Posted on 16 February 2018
Babboe started in 2006 with a mission to create high-quality, affordable cargo bikes - something that is still very hard to find in Holland today.
Until 1999, the Dutch cargo bike was always a three-wheeled affair where the rider turned the entire box to steer. They were produced by small companies at high costs and were used for either children or bulk cargo. Then, in 1999 a man named Andreas Van Andel took the two-wheeled Danish "long-john" - typically used for speedy courier deliveries in Copenhagen (a tradition revived with the Bullitt brand) - and modified it for kid carrying. The result was a rennaissance in cargo bike sales, and today there are far more two-wheeled cargo bikes being used in Holland than three-wheeled.
But, VanAndel bikes are expensive, and are more expensive in North America because the bikes ship completely assembled. That's where Epco Vlugt stepped in. As a young Father he was frustrated to see the high cost of cargo bikes and decided to do something about it. And so, Babboe (Indonesian for "nanny") was formed.
The Babboe Big
Big box, big fun!
Three wheels are always more stable than two.
Babboe began their company with their own version of the traditional three-wheeled Dutch cargo bike, the Big - proving to themselves that they could manufacture quality at scale for affordable prices. The frames were made and flat-packed in Asia, the boxes were marine-grade wood sourced from Finland, and the final assembly was done in Amersfoort, Holland. Like the ancestral three-wheeled Dutch cargo bike, the Big steered by swinging the box left or right and featured durable finishes and internal gears for the great outdoors. It's an economical option (starting at $2649) for those who prefer three-wheels and one of our best sellers today. It also comes in a Dog version too!
With its heritage as a bulk-cargo bike, the Babboe Big is especially popular with businesses who use it for a mobile kiosk. If you want to make a brand statement with a vinyl-wrap we recommend the Transporter model, which is basically a Babboe Big with a lid overtop. If you're a business and want a more custom solution we can either modify an existing box or create an entirely new box in collaboration with OTSI Projects, a local Toronto design firm. They've built bikes for Redpath Sugar, Spacing Magazine, Just Eat and many others. See here for more examples. If you're interested in a business solution, send Eric an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Babboe City
Always in the passing lane
The Babboe City: affordable quality in two-wheels
After the success of the Big, Babboe knew it needed to participate in the two-wheeled renaissance that began with VanAndel's two-wheeled "long-john" adapted for kids. Like the three-wheeled bikes present on the Dutch market, the VanAndel two-wheeled models were (and still are) expensive small-scale bikes that didn't flat-pack for export and didn't leverage the global supply chain. In 2010, Babboe launched the City, another globally sourced, flat-packed bike assembled in Holland. Today, the City is the best selling cargo bike in Holland and you can't spend a minute without seeing one go buy. It's the Dutch version of a Honda Odyssey: reliable, economical and made to last decades.
The City is a terrific riding cargo bike, full stop. For those who are riding longer distances, two-wheels are always more efficient than three-wheeled models and the long wheelbase gives the bike its stability. Like its competitors, the City features the same marine-grade plywood box, a durable chip and rust-resistant finish, and internal gears and brakes designed for low-maintenance and perpetual outdoor storage. However, at $2649 a Babboe City sells for 20% less than the same quality bike offered by competitors. For instance, you can buy a VanAndel for $3300 from our local competitor and its pretty much the same thing. What costs so much extra? It's not the parts, it's the cost of ocean shipping.
However, the City is not for everyone and not everyone loves two-wheels. The more Babboe reached into new export markets the more they realized that different infrastructure requires different options. One of the reasons the Danes use three-wheeled cargo bikes instead of two wheeled bikes is because, until recently, they had less cycling infrastructure. To an inexperienced cyclist, the Babboe City feels like it has a learning curve. It feels stable, but only when the bike is at speed. Slower speeds require more rider handling, and while that feels fine in a bike lane, it can feel uncertain in traffic if you're a less confident rider.
