

  6. Ginger Says:

    I’ve seen a Dutch bike company called Popal (www.popal.nl) that sells inexpensive bakfietsen. It’s tough to tell if these bikes are chinese made or not. Has anyone heard of them? Some are being sold on e-bay as “Made in Holland”, but I’m not sure that’s accurate.

    Thanks!

  7. Erik Says:

    I’ve checked out the Popal website and watched a movie about the owner and the company. It looks like they have their bikes produced elsewhere since they’re cheap. They also don’t claime to be producing in Holland. By the looks of the owner and his name i reckon he is Turkish. So perhaps they have their bikes produced in Turkey under Popals supervision.
    bikefactory.nl is an other site of the same company. They claim to be importer and have direct contact with manufacturers. So i guess most of their bikes are not from Holland.
    I don’t know anything about the quality though.

  8. Rene Netter Says:

    I have seen many of these in Berlin and most owners were not very satisfied with them and talked about all the repairs they had or the frame breaking. The only brand I can somewhat recommend is babboe I am using myself in Berlin.

  9. Wheelburro Says:

    There are many trike builders in America. It just takes more time to find them. We build a very sturdy cyclos at Wheelburro. It’s designed to be adaptable for many uses. It sells for around $2000.00.

  10. Amoeba Says:

    I saw a bak-fake in North Surrey, UK, on Valentines Day 2011.
    Specification: front vee brakes; Seat post tube welded to curved seat tube; Lever-clamped fold-joint, just behind steering column; colour black (no decals); wavy-top box.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to speak to the lady wheeling it, but she didn’t look happy. It seems that despite being shiny and brand-new, already something serious had gone wrong with it.
    Based on a comment from Henry @ WorkCycles, probably a transmission failure.

    I guess she wishes she had a warranty. I feel really sorry for her and her children.

  11. angry customer Says:

    I paid close to $2,000 for what I thought was a real dutch bakfiet bike from
    http://www.wheelhousebikes.com only to find out it is a $150 Chinese knockoff. Avoid wheelhouse bikes like the plague.

    What happened to integrity?

    wheelhousebikes is the biggest scam company in California!

  12. bikingTheo Says:

    Hi folks,

    I’m looking for a good strong but still light going bakfiets.
    But since I have a limited( read no) budget it has to be a ‘nice price’.
    I understand that the chinese bike are no option? Is there really no good chinese bakfiets at all?
    The reason I look for a bakfiets is because I’m going to bike 2000 km for charity this summer 2011. I want to take my (big) dog from 11 years old with me. So that’s why I want to do it on a bakfiets. Sine I can’t ( until now) find no sponsor I need to look around more. I want a elk driven bakfiets for the ‘tuff’ parts in the mountains. Anybody any good tips?

    i’m no biking person, just started to bike more now to get some condition for this summer. Check out my website and sign my guestbook if you have good tips!

  13. Tim Paton Says:

    When I discovered bakfietsen on the internet, and realised I needed one to carry my disabled daughter, there were NONE available in Australia.

    I looked into the option of importing one from the Netherlands, but the costs were phenomenal… especially considering I’d never even ridden one yet.
    Instead, I found a few suppliers in China, picked what looked to be the best, rounded up enough friends and friends-of-friends to pre-sell half of a half-filled container, and went into small-scale business selling these allegedly horrible Chinese bakfiets knock-offs.

    The first bakfiets I unpacked from the shipment has now done well over 3000km under me, and the only problems I’ve had have been with the brand-name drivetrain components. Most of the friends who came along with that first importing adventure are still riding and loving them 3 years later.

    Of course, they’re not as good as “the real thing”. They will not last as long, especially if parked outside in freezing European winter weather. I’ve seen pictures of low-cost bikes subjected to these conditions, including some from the same supplier as mine, and they don’t fare well. I’ve also seen pictures of reasonable quality conventional bikes left outside in European winters, and they aren’t a pretty sight either.

    But Chinese cargo bikes are an entry point. I said all the way along… if you use a cheap Chinese bakfiets enough to wear it out or break it, then you’ve justified paying double (or triple) for a better one next time. If the cheap one works well enough for you (as most of them have), you didn’t need to spend double for a better one. And if it ends up sitting unused in the garage, at least it wasn’t a huge investment.

