Thank you Remi and family for this extended review.
It will be a great help for many families looking for a cargo bike solution!
After 6 months of ownership and use, I felt the time was right to write a user review of our Black Douze Messenger with 8-speed Alfine gearing, which I bought through Jurgen and Emmy, who were very helpful throughout the process. Given the trickiness of finding reviews and comparisons of the various types of cargo-bikes online- from people who have actually ridden them- I thought it would be good to explain my decision process as well.
Having living in Amsterdam in 2014, I had gotten used to the idea of carrying kids on the front of bikes (our daughter was only 1 at the time)- so when she started kinder a bit further from our house, I was keen to explore a bike option that allowed her to sit up front: where she could see everything in front of us, and where we could chat together as we went. She is now 3yrs old, and has a 1yr old brother: so I was also after a bike that could take both kids at other times as well.
Our intended commute was going to be 12.5km each way (7.5km to her kinder, another 5km to my work- then back again at the end of the day) a few days a week, so I was also keen to have a fully weather-proof bike option for her: as even if it is raining hard, she still needs to be picked up before closing time! I wasn’t keen on a trailer- where she would be far behind me, without the interaction I had so enjoyed in Amsterdam. The only other fully-weather proof-able option was a Bakfiets style cargo-bike, which I had seen used widely in the Netherlands.
Initially, I test rode a few of the more traditional bikes through Jurgen and Emmy- including the original Bakfiets as well as the Workcycles version. Both bikes were well made and very sturdy, and immediately comfortable. I was about to pull the trigger when I decided to actually ride my intended route on my regular bike. This was a real eye-opener. As well as the distance, the first 7.5km of our route is largely bike-path: with a few very tight corners (90 degrees- with posts in the way to cross bridges over creeks), and a few quite steep hills (including one with a 12 degree incline just before her kinder). I quickly realized that I would need a lighter bike to stand any chance of managing this a few times each week.
I tried the Christiana 2-wheeler: which being made of Aluminium was a bit lighter, but was still ungainly for our intended purpose.
Then, elsewhere, I rode the Bullitt. This felt like a very different bike. Unlike some online reviews, I found the Bullitt immediately easy to ride: and had my daughter onboard for a test ride within about 5 minutes. Wanting to be able to carry 2 kids, I would’ve had to have a custom box and canopy made up for the Bullitt to have a proper child-friendly solution- which was a bit of a pain, but obviously not impossible.
Around this time, Emmy sent me a follow-up email, and after hearing me praise the Bullitt- she insisted that I also come try the Douze, and I’m very glad I did. I was able to test-ride both of the bikes I was considering back to back, and these are the reasons I settled on the Douze.
The Bullitt is a stiff bike, with an all-Aluminium frame, whereas the Douze mixes steel and Aluminium. The more compliant ride was quite obvious (steel is real), and for matters of child-transport, compliance won over out-and-out stiffness (it wouldn’t if you wanted to go cargo-bike racing obviously).
While I didn’t find the Bullitt difficult, the Douze was markedly easier again. With the Douze, not only was I instantly comfortable, but within a couple of minutes I was happy to have a hand off the handle-bars to signal turns, and was able to execute a very slow speed 180 degree u-turn on a narrow road without putting a foot down- although the Bullitt was easy, it was not that easy, at least not so quickly. Subsequently
, the tight turning circle of the Douze has proven an additional blessing, as it makes for easier maneuvering in tight bike-sheds like the one at my work. Our 90-degree bike-path onto bridge turns at 2km/hr are a piece of cake as well.
I purchased the Douze just as they were releasing the canopy (I think we may have gotten the first one). The purpose-built and three-point seat-belted cushioned seat, with space for 2, and the inflatable roof canopy was another advantage of the Douze: a purpose-built 2-child carrying solution. The roof is very quick to take on and off, so when the weather is warmer, it is easy to just decide on the canopy having seen the rain radar that morning (a must-do check living in Melbourne). Compared to a custom-built wooden box, the overall weight of the Douze ends up roughly the same, as the soft-bag compartment and canopy are light.
The splittable frame was another positive factor: and should we ever need to take the bike somewhere specialised to get it serviced, or want to take it on a bike rack for a family trip: we have the option. We opted for an 8-speed instead of 11-speed Alfine- the hill-climbing ratio is the same on each, and I had read some more positive reviews on the durability of the 8-speed.
We have had heaps of fun with the bike over the last 6 months. The kids absolutely love it (individually and together), and we gather lots of smiles along the way from other cyclists, and lots of enquiries. I have purchased a blue-tooth speaker, and we pump the music as we commute to kinder: I very much look forward to our 25km round trip cargo bike days- so does my daughter, who complains if we have to take the car for some reason instead.
Obviously, our preferences/ route/ requirements are quite particular, but I am very happy with the Douze choice- especially after testing 5 different Bakfiets-style cargo bikes. Couldn’t recommend it in stronger terms!