The Babboe Curve
Ahead of the curve
Here's to the third wheel
The Curve was Babboe's first attempt at tweaking the three-wheeled cargo bike to be a bit more kid friendly. Before the two-wheeled renaissance, the three-wheeled bike was a catch-all for kids or bulk cargo. But, the engineering bias of these bikes veered towards a bulk-cargo rider who carried a lot of weight over short distances. This is the design that the Babboe Big works with. Unlike the Big, the Curve was tweaked more towards family use. To steer the Curve the rider must swing the whole box - just like the Big - but unlike the Big, the pivot is placed a little closer to the rider, lending a much lighter and sportier feel. The sharper corners of the Big are replaced by the curved wood box, and the brakes are upgraded to the more powerful Shimano roller-brakes. It's a terrific bike but if you add the rain-hood it competes heavily with a Nihola at the price, and the Nihola is significantly lighter. A Nihola also has independent steering, which takes us to the next bike.
The Babboe Carve
Carving out a new stage in the market.
Independent steering and on/off tilting - nothing competes
In 2018 Babboe did something revolutionary. You could argue that the Danes took the Dutch three-wheeled bike and adapted it to a better family bike by adding independent steering, the same way the Dutch co-opted the Danish two-wheeled cargo bike for family riding. And, you could argue that within Denmark companies like Butchers & Bicycles evolved the independent steering by producing a tilt steering bike. In 2018, Babboe introduced the new Carve model, a bike that took a good look at the Danish three-wheeled bikes and evolved the species one step further.
In our experience we feel that a cargo bike with independent steering reduces the learning curve of all three-wheeled cargo bikes and marrys stability and handling into a perfect platform. We would not say the same of tilt-steering, since a new learning curve is introduced. With tilt-steering you lean into corners like a regular bike, and put your foot down at a stop sign - also like a regular bike. But, tilt-steering is great when you're no longer in the bike lane and you're riding at higher speeds on a recreational bicycle path, it tilts graciously into corners and glues the wheels to the ground, creating remarkable traction. Unlike its Danish cousins, the Carve gives you both with the simpe switch of a lever. If one rider prefers the tilt on or off it's a simple switch of a lever.
Best of all, the Carve is the bike that introduced the powerful Yamaha motors to the Babboe family. You can find these motors on the City and the Curve, and for the rider who has distances or hills (or heavy cargo), they make a ton of sense. The mid-drive system are a great advance over previous front or rear e-assists since they permit use of a low maintenance internal gear system, and they have great global after-sales serviceability should anything go wrong. The Yamaha system is especially impressive. It has a powerful 250W motor powered by a long-running 400W battery. But, what a fully-loaded cargo bike needs is torque. Torque gets the bike moving from a fully stopped position, and the Yamaha motors have 80nm of torque, much better than the 50nm found on the Shimano systems or the 70nm found on the Bosch.
Quality + Affordability
In sum, it becomes pretty clear that Babboe is advancing cargo bike design while taking care to engineer affordability into all their models. Affordability is Babboe's mandate. They were the first company to truly develop a cargo bike made for export, using flat-packing, global sourcing, and that means you aren't paying for unncessary costs, like high ocean shipping and etc. Affordability is also the reason Babboe continues to use strong steel frames and wood boxes. There is little doubt that companies like Urban Arrow and Butchers & Bicycles represent an evolution in materials here, but their bikes are also significantly more expensive. Steel and wood may be heavy, but hey, they do the trick.
In our experience, we sell the Big to families or businesses who have fairly short distances and need an economical model that replaces the car for most trips. The City is sold to families who are doing longer trips, and if there are hills involved, the e-assist model is preferred. The Curve takes the Big design and makes the handling a bit sportier, like the City - but you're still stable on three wheels. The Carve shows some serious R&D, as Babboe took new trends in Denmark and adapted them so that every base is covered. The Carve marries stability and handling with an e-assist, so there's nothing it can't do.
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