Earlier this year (2019) we had the pleasure of meeting Jim Slade, Captain of Communications at Larry vs Harry in Copenhagen. Surrounded by brightly coloured Bullitts, as the January drizzle ran down the shop window and thousands (up to 48,000 per day) of cyclists rode past along Frederiksborggade, we had the chance to talk cargo bikes in the city where two wheels are king.
For over a decade the team at Larry vs Harry have been pioneering advancements in the long-john style cargo bike world. Their creation, the Bullitt Cargo Bike, is a reflection of Danish innovation, using functional yet stylish design. We spoke to Jim about how his love for cargo bikes blossomed, how he uses his Bullitt to save time by combining brevet training with parenting, as well as talking about how people are putting their Bullitt bikes to use around the world.
Here’s what Jim had to say:
“I’ve been riding cargo bikes for so long I can’t remember what it’s like not to have a cargo bike. What I would say to anyone who’s never ridden one before is that they’re incredibly handy and practical for shopping and day to day use, as a business owner and as a parent.
“Culturally here [Copenhagen] cargo bikes are a standard thing, and I moved from London to here due to the bike culture, so getting myself a cargo bike felt like embracing the culture. I found an old long-john style cargo bike which was damaged and needed some brazing and it was the thickest tubing I’d ever seen, so I thought, if I don’t f**k it up, it has potential. I did f**k it up in the end, I tried TIG welding this frame with a broken wrist and managed to get a load of sparks down my cast and gave myself some third-degree burns.
“My five-year-old daughter Agnes loves riding in the Bullitt. My wife has an eBullitt which she also rides with our daughter in. She’s smaller than me (Jim is 5’7″) and she’s comfortable riding the Bullitt even though it might seem challenging riding a long cargo bike. She has only fallen off once, and she was hammering it around a corner on a gravel trail in Sweden.
“The Bullitt can be expensive if you plan to go for the full bling groupset and accessory kits, but if you want to build a cheap Bullitt, the beauty is that the frame-kit itself works with a 26 inch rear wheel. 26-inch wheels are cheap to pick up now that everyone’s riding 29ers and you can bundle old parts onto the frame-kit to get you going.
“I love my cargo bike because it’s actually fun to ride, regardless of what you’ve got in it; it works well loaded with cargo but I’ve also done brevet rides on it. Last year I took my Bullitt on a 200km brevet in Sweden, and it didn’t take much longer than the year before on my road bike. Rolling speed on Bullitt bikes is good, especially if you have fast rolling tyres. I used an XT 1×10 groupset which is also great for daily use.
“The internal gear hub option is helpful, especially with the carbon belt drive, as you’re able to shift down at the lights. It’s particularly beneficial if you’re carrying cargo and you want to change gears without worrying about mashing your derailleur. However, it’s not too difficult to master with external gears, and if you come from a mountain biking and road bike background like me, you may feel more comfortable with the more direct feeling of shifting.
“My life is improved daily by having a Bullitt bike; it saves me an awful lot of time, time is time and time is quality. It’s easy being able to park, pick up my daughter straight from kindergarten and then doing the shopping. I do a lot of rides with her as well and it’s fun to do training rides with my kid. As a parent who cycles a lot, you are continually hearing people whinging about not being able to ride enough, everyone’s on turbo trainers. I just sling Agnes in the front of my Bullitt in a onesie and ride off into the darkness.
“Broader, three-wheeled cargo bikes cause some issues because they take up so much of the bike lane, even here in Copenhagen. A problem which is exacerbated in countries which don’t have the bike culture with traffic trying to get past. One of the benefits of the Bullitt is its lack of width which makes this less of a problem. eCargo bikes, like the eBullitt, are pushing the average speed of cargo bikes up, meaning they are less of a hindrance on other traffic, less of an irritation for drivers, which makes it safer. I’ve found that there is more patience from everyone using the road when there is mutual understanding, i.e. riders also drive cars and car drivers also ride bikes.
“From my perspective as a parent and a musician, I use my cargo bike to transport my instruments a lot, as well as my primary method for picking up my child and transporting her around town. My wife Lærke is a photographer, so she uses hers to carry all of her photography studio equipment. Businesses use cargo bikes in the centre of cities to streamline their daily routines. Walking, parking, traffic and other dead-time is completely removed when you use a cargo bike for everyday use instead of a car.
“There’s a sperm bank that uses a Bullitt bike with a cryogenic liquid nitrogen box on the front, and it has a sperm-shaped tail. Hospitals and blood banks also use them for blood transfusions. Locksmiths, lots of plumbers and carpenters who get their materials delivered to their work site use the Bullitt with a lockable box with their tools in. It enables them to ride to the centre of town and park it outside the job so you don’t need a van.
“Our friend Morten runs Cykelkokken, the guy who does the food on the front of his Bullitt. He uses a nice space down by the harbour with a converted container where we finish his (cycle dining) tours to eat. It adds so much to his customers’ experience, and he is then mobile, meaning he can show his customers around the local area, collecting food from specific places, making it an immersive cultural experience.
“In the four and a half years I’ve worked here I don’t think we’ve ever had a bike returned to this shop. Having so many Bullitt customers with positive experiences helps us gain potential customers; new customers meet existing customers in our shop and share their love of Bullitt bikes with them.
“Kristian does all our posters and the box artwork. He used to share a workshop with Harry, now he does all our original artwork. He also illustrates a lot of children’s books as well. It’s nice to give people who understand the brand and the bike the creative freedom with designs.
“Our distinct branding is a reflection of all our interests: we are all into music, Tobias (head mechanic at the Flagship store) is a mad jazz collector, I play the saxophone and Harry is also really into his music. It’s nice to have the creativity reflect what we are as people. Otherwise, it just becomes a hunk of metal and loses some of its sex-appeal.
“Any product has a spectrum of quality, usability and durability. The nice thing about the Bullitt is that it is one of the best riding cargo bikes. The capacity is functional, not the biggest but it fits a lot of stuff. Its value for money in comparison to some other long-john style cargo bikes is really good. Bullitt bikes also have a very strong resale value, meaning if it doesn’t work out for you, you’re not going to lose a massive amount of money.
“This year (2019) we are introducing the Shimano STEPS e6100 which is an exciting update. We are against selling online and prefer people to be able to buy from a local dealer and receive support with their Bullitt bike. This is an ethos we have been behind for quite a long time but haven’t been able to turn it into practical help. We are hoping to introduce a demo scheme to help dealers give their customers the opportunity to experience how fantastic Bullitt cargo bikes really are.”
It was a real pleasure to speak to one of the great minds at work on the Larry vs Harry team. Talking to Jim gave us an insight into the future direction of Bullitt bikes. We feel grateful to be stocking such an exciting and innovative cargo bike, bringing it to you, our fantastic customers, to enjoy along the South Coast of England.
If you’re ever in Copenhagen, we would highly recommend visiting the Larry vs Harry team at the flagship Bullitt shop. Their showroom is the ideal way to discover the incredible functionality and beauty of their Bullitt cargo bikes. If you can’t make it as far as Denmark and you’d like to give one a try, come and check out our demo Carbon Belt Drive 8 Speed Alfine Bullitt at Velo Domestique and see how it could change your life.
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