    My cheap machines established and proved a bakfiets market in Australia. I’d had enough after two containers, and moved on to other projects… but now there’s at least half a dozen bakfiets suppliers in the market. Many of them are high-quality European units, which I doubt would have been saleable here before bakfietsen became a part of the Australian bike fleet.

    A supplier representing a Chinese bike as being Dutch is a criminal, and anybody expecting Dutch quality from a Chinese bike is fooling himself. But they are good value – certainly more than 1/3 as good as bikes costing 3x as much. They’re nowhere near as bad as this article makes out, and I believe they’re an important way for the cargobike-curious to get themselves on wheels.

  14. Ethan Jewett Says:

    This article is clearly a rehash of the same vitriol that arose in Europe a few years back (I suspect this is that same axe-grinder that led the charge back then). Gouging customers and misrepresenting what a product is clearly crosses the line, but as Tim mentions, lower price point bikes do have their place. This stuff is usually propagated by Bakfiets.nl loyalists who often maintain that all bikes of this style are ripoffs . . . regardless of quality and source. Maarten van Andel is written up as the “inventor”, when what he did was adapt the Long John and “design” one with family friendly features.

    It’s also worth noting that as this market expands and matures, higher quality examples from Asia will follow, and shouting “junk” is not going to stop that from happening.

  15. Sandy Says:

    Tim, I hope you read this. I am currently looking to get cargo bikes to Florida. It’s such an ideal place to use one but the European brands are so expensive in comparison to living standards. Just like you said, if you wear out a Chinese model, good for you. I don’t want to spend a ton of money on something I’ve never tested let alone seen in person before. Could you please provide me with any contact information so that I, like you, can try the same venture you did.thanks, Sandy.

  16. Amoeba Says:

    Henry @ Workcycles on Bak-Fakes. Be aware, be very aware.
    You get what you buy, and however much you pay for a Bak-Fake, it will always be crap. This is not a criticism of Chinese-made bicycles, there are good Chinese-made bicycles out there, but it is a criticism of crap.

    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2009/04/29/the-fake-bakfiets-cargobikes-keep-on-coming/

  17. Amoeba Says:

    The anonymous ‘angry customer’ post about http://www.wheelhousebikes.com mirrors another anonymous post. I suspect this is a deliberate smear against a decent company that is a competitor.

    To the blog owner: I think you should track IP addresses.

  18. Amoeba Says:

    A bike mechanics view of bakfietsen and bak-fakes.

    http://www.mydutchbike.com/2011/02/02/cargo-bikes-and-the-information-revolution-written-by-josh-boisclair-mydutchbike-mechanic/

  19. Tim Paton Says:

    Sandy,
    The business I started, Cargo Cycles (in Australia), is still going strong under new management, although our original supplier stopped producing bakfietsen and a new model had to be sourced. You could contact him via http://cargocycles.com.au and discuss.
    There was another business in Portland OR selling the same bikes from the same supplier as I was, but I believe he moved on to building his own.

  20. Sarah Says:

    Hello – I’m looking for a used bakfiets and I cam across this on ebay:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Bakfiets-Cargo-Family-Bike-3-speed-4-seats-Bakfeetz-NEW-/270716236220?pt=UK_Bikes_GL&hash=item3f07f1f1bc
    Thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Sarah

  21. Amoeba Says:

    Sarah Says:
    ‘April 19th, 2011 at 1:10 pm
    Hello – I’m looking for a used bakfiets and I cam across this on ebay:…’

    The supplier claims ‘Made in Holland’, but where is ‘Holland’? Is it in the Netherlands? I know there is a art of the Netherlands called Holland. But I doubt it’s the same country.

    Just consider the cost of a normal quality bicycle, which are made in tens of thousands. Now this ‘bakfiets’ is a lot cheaper than the well known makes. That alone should raise questions in your mind, like: why, how, what, who, when and where. Admittedly, the specification is low, like a three-speed hub. Note also it has the folding frame-joint. Such joints are well-known to be a weak point, prone to fatal sagging and AFAIK to be present only in Chinese bak-fakes. Don’t get me wrong, the Chinese are perfectly capable of making good bicycles, after-all they manage to make virtually everything else. The trouble is that this bike looks like it might be trouble.

    It’s really too hard to be certain, but it’s your money. It might be better for you to do some more research first. Personally, I wouldn’t consider buying anything so expensive and risk-prone from eBay. What happens if it all goes wrong?

