Monday, September 9, 2013

Christiania 2-wheeler cargo bike: comparison and pictures

[Update: I have since ridden a Christiania (in Copenhagen no less), so see my post about that as well as reading this one].

A friend is looking at getting one of these, and in the process I did a bit of looking around and found a few resources for these otherwise hard to find cargo bikes:


There are a few key differences from my perspective, that can be summarised as:

The bakfiets is a bigger and heavier bike, which means that it can fit even more stuff in the box, which for me is good.  The extra weight is mainly noticeable on hills, where it can be a royal pain.

The bakfiets comes standard with a full chain case and skirt guards so that you don't really need to worry about getting road grime on you or on the serviceable parts of your bike.  These items can be added to the Christiania, but don't come standard.

The Christiania is a bit shorter, and noticeably lighter, but at the cost of reduced cargo capacity.  Also, the pedals are marginally closer to the ground, which makes it better suited to smaller people (especially combined with the reduced weight).  For bigger people the lack of ground clearance of the pedals might be annoying when turning corners.

The box on the Christiania has a door for easier access by little people. On the bakfiets you need to lift them in, or they need to climb in using the running board. The bakfiets box has no door on the side, making it ideal for carrying bulk goods.

General consensus is that the bakfiets has nicer handling than the Christiania, but this is fairly subjective.

In more detail

A few advantages of the Christiania:

1. The little door in the Christiania would be great for small kids, as our 5 1/2 year old still regularly wants help getting in and out.  This is especially true when the bike is full of stuff, and the spot where the little running board lets them get in is already full of stuff.  I expect with the door some of this hassle might be alleviated.

2. The Christiania is apparently about 5kg - 10kg lighter than the bakfiets long that I have, although getting exact figures on the weight of the bakfiets is tricky, and I have only weighed mine on a commercial weigh bridge with 10kg increments.

3. If you are short, the seat can be set lower to the ground.  This will obviously and rightly be a deal maker for some, and quite likely with overlap for those who find the reduced weight attractive to keep their power to weight ratio reasonable.

4. The Christiania is somewhere between 20cm and 30cm shorter than the, which will make traversing railway mazes and other obstacles much easier.

A few advantages of the bakfiets cargo long:

1. The consensus seems to be that the bakfiets bike has better handling, empty or full.  But this is really a comparative issue, and probably won't be that significant for most people. But I certainly do appreciate the smooth "processional" quality of the bakfiets, that feels almost like (in a good sense) a pedal-powered landlubbing canoe.

2. The bottom bracket of the Christiania is about 20mm lower to the ground than on the bakfiets.  This for me would be an issue, as I sometimes scrape a pedal on the ground even with the bakfiets, and have to think about which pedal to have up in the air when sweeping around corners or hopping gutters.  But perhaps this is my mountain-biking heritage coming out, and maybe road bike riders already have the neurons trained to deal with this.

3. The bakfiets has a full chain case, which means that no goo gets on your chain. I haven't had to clean mine in over 12 months of heavy use totalling almost 4,500km. In general, the Christiania has less protections against getting mucky, with the lower bottom bracket, lack of full chain case, and lack of dress guards on the back wheel (although as Peter from psbikes points out in the comments, they are available as options).  These might sound like minor things, but the absence of a 100 little hassles that normally arise with bike riding is exactly what makes cargo bikes practical, and can be the decider for use on any given day. I would strongly recommend getting the skirt guards and full chain case if buying one of these bikes. More on that in a moment, but first the verdict.

4. The box on the bakfiets bike is 20cm longer (1m versus 80cm), allowing you to fit more stuff in.  I quite often fill mine with kids and shopping or work gear.  The trade-off is that the is longer, which can cause problems in tight spots.


Overall, I think that both bakfietsen are sound, and all things being equal, I still prefer the bakfiets, largely because of the larger capacity of the box, and it comes with the chain-case and related bits as standard.  Of course, if weight and manoeuvrability are your biggest concerns, then the Christiania would be the bike of choice.

But don't take my word for it, try them both out and decide for your self.  The bikes are available from and the Christiania bikes from

Now, back to that discussion about minor inconveniences...

To give an example of the impact of some of the "little" differences between sensible bikes (like bakfiets) and sports equipment (like road bikes and mountain bikes), I had a conversation with a cycling colleague at work last week about whether we would each ride home.  My friend was worried that it might rain, and as a result he might get a Dreaded Black Stripe up his back from road grime, as he needed to go somewhere directly after he got home, and consequentially opted to drive home.  It took me a few seconds to remember the problem and sympathise with him, because I have not had a single Dreaded Black Stripe, chain print or other road/bike grime related incident since I have started riding the bakfiets, and as mentioned, have not needed to perform an ounce of grime related bike maintenance.  In fact, if I have the kids on board we seek out the puddles and ride through them at speed, knowing that we will all stay safe and dry.

Combine that with the ability to park inside the school yard for the school run, park at the airport all week for free when travelling overseas, make the Coveted Door Park at supermarkets look like a distant and inconvenient option, and command the attention of motorists anywhere*, the bakfiets is an amazing step up from a "traditional" bike for convenience.

* One of the first things you notice as a cargo bike rider, especially of a big one with a box, is the amount of rubber-necking you will attract.  Combined with the high and visible riding position, the result is that the chance of failure to be noticed by vehicle traffic is reduced (reducing the risk of turn-left-through-you type collisions), and people take a generally amused or positive view of you on the road.  My often stated theory for this is that if you see a cargo bike on the road, you know instinctively that it is one less car on the road at the time, whereas if you see a pack of middle-aged men in lycra on bicycles that each cost more than your house, they are probably just clogging the road up on their way to their next latte, and combined with the variable respect shown by cyclists, may not unreasonably end up with a rather negative attitude by many of the motorists who encounter them.


  1. Hi Paul
    The Christiania can easily be fitted with a full chain cover, no problem at all, same goes with the skirt guard, just ask.
    Bottombracket is not the lowest point on either bikes, stand is and from what I have been informed it's less than 20 mm, none of my customers have ever mentioned that as an issue as it is something you get used to very fast how the bikes handles.
    The adaptable stem on the Christiania mean you can change the riding position easily to suit different needs.
    No doubt the aluminium frame is stiffer and steering therefor is a lot more like a standard bike, so how strange it may sound it takes a bit longer to get used to, but in the long run you will appreciate it if you swap between different bikes.
    I'll be in Adelaide soon and will gladly meet up and show you.

    1. Hi Peter,
      It is certainly true that the Christiania can be fit with a full chain cover and skirt guard - as is true of any internally geared bike. I'll update the post to make this clear.
      To clarify on the bottom bracket issue, my point is that it just brings your feet closer to the ground in general. The lowest point on both is in fact the pedal when in the 6 o'clock position, and it is that low point that causes me problems, and for me at least, having it any lower, even just 20mm, would have me scraping the pedal on the road going around some corners on my regular routes where I already get close or occasionally scrape now.
      The steering I think is a non-issue between them, and really comes down to preferences.
      Anyway, if it works out it would be great to try the Christiania, and create a direct comparison with photos and the complete cost of bike plus accessories to make them comparable.
      Of course what is totally clear is that either of these quality Northern European made bikes are great choices.


  2. I have ridden both several times. The Christiania is cheaper and comes with an amazing 2 years service from Peter who seriously knows everything about his bikes. We ended up buying a Bakfiets as they were in stock at the time and we found it slightly easier to ride. The stem on the Christiania is indeed excellent and this has reminded me that I should get one for my Bakfiets!