Totcycle | Family Biking

Tots on bikes, kids as cargo, family cycling, and other high-occupancy velo goodness.

Not caring how much our bikes weigh since 2008.

previous posts

« Madsen Cycles Update »

Drew and I had the pleasure of meeting Jared and Jason from MADSEN Cargo Bikes on a blustery day at the Seattle International Bike Expo this weekend. No photos, sadly, as I was busy wrangling a 2 year old whilst trying to talk bikes. Jared Madsen, the designer and founder of the company, told me that our previous review had certainly led to some extended conversations with potential customers. And while I feel bad if some of the critiques from me and Aaron of ABR, who built up the bike, have caused them any grief, I had hoped that the overall quite positive review would bring them more customers than it cost them. I really want them to succeed. The market truly needs a lower cost family cargo bike.

Which is what the Madsen is. I think that the bike geek community, used to debating the finer points of a $2000-3000 Big Dummy build, is naturally going to have issues with the components and build quality on a $1299 mainland China-built cargo bike. My hope, with the feedback, was to encourage more durable choices within their need to keep costs down, and thus increase value. And I'm happy to report that Madsen is addressing most of the quibbles I had. Not that they needed me to point them out.

Jared had not just new durable centerstand feet for us (mine had gotten pretty shredded), but also 4 new seatbelts with plastic buckles that won't jam! They think that shortening our chain may reduce some of the drivetrain rub/rattle; even if not, I've gotten used to it, just like the squeak of my saddle (must lube/condition underneath, unless anyone has other squeaky Brooks suggestions). I fixed the centerstand slippage by removing some of the grease and cranking down on the bolts.

And their new shipping system for folks who lack a local dealer is excellent, as the bike arrives at your door fully assembled and tuned up by a Madsen mechanic. Soon, they'll be adding some customization options when it comes to components (which a local dealer could do, as well). And they're currently on tour around the West, looking to sign up more local bike shops.

The "Madsen guy" (via bikeportland)Drew and I left with quite a warm fuzzy feeling about Madsen. In fact, Drew has been talking a lot about "the Madsen guys", in a bit of a swoony voice. And while I'd hoped to engage them in an online dialogue about the bike and build quality issues, it was actually nicer to discuss things in person. We talked about seatbelt pros and cons, hi-tensile steel versus cromoly (Jared prefers hi-ten for this bike, since weight is not such a concern, and cromoly could introduce some brittle areas to a frame that really needs durability), weld quality, and gearing and chainring options. I can't say much yet, but suffice it to say that they're working hard on all of these issues, and addressing them in a way that makes me happy. They're also planning to take care of their original customers, as they have with the updated kickstand feet, and handle any weld issues under warranty.

One accessory that I cannot wait to see is the raincover. The prototype they had with them turns out not to be what they're going with. But what they've got cooking is way better. They're coming out with a cabriolet-style soft-top that will stay mounted to the bucket, but pull up and over the bucket in case of rain or cold. No futzing with tent poles, no stuffing kids through a zippered window into the bucket. Brilliant.

As for our ongoing experiences riding the Madsen, we are still loving it. Drew often chooses to ride it over our other options (especially since meeting the "Madsen guys"). Myself, I generally prefer her in front of me on a bike, where it's easier to see her and interact. But I'm coping with having her in the back, and when there's more than one kid back there, it becomes a bike party on wheels, with me as the chaperone. We had a truly memorable outing to Zayda Buddy's the other night with 3 kids in the back, hooting and hollering their heads off all the way down the street. The bucket seating arrangement is so much fun for them, and on cold rides they can all cuddle under a big blanket.

It's a champion grocery getter as well, and I appreciate not having to strap/buckle/bungee anything - just throw up to 5-6 grocery bags in the bucket and ride! Under a big load, there is some twisty flex in the frame that is best handled by staying seated with two steady hands on the bars and a regular cadence. My impression is that this whippy feeling is comparable to a bolt-on xtracycle, but perhaps less than on a Big Dummy (I haven't ridden a BD under heavy load, though). And the Madsen actually does fit a range of riders; in our experience, from Kim's 5'1" to my 5'10" has worked well. The stem/handlebars it ships with, while not my preferred "North Road" upright setup, has actually turned out to be a nice compromise for various moods, loads, and riding styles.

So in case anyone was wondering from our first review, we do recommend the Madsen highly as a lower cost, ready-to-roll family bike. Of course, if you have the means, a $3,000 Dutch bakfiets (or Metrofiets, etc) is probably the ultimate family whip for people with younger kids in less hilly areas, and there's a solid argument to be made for getting/putting together an xtracycle instead (nice cogitating on Madsen vs xtracycle Radish here). Options are good. If anyone wants to demo a Madsen in Seattle, give us a holler. We've got some exciting plans afoot for some family biking rides this summer, which will be a good chance to see these bikes up close and take them for a spin. Stay tuned for details on Kidical Mass Seattle!