    I wish you luck. But you need to make your luck, and that means finding-out for yourself, before you part with YOUR money.

    FYI in the picture the make is carefully obscured. It’s http://www.popal.nl/fietsen

    I now nothing about these people, but see the comments about Popal above:
    “Rene Netter Says (referring to Popal):
    January 31st, 2011 at 8:51 am
    I have seen many of these in Berlin and most owners were not very satisfied with them and talked about all the repairs they had or the frame breaking.”

    So they’re probably best avoided, I’m not surprised.

    Just google
    popal bakfiets
    and look for what people say, it’s what I’d do as part of a screening process.

  22. Sparcs Says:

    Hi Tim Paton,

    We are just now doing exactly the same thing as you…well not importing our selves, but using the cargo bike to haul our son about, and his wheelchair. We were just at Cargocycles today and I do like the new version quite a lot. There is the old one there, but I like the new one more…

    CHeers for making the effort. as you say they are a bloody lot more than 1/3 as good as the ones that cost 3x as much

  23. Ceri Says:

    I have a Chinese made trike that my husband built for me and we adore it! I paid $800Aus for the kit and things like the gears and brakes were replaced with Euro parts as part of the kit when we got it. If I was replacing a car I might spend $4,000 on a true dutch trike but I feel so happy with our little cargo trike I felt compelled to share on your blog. I can take four kids in it to Kinder, it can stand up by itself and was really easy to learn to ride. I wouldn’t be put off by the made in China tag at all – so long as you know what you are buying I am eternally grateful as they put this great form of transport in a much more affordable price bracket.

  24. Matt Says:

    Looking for a Bakfiet in the USA

    My family also would love to have a Bakfiet or cargo trike, but they are very hard to come by in the USA. We especially like the trioBike Mono, but the cost plus shipping is steep. I’ve also seen the Bakfiets on E-Bay and I’m glad to have found this site for opinions on Popal…

    Please keep commenting and let us know who builds great Bakfiets in the western hemisphere or affordable ways to import them…

  25. Samy Says:

    Does anyone have user feedback on Babboe trikes?

  26. Sera Says:

    What many people seem to be missing is that most box bicycles and bicycles for that matter sold are made in Taiwan except flying pigeons, which are a popular company making all kinds of bikes in china. The people who think you can just order a Chinese box bike for 350 and sell it for a bargain price of 750 have not done much in the way of research. Most bicycle shops in the us are not going to import a container of flying pigeon box bikes because for starters they could never sell enough of then and every other frame would likely be bent or something. Not to mention every frame will need all new components some of which are difficult to install or source. Any bike shop daring enough to take a chance on selling any kind bakfiet which means box bike in Dutch is not going to buy twenty of them. They buy one or two and at that quantity lay out approx 1250 a bike with shipping no bullshit. The markup becomes a paltry 30 percent and sometimes zero because being there is a lot of mixed info on the bikes it’s sometimes hard to sell these period. They sit on the floor more as conversation prices than a bike shops bread and butter. Oh and with components shops even lose money all because they are taking a chance to bring in a new kind of bike. For a cargo bike made by a Dutch company note those are all made in Taiwan not china but the design and engineering and commonality will be all around nicer. That is what matters. You will pay about 3000 for a Dutch company box bike in the us. Until cargo bikes go mainstream don’t expect the price of a box bike to diminish much. An experienced mechanic can make a Chinese bike work as good as Dutch ones. I would not trade my ultralight flying pigeon for a heavy Dutch version anyway. When you are buying a Dutch bike don’t buy it from overseas but a shop who can be there to help you with troubleshooting it. That’s what we did and we are very happy three years later.

  27. Sera Says:

    Baboe.nl are at the website icargobike.com which is in california. These are by far the nicest Dutch box bike in the us and made in Taiwan like all the other best bicycles

  28. Tom Crispin Says:

    I have just taken delivery of a Chinese cargo bike on 20 July 2011. It cost me £40 (US$65). It’s the cheapest bike I have ever bought – I’m expecting problems, but that’s part of the fun of a cheap bike!

  29. Amoeba Says:

    Sera is wrong about ‘made in Taiwan like all the other best bicycles’, quite a lot of excellent ‘Dutch bicycles’ are still made in the Netherlands. Including the Van Andel Bakfiets.nl, WorkCycles, Azor, Gazelle and Batavus.

    I have an Azor Dutch designed and manufactured and an Optima, the latter is Dutch designed but made in Taiwan.

    There are of course many manufacturers of excellent bicycles elsewhere, and I believe some of them are made in Taiwan.

  30. phoenix Says:

    Hello everyone!
    This is a super useful thread, I am glad to have found it.

    I am in Canada and looking for a cargo bike or trike to haul my kids around. :)

    Has anyone seen, had, or tried a Christiania bike? http://www.christianiabikes.com/ And if so, what did you think?

    Thanks in advance! Happy cycling! :)

  31. Hannah Norwich Says:

    Hi everyone, let me add my 2 cents here hoping it will add value to this string, my husband and I were in the market for a cargo bike for our 2 year old twins, we have done extensive research on the Cargo Bicycle on both the so called “fake” bakfiets such as Viper, Babboe, Biota as well as the “real” bakfiets such as Metrofiets, Bakfiets,Christiana,Defietsfabriek,Nihola whom all import their cargo bicycles into the US and Canada which will set you back $3000, in the end we settled on a bakfiets from doubledutchbikes for $1500, is our bicycles of the same quality as for example the Nihola?, probably not as a $3500 price ticket in one way or the other would need to be justified, did we not face any issues with our doubledutchbike?, we sure did have some minor issues such as a missing rain cover and wear and tear on the chain, which did set us back $45 at our local bike store :-), over all we are very happy with our purchase and after 2 years feel that the “fake” bakfiets for sure has a place and a market here in the USA.

  32. Erica Says:

    Hi Mr. Tom Crispin, Could you please tell me the source of the cargo bike you purchased?

  33. Sheila Says:

    Do you have an insights on the Cangoo Cargo Bike? There is one advertised on Ebay. They say they are direct from Holland but the price makes me a little wary. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bakfiets-Cargo-Family-Bike-7-speed-4-seats-Bakfeetz-NEW-/320752599013?pt=UK_Bikes_GL&hash=item4aae583fe5#ht_6451wt_1266 . ThoughtS?

  34. Russell Says:

    Hi.I’m in Melbourne, Australia and in the market for a cargo bicycle but do not want to pay over $3000 for one. Anyone know of a reliable supplier in Melbourne? Am happy to buy a Chinese brand as long as it is quality made.
    Russell

  35. Thomas Steven Says:

    Doing a project for youth in the Caribbean, where can I find a good place to order 50 or so cargo bicycles? How long does it typically take to ship orders?

  36. Jolene Says:

    After several hours worth of research and actually receiving an email from a seller of the Popal brand, I have found out the following:
    Popal brand bikes (sold in Europe) and found here http://www.fietsonline.com/fiets/overige-fietsen/bakfietsen.html are the EXACT same bikes sold under the Hollandia brand sold at Walmart (search Hollandia on walmart.com and you come up with the exact same bikes as seen on fietsonline store). The parts for the bikes are made in Taiwan. Some are shipped to USA to be assembled/sold as Hollandia bikes. Some shipped to Europe to be assembled in Bulgaria and elsewhere to be sold there. Yes, they are cheap knock offs…but at least they are advertised as ‘Dutch Style’ bikes, and not true Dutch bikes. There are many folks out there that can only afford a cheap bike from WalMart. I am not here to berrate their choice. Any kid or adult who can get on a bike and contribute to riding our streets and becoming part of the biking community is a friend of mine. I bought a Wal Mart Chinese made bike when I first moved to Eugene in 1995. Before that I owned a Schwinn (not much better), before that, a Raleigh (a little better). I did not have a car and it was all I could afford to ride to work. Once I saved enough money, I upgraded, then eventually I bought a handbuilt tour bike that cost me over $2k…and have never looked back. Cheap knockoffs are just that…and you get what you pay for. I am seriously considering buying one of these Hollandia bikes and riding it about town on errands just to report on how it rides, repairs, etc….so at least we can get a full report on just how cheap it really is. If it will break, believe me, I will break it. More to come later…

  37. Barbara Says:

    Hi,
    I know a Dutch company that sells bakfiets. They agree on the fact that imported bikes from China are to expensive on local markets. They say they founded the company because of this reason. It is by far the cheapest bakfiets I could find on the internet and I believe you can order from all over the world. Just search on Babboe and I think you will find them.