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (13)

We tried out the Madsen at the Expo and had a great time! It felt a lot better than I was actually expecting. I'm still cogitating though, need to compare more things, and really appreciate your reviews and opinions. And thanks for the link to Kidical Mass! Will keep an eye out, if I ever make up my mind.

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Superb write up. I appreciate knowing the ins-and-outs of the Madsen. I had hears so much about them. I agree that there is a need for family bikes (cargo) as many people I know are moving to the one-income family with the stay at home person (that would be me) shuttling the kids to-and-from school by bike, grocery shopping by bike, and general mischief by bike. I agree, it is a party on a bike :O) I am off to read your previous review. Cheers.

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTravis A. Wittwer

Just a bit a of feedback to say your review didn't put me off at all. We really want one, despite having (currently) 2 bakfietsen already. We like the idea of a low CoG rear option for when the road conditions are poor.

Unfortunately, in the UK it appears the costs is going to be the same in £ as in $, I suspect they won't be able to fix this until there is a way to ship direct from china to the UK. As such, it is competing directly with bakfiets and christiania trikes.

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDrMekon

We enjoy our Madsen, and are getting more and more use out of it. It probably will get a few upgrades soon, what do you think about cream Fat Franks on a Cream Madsen? The kids are enjoying it. It can haul four of them, and it works well for hauling loads.

Travis, it is too bad that the Madsen will have to compete directly with Bakfietsen and Christiana in the UK, It simply doesn't have the same overall quality and componentry. It was intended to hit the market at a lower price point, rather than as a direct competitior. A "cargobike for the masses" as it were.

March 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGavin

I am all for cream on cream, but I don't know of a rear tire that would fit the bill. I think a Fat Frank might clear the fender in the front, but my 20" Big Apple is pushing the clearance in the back ...

And yes, bummer about UK costs, for now at least.

The new feet and belts went on this weekend, and work great. I checked with Madsen, and there's no ETA yet on the revised raincover.

March 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

I was looking at a 2.25 white KHE bmx street/dirt tire to fill the bill. it should clear the fender, even there is a need for some tweakage, it should be very minor. It is a bit lighter than the FF, but not full-on white, so aesthetically it should work. I still wish that Schwalbe had a 20" creme tire, but they don't. If I don't go solely for looks, I'll get Big Apples, but I also like the additional traction provided by Frank, as we do get into the rough just a bit. As the season warms up, I'd like to try the Madsen on some of our local trails, not singletrack, mind you, but wide MTB/ATV trails. It's not really what the bike was intended for, but why not try?

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGavin

I've never actually tried out a Madsen, but the only thing I don't like about it as described is the derailleur. I prefer internal hub gears for utility cycling, particularly in areas prone to messy weather.

March 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBAW

Thank you so much for your really thorough reviews of the Madsen. I need a new bike and now that our son is 18 months old, I'd like my new purchase to include some means of toting him along as well so that in the spring/summer/fall I can commute to work/daycare on my bike. (we live in the fierce midwest, so winter commuting with a toddler is probably not such a great idea) Anyway, I'm very attracted to the Madsen for a number of reasons and am probably trying to decide between this and a bike with a trailer. But what appeals to me about the Madsen over the trailer is having my son higher up and a bit closer to me, and physically being part of my bike as well. But what worries me is that the Madsen doesn't have the 5-point harness system that the trailers do and I worry a bit about my son getting jostled around in the back, not having enough back support, etc. What do you think about this latter issue?

June 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShoopee

We've had kids that age in the bucket, but they've been seated next to an older child, which helped. Our 2 year old has been just fine with the lap belt. But for less jostling/more security, you can do what we do for naps, which is to remove the front bench seat, put pillows in the bucket behind her back and under her butt, and have her snug and cozy down low. The belt can even be used in this position, although if you're doing a lot of riding like that I'd drill a new hole down low for the currently higher mounted belt.

June 18, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Thanks for the response, Julian!

June 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShoopee


I've been considering the Madsen. I live in the heart of a city and need a way to get my five year old to school and my 4 year old to pre-k each day. We've been using a Phil and Teds stroller, but unfortunately my 4 year old has outgrown the weight limitation for the bottom seat. Is it realistic to think that two children, both between 40 and 45 inches long and between 45 and 50 lbs would ride safely and comfortably in the Madsen? (Think size 6 and 5T.)

August 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermamaholler

I think it could work, depending on hills and distance. I ride my 6yo and 3yo nieces, plus 2yo Drew in the MADSEN, and it works great. Demo if you can ... and an xtracycle could also be the ticket, with a hitch to tow a child's bike as well if you want to bring one along.

August 28, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Thanks for this writeup. After much research and debate we finally decided to buy the Madsen. We LOVE it. And the "new shipping system" that you mention is amazing--literally open the box, snip some zipties and ride down the block, brilliant. The one thing we are trying to figure out is how best to mount a rear blinkie to the bucket for safe evening riding. Any suggestions?

October 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Textile formatting is allowed.