  38. American Biking Chic Says:

    I would say that its the components more than anything else that drive the cost. If you happen to have the misfortune to order one, as we did, you basically have to strip all the components off the bike first, replace them all, straighten the frames, true the whees, and recomended to sandblast/repaint due to dangerously hi lead content of Chinese bakfiets. Its a project! Chinese Bakfiets are basically peices of junk out of the box, which we found out the hard way. For the work involved in getting them up and running, and cost of bike mechanic hours I would say a bike shop charging $2000 is not so outlandish, because we ended up paying close to that before all was said and done. Best buy a real dutch bike, from one of the shops that carry in the US, because even with the Dutch ones, there can be problems out of the box, but not in the design/components. Dutch bakfiets are beautiful bikes, and worth the price tag! I found a few shops in California where I live that have them, wish I knew before. One is Icargobikes and another is My Dutch Bike, and both have bakfiets which they will ship to you.

  39. Bo Mc Gree Says:

    Last week i was searching for a bakfiets and i was wondering how many cheap bike’s the company Maxbike sells, i bought a bike on http://www.maxbike.nl/ and it was deliverd at a friend that lives in Holland i am happy with the bike :D

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  41. Brian Says:

    I’m trying to find a reputable Chinese factory in order to have some bicycles built. I’d really appreciate any input on the process.

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  44. Sidecar Bob Says:

    I have an update for Popal Bakfietsen.

    In May 2013 I bought the Popal Bakfiet 280 from http://www.fahrrad-ass.de.
    Customer service from half a world away across two languages was top notch. The shipping time and costs were reasonable. American tariffs on the importation of a bike were not reasonable. On top of the extraneous costs it took a good three hours for the Customs officers at the Sacramento Airport to process my paperwork. This was primarily due to the octogenarian officer forgetting the receipt book in the other terminal and having to hobble over and back before Custom’s customary Q&A could began.

    The bike has severe issues.
    The instructions came without a parts list. The poorly rendered visual only instructions illustrated another model, not the one I had purchased.

    The disk breaking system requires a massive amount of tinkering until it will function properly. I eventually removed mine and I now solely rely on the rear friction break.

    The cable for the Shimano inline gears is far too short. Unlike the illustrations the cable hangs down between the legs occasionally becoming entangled in the pedals, my feet, or in the drive sprocket bringing the bike to a rapid halt and bruising my testicles.

    The frame holding the cargo box was either cut or broken in several places and welded back together.

    The rear structure supporting the operator and drive wheel wobbles relentlessly, numbing my testicles after a few minutes use.

    In one week of use I sheared off the right petal and stripped the threads from the crank set.

    I replaced the defective cheap Chinese aluminum crank set with a heavier steel crank set designed for a mountain bike.
    New crank set: $75

    The old sprocket would not fit the new crank set.
    New sprocket; $25

    The chain was now too short for the newer 44 toothed sprocket.
    New chain: $14

    With the pedals being mercilessly torn asunder a new set was required.
    New pedals: $35

    The saddle comes with an odd attachment that it refuses to sit evenly on.
    So, new saddle, new pipe, new attachment: $80

    Just today the rear wheel picked up a rock, which jammed in the thin rear fender, which folded in half, which jammed under the rear rack, bringing the bike to a rapid halt, which threw me forward into the basked severely bruising my poor testicles yet again.
    New fender: $25

    Here’s how it is. Popal is a cheap, easy to obtain bakfiet.
    At this point, I wish I had just spent the 3.5k and bought a bakfiet from Work Cycles. My balls would not be throbbing if I had.

    Buy this instead:
    http://www.workcycles.com/home-products/professional-transport-trikes/workcycles-classic-dutch-bakfiets-size-xl

    -Sidecar Bob.

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  51. Kelly Says:

    You said you managed a purchase of a shipping container of cargo bikes – I’m seriously curious about how that works. I was in communication with a manufacturer in China, and I was going to buy sample bike from them but I couldn’t figure out the shipping on this end of the pond. They were going to ship everything FOB, which is great for them, but leaves me trying to figure out how to get it through customs and have it delivered from the port. I ended up buying a Virtue Schoolbus (the same trike I was looking at, but rebranded) for $1000 and toting home 200 miles from the nearest shop. Now everyone asks me where they can buy one – who carries them – and I have to tell them “Pittsburgh!”. If I can get a crazy bike shop owner in on this, it would be so neat to see more people riding these bikes!

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